Rev. Van Duren, of Joliet Diocese

By Rachel Melcer
Chicago Tribune
September 1, 1997

Rev. Charles Van Duren, 77, retired pastor of St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, died Saturday in St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.

A native of Aurora, Father Van Duren was ordained on May 31, 1952. His work took him to different parts of the country before he arrived at the Joliet Catholic Diocese in 1970.

Father Van Duren first served as pastor, and he taught Greek and English, at Dehon Seminary in Great Barrington, Mass., until 1962. For the next three years, he was rector at Kilroe Seminary in Honesdale, Pa., followed by a one-year assignment as an instructor at St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain, S.D. Then he served for four years as chaplain at Mississippi State University.

Friends say that early in his career, Father Van Duren elected to work closely with individual congregations and schools rather than seeking higher positions within the church.

"He really wanted to touch people one by one, rather than working through other people," said Jim Bartholomew.

Father Van Duren had lived in the Shorewood home of his longtime friends, Jim and Diane Bartholomew, since last year.

He has served several parishes of the Joliet diocese: Immaculate Conception in Elmhurst from 1970 to 1971, St. Joseph in Joliet from 1971 to 1973, St. Mary in West Chicago from 1973 until 1975, and St. Irene in Warrenville from 1975 until 1982.

In 1982, he arrived at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, where he retired in 1995. Yet he continued to be busy with religious, community and personal activities.

Over the years, Father Van Duren served as president of the West Chicago Lions Club. He was a charter member of the Plainfield Rotary and the Warrenville Lions Club. He held memberships in the Sandwich Rotary and the Plainfield Knights of Columbus.

He was known for his punctuality, especially when it came time for him to retire for the night. Everyone knew his workday ended at 9 p.m. precisely, even in the midst of a meeting or event.

Yet Father Van Duren also was known as a hard worker. After a tornado tore through Plainfield in August 1990 and destroyed St. Mary Immaculate Church, he helped get the parish back on its feet.

"He was confident that they'd be able to rebuild and be better for it," Jim Bartholomew said. "He was a very good spiritual leader. . . . That was one of his strengths."

At the time of his death, Father Van Duren was helping with construction efforts at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Aurora. And he was always studying or reading.

"He had to be the scholar of scholars," Jim Bartholomew said. "We have about 3,000 books here--he's probably read all of them. They're all dogeared."

Father Van Duren even made the arrangements for his funeral, writing down the details about three years ago. Friends say they expect the 1,200-capacity sanctuary at St. Mary Immaculate Church to be full.

"We expect a lot of people to be driving a lot of miles," Jim Bartholomew said. "He's touched a lot of people in his lifetime."

Father Van Duren is survived by a brother, August.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in St. Mary Immaculate Church, 129 S. Division St., Plainfield, with a prayer service at 7 p.m. Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the church.


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