The prayers of many parishioners of St. Gerald Church in Oak Lawn were answered when the Archdiocese of Chicago informed them last Thursday that their pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, would not be retiring until June 2019.
Parishioners of St Gerald Church, 9310 S. 55th Court, had begun a letter-writing campaign asking for the archdiocese to reconsider after Malcolm told them at Mass a couple of weeks ago that he had been asked to retire this June.
“He received one more year and we’re all very, very happy,” said Laura Kowalski, the wedding planner for the parish on Monday.
The pastor himself agreed.
“I’m very happy and the people of the parish are very happy,” said Malcolm, when asked for his thoughts on the subject this week.
Although the archdiocese generally asks pastors to retire at 70, St. Gerald parishioners are asking for an exception to be made for Malcolm, who is 73. The one-year extension will allow him to celebrate his 10th anniversary at St. Gerald in June, without being rushed out the door.
“This past week brought great news to all of us as a parish and our hearts are filled with joy knowing that Father Malcolm will continue to help strengthen our faith and build our parish community. The efforts of the entire parish and school in writing letters, signing petitions and just praying have once again shown what a great bond we have with Fr. Malcolm and our parish family,” said Annamarie Blaha, who has been active in St. Gerald Parish since moving to Oak Lawn more than 30 years ago.
“As the saying goes, a family that prays together, stays together,” she added.
Blaha, who helps manage the church’s Facebook page, noted that the pastor’s post after getting the first call about retiring reached almost 7,000 people.
Bishop Andrew P. Wypych, auxiliary bishop in charge of Vicariate 5, which encompasses the part of the archdiocese that includes Oak Lawn, was planning to meet with parishioners to discuss the situation on Feb. 28. But that meeting was canceled when the good news was announced.
Before coming to St. Gerald, Malcolm was pastor of St. Daniel the Prophet in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood, and at St. Bede the Venerable in the Scottsdale neighborhood. He was popular in both parishes, and a new gymnasium built at St. Daniel the Prophet School is named after him.
Similarly, at St. Gerald, he oversaw the building of the Jonathan Collins Activity Center, which was dedicated in 2013. Since then, the debt related to the construction has been paid off.
Among other things, the pastor is known at St. Gerald for is his homemade bread, a hot commodity at all the parish events and fundraisers. He is not averse to sharing his baking skills with students either. But he is also known for being physically active, walking at least 10,000 steps a day, either around the neighborhood or when taking St. Gerald students on class trips to downtown Chicago.
Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), a lifelong member of the parish and member of the Holy Name Society, recently described him as “the most energetic, dedicated people-person I have ever seen here.”
He credited the pastor with making St. Gerald what it is today.
“We’re a faith-based, active parish with growing enrollment at school. With the way he shares his beliefs and faith, I think Fr. Malcolm is the right man for the job here. He is very inspirational.”