Fr. Fitzgerald, OMI, dies; built, directed King’s House

BELLEVILLE — A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Thursday, Oct. 1, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows Church here for Father J. Vincent Fitzgerald, OMI, a native of Troy Grove who oversaw construction of King’s House of Retreats in Henry and served as its first director.

Father Fitzgerald died Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009, at the Dammert Center, Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. He was 89.

Burial was at St. Henry’s Oblate Cemetery in Belleville.

BORN IN Troy Grove to Edward and Catherine (Lane) Fitzgerald, he was a 1937 graduate of Mendota Township High School. The fifth of 10 children, he delayed his entrance to the seminary to enable his younger siblings to attend a parochial school while he worked in the family construction, garage and trucking business.

In 1941, he began his junior college studies at St. Henry’s Preparatory Seminary in Belleville. He then went to the Oblate novitiate in Mission, Texas, where he made his first vows in 1945. He completed philosophy and theology classes at DeMazenod Scholasticate in San Antonio, and was ordained a priest at the cathedral in Belleville by Bishop Albert Zuroweste.

His early assignments were as director of St. Joseph’s Novitiate for Oblate Brothers and treasurer of King’s House of Retreats in Buffalo, Minn.

IN THE EARLY 1960s he worked with architect Hamilton Dox of Peoria to design and build a new retreat house on the “Cloud 77” property atop an Illinois River bluff near Henry. The center, known as King’s House until it was renamed “Nazareth House” last month, was built at a cost of $375,000. It was completed in January of 1963.

Father Fitzgerald served as its director for the next seven years, the first in a line of Oblate Fathers who guided King’s House for more than three decades.

Most of the remainder of Father Fitzgerald’s ministry was spent serving Native Americans in Minnesota and South Dakota. From 1987 to 1989, he was pastor of St. William’s Parish in Gainesville, Mo. His retirement years were lived at St. Henry’s Oblate residence in Belleville.

He is survived by three sisters: Blanche Schmidt of Mendota, Peg Kerns of Mendota, and Mary Henseler of Rock Island; and one brother, James Fitzgerald of Warren, Mich. He was preceded in death by a sister, Sister Catherine Fitzgerald, OP, and brothers Jack, Bill, Joe and “Chance” Fitzgerald.

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