Father Finnell dies after fall; funeral Jan. 3 in Morton

MORTON — A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 3, at Blessed Sacrament Parish here for Father Eugene L. Finnell, pastor emeritus who guided the Morton parish for 28 years.

Father Finnell, a former director of vocations and superintendent of Catholic education for the Diocese of Peoria, died Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008, at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center from a head injury sustained in a Christmas Eve fall on an icy road near his residence in rural Mackinaw. He was 78.

Visitation was to take place from 2 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 2, at the church, followed by a service of remembrance and recitation of the rosary.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was scheduled to be celebrant of Saturday’s funeral Mass with Father Tim Nolan, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin, as homilist.

Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Father Finnell’s hometown of Pontiac.

Born on a farm in rural Pontiac on March 16, 1930, to Leo and Irene (Swager) Finnell, he attended St. Mary’s Grade School and Pontiac High School prior to enrolling at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. He completed studies for the priesthood at St. Paul’s Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria on May 17, 1956.

Father Finnell was named pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton in 1972 and guided the growing faith community until his retirement in 2000.

Father Finnell observed the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2006, and was featured on the cover of The Catholic Post’s annual jubilarian section praying the rosary as he walked in a field at his residence in rural Mackinaw. He continued to assist with weekend Masses at Blessed Sacrament Parish as well as neighboring parishes in his retirement years.

He is survived by brothers and sisters including Marilyn Welle of Collinsville, Dr. Charles Finnell of Tulsa, Okla., Carol Fender of Logansport, Ind., Dale Finnell of East Peoria, Allan Finnell of Chenoa, and Gayle Juarez of Haward, Calif, and many nieces and nephews.

Father Finnell was preceded in death by his parents, one brother John “Jack” Finnell, three nephews and one niece.

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