Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

A missionary in Chicago: Fr. Arnold Damen S.J.

Cardinal George's Schedule

  1. July 22: 10 a.m., Sunday Mass, St. Patrick, Lemont
  2. July 29: 9 a.m., Sunday Mass, St. John the Baptist, Harvey
  3. July 30: 10:15 a.m., Annual Vicars Conference, University of Saint Mary of the L a k e / M u n d e l e i n Seminary
  4. Aug. 2: 10:30 a.m., Catholic Church Extension Society Executive Committee Meeting, 5 p.m., Opening Mass, Courage Conference 2007, University of Saint Mary of the L a k e / M u n d e l e i n Seminary
  5. Aug. 3: 10 a.m., Catholic Charities Dedication, St. Mary of Celle Day Center, Berwyn
Cardinal's Crest

Cardinal's Appointments

July 10, 2007

His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George announces the following appointments:


Rev. Timothy Zak, S.D.B., to be the pastor of St. John Bosco Parish, North McVicker, effective immediately.


Rev. Kenneth Baker, from associate pastor of St. John of the Cross Parish, Western Springs, to be the administrator of the same, effective immediately.

Rev. Daniel Collins, to be the administrator of St. Mary of the Lake Parish, North Sheridan Road, effective immediately.

Rev. Daniel Long, L.C. to be the administrator of Epiphany Parish, South Keeler, effective immediately.

Associate pastor

Rev. Marek J. Duran, from associate pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, South Kilbourn, to be the associate pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Glenview, effective immediately

Pastors emeritus

Rev. James A. Colleran, from pastor of St. Mary of the Lake Parish, North Sheridan Road, to retire after 44 years of service and be pastor emeritus of the same, effective immediately.

Rev. David Cortesi, from associate pastor of St. Hilary Parish, North Fairfield, to retire after 44 years of service and be pastor emeritus of St. Ferdinand Parish, West Barry, effective immediately.

Rev. Robert Darow, from pastor of St. Hilary Parish, North Fairfield, to retire after 44 years of service and be pastor emeritus of the same, effective immediately.

Rev. Richard Mueller, from pastor of St. Norbert Parish, Northbrook, to retire after 45 years of service and be pastor emeritus of the same, effective immediately.

Rev. Gerald F. Mulcahy, from pastor of St. Patricia Parish, Hickory Hills, to retire after 45 years of service and be pastor emeritus of the same, effective immediately.

Rev. A. Paul Reicher, from pastor of Notre Dame de Chicago, West Harrison, to retire after 45 years of service and be pastor emeritus of the same, effective immediately.


Rev. Andrew Izyk, from the Diocese of Tarnow, Poland, to be a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and continue as associate pastor of St. Monica Parish, North Nottingham, effective immediately.

Rev. Jerome Twarog, from the Congregation of the Resurrection, to be a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and continue as the associate pastor of St. Peter Parish, Skokie, effective immediately.

Vice president of recruitment

Rev. Kenneth Carlson to be the vice president of recruitment at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, effective immediately.

In my last column, I wrote about Fr. Peter John DeSmet’s work among the native peoples of the plains, a ministry that began in 1823. During Fr. DeSmet’s trips back to Europe, he gathered funds to support the Church’s work among the American Indians and he also recruited men to join him as missionaries. In 1837, Fr. DeSmet brought to America a twenty two year old Dutchman who was eager to join the Jesuits in America. His name was Arnold Damen.

During his novitiate at Florissant, Missouri, just outside St. Louis, Arnold wrote his parents about the work of the Jesuits among the various native tribes; but after his ordination in 1844, the young priest was assigned to parish work in St. Louis. His missionary impulse was directed to preaching, the giving of retreats and the conversion of non- Catholics.

In 1856, then Bishop Anthony O’Regan invited Fr. Damen and three other Jesuit priests to come to Chicago and preach missions at Holy Name Parish. Conflict among the various nationalities in the city was dividing the Church here. Whether at the urging of the Bishop or not, Fr. Damen spoke during his first sermon in Chicago about the reverence the people owed their Bishop! Whether because of this sermon or not, the Bishop asked the Jesuit Provincial Superior in St. Louis to assign Fr. Damen to Chicago. The Provincial obliged.

Fr. Damen chose as the site for the first foundation of the Society of Jesus in Chicago a location a block west of the intersection of what was then known as Twelfth Street and Hoosier Avenue, now Roosevelt Road and Blue Island Avenue. Here he began Holy Family Parish, with boundaries encompassing fifty square miles of sparsely populated prairie, nearly the whole west and southwest side of Chicago. When he began the parish in 1857, he planned also for schools, when a parish with a school was still a rarity, and a college. Despite the economic panic of 1857 and his arrival with no funds and no possibility of borrowing money from Bishop O’Regan, all the institutions he planned were completed in a dozen years. Damen had measured well the pace of growth in Chicago, and he had gauged as well the spirit of the Irish immigrants he was to gather into the largest parish in the Midwest.

While building, with his people, sixteen buildings in twenty years, Fr. Damen continued preaching the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, overseeing the spiritual lives of his parishioners, attending to the regular cycle of sacramental preparation and celebration and gathering funds to pay off his numerous creditors. Confessions were heard daily, often till midnight, and communions numbered in the thousands. He managed to do all this with a friendliness and an exuberance that attracted and united Catholics and others alike.

Fr. Damen ran Holy Family Parish like a continuous mission, with a clear intention to reach out to all people and convert them to Christ in the Church. His great gothic parish church was dedicated in 1860, and his several schools, some conducted by the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and others by Jesuit Brothers and some laymen, fed the college. Today Holy Family church and parish continue, in a very changed neighborhood, under the direction of Fr. Jeremiah Boland, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The eight elementary schools of Fr. Damen’s parish are succeeded by the Children of Peace School on the campus of the Medical Center of the University of Illinois. The college building is St. Ignatius High School, conducted by Fr. Brian Paulsen of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, and the original college has become Loyola University Chicago. In 1923, a count was made of the number of priests and religious women who were graduates of Holy Family’s institutions: 235 priests and 414 sisters.

In 1871, Fr. Damen’s church and parish survived the Great Chicago Fire. Ever since the fire, seven vigil lights have burned continuously before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the east transept. Mary’s intercession, Fr. Damen believed, saved his newly built church. A year after the Great Fire, my father’s mother, Mary Connolly, was baptized in Holy Family church. Even as a very elderly lady, she told stories of growing up in Father Damen’s parish as the city was rebuilding and the Catholic population increasing.

Fr. Damen himself never abandoned his early desire to convert America. In his later years, while continuing as pastor in Chicago, he spent a great deal of time each year on the road, preaching parish missions all over the country and moving even into Canada. His whole mission was based on the text, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Pastoral zeal, a thirst to gather souls to Christ, remained his principal virtue and the motivating source of all he did. Most of all, whatever he did and no matter where he was, he regularly prayed, spending extended periods of time each day before the Blessed Sacrament.

Fr. Arnold Damen, S.J., died on January 1, 1890. He delivered his zealous soul to God after several months of painful illness. While living memory of his piety and his personal kindness, his organizational ability and his hard work inevitably diminish, the institutions he founded keep some sense of his personality and his activity alive among us.

Fr. Damen’s life reminds us that mission is the purpose of the Church’s existence. Otherwise lost in a plethora of activities and distractions, a busy life is organized by its over-riding purpose. For the Church as such and for all her members individually, this purpose is the conversion of the world. How would Fr. Damen organize his life and activities in Chicago today? He would have to attend to the divisions that distract the Church from her mission. He would be aware of the economic and familial difficulties of daily life for Catholics and others in the city. He would work to deepen Catholics’ grasp of the central mysteries of the faith. He would organize works of practical charity to come to the assistance of the poor and the needy. He would challenge the successful to ever-greater generosity. He would combat prejudice. He would encourage vocations to the ordained priesthood and consecrated life. He would keep in regular touch with all those whom God had given him to love and, through prayer, with God himself.

While the circumstances of doing all this have changed, these are the concerns and activities that drive our lives here today. They cover the principal dimensions of the Church’s mission. God bless you.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Archbishop of Chicago

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