Advertisements ad

January 4, 2009

He’s given Theology on Tap a new dimension

By Dolores Madlener



Father Edward Panek worked closely with the artist on the artistic installation behind him that tells the story of the parish today, the people who founded it and their patron, St. Thomas Becket. Catholic New World/Darrell Harmon

He is: Father Edward B. Panek, pastor of St. Thomas Becket Parish in Mount Prospect.

Southwest Side roots: Born and raised in Five Holy Martyrs Parish. “My mother still lives there. My father was a tool-anddie maker; Mom worked at Western Electric. I’m the middle child with two brothers. Our parents spoke English and Polish at home to us, and we went to Saturday Polish school in Chicago.”

Education: Attended parish grammar school, Quigley South, Niles College Seminary of Loyola, St. Mary of the Lake University and currently Catholic Theological Union.

Any other studies? “I studied in Poland. It was an intensive immersion system at the Catholic University of Lublin during my seminary training. But I really learned it more as a priest.”

Preaching in Polish: “I’m in constant conversation with people either in confession or as a pastoral minister. I preach now in Polish, like I do in English — without a script. I prepare with the Scriptures, write it out for myself and then I preach.”

Frequent flyer: “I’ve visited relatives in Poland a few times as a kid in grade school with my parents and went back once in high school. I have several cousins who are priests and we’d go back for their ordinations.”

What nudged you toward priesthood? “Mostly seeing the priests where I grew up as being very human. They had fun, they could laugh and were themselves. A lot of religious, laity and family members were all great examples of faith. My own experiences as a young person created a fertile ground to explore it.”

What kind of experiences? “I had an illness. I had one kidney and that was failing. I had surgery when I was six, and was in the hospital for 30-some days. Later those experiences have a profound affect on how you see yourself, your faith, and others. Eventually my kidneys failed. By the time I went to Niles I started dialysis.” He’s had three transplants. “The recent kidney I received in 2001 was from my younger brother.”

Did seminary routine help? “It was actually a very supportive environment. Even though you struggle with personal pain, they know you by name and care about you.”

Lifting up a new parish community: He has recently helped form a young-adult group to serve a growing immigrant population in the Northwest suburbs. Their Theology on Tap, in the Polish language, called “Kropla Teologi,” follows guidelines from the Young-Adult Ministry Office. “I see many Polish immigrants in our bilingual parish, in their 20s and 30s, searching for a well-founded faith to respond to their lives in work, relationships and struggles.”

How do they express it? “They seek to know, not just about the catechism, but where God is present in their lives. People from other countries struggle to make this their home. They find themselves on the outside. When the church isn’t responsive, people stray all over the place.”

First Polish Theology on Tap in the country: “We do it a little differently. We have music, some singing, some prayer, then we have food, great speakers, and we play voll eyball outside. Polish-speaking young people come from the suburbs as well as Chicago.”

Any time for relaxation? “I golf, play tennis, run, go biking. I always find something to do. I definitely get out and exercise. Maybe I’ll have people over and cook dinner for them.”

Prayer life: “I try to ground myself by doing centering prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours.”

Current reading? “The God of Intimacy & Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice,” by Tony Campolo & Mary Darling.

Favorite Scripture verse: From the prophet Micah: “This is what the Lord God asks of you: That you act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.”