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He's living the church history of Roseland

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, February 12, 2012

Father Mark Krylowicz blesses parishioners of St. Anthony Parish, 11533 S. Prairie, during the Mass for the parish merger in 2008. (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Mark Krylowicz, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Roseland.

Youth: Grew up in West Pullman. Attended Sts. Peter and Paul School, and Eisenhower High School. “I’m the oldest in a family of 14, all single births.

“Two ways I was spoiled in life: we had fresh milk and fresh bread daily, because Mom couldn’t store any more than three gallons of milk and four loaves of bread in our refrigerator. To this day I can taste day-old milk and day-old bread.

“The typical ‘Mother’s Day picture’ of my mom is her trying to mash potatoes with a baby in her arms another baby hanging on her leg while pregnant – and yelling at me or one of my sisters, ‘Will one of you please help me?’

“Dad was a social worker with the Illinois Department of Public Aid. By the time I was in high school he was a hearing officer for the state, and was travelling to 50 counties in Illinois. That could be a family vacation for three or four of us at a time when he went downstate. It was one of those memorable things. (He’d always pay our portion.) Dad was a Boy Scout leader and Mom a Girl Scout leader. We were kept busy.”

Vocation: “I went to Illinois State University in Normal. My ‘goal’ was to get a job! Finances were hard. For me to get through college we were always working on a shoestring. My major was history and political science. After graduation I wanted to go back to school but I also wanted to experience the world.” He worked for a house painter for a year, the same man he’d worked for during high school. He almost got in the Peace Corps but needed certification to teach. “I didn’t have the money to go back to school.”

A priest at St. Benedict’s in Blue Island, pointed him toward Amate House in the archdiocese. “It was like a Peace Corps within the city. I was a youth minister at St. Thomas of Canterbury Parish on the North Side. It had a soup kitchen, a food pantry, school, street people coming and going, and police officers stopping in for coffee. An incredible place to see ministry happening. I was a recess monitor, tutored, and I’d substitute teach. The stipend was $100 a month, a bus pass, room and board. My parents loved what I was doing — that’s who my parents are!

“One day I’m tutoring this 13-year-old Vietnamese boy in math and he says, “Mark, you ought to become a priest.” I’ll never forget it! I said, ‘Get out of here, that’s a crazy idea.’ But it kept ringing in my ears and I’d wake up at night hearing him. I told the pastor and he said, ‘That’s a great idea.’” Next thing he knew he was talking to the archdiocese vocation director, visiting the seminary and going through a ministry weekend.

“My original plan was to someday be a legislative aide. I loved watching and participating in politics. I could sit there all election night and watch the results and listen to debates on TV and participate in a rally, cheer, and all that stuff. Then all of a sudden this comes up. But I said, ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ After St. Thomas of Canterbury and Amate House, the seminary was a natural thing. I went one year at a time.” He was ordained in 1991.

Closing a parish: “Those were some of the hardest days of my life, closing Holy Rosary (Irish) in Roseland in 2008. It’s like saying farewell to a loved one who died. I made a private pilgrimage to the graves of all the former pastors and visited the two who were still living. I’d go to the cemetery and read what was recorded of them in the parish record — talk and pray with them, tell them what I was doing — ask for their prayers for me in ending something they’d invested their life in. I had to do it for myself in order to lead the people in tears and understanding.

“I thought we did it right, we celebrated the end of a 126-year ministry and began something new. We had an anniversary party and wrote the last 30 years of parish history that were missing. (When the neighborhood changed the last 30-40 years never counted -- yet there were some really wonderful things happening in the parish and we were able to write that history.)

“It’s important people have a choice in the ‘merger of a ministry.’ They voted to go with St. Anthony. Like 90 percent voted to merge with St. Anthony. I was pastor of both at the time. The families that came over became this ingredient that challenges St. Anthony’s to look at a universal church. It’s become this wonderful thing that has glued the parish together. I’m so proud of them.”

Reading: “I love political novels. I’m trying to get into the one on the Obamas. I loved Bill Clinton’s biography, he’s one of my favorite politicians. I’ll never forget the day I shook his hand on the West Side at a school opening. In 20 seconds he could connect with people.”

Spritual life: “I love Stritch Retreat House. I like going back to the seminary because that’s one of my alma maters. I have to make a yearly trip down to Normal and sit in the Quad at ISU, too. I love walking around the campus at Mundelein and thinking of all the dreams I had for my life. Ya know, I’m living my dream -- I’ve lived 50 years and met so many different people who’ve shared their life with me as a priest, traveled, gone to four World Youth Days, seen the world and love this life the Lord has given me. I’m happy.”

Favorite saint: “Has to be Thomas. I was born on his feast day, July 3. I say his words to myself every time I kneel after the consecration, ‘My Lord and my God.’ So I guess that’s my favorite Scripture passage too. I hope those are the last words I ever say.”