Cupich to perform funeral Mass today for founding pastor of St. Mary of Vernon

  • Rev. John Finnegan

    Rev. John Finnegan

  • The St. Mary of Vernon Parish Center was rededicated as the Rev. John P. Finnegan Parish Center on July 7, 2008, in honor of founding pastor Finnegan's 80th birthday. The building was constructed under his leadership in 1987.

    The St. Mary of Vernon Parish Center was rededicated as the Rev. John P. Finnegan Parish Center on July 7, 2008, in honor of founding pastor Finnegan's 80th birthday. The building was constructed under his leadership in 1987. Courtesy of St. Mary of Vernon

 
 
Updated 6/21/2019 5:06 PM

The funeral Mass for the Rev. John P. Finnegan, founding pastor of St. Mary of Vernon Parish in Indian Creek, will be said at 11 a.m. Saturday at the church by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich.

Finnegan, who spent the last 20 years of his career at the church, becoming pastor emeritus on his retirement in 1998, died Sunday. He was 90.

 

Finnegan was born on July 8, 1928, in Chicago. He attended the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, and he earned his master's degree at the University of Notre Dame in classics and his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago in Greek and Latin.

He was ordained in 1954 and was named founding pastor of St. Mary of Vernon in 1978. Besides leading the growing church, which has more than 2,000 families, he saw the need for expanding the church's ministry to senior living centers. Hawthorn Lakes was the first such ministry he established in 1983.

"We have such a wonderful parish, and it's because of Father John," said Margaret Kuretich of Gurnee, who joined the parish a year after its founding and who took Finnegan, who lived nearby and suffered from Parkinson's disease, to medical appointments.

Kuretich said Finnegan remembered everybody's name and story. "He knew when people were hurting." When parishioners had ideas for how to expand the church's ministry, he would support them. "He would never hold anybody back."

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Because he lived so long with Parkinson's, "he taught us how to live and he taught us how to die," she said. "He never complained."

His younger brother, the Rev. William J. Finnegan, remembered that his brother saw himself as a parish priest from the very beginning, according to an Archdiocese of Chicago news release.

He was able to fulfill that dream initially at Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Hometown. After two years, he was asked to become a full-time teacher at Quigley Preparatory Seminary and later at St. Mary of the Lake Junior College in Niles before returning to his first at St. Mary of Vernon.

"Even after retirement, he continued to offer liturgies there and also always considered himself one of their family," William Finnegan said of his brother, who spent the next 20 years helping out at various churches in Lake County.

Visitation will be until 8 p.m. Friday and from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the church. While Cupich will celebrate the Mass, the church's pastor, the Rev. Joseph Curtis, will be the homilist. All services will be at the, 236 U.S. Hwy. 45 in Indian Creek, just northwest of Vernon Hills. Interment will take place at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.

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