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Wanted: apostolic missionaries for Internet

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, April 24, 2011

Father Peter McQuinn, associate pastor at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish in Arlington Heights, plays some Irish tunes on his accordion April 17. He has played the instrument since first grade. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Peter McQuinn, former administrator of St. Mark’s, former pastor of Epiphany Parish, currently associate pastor at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish, Arlington Heights. Ordained in 1991.

Youth: “Both parents came from County Kerry, Ireland. Mother’s hometown was Kilarney, up in the hills, and my father was from Tralee. When I was 3, we moved back there for about a year. I’ve got an Irish passport – the whole nine yards.” He’s an alum of St. Celestine School in Elmwood Park, and Holy Cross High School, River Grove. Has two older brothers and one younger. “Dad was an operating engineer – heating and cooling. Dad’s retired and lives with my brother in Elk Grove Village.”

Jack of all trades:  “I had a Trib paper route when I was in sixth and seventh grade. I always cut grass and shoveled snow. Washed dishes at Sorrento’s Pizzeria on Belmont Ave., and worked in the kitchen for the Holy Cross Brothers into junior year. Had a job at the Brickyard’s Jewel Grand Bazaar. My parents taught us if you want something, work for it. As a senior I was able to buy my first car, a used 1974 VW Sun Bug, stick shift. In Niles Seminary I sold hotdogs on Oak Street Beach, bar-tended and waited. Was a concierge at a downtown hotel, pushed a broom, you name it. There’s enough time for rest when you’re dead! You can quote me on that one!”

Vocation: “I credit the great parish of St. Celestine. We lived across from church and I was always doing stuff there. I saw what priests did. It wasn’t a Dominick Salvo or Padre Pio story, it was more, ‘I can do that.’ I don’t know if my family believed I’d go through with seminary, but they supported me all the way. I have the best job in the world I wouldn’t change it one iota.”

On the job training: Ten months into his first assignment at St. Mark’s, the pastor had a heart attack, “So I was named temporary administrator. The pastor returned, but after a year, took early retirement. So I became administrator.” He served that Spanish inner city parish for six years and spent the next 11 years as pastor at Epiphany at 26th & Pulaski. After a while he filled in as interim chaplain at Nazarethville Nursing Home, eventually becoming what he’s never been – an associate pastor – at Wayside.

Style of priesthood: “What I learned at Epiphany and St. Mark’s is, you meet people in the streets. I did my most effective ministry at 11:30 at night talking with gang bangers, or in Mt. Sinai Hospital’s ER – not on Sunday morning. The people who come to Mass on Sunday, to a certain extent, are going to be OK. They’re staying close to the fold. They need to be nourished and challenged, of course. 
“‘Mission’ is meeting people where they’re at and presenting Jesus in a way they can understand. Creating an atmosphere where people feel safe enough to be honest with themselves and God. Let’s just get to know the Lord in the best way – in the sacraments.”

Prayer life: “My prayer life is pretty solid, thanks be to God – mainly liturgy of the hours in the morning. I’m reading ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ by St. Francis de Sales during Lent. I meet once a month with Father Pat O’Malley, my spiritual director for several years now.”

Current project: “I’m developing a web site which I’m hoping will train a new generation of apostolic missionaries for the Internet world. It’s picking up on Benedict’s letter (and JP II talked about it) on using the Internet for evangelization. Right now it has a series of Lenten talks I gave to the men at the parish. “I like the saying: ‘Be the kind of man that when you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the ground, the devil says ‘damn he’s up.’’ So I’ve named it: damnhesup.com. It’s a work in progress.”

Leisure: “In good weather I golf with a couple of classmates. I enjoy reading anything by Bill Bryson and just finished ‘The Mother Tongue.’ One book I keep coming back to is Rolheiser’s ‘The Holy Longing,’ a must read for anyone asking what it means to be Catholic in this New Millennium.”

Favorite motto: “My new one is from an America magazine article quoting St. Thomas Aquinas: “Justice without mercy is cruel; Mercy without justice is a waste.”

Favorite saint:  “In a pinch, the go-to-guy – St. Peter – and Mary. They’re in my corner. They’ve saved me, no doubt about it. I believe in the intercession of the saints. I love them all.”