Other Authors

He took the steps to a 'spiritual awakening'

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, September 25, 2011

Father Charles Becker incenses the Eucharist during eucharistic adoration at one of the parishes where he holds holy hours and hosts prayer groups. (Darrell Harmon / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Charles Becker, ordained in 1986 at Mundelein. As part of the Marian Movement of Priests he helps lead Prayer Cenacles in the diocese. His other current ministries are: Calix, outreach to recovering alcoholics to rediscover their Catholic faith; Courage, a spiritual support for laity  aspiring to live a chaste life in accord with the Church's teachings on homosexuality; and Cenacolo, assisting those with addictions and other adult adjustment difficulties to find healing through living a Catholic Christian community life.

Youth: He’s the oldest of five and went to St. James Parish School, Arlington Heights. “In high school the kids in our family were involved with symphonic and marching band. It was kind of our thing.”

Both my parents were public school teachers. “Dad was principal of a junior high in the 1970s. Then he took early retirement and went into sales. Mom was a teacher at District 25 in Arlington Heights. There was alcoholism in my home. I grew up with Alateen. My dad became sober about my sophomore year in high school.”

Path to priesthood: “I was a junior at Arlington High School when I received my vocation. There was an experience I had of a presence like the peace of God. It made me think of ‘the priesthood?’ My parents suggested I speak to one of our parish priests who recommended I go to Niles Seminary after graduation. I was pretty excited because I had a plan. But when I got to Niles my own drinking began. I missed the practical 12-Step kind of spirituality. I had difficulties with school, and with just everything, I ended up quitting before Thanksgiving.”

Finding his way: “I worked for over a year in an alcoholic treatment center, like a junior counselor, because of my background. Yet my vocation never left me. I did my first full college year at Eastern Illinois University with high school friends. That was a big drinking year. I came back home and spent two and a half years in formation with the Viatorians.” Then before the fall of 1982, he applied, and was accepted into Mundelein. 
“I got sober in April 1983, a graced moment. I again had the 12-Steps and I wanted to live them humbly, not like I knew it all.  I let that be my basic formation through seminary.”

Discovery: “My first assignment after ordination was at St. Francis de Sales in Lake Zurich. There was a devout family at St. Francis that asked if I would like to go to Medjugorje. The husband was persistent and I finally travelled with the family to the shrine in Bosnia-Hercegovina.” 
“I was skeptical like anyone is. At that point I was still in my blue jeans, kind of long hair to be cool with the kids, smoking cigarettes, and all that.”

[Catholics can visit Medjugorje and pray. Father has accompanied 60 pilgrimages there since 1990. His Marian website is www.medjugorjechicago.org. In 2010 the Vatican established a commission to investigate the claims of the six young people who say Mary has appeared to them at Medjugorje daily since 1981.]
Moved by several perplexing experiences at the shrine, he returned six months later. He came home with a conversion and “a desire within me to pray the rosary.” With the parishioner friend they started a prayer group in his living room, based on the Marian Movement of Priests.

“The MMP is a Movement of the Blessed Mother given to the late Father Stefano Gobbi of Italy at the shrine of Fatima in 1972.  It outlines a spirituality of littleness and trust in Our Lady in order to make us faithful priests.
“I stopped smoking, I only wear my blacks now. I don’t have a TV. Part of the Movement is to get the priest back to a more austere life.”

Leisure: “My Irish roots settled in Door County, so that’s our family vacation spot. I enjoy camping and canoeing and ice cream visits with the friars of EWTN.”

Scripture: “My favorite is the last part of the Canticle of Zachariah: ‘…In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness …’ I always felt it had so much to do with my own recovery from alcoholism, coming out of darkness. I find the most joy today in helping people move out of a walk in the world that’s a dead end, to something more grace-filled and a new life.”