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August 30, 2009

His parents’ legacy: faith, family, education

By Dolores Madlener



Father Edward Fialkowski, pastor of Our Lady of the Wayside in Arlington Heights, shares devotion to Maria Della Strada with his parishioners.Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Edward Fialkowski, pastor of Our Lady of the Wayside Parish, Arlington Heights, dean of Deanery D, Vicariate I. Former pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Niles. Ordained 1978.

Family life: “I have four sisters and a brother. Dad was a machinery maintenance foreman for Florsheim Shoe Co. The factory was actually downtown years ago, right across from the train station.” His mother was a stay-athome mom. “I was basically a good kid growing up in St. Monica’s on the Northwest Side, into baseball, basketball, football — mostly sandlot sports.”

Studies: “When I connected with a teacher I did well. If you were a tall guy sitting in a desk listening to lectures all day, it was tedious.” He later earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Loyola, a master’s in divinity from Mundelein and a master’s in business from Northwestern.

Priesthood: “A couple of the Mercy nuns who taught me thought there was a religious vocation there. Most of my classmates did not. When I announced in eighth grade I was going to Quigley, my friends said, ‘You, a priest?’ They thought you needed to be a super pious person, instead of just a normal kid.”

Heroes? “Whether I realized it or not the heroes I had as a child were priests and religious women in the family, and the parish priests. Father John Beyenka was an interesting pastor. At one time, for eight years, he had someone from our parish in the seminary. For a while we had a priest ordained from St. Monica’s each year. He didn’t have any secret to success. He simply encouraged young men from good families to think of priesthood. He wasn’t afraid to invite guys to priesthood. I do it a lot, but I could do more.”

Preparation: “I never served Mass in grammar school. But Father Beyenka wanted high school seminarians serving the first two Masses on Sundays, 5:45 and 7 a.m. As a teenager, being involved in liturgy, you have a whole new appreciation for the Mass. I enjoyed serving, and my little Polish mother made sure I was up every Sunday before 5 a.m. in plenty of time, whether it was cold, snowing, rainy or sunny. I was out of bed, dressed and off to church.”

Sports: He follows all the major Chicago teams as well as college sports, “Notre Dame and Northwestern (I’m an alumnus of both), and Loyola basketball. I also follow local high schools in Arlington Heights to see what parishioners are doing.”

Prayer life: “I learned in playing sports in high school, you have to make use of whatever time you have. My prayer life is praying and studying Scripture before Mass in the morning, or for weekend liturgies. A group of us in the area here identified we’d like to get into a priests’ prayer group, but haven’t organized it yet.”

Favorite saint: “One saint I pray to often is our parish patron, Our Lady of the Wayside.” The title is loosely translated from Madonna Della Strada. “I’ve always had a great reverence for Mary. I’ve noticed here it’s common for our people to have a devotion to our patroness.”

Books ‘n’ movies: “I enjoy reading Father Bob Barron or Father Ronald Rolheiser.” He’s not a big moviegoer. “I do like movie classics. I’m a fan of Bogart, Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman.”

Looking back: “My mom and dad never finished high school. They impressed on us the three things that were important in life: faith, family and education. The six of us kids each earned at least one master’s degree. They were very proud of all their kids.”