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July 19, 2009

This pastor shares archdiocese’s ‘best kept secret’

By Dolores Madlener



Father Lawrence (Larry) Duris stands outside of St. Ailbe Parish on Chicago’s Southeast Side where he serves as pastor.Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Lawrence Duris, new pastor of St. Ailbe Parish on the South East Side. Most recent assignments were as pastor at St. Lawrence for 11 years, pastor of St. Philip Neri for 18 years and non-resident pastor at Our Lady of Peace for nine years.

A kid from Skokie: “I’m the oldest of five. We moved out to Skokie when I was in fourth grade and I grew up in St. Peter’s Parish. I ‘rode the escalator’ — Quigley, Niles College and Mundelein Seminary. We were one of the first classes that went to Niles.” He was ordained in 1969.

Priesthood? “I tell families today, ‘If kids don’t see ordained ministry as an option they don’t consider it.’ I never thought of being a nuclear physicist because nobody in our family knew one or what it was. Priesthood was one of the things looked on as a value in our family. It wasn’t pushed. My folks said they were surprised when I wanted to go to Quigley, but it was certainly lifted up. I think the other support system was on a peer level. We had a dozen guys going to Quigley from St. Pete’s.”

Developing: “Your sense of calling, of course, is a developing thing. Looking back, in high school you barely knew what you were. The calling was solidified for me through four summer apostolates spent at Precious Blood Parish on the West Side. Father Bill Berghaus got some of us to come down there. Precious Blood was interested in making a stronger impact on Rockwell Gardens, the public housing project. We did everything from Bible study to running day camps and other activities in the project.”

Rooted: “It also solidified my commitment to minister in the African-American community. Since ordination I’ve spent my whole priesthood here. I love it and I’m grateful for their patience with me. In those initial days on the West Side I was touched by the lived out faith experience and the strong religious tradition that comes out of the African-American experience. To this day I treasure it.”

Belonging: “It’s been a real blessing for me. The African-American Catholic community is one of the best kept secrets in the church. People in other parts of the archdiocese are not aware of what the experience is like — the depth of faith — the gift it has for the whole church: Vibrant prayer life, vibrant liturgy, strong values, high value for Scripture and service to the community. It’s awesome.”

Books: “I’m finishing up Doris Kern Goodwin’s “A Team of Rivals.” I just started “Taking Down our Harps” by Diana Hayes and Cyprian Davis — an anthology about black Catholics in the United States. I found it on my shelf when I was moving.”

Day off: “If I don’t get out of the house early, it doesn’t happen. I get together with classmates or friends. I like bike riding in the summer and try to swim at the YMCA in the winter. I have a subscription to the Chicago Symphony, and to the Lyric Opera. I love music.” He’s also an architecture buff. “We’re like in heaven here in Chicago. We have so much good stuff. I try and catch various exhibits. I checked out the new modern wing at the Art Institute a week after it opened. Awesome building.”

A favorite saying? “Probably a bunch of them. One is, ‘This far by faith.’ It’s from a Gospel song, “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord.’”