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Hopes to dog the footsteps of St. Ignatius

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, May 8, 2011

Father Mike Nacius, pastor of Infant Jesus of Prague Parish in Flossmoor, greets centenarians Dorothy Tapajna and Catherine Schouten (now deceased) following Mass in December 2009. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Michael Nacius, dean of Vicariate VI-D, pastor of Infant Jesus of Prague Parish, Flossmoor, former pastor of St. Lawrence O’Toole Parish, Matteson. Ordained 1989 at Mundelein Seminary.

Early years: “Home town is Waukegan. He grew up in St. Bartholomew Parish as one of five children. “My brother and I were altar servers through high school. Mom was church secretary; Dad was a lector. He worked as a salesman for plumbing supply firms, retiring from Columbia Pipe & Supply in the 1990s. My aunt was a Sister of St. Casimir, so sisters were always a part of the family, and our school was staffed by Sisters of St. Casimir. Sunday Mass was a family routine. St. Bart’s and the Lithuanian Hall were the center of our lives. 
“Two priests who influenced my development growing up, were Msgr. John Kuzinskas and Father Bill Zavaski. Their love of people, commitment to church, God, faith, and community were examples that guided me as I was growing in faith.”

Searching: “There was a priest up in Lake County, Father Gene Keusel, who was trying to spike vocations, and ran a program called ‘Searchers’ for high school kids. I attended Waukegan West, and once a month we’d meet up at Mundelein Seminary and have Mass in the morning with Father Keusel, then we’d literally hurdle over the pews to get over to the gym for a day of fun in the pool, bowling alley, racquet ball and basketball courts.”

Campus life: “I started out in accounting and business and ended up getting a degree in computer management.” On the side he made pizzas and bartended. “When I attended Northern Illinois and Eastern, it was through the Newman Centers that I was able to start to really look at my vocation. At Northern I’d schedule classes around daily Mass.

The first person I talked to about vocation was the priest at Eastern, Father Dean Probst. I had thought about it when I was a kid in grade school, but I didn’t think I could aspire to it because I thought priests were special, and didn’t think I’d fit the bill. In college I kind of realized the Lord was saying ‘Hey Mike, this is a partnership, we’ll do it together.’ I graduated in May and was up in the seminary in August.”

How do priests relieve the isolation of one-priest rectories? “You need to reach out to neighboring pastors at a one-man house, and try to schedule dinners and times to get together. No one can force it. Also as dean I’m able to interact with a number of clergy. Some of the guys got together Holy Thursday for a priesthood dinner. When I’ve had reconciliation services I invite them, ‘Hey, since you’re coming out to help, can you stay for dinner?’ So we do dinner first and then ‘Let’s go and celebrate the sacrament.’”

Leisure: “I cycle indoors and outdoors for exercise. I’m passionate about the game of golf. I’ve also been a season ticket holder to the Goodman for most of my priesthood, and other shows as life allows.
“Anytime I can get my hands on something by Megan McKenna I read it, like “On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross.” I enjoy books by Robert Wicks, like his recent, “Bounce: Living the Resilient Life.’ I’ve given a number of copies to people.”

Prayer life: “I’ve been fortunate to be part of a priest support group for years. It’s a couple generations of priests, so I have a mentor, good friend/spiritual director and some other friends. We meet regularly. 
“For the past 20 years I’ve been able to go on an annual silent retreat to the Jesuits at Gloucester, Mass. In 2003 I actually did a 30-day retreat, so it’s been a ‘recent life-long’ interest to walk in the footsteps of St. Ignatius.
“This summer I have the opportunity of going on a sabbatical. For part of it I’ll be leading a pilgrimage with parishioners and a classmate from the Rockford Diocese. Over to Spain — hit Ignatius, then Lourdes, Madrid, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Montserrat, Barcelona.” 

Favorite Scripture: “The end of Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Go forth and baptize… and know that I’m with you always until the end of the world,’ the great commission.”

Favorite saints: “Francis and Ignatius. Francis challenges me to simplicity, and Ignatius invites me to continue to give praise and glory to God.”