Memorial to fallen officers from around diocese blessed at St. Augustine Manor
Families and friends of Catholic law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty have a new way to remember their loved ones in prayer.
St. Augustine Manor in Peoria has placed a memorial to fallen officers from around the Diocese of Peoria in its chapel at 1301 N.E. Glendale Ave. It was blessed by Father David Whiteside after the 11 a.m. Mass on Friday, June 10.
The plaque was initiated by Oscar Weber, a 31-year veteran of the Peoria Police Department, and his wife, Joan. They are members of St. Jude Parish in Peoria.
The need became apparent when they read an article about deceased officers and realized they knew four of them through Oscar’s work on the police force, Spalding Institute and Academy of Our Lady, or the parish: Ray F. Espinosa, Donan Faulkner, John (Kip) Sack, and James Mulay.
Their names have been placed on the plaque. Two more names have been added: William Murphy, who died in 1903 and was the first police officer killed after Peoria was established as a city, and Frank Aiello Sr.
“These are Catholic officers,” Oscar said. “We wanted it somewhere where the families could go and pray in peace.”
SUGGEST A NAME: The committee for the memorial is interested in hearing about Catholics from all branches of law enforcement, including city, county, state police and park police, U.S. Marshalls, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Names may be given to Terry and Sue Johnson by calling (309) 264-0415 or sending email to email@example.com.
They found the right connection during a visit to St. Augustine. Oscar struck up a conversation with Paul Barker, the secretary of the board at the retirement community, and asked if he knew a place where a memorial might go.
The rest is history.
“These officers gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Barker told The Catholic Post. “There ought to be a place for the families to come and say some private prayers or meditations. The chapel is always open. We have Mass there at 11 a.m. every day and they’re free to come to Mass if they like.”
Even if they can’t come to Mass, people are welcome to visit between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“It’s kind of a perfect fit really,” said Joan Weber. “We hope we can include everybody who was Catholic. Eventually we hope to hear from family members so these officers can be included on the plaque.”
Joining the Webers and the Johnsons on the committee are Richard Basso, Joe and Sandra Whalen, Fred and Clara Whiteside, and Deacon Lou Tomlianovich, who donated the plaque. Father Whiteside, pastor at St. Patrick in Havana and Immaculate Conception in Manito, is the group’s spiritual adviser.
As he blessed the memorial on June 10, Father Whiteside — who is the son of former Peoria police officer Fred Whiteside — prayed that God give the deceased offers “repose and the reward of their labors.”
“For our retired officers we ask you to grant their remaing years the respect and dignity that is theirs,” he continued. “For our active officers we ask that you protect them from all danger as they enforce the law, root out evil, and protect the innocent.”
Among the dignitaries who joined them for the ceremony were Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy and Capt. Mike Scally of the Peoria Police Department. Also present was Deacon Louis Tomlianovich, who donated the plaque.