As Father Thomas May prepares to depart from St. John Brebeuf in Niles, where he has been pastor for 13 years, he shared a few thoughts with Patch. com.
Coming to SJB was something of a homecoming for May, a 1973 graduate of Notre Dame High School for Boys in Niles. He grew up in nearby Norridge.
“It was very familiar to me,” May, 55, said. “I had known some of the families from when I was in high school.”
SJB was the first pastorate for May, who was ordained in 1983.
SJB is the kind of community that includes elderly people along with young families, he said.
“There’s a lot of funerals and weddings and baptisms,” he said. “It’s not all funerals or all weddings. There’s a lot of variety.”
“People feel very strongly here about the parish and their priests,” he said.
The parish also has ethnic variety, with large Polish and Filipino communities.
One of the things May said he is most proud of is finding ways to get all of the groups in the parish to feel that they belong and work together. A 12:30 p.m. Sunday Polish Mass has proved popular, he said.
On the physical side, the parish took down the convent and replaced it with a multipurpose parish ministry center during his tenure. The parish ministry center includes a 24-hour adoration chapel, he said.
About 3,200 families are registered in the parish, but May believes many people attend who are not registered. About 4,000 individuals attend Mass each weekend.
Asked if he had any advice for incoming pastor Rev. Michael Meany, May said: “People want you to be the pastor. They want you to listen to them, to love them, to be the face of Christ to them. Make an effort to get to know them. It’s not that hard.”
May will say his farewell Mass at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Meany will speak at all the Masses to introduce himself the weekend of June 25-26, May said.
May will become pastor at St. Mary Parish in Riverside, the same parish that Rev. Robert Banzin and Rev. Leon Wagner transferred to after completing their service at SJB.
Saturday afternoon’s events will begin with a musical tribute to May at 4:30 p.m. A reception with hors d’oeuvres and dessert will follow the Mass.