Rev. Walter F. McNicholas, O.S.A. (1926 - 2011)
Rev. Walter F. McNicholas, O.S.A. died on March 9, 2011, following a short struggle with cancer. He was 84.
Walter Francis McNicholas, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1926 to Walter F., Sr. and Helen McNicholas. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Rita Parish, Chicago.
Following graduation from Saint Rita High School, Chicago, Walter studied at Saint Ambrose College, Davenport, Iowa, and at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. He served in the United States Navy. In 1946, he joined the Augustinian formation program at the Augustinian Preparatory Seminary, Staten Island, New York.
On December 12, 1946, Walter was received into the Augustinian Novitiate. He professed simple (temporary) vows in the Augustinian Order on December 13, 1947 and made his profession of solemn (permanent) vows on December 13, 1950. He was ordained a priest on October 26, 1952.
Walter earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Villanova University in 1949. He then studied theology at Colegio Santa Monica, Rome, Italy, in 1949-50. Continuing his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, he earned his S.T.B. there in 1952 and his S.T.L. in 1954. He later did additional studies in Psychology at DePaul University and Chicago State University, both in Chicago.
After completing his studies in Rome, Father McNicholas was assigned to Saint Rita High School, Chicago, where he served as Chaplain from 1954 to 1960. He then taught at Saint Augustine Seminary, Holland, Michigan, from 1960 to 1964. He returned to Saint Rita High School in 1964, serving at various times until 1972 as teacher, guidance counselor and Province Vocations Director.
Father McNicholas was named Pastor of Immaculate Conception/Saint Henry Parish, Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1972. Later that same year, he was assigned as a teacher to Austin Catholic High School, Detroit, Michigan. He returned to parish ministry in 1978, first for one year at Saint Mary Parish, Independence, Missouri, and then for four years at Saint Clare of Montefalco Parish, Grosse Pointe Park/Detroit, Michigan.
In 1983, Father McNicholas returned to the classroom at Saint Rita High School, where he remained until 1993. In that year, he was assigned to Saint Joseph Parish, Pekin, Illinois. In 1994, he took up residence at Saint Monica Monastery, Chicago, serving for one year as a Chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital, Chicago, and then as a counselor at Saint Rita High School. He relocated to St. Rita High School Monastery in 2006.
Until his retirement in 2009, Father McNicholas continued to serve as a counselor at St. Rita High School. He was then assigned to the newly established Bl. Stephen Bellesini Friary at Franciscan Village, Lemont, Illinois, in 2010. He was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2010. It was discovered that the cancer had spread throughout his body. Father McNicholas entered Hospice care. He died peacefully on March 9, 2011 at Mother Theresa Home, part of the Franciscan Village complex, in the company of two of his Augustinian brothers.
Father McNicholas is remembered as an exacting teacher who complemented his teaching with a strong pastoral outreach to his students and their families. Students frequently sought him out to discuss personal issues or for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In his later years, he would stand at the entrance to St. Rita and greet the students as they arrived at school. He knew most of them by name. Whenever there was a death in the family of any St. Rita student, Father McNicholas would always be present at the wake to comfort the family and to offer prayer. Ministering to others was central to his life. He was enthusiastic about being an Augustinian friar and encouraged many students to consider joining the Augustinian Order.
Father McNicholas is buried in the Augustinian plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.