Father Michael Pakula, 78, dies; served as pastor of Geneseo parish for 25 years
GENESEO — A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Malachy Church here at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, for Father Michael Pakula, a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria who served as pastor of the Geneseo faith community for 25 years.
Father Pakula, a native of LaSalle who also assisted with marriage cases on the Diocesan Tribunal for 17 years, died on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at his home in Geneseo. He was 78.
Bishop Louis Tylka will be principal celebrant of the funeral Mass. The homily will be given by Father Duane Jack, a senior priest of the diocese from Silvis.
Following the Mass there will be a luncheon in the parish hall.
Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, at St. Malachy Church, 595 E. Ogden Ave. The rosary will be prayed at 6 p.m.
11-YEAR PATH TO PRIESTHOOD
Born March 16, 1944, in LaSalle to Thaddeus and Pauline (Klopcic) Pakula, he attended St. Hyacinth School in LaSalle and St. Bede Academy, Peru. He then began an 11-year path to the priesthood that included two years at St. Bede Junior College; two years in the U.S. Army as a medic; time as a Benedictine novice at St. Bede; volunteering with Glenmary Home Missioners in Appalachia; becoming a seminarian for the Diocese of Wheeling, West Virginia; working for a year at St. Ann Parish in Toluca; and eventually becoming a seminarian for the Diocese of Peoria.
He completed a degree in philosophy from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and earned a theology degree from Catholic Seminary of Indianapolis.
Father Pakula was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke on Sept. 9, 1973, at his home parish church of St. Hyacinth in LaSalle.
DIVERSE SERVICE TO THE CHURCH
When he was granted senior status in 2020 after 47 years of priestly service, Father Pakula told The Catholic Post “the story of my life is that ‘God writes straight with crooked lines.’” The twists of his priestly service reflect that.
First assigned as parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island, he also served as secretary for what was then known as the Rock Island-Milan Cooperative Ministry. Father Pakula was often called upon to prepare marriage annulment cases, and — after five years at St. Pius — Bishop O’Rourke assigned him to serve as an advocate on the Diocesan Tribunal. An anticipated two-year stint turned into a 17-year assignment.
During a decade of that time he was also parochial vicar at St. Monica Parish in East Peoria, taking part in 32 Christ Renews His Parish weekends. Later he served as a part-time chaplain at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, and was active in prison ministry, visiting the Tazewell County jail and a boys’ detention facility in Hanna City weekly.
“JUSTICE, KINDNESS, CHARITY”
In 1995, Father Pakula was named pastor of St. Malachy Parish in Geneseo, which had just built a new church. His leadership helped retire the parish’s $2 million debt in six years and, in 2010, he oversaw the construction of a $3 million church and school addition.
Father Pakula also called the parish to social outreach, supporting the Geneseo-Atkinson food pantry, the Humility of Mary homeless shelter, and establishing a “sister parish” relationship with St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in Maynardville, Tennessee.
“He promoted justice, kindness and charity within the Geneseo community,” wrote Father Daniel Gifford, the current pastor of St. Malachy, in informing the parish of Father Pakula’s death. He recalled the longtime pastor’s “gentle, warm and cheerful presence” that continued to bless the community after his transition to senior status in 2020.
Father Pakula is survived by a niece, Kristine (Donald Jr.) Kammerer; a nephew, Daniel (Michelle) Pakula; a great-niece, Madelene Pakula; great-nephews Joe and Jack Pakula; and a great-great-niece, Phoebe Schmidt. He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Ken and David Pakula.
Interment will take place at 3 p.m. on the day of the funeral at Van Orin Repose Cemetery in LaMoille.