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Archdiocesan Priest, Rev. Ronald John Lewinski, Dies

Rev. Lewinski was the Co-Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Department of Parish Vitality and Mission

Chicago, IL (July 24, 2017) – Rev. Ronald John Lewinski passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday, July 19 in the rectory at St. Theresa Parish, Palatine. Rev. Lewinski, the Co-Director of the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission, was 71 years old.

Rev. Lewinski was born in Hammond, Indiana on February 15, 1946. He attended the Assumption B.V.M. Elementary School in Chicago and went on to study at Quigley Preparatory Seminary North. He graduated from the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary with Baccalaureate of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. After completing his theological studies at Mundelein Seminary and the Faculté Catholique in Lyon, France, Rev. Lewinski was ordained into the priesthood on May 10, 1972 by John Cardinal Cody, Archbishop of Chicago. Rev. Lewinski celebrated his first Solemn Mass at the Assumption B.V.M. Parish on May 14, 1972.

“In his presence, we always were profoundly struck by his deep devotion to Christ and to his ministry as a priest,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago. “Even when retirement was an option, he never considered it as his dream for the renewal of the Church kept him fully engaged, inspired and dedicated. He was a Chicago man; starting out on the south side, moving north and concluding his ministry at the Pastoral Center. He knew Chicago, loved the city and worked very hard each day to bring Christ to its people. We miss him greatly.”

Rev. Lewinski served in the archdiocese in a number of different roles. He was Assistant Pastor of St. Frances of Rome Parish in Cicero (1972-78), Associate Pastor of St. Hilary Parish on California Avenue (1978), St. Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg (1979-84) and St. Joan of Arc Parish in Evanston (1984-95). Over the years of his ministry, Rev. Lewinski served as Director of the Office for Divine Worship (1984-94), the Director of the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House (1995) and became Pastor of St. Mary of Annunciation-Fremont Center (1996-2014). He was also the Archbishop’s Delegate for the Parish Transformation program (2013-16) before becoming Co-Director of the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission in 2016 along with Rev. Peter Wojcik.

Rev. Wojcik considered Rev. Lewinski a great friend and spiritual father. “He was a trusted mentor, not only to me,” said Rev. Wojcik, “but also to many other priests and seminarians. They would come to him often over the last 30 years asking for his prayers and support. His sense of humor and willingness to welcome others with a big smile made a difference in countless lives. He is already profoundly missed.”

Rev. Lewinski served on the faculty of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary which honored him with the “Those Who Serve” award at the Celebration of Mundelein – An Evening of Tribute on April 20, 2017.

Rita A. Thiron, Executive Director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC), said he was respected around the world for his expertise in the Liturgy and in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Rev. Lewinski addressed the FDLC at the 2014 National Meeting, reflecting on the pastoral issues raised in a 2014 CARA survey on initiation practices. He is the author of several books on the RCIA, including the “Guide for Sponsors” and his most recent “An Introduction to the RCIA: The Vision of Christian Initiation.” 

Knowing that Rev. Lewinski had been the second Director for the Office for Divine Worship was always an honor for Todd Williamson, current Director of the Office for Divine Worship. “He loved the Church’s liturgy and served it diligently his whole priesthood,” said Williamson. “He was convinced of its power to transform the people of God, and he never stopped preaching, teaching, writing and speaking about that.” Williamson added that in 1979 Rev. Lewinski talked Pope John Paul II into celebrating the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of the Catechumenate during the Mass in Grant Park when Pope John Paul II.. Rev. Lewinski joked about it in his “As Those Who Serve” award speech: “If someone had told me when I rose from the sanctuary floor on ordination day that I would one day re-found a parish, build a church, start a new school, teach in the seminary, coach a pope – now saint – how to celebrate one of the rites of the RCIA in Grant Park, and travel literally around the world in competition with Saint Paul, I would have said, ‘You are absolutely out of your mind!’”

Rev. John Francis Kartje, Rector and President of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, remembered Rev. Lewinski as an exemplary model of a parish priest who never shirked from tackling new projects and improving life for others. “In many ways he was also a servant to the entire Archdiocese and the universal Church,” said Rev. Kartje, “most recently through his leadership with the Renew My Church program. I will always be grateful for the quiet mentoring and spiritual direction he provided to countless men in their vocational discernment.”

But he was also a dreamer. Tim Weiske, Director of Strategic Planning and Implementation, said Rev. Lewinski had a gift for observing something as it was and seeing how it could blossom into something else. “He often told the story of Christ Our Hope Parish in Seattle to encourage people to dream about what could be. The diocese bought an old hotel and transformed the main floor into worship space but then, as part of its mission, turned the hotel rooms into affordable housing.”

The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago will always be inspired by Rev. Lewinski’s vision: “The daily experiences of ministry have all been grace-filled surprises. I’ve come to the conviction that we must avoid getting stuck in one paradigm of ministry or one period of history. It’s the living, breathing and growing body of Christ that has been entrusted to our care and we must love it in all its diversity.”

Rev. Lewinski will lie in state on Tuesday, July 25 from 2 to 9 p.m. at St. Mary of the Annunciation, 22333 W. Erhart Rd., Mundelein. Visitation hours will be 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 26 at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish followed by Funeral Mass at 11 a.m.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich will be the main celebrant and Rev. Andrew Liaugminas, Director of Calvert House Newman Center, will be the homilist. Interment will take place at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish Cemetery.

Rev. Lewinski is survived by his sister, Diane Ciesielski of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.