Father Kittock remembered for love of Church, Catholic education

| May 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

Father Francis Kittock, described by a longtime colleague and friend as “a real dynamo,” died May 21. He was 90.

Father Kittock served as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony from 1973 to 2000, one of the longest-tenured pastors in recent history in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A year before he arrived, Gary Wilmer became principal at St. Charles School, serving there until 2008, when he left to work for the archdiocese in the Catholic Schools Office. Wilmer, 77, retired in 2016, but still serves as a consultant. He called Father Kittock an excellent mentor whom he would call for advice long after he retired as pastor.

What stood out most about Father Kittock to Wilmer was the priest’s “love of the Church,” he said. “He just radiated that to me. He just loved the Church and loved the people. I wish more people could have seen that side of him. He loved being a priest. I think he was a 24-hour priest. He loved his vocation. And to me, it just radiated. I think that’s what captured so many of us that worked with him and for him at St. Charles. He’s a big reason we had such a stable faculty there.”

He’s also why the school has been financially sound for more than three decades. In 1988, he started an endowment to address the long-term needs of the school. Wilmer called such a move “unheard of” at that time. Father Kittock’s goal was $1 million, which was reached in 1992. Two years later, it grew to $2 million. Now, Wilmer said, the endowment is close to $4 million.

Father Kittock was known as a both a good pastor and a good businessman. He paid close attention to the details of any project, such as the $2.8 million building addition in 2000, and he worked hard to raise the necessary funds and stay out of debt. Two central parts of the building project were an atrium and eucharistic adoration chapel. At the time, he called the Eucharist “the focus of this parish.”

Father Kittock grew up in Delano on his family’s farm. He attended Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary in St. Paul in the 1940s and was ordained in 1955. Before coming to St. Charles, he served at St. Kevin and St. Hedwig, both in Minneapolis. He also taught at Nazareth Hall from 1959 to 1970. After retirement, he served as dean for retired priests and in the Priestly Life and Ministry Office.

Craig Vana came to St. Charles School in 1969 as a teacher, and forged a friendship with Father Kittock that lasted all the way to the priest’s final days at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Holy Family Residence in St. Paul, a place he had wanted to live when his health began to decline in recent years.

“I learned to be a really good administrator and leader through him,” said Vana, who left St. Charles in 1985 and went on to be a school administrator in both public and private schools.

“He had certain qualities and leadership skills that, unfortunately, every priest doesn’t have. And, it’s why we were so successful at St. Charles with him there.”

Among more than 20 associate priests to serve under Father Kittock at St. Charles are two who later became bishops — Bishop Frederick Campbell, who served as bishop of Columbus, Ohio, from 2005 until his retirement in 2019, and Bishop John LeVoir, bishop of New Ulm since 2008. Wilmer said both bishops have acknowledged Father Kittock’s role in their priestly formation. Even in his retirement, Father Kittock continued to mentor young priests and pastors.

He had several passions, including teaching people the faith, which he was “tireless” in doing, Wilmer said. He also loved sports, and supported St. Charles teams “100 percent,” Vana said. That passion manifested itself on local golf courses during his free time.

“One of the things that he loved to do was go golfing,” Vana said. “A number of us went with him numerous times, and it was just great to watch him golf. He loved it. And, that was his release, for the most part, to get on the golf course a little bit and get out there with some of the folks that he worked with to see how we’re doing. He was very good. I couldn’t beat him, that’s for sure. None of us guys could.”

Vana also noted that Father Kittock was a gifted confessor.

“He was my confessor,” Vana said. “He was a great person to help people with their sins and with their weaknesses, but also to help you understand that God’s forgiveness is infinite, and there’s nothing that he can’t forgive and won’t forgive.”

A vigil service for Father Kittock will be 5 p.m. June 2 at St. Charles Borromeo, with a visitation following from 6 to 8 p.m. The funeral Mass is 11 a.m. June 3 with a visitation one hour prior. Interment is at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights.

Those wishing to come either to the vigil service or funeral Mass must contact the parish to pre-register, either by calling 612-781-6529 or visiting stchb.org.

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Category: Obituaries