Monsignor R. George Sarauskas, who served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Riverside from 2004 to 2011, died at the age of 77 on June 25, 2022, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced last week.
Born April 2, 1945 in Bavaria, Germany, during the final weeks of World War II in Europe, Msgr. Sarauskas immigrated to the United States as a boy and attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago and the University of St. Mary/Mundelein Seminary.
He was ordained a priest by Cardinal John Cody on May 9, 1973 and later earned a Master of Public Administration at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Msgr. Sarauskas served as an assistant at St. Athanasius Parish in Evanston and as an associate pastor at Sacred Heart in Winnetka, St. Francis Xavier in LaGrange and Holy Ghost Parish in South Holland before being appointed director of research and planning for the archdiocese in the late 1980s. He was also director of the Lithuanian Apostolate from 1984 to 1990.
In 2004, after serving as temporary administrator at Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Chicago, Msgr. Sarauskas was appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish in Riverside, where he resided in a condominium instead of the rectory and in 2007 initiated a plan to build a new rectory.
Initially Msgr. Sarauskas had planned to build the new residence behind the existing rectory, which was built in 1975 and by 2007 housed both an associate priest and offices for various parish ministries.
When that plan fell through, Msgr. Sarauskas decided to build the new 4,500-square-foot rectory in the middle of Mary Park – a green space at the corner of Herrick and Longcommon roads where the original rectory was located.
He went so far as to obtain building permits in 2009 for the new rectory, but many parishioners protested and the issue came to a head that July when St. Mary School families and Msgr. Sarauskas engaged in a heated exchange over the issue at a school board meeting.
Msgr. Sarauskas dissolved the school board in the wake of that incident, although he admitted at the time that “the communication was not good” on his plan to build in Mary Park, used by students and the parish for outdoor gatherings.
By the end of 2009, the plan for a new rectory was shelved and Msgr. Sarauskas left St. Mary’s a year-and-a-half later to accept a post he described at the time as one “dealing with some of financial issues of the diocese.”
Msgr. Sarauskas for 14 years also served as the executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office to Aid the Catholic Church in Eastern, Central Europe and the Soviet Union in Washington, D.C.
“In interacting with church leaders in the region, he was especially mindful that they had suffered greatly,” said James H. O’Beirn, who worked with Sarauskas for 12 of those 14 years. “He understood that the suffering had produced lasting harm in the body of Christ, and that the Church leaders in Eastern, Central Europe and Soviet Union were to be treated with the respect and dignity befitting their humanity and their offices in the Church.”
A funeral Mass was celebrated July 11 at Incarnation Church in Crestwood, followed by interment at St. Casimir Lithuanian Cemetery in Chicago.