His path in life has taken many turns and on Sunday, June 6, when former Riversider Rev. Neil Van Dyke ascended the altar at St. Pius X Church in Stickney, it was the start of another chapter. After an eight-year tenure as pastor of the church, Van Dyke will start his retirement (or as I say “transition”) and another path in his life.
Van Dyke is familiar to many people in the area having lived on Lawton Road in Riverside with his late wife, Mary Lee, and their children, Trey, Meg, Kathleen and Keith. A plumber by trade, he was employed by the village of Riverside its director of public works for more than 15 years.
He also had a calling to the church and began preparations to become a deacon of the Catholic Church, serving in that capacity for 10 years. Illness took Mary Lee’s life much too soon, and after 29 years of marriage he became a widower. With his faith and family as his strength and guidance, he began yet another path in his journey, studying for the priesthood.
In 1998, he and his fellow seminarians were ordained in a ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral. Van Dyke was the “star” of his class for many reasons, most notable being he was the oldest (notice I said oldest but he was not old) and he was the first to study at Mundelein (at his age) to become a Diocesan priest. He handled the press quite well and looked good on the 6 o’clock news.
His assignments as Father Neil included two years as an associate pastor at St. Bede the Venerable Church and two years as associate pastor at St. Barbara’s Church in Brookfield.
For the past eight years, he has served as pastor at St. Pius X Church, a parish he could call home. The affection for Father Neil was obvious on that Sunday as family, friends and parishioners gathered for Mass, heard specially selected music and enjoyed a luncheon in the church hall.
His homily was vintage Neil, filled with stories and humor wrapped in a lesson of faith. He shared his memories and assured all he was not retiring from the priesthood, just from active work. He will assist parishes in the area celebrating Mass, so he will be around. A few trips here and there and then he will have more time to spend with family and friends, including his darling granddaughter, Paige Deitz.
As he left Mass Sunday Neil was met by his granddaughter who walked with him hand-in-hand up the aisle. Now there will be more time for walks with “Grandpa” Father Neil Van Dyke.