Rev. Thomas F. Maher, pastor emeritus of St. Genevieve Parish on Chicago’s northwest side, died Sunday, November 3, at Resurrection Life Center in Chicago, where he had been a resident. His ministry spanned 66 years and included marching for civil rights in the 60s and 70s and devotion to the sick and dying.
Fr. Maher was a senior priest in residence at St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Chicago from the time of his 1991 retirement until three years ago, when his failing health necessitated a move to Resurrection Life Center. “He was unfailing in visiting the sick, whether in their homes, in hospitals or nursing homes and when he couldn’t drive any more, he had parishioners drive him,” said the pastor of St. Mary, Fr. Patrick Cecil.
Fr. Maher had a reputation according to Fr. Cecil and Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas, who served with him at St. Genevieve, for devotion to social justice that included the sick, the poor and the disenfranchised. “Early in his priesthood, in the 60s and 70s, Fr. Maher was active in the civil rights movement” Bishop Rassas stated. “He had a sense for social justice and marched for the cause of civil rights.” Fr. Cecil and Bishop Rassas both noted that Fr. Maher’s public support for civil rights included marching at one time with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
St. Genevieve’s was a huge parish, according to Rassas, with a large number of weddings, wakes and funerals, but that only made Fr. Maher work harder so that the sick and dying had regular visits from him.
Fr. Maher was born in Chicago on December 26, 1920. His home parish at that time was St. Laurence in South Wilmington, Illinois. He attended elementary and high school in Gardner and South.
Wilmington before studying at Quigley Preparatory Seminary. He graduated from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary and was ordained by Cardinal Stritch in 1947. Fr. Maher did post-graduate studies at Loyola University that year, returning in 1959 and 1960.
For the first five years following his ordination, Fr. Maher served as assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Training School, now known as Maryville Academy. He was named assistant pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish on Chicago’s north side in 1952 and served in that capacity until 1960, when he was named assistant pastor of St. Cornelius Parish in Chicago.
From 1963 to 1970, Fr. Maher was a counselor working with married couples for Catholic Family Consultation Service. He was also a chaplain for the Christian Family Movement in the early 60s, serving in that capacity also on the national level for that group.
In 1966, Fr. Maher took on the duties of assistant pastor at Queen of Apostles Parish in Riverdale, where he served for the next seven years. That parish closed in 2011 and is now part of St. Mary Queen of Apostles Parish in Riverdale. He was named pastor of St. Genevieve Parish in Chicago in early 1973 and served as pastor for the next 18 years, retiring from active ministry in 1991.
Visitation for Fr. Maher will take place from 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6, at St. Mary of the Woods Parish, 7033 North Moselle Avenue in Chicago. Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas will be the main celebrant of the funeral Mass for Fr. Maher at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6, at St. Mary of the Woods. Msgr. Patrick Lagges will preach the homily.
Interment will take place at Mt. Olive Cemetery in Dwight, Illinois. Fr. Maher is survived by brothers, Rev. Arthur Maher of the Diocese of Joliet, Joseph Maher, and a sister, Nellie Kinsella.