The longtime pastor of St. Edna's Catholic Church, who presided over the parish that included more than 2,800 families from Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Prospect Heights and Wheeling, has died.
The Rev. John. J. Hurley passed away Wednesday from complications of Parkinson's disease. A priest in the Chicago Archdiocese for 57 years, he was 82 at the time of his death.
"He loved the people of this parish and in this community," said the Rev. Jerome Jacob, who succeeded Hurley as pastor. "He was always present to them and loved accompanying them in sacramental moments. That was his greatest joy."
Hurley led the Arlington Heights parish from 1983 to 2002 as its pastor, and then remained in residence until last fall when he moved to a Chicago retirement facility.
"He was just very approachable and so appreciative of the people he served," said Laura Kniskern of Buffalo Grove, a 42-year parishioner who's worked at the church for the last 20.
She describes how Hurley used to call children up to the altar as he preached his sermon, often engaging them in a question-and-answer session.
"Some of the things they'd say," Kniskern said with a laugh. "He would just stop and then we'd all laugh."
Hurley grew up in a large Irish family in Chicago and his dry sense of humor and gift of storytelling drew people to him, Jacob says.
"He knew from the time he was 8 that he wanted to be a priest," Jacob added. "He had a very strong, direct calling."
During his nearly 20 years at the parish, Hurley oversaw the construction in 1992 of a pastoral center, named in his honor, that houses staff offices and meeting rooms. He also organized the fundraising and planning for the church narthex and community room, which was approved by the village of Arlington Heights the year he retired.
Jacob points to a sign above the church door that reflects Hurley's presence at the parish: "In this place, extraordinary miracles happen from time to time. Quiet wonders occur every day."
"He used to talk about those quiet wonders all the time, and explain how the mysteries of God worked in our lives, every day," Jacob said.
Hurley is survived by one sibling, Sr. Marian Hurley, B.V.M., and many nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.
Visitation for Hurley will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. on Monday at St. Edna Parish, 2525 North Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights, before an 11 a.m. funeral Mass on Tuesday.