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Mary and the Eucharist ‘brought me back’

By Catholic New World
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Father John Harvey is pastor of St. Mary Queen of the Apostles in Riverdale. He said he became involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal because he "was hungry for God." (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Father John Harvey, former pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption on the East Side and Queen of the Apostles Parish in Riverdale. Pastor of the newly merged St. Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish in Riverdale. Ordained at Mundelein in 1986. Just celebrated his 25th anniversary.

Not a cradle Catholic: Attended Colman Elementary School and DuSable Upper Grade Center. “I was raised kind of nondenominational Protestant. My younger sister and I went to a Methodist Sunday school. My first contact with the Catholic faith was at Hales Franciscan High School. When I became Catholic in sophomore year, my mom and sister converted. My father revealed he’d been Catholic, but had never even told my mother. He began practicing his faith openly.

“Dad was a dental technician and mom was a housewife. He was kind of a silent authority. Mother was a very strong woman and concerned with the family. Both parents attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. My father had his doctorate.”

Growing up: “I was born at 47th & Michigan and our apartment complex was the Rosenwald Building — definitely considered middle class. But as soon as you stepped out of the building it was a pretty rough area. We stayed there until high school and then moved to 29th and Wabash, the South Commons area.

“Education was uppermost on the list. My sister and I knew we had no ‘choice’ — college was just assumed. There was church influence, too — everybody was your ‘parent’ — there was a positive ‘village’ mentality.”

Faith: “By the time I enrolled at St. Louis University, I’d stopped practicing my faith. It was during the height of the civil-rights protests. I was involved in all that, and when I graduated in ’71 [with a bachelor’s in political science] I’d decided to be a lawyer. I got engaged to be married, and started attending Ohio State University’s law school. My fiancée was attending Wilberforce University in Dayton. Then I developed a recurring asthmatic condition they couldn’t treat, so I returned to Chicago. While recovering I kind of ‘lost everything’ — my career, my health, and then I broke up with the young lady.”

Twists and turns: He says he began reflecting on his life. “I felt a weight and struggle I couldn’t account for. It was 1973. I went to see the movie ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and sat in the theater crying. I woke up one morning and realized the Lord was calling me to ministry.”

He spent three years at Chicago Theological Seminary in Hyde Park, “intending to be a Baptist or Pentecostal minister. Then the Lord started dealing with me about coming back to the Catholic Church. I feel the two things that ultimately brought me back were the Eucharist and my devotion to Mary. I just had a hard head.” He graduated and entered Mundelein in 1983.

Prayer life: “I have a spiritual director. I’m also involved in Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I came into that whole charismatic experience of our faith back in the ’70s, at CTS, because I was hungry for God, and stayed with it. Last year, the cardinal appointed me his liaison with charismatic renewal in the archdiocese. Probably the focus of my ministry and my whole approach to life would be in terms of healing. That’s the lens I look through.”

Relaxation: He’s never had a sabbatical, but “I’ve been to Italy, Medjugorje and to Ireland.”