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October 28, 2007

His mission requires many ‘tools’

By Dolores Madlener



Father Edward Carlson, pastor, St. Edward Church, beside the wood book racks he made as a project. Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Edward Carlson, pastor at St. Edward Parish on the Northwest Side. Birthday: June 15, 1957. Attended Niles College of Loyola and St. Mary of the Lake seminaries. Ordained 1983.

Grew up in Western Suburbs: In St. John of the Cross Parish, with two older sisters and two younger ones. “Everyone was expected to perform duties in the household, washing dishes, pulling weeds, whatever.” Attended parish elementary school.

Went to Lyons Township High School: “I went to the school where I could ride my bike and save money. The Franciscans in Oakbrook had their boys’ high school at the time, but I decided to have a regular high school experience.”

He served Mass: “I wasn’t the greatest server. I went to church every Sunday without keeping track if anyone else did and was active in our teen club.” Along with a group of friends, “We set up the church in the gym each Sunday—St. John of the Cross didn’t have a church at the time.”

Parish life helped develop his vocation: “The parish was a normal part of our life and it was an inspiration too. It was a good way to be connected in a Catholic community.”

Has a degree in fine arts: He’s done design work in just about every church where he’s lived. Currently he’s working with an artist in the parish on three ceiling panels for the narthex that will depict the Battle of Hastings with St. Edward and William the Conquerer.

On his day off: Enjoys projects. “As plant manager of a church that doesn’t have much money you need to know how to do things, or you’ll get clobbered.”

His handiest work tool: “Anybody who does carpentry would have to be good with the circular saw. But being a cabinetmaker as well, it’s the table saw.” His dad was a CPA; his great grandfather a master carpenter.

Best part of priesthood: “The best part is to be of service to somebody and to the parish for the sake of the Gospel. Not just that you’re funny and tell good stories, but that you actually go out and spread the mission.” His bulletin column is a well-written conversation with people in the pews, telling them about his week and the neighborhood news he’s observed while riding his bike.

Sunday homily preparation: “I’m forced to prepare it in advance because I write the bulletin on Tuesday. It’s important to reflect on Scripture in my column. I’ll take out the Jerome Biblical Commentary, look at the Bible itself, and I try to listen to Father Bob Barron. I don’t steal too many of his ideas. Then I take a slightly different tack in my homily.”

Has made lasting friendships: “I just went on a fishing trip with guys I’ve known since we were 9 or 10 years old.” He still meets about once a week with four pals from the seminary who left before ordination. “We used to get together and spend time talking while we made something to eat. Now we go to a restaurant.”

Adept in the kitchen: “My Mexican ceviche is good enough, and I like to make grilled Greek stuffed leg of lamb.”

A vacation spot he enjoys: “A friend lets me use his place on the Michigan lake shore in exchange for working on it. I can enjoy sitting on his deck knowing “I built this deck.”

Has the first car he paid for himself: “A ’92 Chevy S-10 long bed pickup, black and grey, like a pony.” It’s for carrying things. “I just made the decision between putting it asleep or putting more money into it. I decided to get 250,000 miles on it at least.”

He enjoys movies: “I’m no expert, but ‘Moonstruck’ has some of the greatest one-liners.”

Favorite Scripture quote: “I like a lot of them. A recent one was good: ‘When you have done all the things required of you, say, ‘We are useless servants. We’ve only done our duty.’”