July 1, 2012
He became pastor at church of his baptism
He is: Father Robert J. Heidenreich, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka and dean of Vicariate II-C. Former pastor of St. Benedict on Irving Park Road. Ordained at Mundelein Seminary in 1969.
Growing up: He went to St. Andrew School, just east of St. Benedict, on the North Side, where he was baptized. “Then we moved to St. Matthias. About 50-plus years later I was pastor of St. Benedict! I have one brother, three years younger than I.
“My father was a wholesale butcher, delivering fresh meat 5 or 6 days a week to neighborhood restaurants. When we were kids we’d go with him sometimes. His day started at 5 a.m. at the Fulton Street Market. If you were later you didn’t get the prime cuts. I was hardly awake, and people were speaking all kinds of foreign languages.
“Both my parents were born in Bavaria. Dad died in 1963. When my mother retired from Swedish Covenant Hospital she started going to Germany, and after the second or third trip she said, “Bobby, you have to come.” I started going, in the 1970s. I met many relatives on those trips who were still extremely thankful for the packages we sent after the war. I’m still in touch with some of those families. I realized Mother was much more American than German. She came here in the late 1920s, and my parents met at a German-American Club here, the Schwabenfrein.”
Years later he got involved as one of the liaisons in an international project called ‘Crossing Over,’ between the archdiocese of Chicago and three German dioceses, that enabled Catholics in both countries to learn about each other’s parish life.
Priesthood: “My parents weren’t particularly religious. I think my mother started going more often when she had children. I really liked the priests at St. Andrew. I got to know them better because I was a server. They used to stand out in front of church on Sundays greeting people. I do that, too, after Mass. Our pastor was Bishop Bernard Sheil. While he was involved with CYO and confirmations, the priests formed a pretty good team (one was the future Bishop John Gorman).”
Parish life: He was pastor of St. Benedict on the day Pope Benedict XVI was elected, and all the media in Chicago converged on the parish.
“Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka (since May 1, 2006), isn’t as ethnically diverse as the North Side. One-third of the population of Glencoe and Winnetka is under 18 years old. We’re dealing with young families here. We have 330 kids in our school and 500 in religious education.
“I went to Africa right after Christmas. Our former associate is from Tanzania. Our parishioners helped him raise $2.5 million to build a new two-story, brick school in his village. Our parishioners also have a sharing parish in Haiti, where they built water and electric systems after the earthquake. They help with the food pantry and tutoring at our sharing parish in Chicago at St. Columbanus on the South Side, and donate over a thousand dollars a month.”
Prayer: “I belong to a monthly prayer group with three married couples. Then there’s the eight priest classmates I’ve gotten together with once a week since we were ordained. We help keep one another sane. I’ve had two sabbaticals — Sangre de Cristo in Santa Fe for a ministry updating program. And I went as chaplain with Mundelein seminarians on their trip ‘In the Footsteps of St. Peter & Paul,’ to Greece, Turkey and Rome.”
Leisure: “I struggle at playing golf. The last book I had time to read was ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ — read the trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The movie wasn’t as good as the book. If I’ve read a book I like to see the movie to compare.”
Favorite Scripture verses: “The Emmaus walk in Luke 24:13-35. It’s typical of the way we encounter Christ today. And Matthew’s account of the Prodigal Son, 24:3-44.”