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Microsoft, IBM or the call to be a 'fisherman'?

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, January 29, 2012

Father Thomas Refermat is pastor of St. John Vianney in Northlake. (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Thomas Refermat, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Northlake. Served at St. Gilbert’s Grayslake and at St. Cornelius in Chicago. Ordained at Mundelein Seminary in 1994.

Youth: He attended Queen of Martyrs School in Evergreen Park, Marist High School then Niles College Seminary. Has one sister. Dad was a pipe fitter for U.S. Steel and Mom a homemaker. “It was probably my seventh- or eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Trandel, who encouraged us to look at priesthood. Father John Doyle used to come in and teach us too. Since I was also considering a career in computer science, it was a choice between Northern Illinois University or Niles. I decided to make the leap and give priesthood a chance.”

Jobs: “At Niles I worked in two parishes on summer apostolates. My last year I had a degree in math and computer science so I worked at a bank installing software at its branches. These days I try to stay away from a lot of that computer stuff because I know it would just suck me in. I give it to someone else and try to work on the spiritual side. My big thing was studies, cracking the books — working at three degrees at one time.

“Before becoming a pastor, I had a wonderful time teaching at St. Joseph Seminary from 2001-2004. I started teaching Scripture. Then they learned I had a degree in mathematics so I taught math, and ended up teaching morals.”

Being pastor: “Our parish has the oldest perpetual adoration chapel in the archdiocese. It’s connected to the convent, where some consecrated laywomen from the ecclesial movement Regnum Christi reside. One of the women is our DRE. They have a Challenge Group for young girls in the parish to help them grow in their faith. The [international] movement is all over the Midwest and does wonderful work. They’re beautiful people. Our parish is filled with a variety of devotions.

“The difference between being pastor and an associate is, ‘The buck stops here.’ The good part is you can guide and direct a people, being their shepherd and helping them along in their way of life.”

Soul food: “I belong to a spiritual support group with seminary friends. We socialize as well, and bounce things off one another. I definitely pray the breviary four or five times a day. On my last yearly retreat I went to Our Lady of Santa Clara Retreat Center in Cupertino, Calif., with the Legionaries of Christ and one year I made a retreat at their center in New York.

I have a degree from the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein, in their first class. I love liturgy and love studying it. I do a lot of spiritual reading on the Fathers of the church and the saints.”

Leisure: “I got hooked on biking four years ago and lost a lot of weight through that and changing my eating habits. My associates in the parish and our school principal are big into outdoor things and they inspired me. I enjoy movies, especially science-fiction or action films.

“Father Robert Barron was my teacher in the seminary and advisor for my licentiate degree thesis. He’s always great to listen to and inspirational.” Was he a tough teacher? “No. The excitement and enthusiasm you see in the documentary ‘Catholicism’ was multiplied in the classroom.”

Favorite saint: “I would say Mary. I studied Mariology for a number of years at Dayton University in Ohio.

Favorite Scripture Verse:  “John 1:14 ‘And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.’”