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He is priest, professor and pastor 'with a passion'

By Dolores Madlener | Contributor
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Passionist Father Eric Meyer is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, 7211 W. Talcott Ave. (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Passionist Father Eric Meyer, former associate, now pastor since 2005 of Immaculate Conception Parish on West Talcott Avenue.

Studies: “I’m from Edgewater — St. Ita’s. Went to grammar school there from 1945 to ’52, then to the Passionist seminary in Normandy, Mo., outside St. Louis.” 
After ordination in 1966 he traveled to Muenster, Germany, to do a doctorate in theology, studying under theologian Father Johannes Metz. Has taught here at CTU and at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, mainly “Catholic Thought,” from ancient times to the present. He also ministered  at the Newman Center at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, from 1981-1987.

Home life: “I had an older sister and brother and a younger brother. My parents were born in Wisconsin, pre-World War I people who were bilingually educated. They spoke German without an accent and English without an accent. They didn’t teach us German at home during the war.

“When I came back from Germany in 1971 it was the first time in 30 years I spoke with my mother in her native tongue. My dad sold Creamettes! He was manager of their Chicago outfit. When we were little kids during World War II, we grew up like Italians eating pasta til it came out of our ears. We had every kind of Creamettes there were. I still love pasta.

“My parents tried to foist piano lessons on me, but I was one of those kids with his baseball bat and glove under the piano just waiting for them to look away. They never gave me singing lessons and I love to sing. We had a great choir at St.Ita and we sang five-part harmony.”

The call: “A lot of vocational people visited our classrooms at St. Ita. One day a Passionist spoke to us. I went to see him after class, Father Simon Herbers, he’s still alive. He gave me a pamphlet about the Passionists and their spirituality. I was fascinated, because even as a little kid I was very attentive to the Passion, the death of Jesus and Holy Week. I have to give founding pastor, Father Crowe credit, whom I never met. He built St. Ita’s, designed by Henry Schlacks. Our church was just oozing ‘Passion.’ It had a big cross on one of its pillars, I remember as a little kid being fascinated by it. We also had Father Gerard Picard in our parish, a pious, wonderful man. His goodness would put a person to shame. He was an example for me. My parents were very pious too.”

Recreation: “I’m a fanatical canoeist. There’s a wonderful letter by St. John de Brebeuf  [one of the North American martyrs] written to his brethren in France. ‘You think you want to be a missionary here in North America?’ Then he describes being one day with the Indians in the canoe. And it is just perfect for a Passionist. 
“He says: ‘If you pick up that paddle don’t put it down, no matter how much your hands may bleed because otherwise they’ll say, ‘I’m a better man than you are.’ I know that because I’ve done 10-hour trips in a day and anybody that won’t keep the paddle in their hands sinks in your estimation instantly. At the end, Brebeuf says ‘This is all sharing in the Passion of Jesus.’

I think for some Frenchmen, hearing it described that way, they probably gave up their romantic dream of going to North America. But some it fired up, like Father Marquette. They were brave men.

“I’ve done a thousand miles of the Mississippi from Cape Girardeau, Mo. to Venice, La. I like big rivers and the Mississippi is king.

“I used to do bike rides up to Wind Point in Wisconsin and back -- 144 miles. I don’t have time any more. Now I’m a walker.

“I’m also a Cubs fan, but I love to criticize them. I’ve had lots of enjoyment at the park watching people like Ryno and Banks.”

What he’s proud of: “This year our parish got ourselves into the Annual Catholic Appeal Debt Reduction Program. We had borrowed money from the archdiocese to complete our parish center. We’ve now paid off the debt and the interest on the debt. Thanksgiving Day we had a debt check-burning ceremony out in our nearby cemetery.”

Favorite Scripture: “I love Scripture. In the Old Testament I love Genesis and Jonah. Jonah is a magnificent book. I love them all, and sometimes I think I like John better than the synoptics and then I’ll read Mark and I’ll say, ‘No, no, he’s really the best.’ It’s sort of like that.”