An Interview with Father Bill Vollmer

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



Dr. Knight: You are new to Holy Name Cathedral. You are probably asked some deep questions but I’d like to find out do you like the Cubs or the Sox but we also want to know what your favorite foods are? What makes you laugh? Do you like sports?


Father Bill – I grew up a White Sox fan and have remained one through the good years (2005) and the not so good. I consider myself a “foodie”. I am an adventurous diner as I like to try new restaurants and interesting items on a menu. My favorite foods are seafood, pork, anything with curry, and French cuisine. I enjoy all forms of comedy - stand up, especially British TV shows and movies. I find that laughing at myself helps me to stay humble. As for sports, I grew up playing baseball, basketball, football, and 16-inch softball. I now enjoy watching them. I am interested in the strategy of team sports and the strength, commitment, and dedication of individual athletes.


Dr. Knight: How did you receive your call to be a priest? How has this call changed over time?


Father Bill – The late Fr. Larry Craig (Kolbe House and Assumption Parish) was the first person who ever asked me about becoming a priest. I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade at St. Agnes School in Chicago Heights, when Larry asked me. I believe, however, that God’s calling me to the priesthood was multi-layered. My Mom’s family had several vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I have to believe that somehow through them and their ministry God was calling me to something similar. The priests of my home parish St. Agnes were also influential and I cannot leave out the Sisters of St. Francis of Mishawaka. These faithful women were not only great educators and witnesses to the Gospel but excellent vocation directors. The joy in which all of the above lived their lives was greatly influential in my life. All of them planted the seeds of a vocation in my life. The Holy Spirit and my openness to that call allowed the seed to germinate. It took a while, but I realized when working for GMAC, that I was not finding joy in what I was doing. I took that as a sign and the voice of God to discern my vocation to the priesthood.


Dr. Knight: I see you have worked in the RCIA program in which you bring the light of Christ to new inquirers. What stands out to you?


Father Bill: Relationships. It is a gift to see how the Holy Spirit brings together people from different paths on a common journey and forges relationships between them. To see this form and unfold is the great gift of all involved in the RCIA journey.


Dr. Knight: How about an easy question: what is your favorite film at this time? My favorite film is “Won’t you be my Neighbor” as it supports kindness. As a University professor what was your favorite class? Book?


Father Bill: I was just recently in New York and had the opportunity to see “To Kill a Mockingbird” on stage at the Shubert Theatre. The play written by Adam Sorkin is based on Harper Lee’s classic book is told from the perspective of Scout, and it speaks about justice, injustice, redemption and the need for dialogue in our society. My favorite class I’ve taught was on film and theology. We viewed films, such as Babette’s Feast, The Matrix, and Lola Rennt, (Run, Lola Run).


Dr. Knight: At this time in life I can fit everything in my condo in my car except my books. What was it like to move from one parish to another what does that mean to you?


Father Bill: Like all change, moving from one parish to another involves transition. Transition invites me to a deeper trust in the presence of Jesus in my life. I know that through the hills and valleys, twists and turns of change, He is there. Change is a great teacher of patience. On a practical level, moving from one parish to another has taught me to travel light.


Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that the use of social media in our parishes can assist young people to think about knowing/loving/serving God through their ‘cyber-neighbor’?


Father Bill: I do, but with reservation. For all the good that social media has done and can do, it cannot replace the human element of a face-to-face conversation.


Dr. Knight: As an assistant pastor you can educate and spiritually form many people in the society through your work. What issues are predominantly on your mind and heart?


Father Bill: The need for dialogue and reconciliation are so important in our culture, Church, and society at this moment in time. On the minds and hearts of many people recently has been the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Church, especially since the release of the Grand Jury Investigation in Pennsylvania. The issues of immigration, racism, affordable health care, as well as the needs and the acceptance of the LGBTQ community, are important to me. As the Catholic Church of Chicago continues the process of the Renew My Church initiative, I have become intensely concerned about the lack of vocations to the priesthood, religious life and lay ministry. I feel we need to think outside the box and become more creative in our outreach to young people and the reimagining of our parish structures.


Dr. Knight: What was your favorite seminary course and why?


Father Bill: Liturgy was my favorite course at the seminary. The rituals and celebration of the liturgy are so important in my own spiritual life and relationship with God. The professors I had and their enthusiasm and love for this subject would later be the impetus to seek further study at the University of Notre Dame during my years of being on the faculty at St. Joseph College Seminary.


Dr. Knight: It seems that this interview would help us understand your activities and purposeful work that would be of interest to our readers such as the projects or programs you have been in charge of in the past.


Father Bill: I am have been involved in parish life as Director of Liturgy, RCIA, Altar Servers, and Human Concerns. I have also given parish missions and taught a 4 part series for Catechists on Liturgy in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Gary, IN.


Dr. Knight: What other issues do you have as a priority for our work as a society?


Father Bill: The need for open and honest dialogue. The acceptance of people for who they are – created in the image and likeness of God and the practice of civility, kindness, and respect in our everyday lives.


Dr. Knight: Thank you for doing this interview to help all of us understand your work better and to live a life in Communion with Christ.

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