Fr. Royer, longtime Champaign pastor, to senior status

CHAMPAIGN — Father Tom Royer has lived a “very rich life” by focusing on those in need.

“The Gospel tells of the rich rewards of those who follow the call of (Christ),” said Father Royer, 76, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish here since 1973. He was granted senior status on March 1 by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

“That certainly has been my experience,” continued Father Royer, looking back on five decades of priestly life that has been marked by advocating for the poor and homeless not only in the Champaign area but around the world.

Father Royer is a “faith-in-action, doer kind of person — very inspiring,” said Kathy Fries, music director at St. Mary’s Parish since 1985.

“He’s always concerned about those who are less fortunate,” she told The Catholic Post, adding that the “gentle, artistic” priest has “lived his life according to the laws of compassion.”

Father Royer celebrated his final Mass as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish on Sunday, Feb. 27. The 10 a.m. liturgy brought together all the language groups in the diverse parish — including Spanish-speaking, members of the Filipino community, and the parish’s large Korean and Mayan populations.

“I got a grand send-off,” said Father Royer, who has rented a home in Urbana.

Bishop Jenky has named Father Joseph Hogan, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Urbana, to succeed Father Royer at St. Mary’s Parish.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful parish,” Father Royer said of St. Mary’s. “I’ve loved it so much.” Through his 38 years at St. Mary’s, parishioners “have pastored me as much as I’ve pastored them.”

While he pledges to keep a low profile as Father Hogan leads the parish, Father Royer expressed joy that many of the current ministries will continue — including the parish’s 22-year sister relationship with five poor settlements in the mountains of El Salvador.

Father Royer has made more than two dozen visits with parishioners to the region, and plans to go again in May. He also intends to continue to work with the homeless in the Champaign area. While pastor of St. Mary’s, he maintained a hospitality room in the rectory and was active in the Catholic Worker community as well as the sanctuary movement.

A native of Canton, Father Royer cites the love of his family and the example of the Heading Avenue Franciscans who taught him at St. Mary’s School for inspiring his vocation.

The fellowship with brother-seminarians at St. Bede College in Peru and St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota strengthened his desire to be a priest.
Father Royer was ordained on May 29, 1960 by Bishop John B. Franz.

He served as parochial vicar of Holy Family Parish in Peoria for six years and then the next four years at St. Paul’s Parish in Danville. He also served briefly as parochial vicar of St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign and St. Edward’s Parish, Chillicothe.

Father Royer has a master’s degree in radio-television from the University of Illinois, and served as director of the diocesan Office of Communications from 1972 to 1975. He also formerly hosted a Sunday morning television program on WCIA in Champaign called “Dialogue in Faith.”

Named pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Champaign in 1973, he also served as chaplain of Provena Covenant Medical Center (formerly Mercy Hospital), located across the street from the church. He not only was on call for the hospital, but celebrated Mass in its chapel each day at noon.

While at St. Mary’s, he also had the pastoral care of St. Joseph’s in Ivesdale from 1989 to 2001, and St. Boniface in Seymour from 2001 to 2005.

Father Royer celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination last May. In an interview with The Catholic Post for that occasion he cited the “many happy and unexpected blessings” of his priesthood, and credited those he was sent to serve — whether in the parish, in hospital ministry, or beyond U.S. borders — with “giving me my real spiritual formation.”

Fries said she and other parishioners will miss Father Royer’s thoughtful homilies, but added that the parish made sure those lessons in Gospel living will be available for future generations. More than 100 of his homilies were compiled in book form to mark his golden jubilee.

Persons wishing to send Father Royer a congratulatory note may write him at P.O. Box 17225, Urbana, IL, 61803.

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