Fr. Looney thankful for models of faith

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | June 18, 2015

GREEN BAY — Following the Laying on of Hands and the Prayer of Consecration, Deacon Edward Looney officially became a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay during the Rite of Ordination, June 6, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. For the newly-ordained Fr. Looney, the roots of that moment can be traced to his experience as an altar server while growing up in Oconto.

Fr. Edward Looney offers a prayer and blessing on Bishop David Ricken at the close of the ordination Mass. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Fr. Edward Looney offers a prayer and blessing on Bishop David Ricken at the close of the ordination Mass. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“It’s now Holy Trinity (Church), but early in my youth, it was St. Joseph and St. Peter,” explained Fr. Looney, 26. “During the summer, they would have (daily) Mass at St. Peter. In the winter, Mass was at St. Joseph. We were always affiliated with St. Joseph. When I was in fourth grade, I started serving daily Mass at St. Peter. We only lived a half a mile away, so I would bike there in the morning and serve Mass. That was probably the beginning.”

Fr. Looney entered seminary out of high school, but left to attend St. Norbert College in De Pere. During his first semester at college, he considered a return to seminary.
“Maybe my heart was changing. Maybe I should rethink that. It provided moments for clarification to move forward,” he said.
Fr. Looney discerned a religious community and submitted an application to join. A trip to Washington, D.C., provided direction.

“I visited the community for March for Life and there was also the Green Bay group there,” he explained. “I split my time. I spent some time with the Marians (of the Immaculate Conception) and spent some time with the diocese. On the last day of the trip, everybody sort of departed. I made my way to the National Basilica (Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) to pray.”

Fr. Looney found himself at a crossroads in his discernment. He asked the Lord for guidance.

“Should I join the Marians? I had a great affinity for the people of Green Bay. I prayed about it,” he said. “I walked out and the Wisconsin group wears very distinctive sweatshirts. There was a Wisconsin group, not the group I had been spending time with, but it was Fr. Mark Vander Steeg who had brought a little group from Greenville. So for me — it was by chance — there is the Green Bay group. Maybe I should rethink the diocese.”
The need for vocations in the diocese was greater than for the Marians, which also was a factor in Fr. Looney’s decision to return to seminary to become a priest of the diocese, he said. He attended Conception Seminary in northwest Missouri for two years and the past four years at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Fr. Looney is the first priest ordained for the diocese who graduated from Conception Seminary College.

Formation in recent years has included his pastoral internship at Holy Family Parish in Marinette. Last summer, following his ordination to the diaconate, Fr. Looney served at Sacred Heart Parish in Shawano.

“When I got there, Fr. Luke (Ferris) was leaving to go to the Holy Land. He was gone for 10 days. Here I am. I move in and it was baptism by fire,” he said with a laugh. “I visited people in the hospital. I did Liturgy of the Word with Communion. I was present in the office. It was a good opportunity to get my feet wet in preaching.”

Fr. Looney spent this past year serving as a deacon at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill, Ill., the newest parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago. St. Raphael Church was constructed with pieces from two Chicago churches. Serving at a parish close to seminary had its advantages, said Fr. Looney. Not only did he preach every weekend, but he assisted with baptisms, baptism preparation and annulments. Fr. Looney said that his preaching style has changed. A complaint letter, not necessarily directed at him, by a St. Raphael parishioner prompted the change.

“I no longer wrote out my homilies,” he said. “I did more of an outline with bullet points. The last weekend I was at the parish, when I bid my farewell, I never expected this to happen, but the people at two of the Masses gave me a standing ovation as I walked away from the ambo.”

He also received positive feedback from the man who wrote the letter. Fr. Looney had not previously met him.

“The last day he came up to me and gave me his business card,” explained Fr. Looney. “He said, ‘Your homilies have been very inspirational.’”

Fr. Looney celebrated his first Mass on Sunday, June 7, at Holy Trinity Church in Oconto. He previously preached at his home church as a deacon for the seminary appeal. The Gospel reading that Sunday was about the “woman of great faith.” Fr. Looney took the opportunity to recognize the people of the parish who were models of faith. His late grandmother, Elizabeth Looney, topped the list.

“She was the one who took me to Mass and passed on the faith,” he said. “She was a good witness.”

The diamond from his grandmother’s wedding ring was placed in a cross on the bottom of a chalice belonging to Fr. Looney.

Among the others he thanked included the late Joyce Lightner, mother of Fr. Michael Lightner of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Joyce invited Fr. Looney to go on a trip to Medjugorje.

“That was another place where there was fertile ground for a vocation,” he said. “That trip was very foundational and provided some direction.”

Fr. Looney designed a gift for his home parish; a plaque with the names of the 11 “Priest Sons of Holy Trinity.” The plaque has space for 13 more names. The last three priests from the parish, prior to Fr. Looney, were ordained for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Fr. Looney has written multiple books about the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion. Another title is in the works, but he doesn’t have a deadline. The book will explore the devotion to Our Lady of Good Help in different countries.

“I was sitting in the airport with another mariologist a few weeks ago,” said Fr. Looney. “I attended the annual meeting of the Mariological Society and was telling her my idea for this book. She said, ‘This seems like it will be a great contribution to the field. … We’ll see when it’s done.”

During his free time, Fr. Looney enjoys running. He also likes to travel to religious shrines.
“There are a few that I need to visit,” he said. “There’s one in Carey, Ohio, Our Lady of Consolation, that I want to see.”

Fr. Looney has been appointed parochial vicar at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish, Oshkosh, and priest celebrant at St. Mary Parish, Omro, and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne, effective July 1.

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