Rev. Joseph B. Ruiz, 73, pastor emeritus of St. Edmund Parish in Oak Park, died unexpectedly on July 22, 2012 at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park, where he had been serving as a senior priest. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago for 46 years.
Born in Evergreen Park, he attended Catholic elementary school and graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary. He was ordained by Cardinal Cody in 1966, the year he graduated from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. Fr. Ruiz spent his first seven years as a priest serving as assistant pastor of St. Justin Martyr Parish, which closed in 1989. Beginning in 1973, he was assigned as assistant pastor at the Ford City Catholic Center, an experimental parish located in the Ford City Shopping Center. For five years beginning in 1979, Fr. Ruiz was the associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Homewood. He served as associate pastor at Mary Seat of Wisdom in Park Ridge from 1984 to 1990 and in the same capacity at St. Clement Parish on Chicago's North Side for the following two years.
In 1992, Fr. Ruiz was made pastor of St. Edmund Parish in Oak Park and served there for 12 years. There he oversaw a renovation of the church interior that was strongly opposed by a small minority of parishioners. Mention of the renovation at his funeral Mass, was met with resounding applause by parishioners at his funeral Mass. He was also known for his signature ministry, Centering Prayer, a contemplative outreach program that he implemented at St. Edmund.
In 2004, he began a five-year assignment at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park, first as associate pastor and then as administrator. He retired from active ministry in 2009 and was made pastor emeritus of St. Edmund Parish, where he continued to help out, saying Mass two Sundays a month.
"He was a warm and unaffected priest who put everyone at ease," according to Rev. Bill Burke, a longtime friend. "He brought his genius of being real with people to his work as a spiritual director and people were moved by that. His source of strength was that he worked hard on himself. There wasn't any artifice in him. He didn't know how to be phony. He didn't talk about anything unless he had been through it or experienced it.
"So many people at the wake and the funeral said basically the same thing: They could not believe his patience and his ability to listen because they just weren't used to that. This culture is so noisy and non-listening. It took people's breath away that he would actually look people in the eyes and listen to them."
Fr. Burke also cited his longstanding church bulletin column, "Ordinary Time," as one of his many accomplishments.
Joe Ruiz is survived by his brother, David. Visitation was held at St. Edmund Church, 188 S. Oak Park Ave. on July 25. Auxiliary Bishop John Manz was the principal celebrant at the funeral Mass on July 26. Fr. Burke delivered the homily. Interment took place at St. Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park.