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Fr. John T. Hillenbrand, Former Northwest Side Pastor, Dies

Chicago, IL (January 17, 2006) – Fr. John T. Hillenbrand, the former pastor of St. Peter Canisius Parish on Chicago’s northwest side, died, Friday, January 13, of complications of Huntington’s Disease. Fr. Hillenbrand was 61 years old at the time of his death. He died at St. Peter Canisius rectory where he was in residence since going on a medical leave in 1995.

Fr. Hillenbrand attended St. Columbanus and St. Margaret of Scotland elementary schools on Chicago’s south side. He graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary and the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. Fr. Hillenbrand was ordained in 1970.

He served as assistant pastor of St. Boniface Parish, now closed, for seven years from 1970 to 1977. For the next five years, he was assistant pastor at St. Philomena Parish on the northwest side before being named pastor of St. Peter Canisius Parish in 1982. He was pastor there for 12 years, until 1995 when his illness necessitated his leaving active ministry.

Sr. Felicia Wolf, the Director of Religious Education at St. Peter Canisius and a close friend of Fr. Hillenbrand, described him as “a multi-cultural pastor.” The parish was in transition when Fr. Hillenbrand arrived in 1982, changing from a predominantly Italian parish to one where Hispanics, African-Americans and Filipinos all worshiped together. “Fr. Hillenbrand was a kind and gentle person who instilled patience and understanding in the people of St. Peter Canisius making it possible for meetings to be conducted in two and sometimes three languages,” Sr. Felicia noted.

According to Sr. Felicia, Fr. Hillenbrand’s illness forced him to stop saying Mass several years ago. Prior to that he would participate using a cane and taking great pains to memorize his homilies.

Visitation for Fr. Hillenbrand will take place on Wednesday, January 18, from 4 to 9 p.m. at St. Peter Canisius Church, 5057 W. North Ave., Chicago. Fr. Thomas Hickey, pastor of St. Clement Parish in Chicago and a classmate of Fr. Hillenbrand, will be the main celebrant at a funeral Mass for Fr. Hillenbrand on Thursday, January 19, at 10 a.m. Bishop Edward K. Braxton, bishop of Belleville, Il. and a classmate of Fr. Hillenbrand, will give the final commendation at the funeral liturgy. Interment will be at St. Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park.

Fr. Hillenbrand is survived by a sister Peggy Blaczak (John), another sister, Mary Jane Hillenbrand and a brother Paul.

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