Funeral Mass in Roanoke for Deacon Andrew Heckman, 45

ROANOKE — A funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 11 at St. Joseph Church here for Deacon Andrew Heckman, 45, a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Peoria.

Deacon Heckman died on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, at the University of Chicago Hospital in Chicago, where he had undergone a heart and kidney transplant on Feb. 2.

Ordained to the permanent diaconate on May 19, 2007, he served at St. Joseph, Roanoke, and St. John, Benson, and as a chaplain at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. He was a former director of worship and liturgy at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, and had diaconate duties at St. Elizabeth Parish, Thomasboro.

Msgr. Charles Beebe, pastor of the parishes in Roanoke and Benson and former episcopal vicar for the permanent diaconate, was principal celebrant of the funeral Mass and homilist. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was in choro.

Msgr. Beebe recalled how Deacon Heckman — a former Methodist minister — was drawn to the Catholic Church by his love of the liturgy. Soon after becoming Catholic, he was accepted into the eighth class of permanent deacons.

Deacon Heckman continued to serve others even when physical ailments limited his abilities. In Roanoke and Benson, he taught RCIA and recently became the spiritual adviser to a newly formed junior high youth group. Msgr. Beebe recalled his “amazing homilies,” but said Deacon Heckman’s “true inspiration” was the example of his life as he “lived the dictum of our patron Francis — ‘preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.'”

For full text of the funeral homily, click here.

Born Sept. 13, 1968, at the Eglin Air Force Base in Walton Beach, Fla., to Danny and Suzzee Kallembach Heckman, he married Jennifer Shelton on Sept. 4, 1999, in Monticello. She survives.

Also surviving are his two daughters, Lottie and Frannie, at home; his parents, of White Heath; one sister, Jean (Paul) Harralson of Mount Vernon, Ind.; a niece, Madalyn Harralson; and his father- and mother-in-law, Merle and Marcia Shelton of Bellflower.

In his funeral Mass homily, Msgr. Beebe said there were two things of “supreme importance” to Deacon Heckman: being a husband and father, and being a deacon.

“To be the father he wanted to be he was willing to risk everything,” said Msgr. Beebe of Deacon Heckman’s opportunity for the transplant. On the day he traveled to Chicago for the procedure, a thank-you note Deacon and Mrs. Heckman had penned days earlier appeared in the Roanoke and Benson parish bulletins.

“Many times when a person or family faces a crisis there is support for a few days or a week, and in today’s society we move on to the next thing,” the Heckmans wrote. “Not you! You have not abandoned us. We are grateful to live in a community of faith-filled families who live their faith not just in kind words, but in real action. You have helped make a difficult situation bearable?..”

Among the concelebrants of the funeral Mass were Msgr. Timothy Nolan, episcopal vicar for the permanent diaconate, and Msgr. Michael Bliss, director of pastoral care at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

Graveside burial services were at the Bellflower Township Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to a fund to assist the family that has been established at the Roanoke-Benson Community Bank in Roanoke. Online condolences may be made to the family at

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