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Father Kevin Hays

Father Kebin Hays, Keep the Light Shining

 

While always concerned with the spiritual and corporal needs of the local community Epiphany has never been immune to the needs and concerns of the Archdiocese and Church universal. Fr. Enright's retirement was closely followed with the difficult decision of the Sinsinawa Dominicans that their Religious Community could no longer send their Sisters to care for the parish school. The Church in the United States faced a serious dilemma in regard to the shrinking numbers of priests and religious who historically served the needs of local parishes. The incredible costs of operating and maintaining schools and parish buildings, declining numbers of practicing Catholics, shifts in demographics and immigration patterns began to take their toll and the makeup of the Church in America began to change.

Throughout the nation dioceses were faced with difficult realities: Parishes were closed and/or merged at a rapid rate. Parish schools vanished from many diocesan landscapes. Parishes without a permanent priest became more and more common. The last decades of the 20th century ushered in a new era in the American Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Chicago was not spared these harsh realities. Over 150 parishes and schools were already closed. While individual parishioners around the States were understandably worried, the Church as the one Body of Christ listened anew to the Spirit, trusting to be led into the new millennium.

Epiphany Parish was without a pastor for six months in 1994 for the first time in Epiphany's history. The direction of the parish was uncertain. Like a ship at sea under cloudy skies without a compass, Epiphany drifted listlessly but only for a short time. Ordained in 1977 Fr. Kevin Hays took over the parish in October 1994. Recently arrived from the Archdiocesan mission in Mexico and still infirm from the rigors of missionary life, Fr. Kevin quickly put Epiphany Parish on course.

Difficult tasks awaited Fr. Kevin's pastoral leadership. Incredible increases in the costs of Catholic schools coupled with our Archdiocese being on the brink of financial bankruptcy and cuts in financial assistance from the Archdiocese demanded sound, if unpopular, direction. Not unlike the uncertain times of Fr. Erhard, Epiphany struggled with an array of questions. Once again Providence blessed our parish with an innovative process of prayer, discussion and discernment spearheaded by Fr. Kevin. He led the parish in multi year discussion to form and implement a "Parish Pastoral Plan" which would address the realities of the parish and Archdiocese and set clear and concise goals for the near and distant future.

Cardinal Bernardin took part in some of the parish discussions and he was uniquely impressed with the energy and faith of Epiphany Parish. He encouraged Fr. Kevin to press forward in this most promising work. The fruit of his parochial labor was quickly experienced by the parish. Sunday attendance and tithing began to rise. Participation in Epiphany's Religious Education ministry tripled in two years. The difficult fiscal decisions of the last few years began to pay off. There was a need to schedule additional mass times. Ministry to "at-risk" youth and their families took root in the parish. As the development of the Parish Pastoral Plan came to a close, Epiphany once again had the focus and vision that made it the "Lighthouse....guiding the community to the loving embrace of Christ" that Monsignor Cummings envisioned in 1953. Always faithful to the Spirit, Fr. Kevin once again answered the call to serve in the foreign missions, this time in Peru with the Society of St. James in 1997.

 

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