July 29, 2012
From banker to a Mary priest
He is: Servite Father Robert Warsey, new pastor at Annunciata Parish on the Southeast Side. Pastor for nine years in St. Louis, taught graduate theology at Catholic Theological Union here while chaplain at the Anawim Center (now Kateri Center of Chicago), and later served as shrine director at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica. Ordained at St. Domitilla Parish, Hillside, in 1985.
Youth: A Chicago archdiocese native, he attended St. Domitilla Grade School and St. Joseph High School in Westchester. “I have one younger sister. Dad worked at Sears Roebuck in the Homan Avenue office — sort of a customer service facilitator on the phone. He was a very gracious man. Mom was a legal secretary for a law firm on LaSalle Street. My family was always involved in church and in expressions of their faith. So I always had a deep interest.”
Vocation: “Servites staffed St. Domitilla’s from the 1920s until about 10 years ago. Servite Sisters staffed our grammar school, too.” After completing the archdiocesan seminary program at Loyola University/Niles, he chose to work for a time. “I was a banker in Westchester. I finally made the decision to enter the Servites when I was 29. It just happened the pastor at St. Domitilla’s saw me in the congregation and said, ‘We need help with the liturgy committee. Are you interested?’ It drew me back and I began my graduate theology at CTU and went on to the Servite novitiate in England.”
What’s a Mariologist?: “Mariology is the study of the person of Mary in the tradition, liturgy and spirituality of the church. For instance, we have a very active secular order of the Servants of Mary — laypeople. I’ll be doing their August retreat.” He also teaches a class in the Joliet diocese for permanent deacons and has given courses on Mariology at CTU.
Spiritual life: “The daily readings these days — the prophets — you read their comments and look at yourself. I also draw a lot from Franciscan and Carmelite retreats, fellow mendicants. Or I’ll just take the writings of some great saint and go away for a few personal days.”
Leisure: “I love Chicago. When I have a free afternoon I find a part of the city I haven’t been to before — or hit the art museums. Walking gives me exercise, and I can think or work over a talk I have to give. And I enjoy classical music when somebody gives me a ticket to the symphony, or I’ll listen to a CD, and a couple of our priests like to go to Millenium Park for concerts.”
Books: “I just finished re-reading a book that’s fascinating, ‘Song at the Scaffold,’ by Gertrud von Le Fort. It’s about the Carmelite nuns who were guillotined in the French Revolution. Their feast day was July 17. It also tells the normal fears of people, and what mob violence can do.
“For free time I did re-read the first three Harry Potter novels. When I was in St. Louis we had a school and youth club and you try to keep up. The importance of having loyal and good friends like Hermione and Ron for Harry is good for kids to learn. It teaches them it takes good people standing together to fight evil.”
Mary’s advice for today?: “She’s the one we always fall back on. When she stands at the foot of the cross she says absolutely nothing. Mary only gives one command in all of Scripture and that’s at Cana, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ In the iconographic tradition, the Hodegetria Mary is where she’s holding the Christ Child in one arm, and her right hand is subtley pointing to Jesus. It means, ‘She who shows the way.’ She’s always pointing us back to Jesus who is the healer of souls.”