Westmont parish remembers ‘Father Michael’

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Michael Danek

Michael Danek, pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic in Westmont, passed away at the age of 56 due to complications from diabetes. Citing his positive impact on people from the entire community, parishioners say ‘Father Michael’ will be remembered for his generosity and kindness.

Members of Holy Trinity Catholic Church pay final respects to late pastor

Michael Danek has touched countless lives during his time as pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Westmont and throughout his life.

Danek, who parishioners knew as “Father Michael,” passed away May 18 at Presence Resurrection Hospital due to complications from diabetes. He became the pastor at Holy Trinity in June 2011, and members of the church fondly remembered the impact Father Michael, 56, had on their parish.

“My whole life, Holy Trinity has been my home, [and] never has a pastor changed our parish quite like Father Mike,” Westmont resident Lisa Ryan said. “We are so blessed by all he has done and all his legacy continues to do.”

That legacy included creating the parish’s first Young Adult Ministry program and establishing Holy Trinity’s Parish Pastoral Council.

“This man lived the resurrection so well,” said Jennifer Bartley, director of youth ministry at Holy Trinity. “He brought joy, generosity, hope, kindness and love of the resurrection.”

Many of Danek’s friends and family showed the late pastor that same love, as they flocked to Holy Trinity last week to pay their respects. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral Mass on May 23. Guests included Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, the Rev. Eugene Szarek of Saint Hedwig Parish, and numerous priests from the Congregation of the Resurrection in Joliet and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The Rev. Steven Bartczyszyn of Saint Hyacinth Basilica delivered the homily during the Mass and shared memories from his longtime friendship with Danek, which goes back more than 50 years. The two friends attended the same elementary and high schools. After attending the same seminary, both were ordained as priests the same year.

Danek earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from St. Louis University and the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He took his first vows for the priesthood on May 18, 1980, and was ordained April 12, 1986, at Saint Hyacinth Basilica on Chicago’s northwest side.

In 1988, Danek was assigned to his old high school, Archbishop Weber High School, where he taught courses on religion, Spanish and morality. He went on to serve at Saint Hedwig Parish and Saint Hyacinth, as well as at Saint Christopher Parish in Las Vegas.

At the age of 37, Danek became the youngest priest in his order to serve as the provincial superior of the USA Province of the Congregation of the Resurrection. He held this position for six years.

While delivering the homily at Danek’s wake service, the Rev. Paul Sims shared three lessons that Father Michael taught the many communities he served: Play, pray and pastor.

Danek was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Mira. He is survived by his sisters, Kathleen and Denise.

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