Rev. John McGivern, who has faithfully served the St. Edmund Catholic Parish community for the past 18 years, will close out his term as pastor there on June 30, 2022. He has been a beloved, collaborative, strong-yet-humble leader at St. Edmund since 2004 and has touched the lives not only of his parishioners but of Oak Park and the surrounding communities as well.
By his example, Fr. John has led a parish that welcomes everyone, from strangers to longtime parishioners, guiding them through trials and triumphs, challenges and celebrations. He has listened, led, challenged himself and others, pivoted, prioritized, fundraised, and made very difficult pastoral and administrative decisions, and he has accomplished it all with grace, gratitude, reason, wisdom, humility, and humor.
Among Fr. John’s many accomplishments was his unwavering support of Catholic education. When he assumed the role of pastor, he encountered a parish school that was in significant financial trouble. He was taxed by the difficult task of closing the school, although the closing turned out to be short-lived. He was able to organize a talented team who put together a comprehensive marketing plan that included a unique partnership with Dominican University.
Fr. John’s hard work was rewarded after Cardinal George gave him a chance to reopen the school with a new vision. Although the school ultimately closed in 2016, for 13 years under his leadership, children of all socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and races learned not only about academics, but about our Catholic faith. For a man who did not grow up in a diverse setting, he was especially proud of what this little school came to symbolize.
Through donations from the St. Edmund family, local charities have also benefitted from Fr. John’s leadership and generosity. Among them are Beyond Hunger (formerly Oak Park Food Pantry), Housing Forward (formerly PADS), the Community of Congregations, Sarah’s Inn, and A House in Austin. His other acts of kindness and generosity are innumerable and have mostly gone undocumented and unpublicized. He has kept many of his charitable acts quiet, but knowledge of them circulates.
Arguably the most visible achievement of his tenure is the complete renovation of the parish rectory. Originally built in 1910, it underwent a full renovation in 1962. Shortly after he took residence, it was discovered that the building had severe mold and mildew issues; leaking, antiquated plumbing; and significant structural weaknesses. Fr. John began a nearly 10-year fundraising campaign in order to restore the rectory to a functional office space for the parish and a healthy residence for its pastor. In 2018, demolition began on the interior of the building and after months of reconstruction, he was able to move into the residence again and the parish offices opened in the new space.
In 2021, he was asked by the Archdiocese of Chicago to become administrator to St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Parish after their pastor was reassigned. He accepted the challenge and guided both parishes through the final stages of the Renew My Church (RMC) process of reorganization.
Though he will be moving on, he has remained committed to the RMC process, and warmly welcomes Fr. Rex Pillai as pastor of the newly established parish formed by the unification of St. Edmund and Ascension.
Most priests enter the vocation with a deep commitment to service. It is rare to see a pastor highly skilled at both the pastoral side and the financial operations of a parish, yet these were areas where Fr. John excelled. St. Edmund faced financial challenges, especially early on in his tenure. With his vision for the future, fundraising efforts, budgeting expertise and overall management skills, he made sure that the parish remains vibrant and viable in order to carry out its mission of serving the community.
May God abundantly bless Fr. John McGivern and strengthen him as he transitions to a new chapter in his personal and pastoral life. His spiritual guidance, steady leadership, countless kindnesses, and unfaltering loyalty to his congregation will be missed by a grateful community.
Fr. John McGivern’s celebratory Mass and reception will take place this Sunday, June 26.