Parishioners at St. Gerald Church in Oak Lawn have started a letter-writing campaign to the Chicago Archdiocese after their pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, mentioned at Mass about two weeks ago that he had been asked to retire.
Malcolm did not want to comment on the situation himself, saying simply that the decision has not been made yet.
Members of the Parish Council also did not want to comment on the situation when asked about it recently, perhaps out of concern that publicizing the matter might be detrimental to their goals.
But one parishioner did confirm that parishioners are writing letters to Cardinal Blase Cupich and Bishop Andrew P. Wypych, auxiliary bishop in charge of Vicariate 5, asking them to reconsider. Vicariate 5 is the part of the archdiocese that includes Oak Lawn, and the woman, who did not want to be named, said Wypych is planning to meet with some of the parishioners at a Mass later this month.
Before coming to St. Gerald about 10 years ago, Malcolm, who was ordained in the 1960s, was pastor at St. Daniel the Prophet in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood, and at St. Bede the Venerable in the city’s 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.
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 72.
“I don’t think of age. He is the most energetic, dedicated people-person I have ever seen here,” said Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), a lifelong member of the parish and member of the Holy Name Society.
“If Father Malcolm hadn’t come here, I don’t think we would be the parish we are today. We’re a faith-based, active parish with growing enrollment at school. With the way things are going in the Archdiocese, with the consolidation of parishes, and the way he shares his beliefs and faith, I think Fr. Malcolm is the right man for the job here. He is very inspirational,” Olejniczak added.
The pastor is known as a baker at St. Gerald, where his homemade bread is a hot commodity at all the parish events. But he is also known as a walker, getting in at least 10,000 steps a day, and leading class trips to downtown Chicago.
“That’s one of the greatest things about him. Many of these kids in Oak Lawn would never get to downtown Chicago otherwise,” said fellow Trustee Tim Desmond (1st), whose sons went on the trips. “But he’ll take them on buses and trains, and show them all around. It is a great experience for them.”