Msgr. Pricco granted senior status; has guided Macomb parish nearly 40 years
MACOMB — When Msgr. Richard Pricco came to Macomb in 1977 he reassured members of St. Paul Parish, who had seen a rare revolving door of priests that year, that “I’m going to be here for five years.”
Nearly 40 years later, still guiding St. Paul’s and approaching his 80th birthday and 55th anniversary of priestly ordination, Msgr. Pricco has been granted senior status by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, effective Jan. 11, 2017.
When Msgr. Pricco announced his approaching retirement at Masses the weekend of Dec. 3-4, there were a few tears in the assembly and word spread quickly throughout the McDonough County community in which the tall Catholic priest is one of its best-known and most involved citizens.
The fact that he has remained in Macomb for nearly four decades “obviously says that this is a good place,” said Msgr. Pricco last week in a wide-ranging interview with The Catholic Post.
“There is a lot of work,” he said, his Schnauzer dog Gabby resting on his lap in the rectory room where Msgr. Pricco has greeted hundreds of visitors through the years. “These are good people.”
In addition to guiding the parish of 500 families and overseeing St. Paul School, which he acknowledges is “dear to my heart,” Msgr. Pricco is a community and diocesan leader. In Macomb, he has been president of the board of the Lafayette Square low income housing complex for 20 years, served on the board of the Wesley Village retirement/nursing home complex for more than two decades, played a key role in getting the community’s food pantry started, and has been on the city’s Quality of Life Advisory Committee since its inception in 1993.
“You know when I get a job, I (tend to keep it),” he says with a robust laugh.
That tendency also extends to his diocesan leadership roles. He has been vicar of the Macomb Vicariate since 1991, is a former president and multi-term member of the Priests’ Senate (now Presbyteral Council), and has served in the Diocese of Peoria’s College of Consultors since 1974. He was named a Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of monsignor in 2003.
“I WANT TO DO THAT SOMEDAY”
But none of that was in mind when, as a fifth grader at St. Hyacinth School in LaSalle, he saw the priest raising the host after the consecration and thought: “I want to do that someday.”
Msgr. Pricco has elevated a consecrated host at the altar more than 21,000 times, by conservative count, during regularly scheduled Masses as well as weddings and funerals.
“Celebrating the Mass is my greatest joy,” said Msgr. Pricco when, observing the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2012, he delivered the homily to brother priests at the diocese’s Jubilarian Mass. “Because day after day I can do what that priest did some 65 years ago. When I see the faith of the people coming up to receive the body and blood of Jesus and see their smiles, I thank God that I can play some small part in God’s plan.”
After graduating from St. Hyacinth, Msgr. Pricco went to St. Bede Academy for high school and two years at St. Bede Junior College. He completed his studies in philosophy and theology at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He was ordained along with eight classmates by Bishop John B. Franz at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on June 3, 1962.
His first assignment took him to Holy Cross Parish in Champaign as parochial vicar, where he would serve 15 years until he accepted the position as pastor in Macomb at the request of Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke.
“I WANT THEM TO BE HOLY”
While visiting priests or the chaplain of the Newman Center at Western Illinois University briefly lived with him in the early years in Macomb, “after that I’ve been by myself all the time,” said Msgr. Pricco. But he shares the workload as a matter of mission.
“I want people to do things,” he said, citing the RCIA and youth leadership of St. Paul’s two permanent deacons as well as the many activities of organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Women’s Guild, and the parish’s finance, parish council, and education committees.
Taking on roles such as bringing Communion to shut-ins benefits the faith life of parishioners, he said, and “I want these people to be holy.”
It is obvious that the kind-hearted pastor has a special affection for the St. Paul School community. He called his weekly school Mass “the joy of my week” and said if it wasn’t for the students’ joy expressed during a Christmas program he might have retired a decade ago.
“I’m walking to pick up the microphone for a homily,” he said, recalling the students’ singing at that Mass. “And I thought, ‘I can’t give this up.’ The energy that the kids give me is something not to be denied.”
And Msgr. Pricco gave in return. Not only has he helped establish a firm financial footing for the school, he shares lessons he learned from Benedictine educators in his youth. “Say your prayers and do your work, and everything will take care of itself” he regularly tells students as well as parishioners who come to him for advice.
For many years he celebrated a weekly Mass at the former Sacred Heart Mission church in nearby Tennessee, and Msgr. Pricco also served as administrator of St. Rose Parish in Rushville.
While he has accomplished much in his 40 years in Macomb — including a major church expansion in 1993 — Msgr. Pricco lists two matters of unfinished business that he hopes his successor, Father Adam Stimpson, will accomplish.
“One of the big regrets the Lord hasn’t accomplished through me is I wanted to add grades 7 and 8 to the school,” he said. While the school was struggling financially when he arrived, it is now on firm footing and he believes “there’s no reason we couldn’t afford it.”
Meanwhile, in the church gathering space are drawings for a new community center. The project is currently on hold, but when built it will include a new pre-school, parish offices, and a parish hall.
After Jan. 11, Msgr. Pricco will return to his family home in LaSalle. He hopes to have more time for visiting family, including a sister in Wisconsin, and indulging in his hobby, model trains. Tracks wind through a mock village set up in the rectory basement, with Santa Fe line trains passing buildings such as Pricco’s General Store and Annie’s Restaurant, named for his late mother.
“I’ll have to take it down and I don’t know where I’m going to rebuild it,” said Msgr. Pricco, noting the family home in LaSalle has no room that large.