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March 15, 2009

Long-range planning started in first grade

By Dolores Madlener



Father William Corcoran, pastor of St. Linus, Oak Lawn, stands next to an Irish flag in his rectory March 9. He is from a family of Irish immigrants.Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father William Corcoran, pastor of St. Linus Parish, Oak Lawn; Vicariate 5 dean of Deanery D, Southwest suburbs.

Kin: “I’m very close to my four sisters, their husbands and my 10 nieces and nephews. I would be lost without them.”

Roots: “My parents and all their siblings were Irish immigrants.” Both his parents were from County Mayo. “Dad was from Castlebar and Mom from Ballyhaunis.”

Growing up: “Dad was a foreman for Peoples Gas for 39 years; Mom was a homemaker. I had asthma as a child so I wasn’t into athletics. I read, played board games with friends or biked. To this day I love cycling. I was born in 1956, the Baby Boom, and scores of kids lived on my block. There were 210 in my eighth grade at Little Flower School.”

Vocation: “When I was in first grade there was an art project where we drew what we wanted to be when we grew up. About a half dozen of us thought they were going to be priests. It wasn’t unusual. As an altar server the liturgy and prayer was something I thought I wanted to do. I tested that out at Quigley South then at Niles and Mundelein. It continued to appeal to me.”

Mentors: “Msgr. Bernard Brogan was pastor for most of my young years at Little Flower. He was a wonderful preacher and bulletin writer. He communicated with people extremely well. You knew what was going on in the parish. It has inspired me to do some things with our bulletin.”

Pastoral style: “I definitely try to get out of the way and let people do their jobs. I don’t micromanage, but I insist on strong communication.”

Have your academic degrees aided your priesthood? “I think my studies helped me look at things from a long perspective. That gives a lot of hope. Also studying societies you see the great good that can be done by a common effort — a very Catholic concept. We’re a church and a community and we’re connected to the Lord and to one another.”

That Ph.D.: “My degree is in 20th-century urban america. My dissertation was on the revival of Irish identity after World War II.”

Immigrants yesterday and today: “I think my studies deepened my appreciation for all immigrants including those coming to our country today. Basically their common desire is tied in to ‘work.’If you can work you can marry. If you can marry you can have children. If you have a wife or husband and kids you have ‘a life.’ So the immigrants simply wanted to be able to work. That helps me connect with a lot of our current immigrants.”

Irish ties: “I’ve been blessed to visit Ireland 20 times since 1969. The first trip was for my cousin Father Brian Murphy’s ordination in England. Six trips were for funerals; seven for weddings.”

And your affinity to labor? “I have a good business mind and a deep appreciation for labor issues. At times companies do not appreciate the asset they have in the men and women who make up their business. I think being very pro-labor helps my business-mindedness.” The financial disclosure model he designed for St. Linus Parish has been used by the archdiocese as a reporting model for all parishes.

Typical day off: “It’s a mix of rest, exercise and being with friends and family.”

Leisure: “I’m reading a novel at the moment, Ken Follett’s ‘World Without End.’ The next book on my desk is about the Irish famine. I tend to read history and regular novels. I just finished ‘A Team of Rivals’ about Abraham Lincoln. A great book. I thought I’d read it in honor of his 200th birthday.”

Lenten practice? “I’ve encouraged all of us to call people we know who are not practicing the faith and tell them, ‘I’m praying for your intentions.’ Not strongarming anyone. Over the course of Lent share different things with them you hear in church. They aren’t coming to church, so we’re bringing church to them.”

The parish: “I love being pastor at St. Linus. It’s a wonderful, apostolic-minded community. We’ll have a float in the South Side Irish Parade to honor our National Junior Honor Society members and our state champion cheerleaders.”