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New entranceway adds to late St. Gerald pastor’s legacy

s gerald ramp photo 10 31
Photos by Dermot Connolly
The Rev. Michael Flynn officiated at the dedication and blessing of the newly renovated church entrance at St. Gerald Church at 9310 S. 55th Court in Oak Lawn on Sunday. The new plaza, which includes handicap-accessible ramps (in second photo), was dedicated in honor of the late pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, who spearheaded the fundraising efforts that made it possible.
By Dermot Connolly
Hundreds of St. Gerald parishioners gathered outside the Oak Lawn church on Sunday afternoon for a ceremony dedicating the newly opened front entranceway of the church to their late pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, who died on July 4 at age 74.
“I am sure he would be happy and pleased with how it turned out. This was the last project he initiated before his untimely death,” said the Rev. Michael Flynn, the associate pastor and administrator of the parish who officiated at the ceremony and blessed the crowd gathered on the new plaza outside the church at 9310 S. 55 th Court. In addition to steps, two ramps on either side of the church now make the entrance wheelchair accessible.
st gerald ramp 2 photo 10 31
Photo by Dermot Connolly
The entrance faces “Fr. Malcolm’s Way,” as the section of 55 th Court in front of the church was renamed in August.
“He used to joke that he would have to stand out on the steps every Sunday to catch the women falling down the steps,” said Fr. Flynn, drawing laughter from his audience, before going on to thank the “architects, concrete pourers, parishioners” and everyone who made it possible.
Next to speak was business manager Tom Forbes, whom Deacon Michael Fekete described as Fr. Father Malcolm’s right-hand man during his 11 years as pastor. He recalled that when the new pastor arrived in 2008, the first thing he said to him was, “I don’t want to be here” because he didn’t want to leave his previous parish, St. Daniel the Prophet in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
“He loved that parish and that parish loved him,” said Forbes. ““But in very short order, he came to love St. Gerald and St. Gerald came to love him. So much so that he never wanted to leave,” said Forbes, referring to the pastor’s unwillingness to accept requests from the Archdiocese of Chicago that he retire.
Shortly before his death, he had been given permission to remain at St. Gerald until 2020, when a celebration of the 50 th anniversary of his ordination was planned.
Parishioners from St. Daniel’s, as well as St. Bede the Venerable Church in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood, where he had previously been associate pastor, were at the ceremony. While at St. Daniel’s, he oversaw the building of a new gymnasium now named after him. Similarly, at St. Gerald, he was instrumental in getting the Jonathan Collins Activity Center built, and several other projects as well.
“He did dream big. And he because he did, we got the gymnasium built, and new stained-glass windows too,” Forbes said. “He did dream big. And because he did, we got the gym finished. I think all of us are grateful for all the physical things he did but most of all, how he touched us as a priest and a person. Thank you, Father. We really miss you and we will do our best to carry on.”
Fr. Malcolm’s three brothers and two sisters were also there, and his brother, Norm spoke for the family.
“We are very appreciative of this plaza being dedicated to him here, in front of the street named for him,” he said.
“This project was very important to him. He talked about it a lot and we feel like getting it done was like filling out his scorecard for his time here at St. Gerald. And it is a beautiful amenity for the parish, with the safety issue and accessibility too.”
“Fr. Malcolm gave his all to St. Gerald, and even in death, he was not done giving,” said his brother, before presenting a check for $50,000 from the pastor’s estate to Fr. Flynn for the parish, eliciting cheers from the audience.
“He saved a lot of souls,” said longtime parishioner Brenda Concannon, following the ceremony. “We are thankful that he passed so much on to the students. He took them on field trips downtown, and learned to bake bread from the nuns and passed on the recipes to the kids. He never wanted to be anything more than a parish priest, and he was a great person and a joyful priest.”

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