Father Robert Banzin celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest on Sunday in Riverside at St. Mary Church, and recalled the words of a former teacher prior to his ordination: “Reflect on your homilies with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.”

Except Banzin had his own twist on it: “Reflect on you homilies with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on one hand and John, Ringo, Paul, and George on the other.” After all, it was the sixties.

Banzin said he was just going to let the anniversary pass without ceremony, but members of the parish felt different. Parishoner, party planner and baker, Teresa Hall stepped forward to inform him there would be a party and, as he said, “Who could refuse Teresa?” 

Friends not only from the St. Mary, but from the other parishes where Banzin had left his mark packed the church. Following the Mass, everyone got the chance to congratulate Banzin at a reception in the church hall. He said he was “overwhelmed.”

Banzin’s path to Sunday’s anniversary began at St. Mary of the Lake University. After being ordained, his first assignment was at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish on the South Side. During his time there, Banzin also taught theology at Maria High School. 

For a short period of time he was assigned to St. Francis DePaula Church, and he had other assignments at St. John of the Cross and St. John Brebeuf before coming to St. Mary for his final assignment. He was in Riverside for eight years.

Banzin said one of the highlights in his life occurred while teaching at Quigley South, when Pope John Paul II paid a visit to the school. The Pope arrived by helicopter and met with the students and faculty — a meaningful moment for all.

Now retired, Father Banzin is still a “fixture” at St. Mary. While he doesn’t live in the rectory any more, he helps with the weekly Masses and those special times within the Parish when extra help “is a blessing.” 

He also has more time to visit with family in Florida and reading, particularly the newspaper, so he can give timely homilies and reflect upon the Gospel. For those present at a Mass officiated by Father Banzin, one can only be thankful and appreciative of the life he has lived and shared. 

It was appropriate that the occasion of his 50th anniversary would be celebrated at St. Mary’s as a way of saying thank you and congratulations.