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Monsignor John Hayes

Monsignor John Hayes, The Priest

John Hayes, a native of Evanston, Illinois, was ordained a priest on September 20, 1930 at the age of 25. Fr. John had a variety of assignments during his priesthood and a short study of his ministry leaves no doubt why he is still Epiphany's beloved "Monsignor" - a true gentleman of the Church. After two extra years at St. Mary of the Lake University John was sent to Rome for a year of post graduate studies. In 1933 young Fr. Hayes was dispatched to Quigley Seminary as a professor for the Archdiocese where he served for the next 7 years.

Fr. Hayes' intelligence, eloquent passion for the plight of the poor and tireless efforts for rights and justice did not go unnoticed. In 1940 Monsignor Hayes was sent to Washing DC to serve at the National Catholic Welfare Conference on the Social Action Committee (this conference would later become the National Conference of Catholic Bishops). When asked about his work in our nation’s capital, John usually replied that his efforts were of little importance. However, John's writings and consensus building among various Church, inter-denominational and secular groups advanced the Social Justice mission of our Church and laid the groundwork for many other works of equality, peace and justice in the years to come. Issues concerning workers rights and unions, immigration, racial harmony, civil rights and human dignity are but some of the realities Monsignor Hayes wrestled with on a daily basis for the next 4 years. His work in DC was cut short in 1944 when John contracted Tuberculosis and was forced to the dry climate of San Antonio, Texas for rehabilitation. Another Chicago Priest, George Higgins, class of 1940, was sent to take John's position. Monsignor Higgins stayed on the job John Hayes established for the next 60 years. The great work of Monsignor Higgins would not have been possible had our Monsignor Hayes not so faithfully served the cause of justice in the office he helped create.

TB didn't seem to slow Msgr. Hayes down. For the next 9 years, after his strength returned, John served as chaplain, mentor and friend for hundreds of people at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. He ministered to everyone; rich and poor, young and old, student and professor, religious and laic. Luckily for us, John's time in Texas came to an end and in 1953 he returned to his home diocese of Chicago. Upon returning to Chicago Monsignor Hayes was assigned to serve the needs of the Sisters and students of Mercy High School in Chicago where he stayed for the next four years. Next up was St. Carthage on Chicago's Southside. For the next 10 years John joyfully served St. Carthage during a time that was most difficult for the neighborhood. The sin of racism and the fear of the unknown gripped many parts of the city as ethnic and demographic shifts swept the city.

Always faithful to God and the Gospel of Jesus, Monsignor Hayes developed creative and innovative ways to invite friends of different traditions and creeds to be part of the Catholic Faith. Fr. Gerry Weber, a fellow Chicago priest and a good friend of Monsignor, authored a new Catechism Program and coached John on how to use and implement its ideas and strategies. John's tremendous love and care, his amazing intellect and attention to the Spirit brought many to become part of St. Carthage parish. One of his first "converts" was the family of a young boy named Wilton Gregory. Wilton would go on to become a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and is now serving as Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia.

When Monsignor Cummings retired John Hayes was sent to Epiphany. John recalls that his work as pastor wasn't difficult at all because Msgr. Cummings had done such a terrific job. John regularly jokes that things were so well done during Matt Cummings' days that he was scared to screw things up! Msgr. Hayes continued to guide Epiphany as well as taking up other duties in the vicariate, assisting the Cardinal who regularly asked for John's help. He was the ideal person for the job; keeping a strong, yet gentle, hand on the helm, assisting Msgr. Cummings into a comfortable retirement, welcoming the next generation of immigrants into the parish, celebrating the Sacraments in the Spanish language, and educating the parish on the developments of Vatican II. Monsignor Hayes retired in 1976 and spent the next 26 years at Epiphany. Monsignor went to the Lord on June 3, 2002.

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