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Time to say goodbye: Beloved priest, Father Ken, leaves a lasting impact on people across region

  • Father Ken Shaefer celebrates Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Herrin.

    Father Ken Shaefer celebrates Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Herrin.
    Courtesy of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 7/16/2020 5:07 PM

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- He was a big man with a bigger smile and an even bigger heart who made a monumental impact on people from all faiths across southern Illinois.

For over 25 years, Father Ken Shaefer has been a fixture at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Herrin. On Saturday evening, after a long illness, Father Ken passed away.

OLMC principal Jason Swann announced Father Ken's passing on the school's Facebook page on Sunday.

"There truly aren't sufficient words to describe one who accomplished so much for people other than himself in his lifetime," Swann wrote. "I know that no matter how anticipated this news could be for anyone, the reality will still be difficult for all of us to navigate and for certain, only time will allow all of us to do so."

For many, Swann included, Father Ken had been present in their lives for multiple generations, presiding over marriages, funerals, first communions, or just as a part of family gatherings.

Swann, who met Father Ken as a 17-year-old high school senior, grabbed the opportunity to work with him at OLMC.

"I came to OLMC for the opportunity to work with him, and although I only had the honor to work with him for a year, I've known him for all of my adult life. I am truly grateful and blessed for that."

Swann called Father Ken a "doer."

"By his actions, he showed us how to be to others," Swann wrote. "We need not build monuments to him as they are already all around us, in the growth and renovation of our parish, the school, this town, and countless lives that he touched who came before us."

The depth of Father Ken's impact on the people of the region is obvious in a scroll through the Facebook page at the numerous "Father Ken" stories, nearly all of which spoke to his selfless caring for others. Even more stories were shared via social media from people in towns across southern Illinois.

In fact, just a day before he passed, from his bed in Hospice care, Father Ken was still giving last minutes orders and following up on issues pertaining to the welfare of OLMC.

"He was amazing," said Swann. "His legacy is one of love, a legacy that will continue."

Swann said arrangements for the visitation and funeral are still pending.