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Moroney, Francis J.

March 10, 2004
Oak Hill, IL.

Former priest, scholar built his life around helping others

By Joan Giangrasse Kates - Special to the Tribune

Blessed from a young age with the rare combination of physical and intellectual gifts, Francis J. Moroney went on to become a lifelong scholar and athlete.

In December Mr. Moroney was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at his alma mater, St. Ignatius College Prep, where he was cited for his accomplishments in sports and the Classical Honors program. Later in life, he pursued several graduate and postgraduate degrees, while participating in numerous marathons and triathlons around the country.

"He constantly set goals for himself and looked forward to each new challenge," said his wife of 35 years, Domenica. "His competitive spirit, extraordinary physical stamina and intellectual drive had him always pushing his own limits."

Mr. Moroney, 73, of Oak Park, a former Catholic priest in the Diocese of Rockford who later became a social worker, entrepreneur and teacher, died Wednesday, March 10, in his home of prostate cancer.

Born and raised in Chicago, Mr. Moroney graduated in 1948 from St. Ignatius, where as a junior and senior he was a member of the mile-relay teams that won gold medals in the Chicago Daily News Relays. He attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, on scholarship, and later entered St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, receiving a bachelor's degree in theology. He was ordained in 1956.

Mr. Moroney served at St. Mary's Church in Sterling and St. Elizabeth Community Center in Rockford, and was an assistant to the bishop of Rockford during the years of the Second Vatican Council, traveling with him to Rome. He later studied two years there and received a licentiate degree in canon law from Lateran University.

"He had some wonderful memories of his time spent in Italy," said his wife. "He lived in a lovely neighborhood in Rome, just a few blocks from the Trevi Fountain."

Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Moroney resigned his clerical post and enrolled in postgraduate studies at the University of Chicago, where in 1969 he received a master's degree in social service administration. He was married that same year. Mr. Moroney's career as a social worker included several years at the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and part-time counseling for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. He then turned to business, founding Alpha Building Service Co., a cleaning service he operated for about 15 years.

Mr. Moroney later studied at the University of Chicago in the four-year Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, graduating in 1991. He next enrolled at Concordia University in River Forest, where he earned a second master's degree in education for urban teaching.

Upon his graduation Mr. Moroney joined the Chicago Public Schools as an instructor at the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School. For eight years before his retirement in 2003, he also headed the Student Teaching Evaluation and Placement Program.

"He loved working with his students," said his wife. "He tried not only to teach them what was necessary for the classroom, but also how to attain a sense of dignity and self-worth, something many of these kids had never felt."

Other survivors include two daughters, Francesca Cooper and Gabriela; a brother, Paul; two sisters, Rita Murphy and Mary Lou Shepard; and two grandchildren.

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