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Trying Eucharist in the park

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Father Thomas Hickey, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview, holds his cat, Jam Rose in his office on Nov. 9. (Natalie Battaglia / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Thomas Hickey, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview. Former pastor of St. Clement Parish. Ordained in 1970.

Youth: “My home parish was St. Margaret of Scotland on the South Side, and I said my first Mass there. Went to Quigley North, Niles and six years at Mundelein.

“I have three brothers and a sister who still live out south. My dad was in the wholesale meat business. He’d buy from the big packing companies and sell to small butcher shops, mainly on the South Side. Eventually as big chain stores came in, that became a job of the past.

“Dad had taken over the business from his father at 17 years of age, when his father died suddenly. My dad was at Leo High School and had to finish going to classes on Saturdays for a while to graduate.

“After all the kids were finally in school, mom went back and worked as a clerk in the Chicago public schools.” 

Vocation: “The priests at St. Margaret were wonderful, exemplary priests. When it came to thinking about high schools, they’re the ones who said, ‘I want you to consider going to Quigley,’ which I hadn’t thought of. My father and his brothers had all gone to Leo. I remember it was hard to tell my parents I wanted to go to Quigley. Of course they were very supportive.”

Prayer life: “Our Lady of Perpetual Help has 4,000 families. We have 890 students in our school and 1,000 children in religious ed. It’s a family-oriented parish. My prayer life is essential. Years ago, when I was at St. James on Wabash Avenue, I learned to make an appointment for myself to jog every day. Then I realized, ‘Why can’t I do that with prayer?’ That was when Cardinal Bernardin was here. He was a great inspiration for me in terms of donating the first hour of my day to the Lord in prayer. That’s been my mainstay. A yearly retreat is important, too. I’ve gone out to one of the Jesuit places in Colorado and a number of years to the Desert House of Prayer near Tucson.”

‘New evangelization’: “For the past few years, we’ve had a large Mass at our Family Fest, with 1,500 people outside in the parking lot. This year we also started ‘neighborhood Masses.’ Glenview is broken up in natural divisions. From mid-August into fall one or two of us priests went out every Saturday night and said 5 p.m. Mass in somebody’s backyard or in a park. It’s been very well received with from 80 to 150 people each week.

“It’s been a way of blessing the neighborhoods and helping parishioners get to know those who may live on the next block. We have lemonade and cookies afterwards. It attracts some non-Catholics, and Catholics we don’t see all the time. Got a note from a woman in a wheelchair who can’t get to the church, but happily the Mass was on her block. Her family made sure she was there and she was thrilled.”

Laity: “Part of all this goes back to my second assignment where I ended up as director of the Cana Conference. I met great couples and kind of had to depend on their wisdom and common sense. It’s now part of my style. When you gather people and listen to them something great will happen. People here bring expertise and confidence I don’t have. It builds a sense of ownership. Eact year when our parish report arrives in the mail, they appreciate the transparency.”

Leisure: “Lately I’ve been reading a number of books on the Second Vatican Council, and about some of the theologians like Congar and de Lubac whose writings were significant. It helps me revisit that great event. For relaxation I’m a big novel reader and like mysteries, so I recently re-read some Graham Greene. I always have some kind of detective story going. That’s very relaxing for me.

“I like to travel. The last couple of years I was able to go to Italy over the summer and stay in Agri Tourismos; they’re like working farms — very reasonable and you can use them as setting-off points.

“I’ve gone to the symphony for 20 years and had a subscription on Thursday nights. It helped me have some ‘culture.’ This is the first year I’m not going because it’s getting too expensive.

“My last couple of years at St. Clement’s somebody talked me into ‘needing’ a pet. I went to PAWS and got a cat. We always had dogs growing up. But this cat, Jam Rose, is wonderful and everybody in the house likes her. She’s ‘part dog,’ so she follows me around and doesn’t annoy anyone else.”

Favorite quote: “Ephesians 3:20, ‘To him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine … to him be glory.’”