“This is my prayer for you: that you trust deeply in the mercy of our loving Father, just as Jesus did.”
-Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ
On June 26, Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, former provincial superior of the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, died in California. He was 67.
A native of Buffalo, NY, Fr. Ed was elected to his first term as provincial superior in 2015. He professed his first vows in 1975 and was ordained in 1983.
Fr. Ed said that he felt called to the priesthood for as long as he could remember. There is an often-told story of him as a child when he let his parents parent know that not only did he want to be a priest, but perhaps he was pope material as well.
“When I was seven years old Pope John XXIII died and on the radio they said that he wanted to be a priest when he was 11 years old,” said Fr. Ed. “I said to my mom and dad that, ‘I’m only seven and I want to be a priest, does that mean that someday I’ll be the pope?’
“They laughed as everyone does when I tell the story but somehow I knew that one day I would be a priest.”
Fr. Ed went to the SCJs’ Immaculate Heart of Mary High School Seminary in Lenox, MA, and then entered the US Province formation program in Chicago. He studied at Northeastern Illinois University and earned a degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy.
Midway through his undergraduate studies he entered the novitiate in Victorville, CA. Fr. Ed professed his first vows in 1975.
After completing his bachelor’s degree, he went back to where he started – Immaculate Heart of Mary – to teach, coach basketball and soccer, and serve as assistant dean of students. In 1979 he began his theology studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. In 1982 he earned his Master of Divinity.
On January 29, 1983, he was ordained to the priesthood at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary parish (now, St. Martin of Tours) in Franklin, Wis.
His first assignment as a priest was at Sacred Hearts, but after six months he was asked to do vocation ministry.
“I drove the entire United States, meeting with and interviewing young men who were interested in the priesthood or religious life,” he said. “I did this for seven-and-a-half years, becoming the director in 1985.” Although many of the men he met did not pursue a vocation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Ed said that he always felt as though he was doing an important service for the Church. “As an SCJ, I helped others discern their own vocation – wherever it might be – and help them find the path that God was leading them on.”
After vocations, Fr. Ed had a number of ministry assignments. In 1996 he moved to northern California, where he served as parochial vicar at St. Philip of Jesus in Occidental and St. Teresa of Avila in Bodega. It was in Bodega that he first felt called to Hispanic ministry. He began yearly visits to Oaxaca, Mexico, to study Spanish.
In 2004 he moved to Houston and ministered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. After a six-month study sabbatical in Mexico, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston in 2008. He served as pastor until his election as provincial superior in 2015.
“Leaving Our Lady of Guadalupe was very hard,” said Fr. Ed. “I loved my years there. But I see provincial administration as a ministry of service. Now my call is with our province.”
Fr. Ed succeeded Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ, in a special election held following Fr. Steve’s own election as a member of the General Council in Rome.
During his two terms as provincial superior, Fr. Ed suffered from a number of health complications; in recent years, spinal stenosis forced him to use a wheelchair. At the end of 2021 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
At the start of the COVID “stay-at-home” guidelines, Fr. Ed said that he was “a little more prepared than most having lived for more than a year with ‘stay-at-home’ following surgeries on my feet and legs.”
Reflecting on the pandemic, he continued: “It seems to me that in this global pandemic of COVID-19, God has mysteriously asked us for this sacrifice so that ultimately it may bring us closer to Him. And in our willingness to put it all on the line, this time will be partially spent being in need of others’ help. We may grow weaker so that Christ can grow stronger…
“I think, in trying to make sense out of this experience, I realize that it’s all tied up with Fiat and Ecce Venio. This is my prayer for you: that you trust deeply in the mercy of our loving Father, just as Jesus did.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
CLICK HERE to read some of the letters written by Fr. Ed during his years as provincial superior.
“Often, we face challenges in ministry, in community or in our personal lives. We must thank God for the blessings God has given us. We also must be grateful for the journey God has taken us on during our lives. We must even thank God for the opportunity to suffer. Each moment has led us closer to Jesus and our desire for intimacy with the Heart of Christ. Without gratitude, we will be stuck, unable to move toward the great things God has in store for us. Once we get to a place of thanksgiving we can live enthusiastically in the present and look forward to what is to come in this life and the next.”
-Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ
A video tribute: