Farewell to Honor Fr. Rex Pillai
On Sunday, June 28, the parish held a drive-thru sendoff for Fr. Rex in the parish parking lot — and it was packed! For three straight hours, Fr. Rex spoke to lines of parishioners wishing him well as he transitions to his new appointment at Ascension Parish in Oak Park. The turnout was so great, we had cars lined all the way down Deming Pl. waiting to get into the parking lot! To all who attended, thank you for your generosity and patience braving the summer sun to help us bid farewell to Fr. Rex!
To see PHOTOS from the event, click here.
If you would like to connect with Fr. Rex at any point, email: email@example.com
Dear Saint Clement Parish Family,
One of my favorite images is the image of the journey. This image speaks of the places one has been and the kind of time one has had. We also realize that we all have to make our own journeys in life and everyone’s is unique and different.
As I prepare to make my transition from Saint Clement in Lincoln Park to Ascension Parish in Oak Park my mind goes back to July of 2013 when I began my journey here as the Associate Pastor. When Father Ken Simpson invited me to join the staff, I had no idea what was ahead except what was in my job description. Now, seven years later as I prepare to leave this amazing and vibrant faith community, I look back over this time at Saint Clement, the word that comes to mind is GRATITUDE.
The life of a priest becomes meaningful, joyful, and life-giving only when he is able to share it with the people he serves. As I look back, I see how much I've grown. You let me share my life, faith, gifts, strengths, and helped me grow by accepting me as I was. Yet, you also challenged me to grow and be the best I can be. You taught that we are on this journey together, whether spending time with students at the school, working with excited young couples preparing to start life as husband and wife, trying to comfort someone in distress, or just having a beer with young adults after 7pm Mass. I have been amazed by your generosity and commitment to Saint Clement. You chose to share your God-given gifts and talents to make Clement the vibrant parish it has become in Lincoln Park. In so doing you have witnessed to your identity as followers of Christ.
A few days after Clement was shut down due to the pandemic, a parishioner asked me what I missed the most. I did not have to think long and hard; what I missed was seeing parishioners. Being a person of faith means being in relationship with God and one another. At Clement we express this through our anchors of Belong, Pray, Serve, Give, and Learn. I have striven to grow in relationship with God and with you through these anchors during the seven years. The guide us and help us stay the course through challenging times.
Over the past ten months, as the Administrator at Saint Clement, you have been with me and our staff, walking together, supporting us in every possible way. I cannot thank you enough for all you have done. I am thankful to Fr. Ken, Fr. Peter, Fr. Paul, Fr. Hickey, and other priests for their support and with whom I had the honor of serving at Saint Clement. I am also very honored to have served with an incredibly talented church staff, and Mrs. Hanson, the faculty, and staff at Saint Clement School.
I am truly grateful to every one of you for your love, kindness, and support which helped me grow and which I always carry in my heart. Needless to say, I will miss you much. I have been blessed and enriched by you in so many ways. You have impacted my life and ministry in ways you may never imagine. It will not be the same without you. You will continue to be a blessing in my life. I will take you and a piece of Saint Clement with me. I am certain our paths will cross again. Please stop by Ascension. My prayer for all is that, as followers of Christ, we may continue to strive for deeper holiness, greater communion and wider service……Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
On Sunday, June 28, Fr. Rex celebrated his final public Masses as the Administrator of Saint Clement. David Bennett, Chair of the Pastoral Council, delivered these remarks at the 10am and 7pm Masses on behalf of the parish community.
I am David Bennett, the chair of Pastoral Council at St. Clement. As this is Fr. Rex’s last weekend, I’d like to share my thoughts on his time here.
I joined the Pastoral Council six years ago, about 1 year after Fr. Rex came to our parish. During these past six years, there has been a lot of change at the top. We have had two pastors and two administrators, including Fr. Rex, who were all great leaders but with all that change it would have been easy for the parish to have drifted or lost its identity… but it hasn’t.
Over these years, we have been blessed to have Fr. Rex as part of our foundation. Fr. Rex has been here to keep our faith strong, to keep our community together, and to help maintain our focus on our Anchors: Pray, Serve, Give, Learn, and Belong. He understood that the Anchors not only help us deepen our holiness, to share our faith, and to serve others, but that the Anchors are our identity as a parish, our common bond that makes our community strong and focused in faith.
Fr. Rex also understood the importance of being present as a priest: greeting parishioners outside the church, taking time to talk to parishioners and more importantly listen, and standing outside the school in the morning (even in the rain and blustery snow) to greet children as they arrive. He is so good with engaging children. He gets down to their level, literally stooping down to talk to the kids, which makes the children feel important and the focus of his attention.
Fr. Rex is unflappable. I have never met anyone who has such a sense of serenity in very tough situations, of which we have had several in the past few years. The way he handled things provided us the strength and belief to trust in God’s plan; that we are strong, and we will thrive together.
Nowhere has this been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic. The church was shut down. So how do we move forward?
Fr. Rex worked with our amazing staff and committees to help us continue. Meetings by video conference? Sure, no problem. Say Mass to an empty church and talking to a camera? He would do it. Streaming live daily Mass using an iphone? Of course. Office hours over Zoom? He would be there. I am sure that it was not easy to do but he adapted for us and he did it incredibly. Fr. Rex was willing to consider and do whatever needed to be done to keep our parish engaged.
To me, Fr. Rex’s is like a really good book. The first chapter gets you engaged. The book takes you to places you did not expect. The book changes you. And it is not until you finish the final chapter and close the book that you realize how important the book was to you. How the book was what you needed to read at that time. It was filled with a hundred stories that helped you in little ways. And the book was so good that you would love to keep it on your shelf, so you could read it again and again, day after day. But with this special type of book, you know that the book was really meant to be shared so that others can enjoy what you experienced. And that is now what we must do for Fr. Rex, share him.
We have been so blessed to have had Fr. Rex as our priest, our faith leader, and our friend. And now he must go to another parish where they will get to appreciate his faithful guidance and leadership. As we close this chapter, please join me in showing our appreciation and love for Fr. Rex as he begins a new book.