God bless Father Donald Joseph Ahearn!
Love is the most powerful force in the world. It gives life. A man who loves, lives. And a man who loves a lot, lives a lot. Fr. Ahearn lived a good, long life (91 years) because he was a tremendously loving man. He was loved by so many people and it was your love, brothers and sisters, that allowed Fr. Ahearn to live as long—and as well—as he did.
Fr. Ahearn (aka,"Nubs") was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, along with 39 other men, on May 3, 1951. His first assignment was St. Gertrude Parish in Franklin Park, where he served as the assistant pastor for eight years. During his tenure at St. Gertrude, Fr. Ahearn also acted as a chaplain at St. Patrick High School on Belmont Avenue, in addition to being a specially appointed confessor for nuns. His next assignment, still as an assistant pastor, was at St. Barbara Parish in Brookfield, where he served for seven years. On the side during this time, the young priest was a Cana chaplain. Remaining an assistant pastor, in 1966 Fr. Ahearn transferred to St. David Parish on Union Street. After four years at St. David's, he was named the administrator at St. Nicholas Parish on State Street for five months before taking over as pastor at the same parish. Upon completion of three years as pastor, the Archdiocese named Fr. Ahearn administrator for a month of Holy Rosary Parish on 108th Street, before making him the assistant pastor of All Saints Parish on South State Street for a year. Then, from 1974-1975, Fr. Ahearn served as the associate pastor of Our Lady of Ransom parish not too far from here in Niles. Our beloved friend finally found his home here at St. Juliana Parish on Touhy Avenue in Chicago. He was named pastor on August 21, 1975 and retired on June 30, 1995, serving the parish for nearly 20 years! Among all the duties he performed in the parish, Fr. Ahearn was a member of the Pastor Review Board, the School Board Advisory Committee, and then an Assistant Vicar for Senior Priests. From 1995 until his death last Sunday, January 1, 2017, Fr. Ahearn lived at St. Juliana as the pastor emeritus.
Don was the youngest of five children, the son of Daniel and Helen Ahearn. He grew up on the West Side at Presentation Parish, where he attended grammar school. Nubs went through the seminary system, first at Quigley high school and then Mundelein for minor and major seminary. Don's four siblings—Eleanor, Marion, Peggy, and Bill—are all deceased. He is survived by his niece, Mary Patt Kennedy, and some great nieces and nephews.
I feel unjustified writing the tribute for this fine man. Many of you knew Fr. Ahearn far better than I, and could memorialize him far better. Since I arrived as pastor of St. Juliana six months ago, I've heard nothing but stories of Fr. Ahearn's goodness, generosity, and affection towards his people. But maybe it's the young priest and relative stranger to Fr. Don who could offer an interesting insight into the man. The opening line of ‘Our Lady of Knock’ does say, after all, “There were people of all ages, gathered 'round the gable wall.”Other than the fact that Fr. Ahearn had the Cubs game on the TV when I arrived that summer day, I was immediately impressed by the elder priest's congeniality. Though he could not say much, by his winks, smiles, and his “Ahh” (as if he was saying, “Ah, my friend!”), I could tell Fr. Ahearn loved me. It's no testament to me, but rather to the man. He was quick to love, quick to befriend.
A priest helps communicate God to others. His words, his actions, and his very presence can tell us something about God. What Fr. Don revealed to me was how easily God loves us and how happy he is with us. Many of you can attest how Fr. Don lit up when he saw you and how he loved you like a grandfather, almost unconditionally. Well, so too does God like us and love us. It's almost as if we can do no wrong before our Lord. That's how merciful and generous God is. Fr. Don helped me see that. I'm sure he helped you too.
We've lost a part of our community, but we can be grateful for all the blessings we received because of Fr. Don Ahearn. May he rest in heaven with perpetual light shining upon him.
Yours in Christ,