Father Louis Tylka arrived at Mater Christi Church in Riverside just in time for celebration — and controversy.

Ordained in 1996, Tylka had served as an associate in other parishes before being assigned to Mater Christi, where he would 

He came to North Riverside just as the parish was just finishing celebrating its 50th anniversary. But the celebration passed quickly, and Tylka was faced with a more sobering task — closing of the parish school. 

Open for 49 years, Mater Christi School closed amid much controversy. But Tylka embarked on other tasks within the parish, primarily getting to know the people of the area and the families, many of whom had been parishioners of the church for many of those 50 years.  

He renovated and enhanced the Mother of Mothers Shrine, which is located between the church and the rectory and has been an important part of the parish for 50 years. At one time the shrine employed two people to handle the prayer requests, which came from all over the world. Letters still are received from all over the U.S. and foreign countries.

Father Lou was born in Harvey, Illinois, the youngest of six children. I’m told that as the only boy in a family with five older sisters, he was watched over very carefully.

Those family members remained loyal to Father Lou, taking part in many of the Mater Christi activities while he was pastor. The rectory also became home to two Yorkshire terriers; as I like to say every boy should have a dog(s) or every dog(s) should have a boy.

The announcement that Father Lou was leaving was met with sadness not only from the parish but from the village government, where he was chaplain for the fire department.

He had become not only the leader of the parish but a friend to those he served. His next assignment will be a return to the South Side, where he will become pastor at St. Julie Billiart parish in Tinley Park. He has indicated he will come back to visit and not forget his many friends. 

A reception will be held Sunday, June 22 in the Marian Room at the church following the 11 a.m. Mass.

He’ll be replaced as pastor of Mater Christi Church by Father Jack Sullivan, who should be starting toward the end of June. Sullivan has been the pastor of St. John Church in Glenwood for the past 15 years.