Fr. Spilman dies on Christmas Day; funeral Mass will be in Spring Valley on Dec. 30

Father Robert Spilman

SPRING VALLEY — A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30, at The Nativity of Our Lord Parish (St. Anthony Church) here for Father Robert Spilman, former pastor and a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria.

Father Spilman died Christmas morning, Dec. 25, 2021, at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington. He was 74.

Visitation will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday morning at the church, 510 Richard A. Mautino Dr. Burial will be at Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Granville.

Born April 18, 1947, in Galesburg to George and Betty (Dillon) Spilman, he attended Costa Catholic High School and then served four years in the U.S. Air Force.

After earning an associate degree from Carl Sandburg Junior College in Galesburg, he worked in banking in Galesburg, East Peoria and Peoria until 1991. He was then accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Peoria, first earning a bachelor’s degree from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, and then completing his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Father Spilman was ordained by Bishop John J. Myers on May 25, 1996.

His first assignment was as parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish in Champaign. Two years later he was named pastor of St. Joseph, Colfax, and St. Rose, Strawn. From 2001 to 2004 he was pastor of St. Theresa, Earlville.

His long service in Spring Valley began in 2004, when he was named pastor of St. Anthony Parish. He would later add duties as pastor of Immaculate Conception and Sts. Peter and Paul parishes in Spring Valley, as well as St. Gertrude in Seatonville. Father Spilman would guide the Spring Valley faith communities through a merger in 2013 that resulted in the creation of a new parish named The Nativity of Our Lord.

Father Spilman became its founding pastor. At the parish’s first Mass, he said that in a community with many ethnic influences, The Nativity of Our Lord encompasses all of them.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re Polish, Lithuanian, Irish, German — we celebrate the Nativity at Christmas, don’t we? Now we take that wonderful feast of Dec. 25 and make it a feast every day of our lives,” said Father Spilman.

He was granted senior status in 2018 and celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination this spring. In an interview with The Catholic Post this May, he reflected on beginning his priestly vocation later in life. His age and a career in banking gave him a perspective on what was important, he said.

“You can fill your plate up with so many things,” said Father Spilman. “But you’re responsible for people — you want them to get to heaven.” Father Spilman brought his experience in banking to the diocesan finance council and various parish projects.

He is survived by two sisters, Ann Whitworth of Dunlap and Margaret (Bill) Gustafson of Galesburg; nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Memorials may be made to St. Jude or a charity of choice.

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