by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Introduction: Suzette, Father Grob’s secretary met me for the meeting in the vestibule of the Chancery. We traveled through a maze of workers accomplishing the multi-faceted work of the archdiocese under the direction of Cardinal Cupich. We arrived at Father Grob’s office after an elevator ride. There is a sacred sense of privacy and peace in the work that is being done. Father Grob has a wonderful office with artifacts that are meaningful to him and others. He shook my hand and asked me to join him at the table in his office. We introduced ourselves and discussed the presentation he gave at Holy Name Cathedral on exorcism. Over 300 people were present. It was clearly and carefully given. It was a presentation given by Fr. Grob who has Christ as his foundation.
Dr. Knight: As a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, I am sure you are asked about your work. Before we get there. I would like to ask some preliminary questions. Where and when did you study for the priesthood?
Fr. Grob: I always had a strong desire to know God and understand my vocation. I asked to go into the seminary already in high school. So, I spent my high school years at Holy Name Seminary in Madison after attending St. Francis Xavier Grade School in my hometown of Cross Plains, Wisconsin. After finishing high school, I took off several years to work, eventually returning to seminary in 1985. In 1988, I transferred into the second year of theology at Mundelein Seminary and was ordained in 1992. At that point, I was assigned to Faith, Hope and Charity Parish in Winnetka as the associate pastor until 1998. I was also assigned in 1994 to the Chancery one day a week. In 1998, I was asked to study canon law in Ottawa, Canada where I received a JCL degree in 2000 and doctorate in 2007. (At this point, Father Grob and I had a talk on the role of obedience and the joy of giving one’s life over to another for the sake of the kingdom of God. Although canon law was not a subject he would have necessarily chosen, he went obediently to study in Ottawa, trusting in God’s provident plan for him.)
Dr. Knight: Could you tell us a small part of your personal life. Do you have siblings? Is it a large family?
Fr. Grob: I am an only child, growing up in the same house with my parents and paternal grandparents in a German farming community just west of Madison, Wisconsin. My maternal grandmother owned a tavern in town where I would spend weekends while working on the family farm during the week. It provided a wonderful balance while growing up – hard work and the pleasure of being with people. I come from a small clan, having only 4 first cousins on my father’s side. The church was always a central part of our lives. I loved going to Mass and remember that as a child I was always trying to figure out what the priest was doing at the altar. Fr. Richard Schlaefer, the pastor of our parish, was a quiet, simple man whom I admired greatly.
Dr. Knight: Did the call to the priesthood come overnight or was it a constant reminder from the Lord that he was looking for you.
Fr. Grob: From my earliest recollections as a child, I felt drawn to ministry and the call to the priesthood. Through prayer and good works, I learned
how to stay close to what has been asked of me, having freely chosen Christ as the source of hope that gives me direction.
Dr. Knight: What ministries are you currently involved in beside giving talks on the topic of exorcism? Do you say Mass at a parish each day?
Fr. Grob: I was assigned to be pastor of St. Celestine Parish, Elmwood Park from 2008-2013 and I still remain active in their liturgical celebrations mostly on weekends. Now my days are spent at the Archbishop Quigley Center tending to matters that pertain to canon law as Judicial Vicar and Vicar for Canonical Affairs. Canon law, the law that assists in guiding the Catholic Church and her many practices and processes, is meant to point to the realization of the supreme law of the Church which is the salvation of souls.
My doctoral dissertation addressed the revision of the Rite of Exorcism which was promulgated in 1998. Upon returning from doctoral studies, I have been frequently called upon to speak on the topic. Needless to say, sensationalistic topics always tend to draw a crowd.
Dr. Knight: What does it mean to be the Vicar for Canonical Affairs? And Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese?
Fr. Grob: The current assignment given to me by Cardinal Cupich is focused on addressing the canonical needs of the people of the Archdiocese. The perennial challenge in any discussion concerning law comes down to how it is understood and embraced – is it a matter of the literal application of the law or rather the spirit that stands behind it and gives it purpose and life. There is an art in maintaining a healthy balance, keeping the two in dialogue and not creating dividing lines. As in many things, it plays out sometimes better in theory than in actual practice.
Dr. Knight: You have a specific call to fulfill your priesthood. Could you explain it to the reader?
Fr. Grob: The priesthood to which I have been called is about coming to understand and embrace the will of Jesus Christ in my own life first. Then I am able to assist in evangelizing, catechizing, and accompanying others so that they can know/love/serve Him in their own walk as members of the Body of Christ. We are in this together – as Church.
Dr. Knight: There is quite a bit of Hollywood sensationalism in regard to exorcism. How would you help people put it in perspective?
Fr. Grob: The issue often at play today in the ministry of accompaniment, that is, catechesis and evangelization, is assisting others to have a handle on what is our Catholic tradition. Specifically, regarding this topic, is the understanding that the devil is a real creature and not merely a symbol. In a recent CARA report, Catholics were asked about their belief in the devil: 83% believed the devil to be only a symbol of evil while the remaining 17% believe the devil to be a living being. Interestingly, people seem comfortable in varying degrees to believe in God as a real being. They are even willing to realize that angels are part of God’s created order. However, this is not the case with the devil. Why is that? Some would say that the devil’s greatest victory is convincing people that he does not exist. Apparently, he is having some success on that front. And yet Pope Francis is quite clear when he states that we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech, or an idea. It can be a dangerous enterprise, spiritually speaking, to become careless by letting down our guard.
Dr. Knight: I would like to thank you for this interview that will help people understand your ministry as a priest for Christ. It is helpful to see how to deal with issues in a way that assists all.