An Interview with Father Greg Sakowicz

Updated: Nov 22

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism


Eileen: You are rector of the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Chicago, an extremely important position.  What are the responsibilities of a rector and how are they different from being a pastor?


Father Greg: It is good to be here with you, Eileen. I need to differentiate a rector from a pastor. We are Holy Name Cathedral. Cathedral comes from the Latin word meaning ‘chair of the bishop.’ Cardinal Cupich is a pastor because he is ‘chair of the bishop’ for the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Chicago.


However, Cardinal Cupich doesn’t have the time to pastor the cathedral so he directly appoints someone in his name to serve as rector of his cathedral. Therefore, he appointed me a year ago in February to be rector in his name; the responsibilities of the rector are similar to that of a pastor. I celebrate liturgy, baptize, hear confessions, and anoint the sick.


I attend Parish Council meetings, Finance Committee meetings, visits with the sick in hospitals. I attend many other meetings such as individual counseling and marriage preparation. I meet with staff members and the staff comes to me if there is an issue to be discussed. I visit our children at Francis Xavier Warde and hear confessions and celebrate Mass with the children. I attend our parish gatherings and greet people after Mass. I wear many hats! It is a privilege and honor to serve as rector of Holy Name Cathedral.

We have 5500 registered households and I see myself as the spiritual leader of this Faith Community. I get energized by serving people and learning from this marvelous community. I am humbled by their deep faith and generosity and I am also a pilgrim on the journey with you.


Eileen: As a happy person you show a great deal of joy! Many people are not happy in their jobs, what makes you happy?


Father Greg: I love serving as a priest. I truly enjoy the gift of priesthood, and if I had it to do it all over again, I would choose priesthood.  I thank God for choosing me to serve as a priest. To be a rector or pastor is a great honor and yet it is quite humbling. I don’t come as “Father knows it all” and I don’t come as the authority. I come to listen, observe, walk with, and serve the people of God.


Priesthood is a life of giving, but I have received more from people in 38 years as they are so generous in sharing with me. To be a rector, you come as a teacher, learner, and listener.  I come to listen and serve. I have taught you and you have taught me. A good teacher is also a learner on the journey. A priest is called to serve as a servant – leader. There are two ways to wake up in the morning. . . . . . . We can either say Good Morning, God or we can say Good God, Morning!


Eileen: Do you have one question you would like to ask Cardinal Cupich. What are your impressions regarding Holy Name Cathedral?


Father Greg: My one question, does he take time for himself?  If you think my schedule is rugged the demands on Cardinal Cupich’s time are unbelievable.  Cardinal Cupich does not micromanage. He will ask how things are going, but he trusts me.  He has a marvelous sense of humor. Cardinal Cupich also has a laser-sharp mind. What are my observations of the Cathedral after one year?  Holy Name Cathedral is a vibrant and strong Faith Community. 


This is an active, vibrant, and dynamic parish.  Second, the Cathedral is home to thousands and thousands of visitors each year from all parts of the world. Thirdly, Holy Name Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago. All are welcome.  Many of the liturgical events on an Archdiocesan level take place at the Cathedral. I am touched by the profound depth of faith of the people of the Cathedral and this includes you, Eileen. The diversity is phenomenal. We welcome visitors.


We are the Body of Christ. I am touched by the profound depth of faith of people we draw each day for 6:00 am, 7:00, 8:00, 12:10 pm, and 5:15 pm Masses.   I am touched by the diversity as we are all part of the Body of Christ.  The parishioners are the core of the Faith Community. We average close to 4000 people every weekend.  All are welcome!


Eileen: What are some of your stories and experiences relating to Relavant Radio and TV with the Archdiocese of Chicago?


Father Greg: I first have to share this story. I haven’t thought about this in a long time. When I was in high school until the senior year I wanted to do one thing with my life. I wanted to be a radio and TV sportscaster having enjoyed sports in high school. I had one high school goal: to be accepted into Northwestern University. I wanted a degree in Radio and TV and to get married and live happily ever after.


I wanted to broadcast sports: Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Lakers, Bulls, Yankees, Black Hawks - you name the sport I will do play-by-play. I had my heart set on Northwestern University. As a senior at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, I was accepted on early admission with a partial scholarship to Northwestern. I should have been elated.


However, I was not excited about being accepted, once the letter arrived at the house. I couldn’t understand why I was not overjoyed. I spoke to Holy Cross Priest Father Chuck Lavely and to make a long story short he said: “Did you ever think about priesthood?” I responded: “Yeah when I was in first and second grade, but I thought about it less in high school because I wanted to be a sportscaster.” Fr. Lavley said, “Do you think God might be calling you to the priesthood?” I said: “Why doesn’t God think about calling someone else.” I had until Nov 1st to call Northwestern. I called and said thank you, but no thank you, I am turning down your acceptance and the scholarship. I am entering the seminary. I hung up the phone and thought this might be the biggest mistake of my life. However, I entered Niles College Seminary of Loyola University and never looked back. I thank God every day for His gift of the priesthood.

I have broadcast the WGN-TV Mass for 38 years. It is called Mercy Home for Boys and Girls TV Mass. The TV Mass airs every Sunday morning at 9:30 AM on Channel 9. I remember this cute story that happened at the Church of the Holy Spirit as a young priest. A little boy about the age of 5 came up to me and said: “Hey, Fr. Greg, I was looking for Bozo on TV this morning and I found you.” I burst out laughing. It was very humbling.

I also co-host a twice-weekly radio program called “Catholic Community of Faith” which airs on Relevant Radio 950AM every Monday and Friday morning at 9:00 AM. Jim Disch is the producer and Wayne Magdziarz and Graziano Marcheschi will also co-host the radio program. I am also privileged to provide commentary for the Midnight Mass from Holy Name Cathedral which airs on WGN-TV. This will be my 33rd consecutive year providing commentary for channel 9. 

As much as I enjoy radio and television for the Archdiocese of Chicago, my first love is serving the marvelous people of Holy Name Cathedral as their Rector. God has truly blessed me through this wonderful Faith Community and I am blessed to also serve with the Office of Radio and TV in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It has been a great ride!


Eileen: One of the projects you started at the Cathedral is apartment/condo Masses. What does this mean?


Father Greg: When I arrived a year ago, I asked the Parish Pastoral Council if we could start monthly condo Masses. I preside with the support of the Parish Council. We meet people on their turf, in their homes, and in their buildings. It has become an incredibly successful and positive experience. We average between 15-35 people. 


No two Masses are identical because the people are different.  They are so touched by our presence.  It is all about welcome. People come up all the time to thank me.  Some people have returned to the Cathedral to become part of our Faith Community because they were touched by our presence. Many people from the Parish Pastoral Council want to see it continue. It continues to pick up steam and it is an important way to meet people in their homes. We are thankful for all the people coming to these liturgies. The Lord is present in the Eucharist and in their lives. Liturgy means the action of the people. Once the liturgy is completed we go outside the exit doors to be Christ to each other.


Eileen: What is one of the best things you notice about Holy Name Cathedral Parish?


Father Greg: The phenomenal involvement of the laity. You are the Church. You are the Body of Christ. It goes back to what I said earlier: this is such a marvelous Faith Community. People love their parish. There are so many ministries. It is such an active parish.  All are welcome. What strikes me about the Cathedral is that you can have a gorgeous Church, but the people are the Body of Christ.


One parishioner said, “This is my Church and I am proud of it!”  It is such a strong Faith Community.  It is a place where all are welcome.  What really energizes me are the people.  It is not the bricks or the beauty of the Cathedral. It is looking out at the people and seeing the Body of Christ. The commitment, joy, and involvement of the Pastoral Staff, Deacons, and laity are tremendous. I also live with faith-filled and dedicated priests of the Cathedral.


Last, but not least, we have a strong music ministry. Also, the Cathedral reflects the diversity of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It also reflects economically especially from the very wealthy to homeless people. All are the face of Christ. 


Eileen: How do you deal with the schedule at Holy Name?


Father Greg: I truly enjoy serving as the Rector. I am humbled, privileged, and energized. Each day is a profound gift from God.  One prayer I recite 8-10 times a day goes like this: “Lord, may I trust in you completely; Then I know you are with me; Then I shall not fear, and you Lord will do the rest.” It is a prayer of surrender. I answer emails, phone calls, and all sorts of text messages and plenty of meetings, but always remembering “People before things.” 


Eileen: Tell us a story about your Mother.


Father Greg: I am very close to my Mother. I had dinner with Mom about 5 years ago. Mom said, ‘I almost wish I had diapers again. When your four children were small I was overwhelmed with so much to do. I felt like a cab driver. I now live alone. It is much too quiet, Greg. I know you are busy and work long hours as a priest…… But appreciate now what you have because one day it will be over.’ Wonderful words of wisdom from my Mother. May I conclude this way. Don’t live in the past, or in the future, but God is found in the present moment and we give thanks. And always remember – Life is a mystery to be lived and not a problem to be solved. For the Lord promises us two things: Life has meaning and you are going to live forever. If you get a better offer take it!


Dr. Knight: Sports is a gentle and comforting way of interacting with parishioners. Has it brought you that comfort too?

Fr. Greg: I have always enjoyed sports since childhood. Growing up in Chicago sports has been in my blood since my earliest years. I find sports is a way to connect people as a common denominator. I’ve always been a ferocious competitor. As a child, I would live or die by how our Chicago teams were doing. Unfortunately, I had many dying moments with our Chicago teams over the years! Sports is a wonderful team builder and healthy competition is good for the soul. I always stress to young people the importance of being a good winner and a good loser. Once the game is over leave it on the field. Sports help build the concept of a team. I always say there is no “I” in the word team. Many people have been surprised about my knowledge regarding sports. I always say if I knew theology like I know sports I would be a double doctorate! Sports have a way of connecting people in a very unifying manner. In many ways, sports connect with life. Sports deals with winning, losing, playing fair, and team building. May I will live long enough to see the Chicago Bears win another Super Bowl!

Dr. Knight: Archbishop Wilton Gregory was just made a Cardinal. He is from Chicago and Kenilworth. What will he bring to that new position?

Father Greg:. I have had the privilege of knowing Cardinal Wilton Gregory since the summer, 1972. He was assigned as a deacon to my home parish at Father Greg:. I have had the privilege of knowing Cardinal Wilton Gregory since the summer, 1972. He was assigned as a deacon to my home parish at Mary Seat of Wisdom in Park Ridge. He was 25 years old and I was 19. I organized a summer volleyball league for the parish and Deacon Gregory played on my volleyball team. He was loved by people of all ages from the first time he stepped into the gym.

I watched Cardinal Gregory grow over the years. He is incredibly intelligent and a man of deep faith. He has a marvelous sense of humor. I would describe Cardinal Gregory as a man of integrity, love for God, and compassion for others. Cardinal Gregory beautifully connects the mystery of God with our lives.

Cardinal Gregory will bring much to his new position. He speaks with conviction, but he has always remained very humble. He has a marvelous sense of church rooted in the People of God. Cardinal Gregory is a tremendous listener and listens to all sides of the discussion. He possesses a deep spirituality and continually affirms and challenges us to reach out to those in need.


God has blessed all of us through the new Cardinal Wilton Gregory! Our prayers are with him.

He was 25 years old and I was 19. I organized a summer volleyball league for the parish and Deacon Gregory played on my volleyball team. He was loved by people of all ages from the first time he stepped into the gym.

I watched Cardinal Gregory grow over the years. He is incredibly intelligent and a man of deep faith. He has a marvelous sense of humor. I would describe Cardinal Gregory as a man of integrity, love for God, and compassion for others. Cardinal Gregory beautifully connects the mystery of God with our lives.

Cardinal Gregory will bring much to his new position. He speaks with conviction, but he has always remained very humble. He has a marvelous sense of church rooted in the People of God. Cardinal Gregory is a tremendous listener and listens to all sides of the discussion. He possesses a deep spirituality and continually affirms and challenges us to reach out to those in need.

God has blessed all of us through the new Cardinal Wilton Gregory! Our prayers are with him.

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