October 2, 2020

Deacon John Chlopecki was the archdiocese’s first permanent deacon

By Sean Gallagher

Deacon John ChlopeckiDeacon John Chlopecki, the first permanent deacon in the history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, died on Sept. 13 in Rolling Meadows, Ill. He was 74.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Sept. 17 at St. Colette Church in Rolling Meadows. Burial followed on Sept. 18 at St. Anthony Cemetery in Morris.

Ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1991, Deacon Chlopecki and his wife Marie moved to southeastern Indiana in 1995, years before a permanent deacon formation program was established in the archdiocese.

He was given permission to minister as a permanent deacon at St. Anthony Parish and the former St. Pius Parish in Ripley County in Morris about a year before the formation program began in 2003, and formally became a deacon of the archdiocese in 2007, a year before the archdiocese’s first class of deacons was ordained in 2008.

As the only permanent deacon ministering in the archdiocese in the early 2000s, Deacon Chlopecki played an instrumental role in the development of the deacon formation program, which was launched in 2003.

According to Benedictine Father Bede Cisco, the first archdiocesan director of deacon formation, Deacon Chlopecki participated in the interviews of all the men applying to be members of the first class and took part in the formation weekends throughout the program’s four years.

“He enjoyed that role very much,” said Father Bede, now director of spiritual formation for Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. “He helped us understand something more about the vocation to the permanent diaconate. He was able to talk to the men about what their ministry would be like and address family issues—what might be the role of their wives and how being a deacon might affect the family.”

In 2005, Deacon Chlopecki told The Criterion how much his life and ministry as a deacon meant to him.

“You get so much grace from doing this,” he said. “It’s amazing. You can’t imagine how God blesses me and the good things that I see and the good things that happen in life that the other people don’t have a chance to see.”

Deacon Michael East, archdiocesan director of deacons, was part of the historic first class of deacons of the archdiocese. He appreciated Deacon Chlopecki’s supportive presence among him and his classmates.

“He was a representative of what we wanted to be,” said Deacon East. “And he did it well. He was always there to answer questions, to talk with you and the wives. He was a real role model for us.”

Deacon Chlopecki retired from ministry in 2012. His wife Marie died in 2013. He moved back to Chicago a year later to be close to his family because of his own poor health.

Although his ministry in the archdiocese ended eight years ago, Deacon East said that Deacon Chlopecki’s influence continues on in the archdiocesan deacons who were ordained in 2008.

“Every one of us carries a little bit of Deacon John in our ministry,” Deacon East said. “The way we meet and greet people, the way we minister to the people—it all goes back to some of his influence. It’s hard to talk about the diaconate in the archdiocese without thinking about Deacon John.”

Deacon John Joseph Chlopecki, Jr., was born on April 14, 1946, in Chicago to the late John J. and Mary (Blankenberger) Chlopecki, Sr.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Marian University in Indianapolis.

He married his wife Marie on June 29, 1968. She preceded him in death on July 21, 2013.

Deacon Chlopecki served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War from 1969-71. In his business career that followed, he worked in computer technology, eventually working for RBSK Partners in Batesville while still living in Chicago.

After discerning a call to the permanent diaconate, he participated in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s permanent deacon formation program, administered by the University of St. Mary-of-the-Lake in Mundelein, Ill. Bishop Thad J. Jakublowski, then an auxiliary bishop of the Chicago Archdiocese, ordained him a deacon on April 27, 1991, in Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

Deacon Chlopecki ministered at Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Ill., and St. Colette Parish in Rolling Meadows, Ill, before he moved to Indiana in 1995.

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, he first served at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Morris and the former St. Pius Parish in Ripley County. In 2006, he served at St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County.

In 2007, Deacon Chlopecki was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, becoming its first permanent deacon. In that same year, he returned to ministry at St. Anthony Parish in Morris. He retired from ministry in 2012.

Deacon Chlopecki is survived by his daughter Jeannette Toms, his sons David and Kevin Chlopecki, his sister Linda Scofield, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Memorial gifts may be sent to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. †

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