Fr. Joseph E. Seitz
Father Joseph E. Seitz, 82, died May 13 at Holy Family Villa in Palos Heights.
Father Seitz was born in Chicago and attended Christ the King School. He graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary and from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary before being ordained in 1958.
He was assistant pastor at St. Benedict, Blue Island (1958-1966) and St. Raphael, Laflin Street (1966-1972). He then served as administrator of St. Raphael until 1974, when he became pastor, a post he held until the parish was closed in 1989. He was then named associate pastor of St. Benedict the African-East Parish where he served until 1990.
From 1990 until 1998, Father Seitz served as pastor of Christ the King Parish and has been pastor emeritus since then. In retirement he served as chaplain at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park and St. Mary Cemetery as well as visiting priest at St. Bernadette, St. Cajetan, St. Bede, St. Walter and numerous South Side parishes.
Father Seitz is survived by his brother, Gerald.
Father Joseph O’Brien
Father Joseph J. O’Brien, former faculty member at Quigley Seminary North and Mundelein Seminary, died May 16, at Resurrection Hospital.
Father O’Brien, 81, was serving as a senior priest at St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Glenview, and had been named pastor emeritus of St. Clement Parish after retiring in 2000.
A Chicago native, Father O’Brien grew up in River Forest and attended St. Luke School. He graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary and the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, and was ordained in 1957.
Following his ordination, Father O’Brien did post-graduate studies at Mundelein, earning his doctorate in sacred theology in 1961. He served as associate pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish (1961-1962) before joining the faculty of Quigley Seminary, where he taught for five years while in residence at St. Luke, River Forest.
Father O’Brien was professor of sacred theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary from 1967-1975. During that time, he was the assistant pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
Father O’Brien was then named associate pastor of Our Lady of the Brook Parish, Northbrook (1975- 1978), Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish (1978-1980) and St. Clement Parish (1980-1982).
He was pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, Oak Lawn (1982-1989) and St. Clement Parish (1989-1996). He served briefly as administrator of Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka before becoming a senior priest assisting the full-time clergy at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Glenview.
He is survived by his brother, John O’Brien.
Fr. John Kersten
Divine Word Father John Kersten, 96, the first missionary in what is now the Archdiocese of Kupang in Indonesia, died April 20.
Born in the Netherlands, Father Kersten began his studies with the Divine Word Missionaries in 1927, professed vows in 1936 and was ordained to the priesthood in August 1940, four months after the Nazis invaded his country.
Unable to go abroad because of the war, he was assigned as a chaplain for a Dutch teachers’ training college, where he taught religion for six years. As soon as travel for missionaries was restored in 1946, the Society of the Divine Word sent him to Kupang on the western edge of Timor. To reach the nearest fellow priest, he had to drive eight hours by Jeep.
In 1958, Father Kersten was placed on house arrest for 14 months before being expelled from the country after trying to help a fellow priest suspected of political activity. He then worked in the southern United States from 1960 until the 1990s.
He had retired to the Divine Word Residence in Bay St. Louis, Miss., but the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 forced him to move to Techny, where he received the care that he needed in his final years.
Father Kersten is survived by seven siblings: Corry, Mary, Wim, Adriaan, Joop, Anton and Truus.
Abbot Gerald Benkert
FIRST ABBOT OF MARMION
Retired Benedictine Abbot Gerald Benkert, 102, died May 16 in Marmion Abbey in Aurora. He had been the first abbot there.
At the time of his death, he was believed to have been the oldest U.S. abbot, the oldest Benedictine abbot worldwide, and the world's second-oldest abbot.
He had been in religious life for 89 years and died less than a week shy of his 78th anniversary of priestly ordination.
Abbot Benkert had been abbot at Marmion Abbey for 22 years, from 1947 to 1969.
Then, starting at age 60, he spent the next 32 years in Guatemala as a teacher and spiritual director at the Benedictine Priory and Seminary of San Jose in Guatemala, teaching philosophy and theology.
In 2002, at age 92, Abbot Benkert returned to Marmion permanently and continued to raise funds for the Guatemala mission. When he turned 100 in 2009, he published his book “Memoirs of the Founding Abbot of Marmion Abbey.”
A Kentucky native, Francis Benkert entered St. Meinrad Minor Seminary in Indiana in 1923, where he had two uncles in St. Meinrad Abbey and a great-uncle who was the abbot. He made his first profession of vows in 1929 and in 1934, he was ordained to the priesthood.
Sr. M. Irenaeus Chekouras
PRESIDENT OF ST. XAVIER
Mercy Sister Mary Irenaeus Chekouras, 90, died May 22, at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park following complications from surgery.
Sister Irenaeus served as president of St. Xavier College from 1972-1982. During her tenure there, Sister Irenaeus led many changes, including directing the transition from an all-women’s college to a co-educational institution. The Wisconsin native joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1943.
She taught part-time in the School of Education for 17 years after retiring as college president. Prior to assuming the presidency, Sister Irenaeus was director of graduate education and taught as a faculty member in the School of Education for more than 10 years. In 2011, she began facilitating a philosophy course in the Renaissance Academy, a lifelong learning program at St. Xavier University. Until 1993, Sister Irenaeus also volunteered as part of the university’s advancement team. Sister Irenaeus served as the mistress of postulants from 1957 to 1960 for the Sisters of Mercy.
She is survived by her brother, John.