Pallbearers at the funeral for the Rev. Howard A. Tuite were mostly friends he had ministered to over the course of five decades — some poor and some homeless — on the city's South Side.
"To see who his pallbearers were, the very people Father Tuite had lifted up from the streets and who were now lifting his casket and carrying it into the church, well, it was all very moving," said the Rev. John Jamnicky, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Church in Old Mill Creek, near Rockford.
The Rev. Tuite, 84, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Most of the parishes to which the Rev. Tuite was assigned were in African-American communities. During the 1980s, he attended the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
"He was the epitome of the phrase 'walk the talk,'" said the Rev. Kenneth Fleck, pastor of St. George Church in Tinley Park. "He walked and ministered in the neighborhoods that he lived in and loved."
Born in Chicago, the Rev. Tuite attended St. Basil parish elementary school in Chicago. He graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary, and later attended Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees in theology. He was ordained in 1954.
"Father Tuite was one of the greatest living examples of what Pope Francis talks about — making your primary dedication to helping the poor," Jamnicky said. "He never put his own comfort or well-being first. His priority was to simply serve the poor."
The Rev. Tuite's first job was at St. Martin de Porres Church, where he served as assistant pastor from 1954 to 1961. He was then assigned to Holy Angels Church, where he worked until 1967, when he became assistant pastor at St. Carthage Church.
In 1970, the Rev. Tuite was named pastor of St. Leo the Great Church and led the parish until 1981. During that time, he was appointed urban vicar of Vicariate V of the Chicago archdiocese, a position he held from 1976 until 1984. The appointed position oversees development and other assistance to ministers at a number of parishes.
He moved to St. Felicitas Church in 1981 and was pastor there for 11 years and also served on the board of trustees for seminaries for a three-year term. In 1993, he became a resident at Corpus Christi Church in Chicago, where he remained for six years until 1999, when he retired from active ministry.
"He understood what it means to feel invisible," Fleck said. "To be unemployed and watch your unemployment compensation run out. To be homeless and see how people walk right past you. To be a veteran who is psychologically altered by the horror of death and return to a family that doesn't know you anymore."
In more recent years, the Rev. Tuite was a chaplain at Provident Hospital of Cook County in Chicago.
"He gave the message of hope to so many," Fleck said.
There are no immediate survivors.
Services were held.