Advertisements ad

September 27, 2009

‘Each experience has been a rewarding one’

By Dolores Madlener



Father Ken Fischer stands outside his office at St. Luke Parish in River Forest. Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Kenneth Fischer, pastor of St. Luke Parish, River Forest. Ordained at St. Peter’s in Rome, December 1970.

Growing up the oldest of six children: “There is a span of 17 years between me and my youngest brother. He was born between my junior and senior year at Quigley. People don’t usually picture priests changing diapers, but I had plenty of experience through the years. I know a little about family life.”

Family business: Grandparents from Germany settled in the Old Town area in St. Michael Parish. “My dad was a florist like his father before him. In 1953 dad opened his own shop, Fischer’s Flowers, at Ashland and Lawrence in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. (Mom had a house full of kids to care for.) As the oldest child I was the first to get a driver’s license to do deliveries.” He knows how to get around the city and where things are. “So I’m grateful for that experience. But I was delivering flowers on foot to people in the neighborhood by the time I was nine or 10. I used to take big funeral pieces on the old green streetcars. I got strange looks from other passengers.”

Vocation: “The biggest influences on me were the priests at Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Benedict’s, like Father John Krebs. It was kind of the hand of God, no big dramatic moment. I was interested in church things at an early age — was an altar server in fifth grade and sang in the boys’ choir at Lourdes.”

North American College: “It was a wonderful experience to study in Rome for four years at the Gregorian University. I had seminary classmates from all over the world. It was a way to know the bigger church, and see the Vatican and papacy up close. The downside was being so far from home. When I left for Rome at 22, my kid brother Doug was 5 years old.” At ordination, “special travel arrangements enabled our families to visit Rome so it was a thrill of a lifetime for all of us. My little brother made his first communion at my first Mass in Rome.”

The Year for Priests: “I’m happy about it. I think it’s a good invitation for priests to take the opportunity for renewal. I’d hope the laity would see it as a chance to affirm priests. It’s been rough in recent years.”

Prayer life? “Thankfully I’ve always made that a priority. I wouldn’t survive the hassles if I wasn’t in touch with the Lord and asking his help on a daily basis. For several years I’ve alternated between an eight-day directed Jesuit retreat and other times I go out to the Trappist Monastery at New Melleray. I call it ‘monk for a week.’ They allow priests and laymen to sing in choir with them and keep the monastic schedule.”

His parish experiences: “Over my 38 years I’ve served at five parishes: In 1971 at St. Bride’s in South Shore — a racially changing neighborhood — then I went out to suburbia to St. Joseph’s in Libertyville for a few years. I became pastor on the West Side at Our Lady Help of Christians in an African-American parish for 12 years, and then went back to the South Side at St. Dorothy’s. I’ve had a variety of experiences, which I set out to do, and it has been enriching and rewarding.”

Favorite verse: “From Romans, ‘In all things God works for the good of those who are called.’ It’s reassuring when things seem difficult to know the Lord is in charge.”