Fr. James DeBisschop, 57, pastor in Orion and Coal Valley, dies; funeral is Friday

Father James DeBisschop

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 6, at Sacred Heart Church in Moline for Father James P. DeBisschop, 57, pastor of Mary, Our Lady of Peace Parish in Orion and St. Maria Goretti Parish, Coal Valley.

Father DeBisschop died on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, following a long battle with colon cancer that enlisted the prayer support of those in his parishes and many throughout the Diocese of Peoria.

Visitation will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday at Sacred Heart Church, 1608 13th St., Moline, with a prayer service at 7 p.m.

Father Mark DeSutter, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, will be principal celebrant and homilist of the funeral Mass. Burial will be at St. Mary Cemetery, East Moline.

(Full text of the funeral homily is found here.)


Born March 8, 1961, in Davenport, Iowa, to Jean and Fay DeBisschop, he was a 1979 graduate of Alleman High School in Rock Island. He received a bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose University in Davenport in 1983, and completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.

Father DeBisschop was ordained by Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on May 28, 1988.

His first assignment was as parochial vicar at Epiphany Parish in Normal. In 1989 he became assistant with a team ministry serving the parishes of St. Anthony, Matherville; St. Catherine, Aledo; St. John, Viola; St. Mary, Keithsburg; and St. Therese, New Boston.

Father DeBisschop was named pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Rapids City and St. Mary, Hampton, in 1995. He had served as pastor of the Coal Valley and Orion faith communities since 2007.


After being diagnosed with colon cancer on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, Father DeBisschop regularly communicated his health status through updates in the bulletins of his parishes.

In this 2016 file photo, Father James DeBisschop stands near the window of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at Mary, Our Lady of Peace in Orion. The window was purchased in honor of the 27th anniversary of his priestly ordination in 2015. The prayer for healing through Sheen’s intercession is one that meant a great deal to the priest. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“I’m very transparent because I don’t like rumors,” he told The Catholic Post in a front page story published on Sept. 25, 2016. He also shared the updates “so people can identify and have empathy for people who are suffering with cancer specifically, but beyond that — people who are suffering.”

A 24-hour prayer chain was begun, and many prayers for his healing sought the intercession of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, to whom Father DeBisschop had a special devotion.

In that 2016 interview, Father DeBisschop told of his love of serving as a parish priest. “It gives me life,” he said, saying he drew strength from celebrating Mass with his faith communities.

He added that after his terminal cancer diagnosis he had no regrets or “bucket list,” saying he simply wanted to be with and serve his parishioners.

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “This is the life God chose for me. I simply said yes.”

He is survived by his siblings Mary (Ron) Cowser, Thomas (Deanna) DeBisschop, Peter (Judith) DeBisschop and twin brother John (Tamara) DeBisschop, and 11 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a brother, Joseph.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the DeBisschop family endowment fund for Catholic education.

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