Fourth Bishop of Rockford
Pope Pius XII, named a Chicago priest, Raymond Peter Hillinger, tobe the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Rockford on November 3, 1953. He was consecrated Bishop on December 29, 1953, at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, by Samuel Cardinal Stritch, with Bishop Martin D. McNamara of Joliet and Bishop William A. O’Connor of Springfield as coconsecrators. On January 14, 1954, The Most Reverend Raymond P. Hillinger was installed as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Rockford, at St. James Pro-Cathedral, Rockford, by Cardinal Stritch.
Raymond Peter Hillinger was born in Chicago on May 2, 1904, the son of Philip and Magdalene Neuses Hillinger. He attended Catholic grade schools at St. Henry Parish, Chicago, and St. Joseph Parish in Wilmette, and attended New Trier High School in Winnetka. Bishop Hillinger pursued studies for the priesthood first, at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, and then completed them at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary at Mundelein.
He was ordained to the sacred priesthood on April 2, 1932, in the Chapel of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, by George Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago. His first priestly assignment was as assistant at St. Aloysius Parish, Chicago, where he served for three years. In 1935, Father Hillinger, a most gifted preacher and speaker, joined the Chicago ArchdiocesanMission Band and served in that position for 15 years. On June 2, 1950, he was appointed the Rector of Angel Guardian Orphanage in Chicago and was serving in this assignment when he was appointed Bishop of Rockford. Raymond Hillinger had been named a Monsignor by Pope Pius XII only one week before he was appointed as Rockford’s Bishop.
Bishop Hillinger’s decline in health became more serious during the course of the year of 1955 to the extent that the Auxiliary Bishop of the Lithuanian Diocese of Kaunas, Bishop Brizgys, celebrated the Holy Thursday ceremonies at St. James Pro-Cathedral that year and the next year of 1956, when the revised Ritual of Holy Week Services was able to be used. Bishop Martin McNamara of Joliet willingly celebrated and administered the Sacrament of Holy Orders by ordaining priests for the Diocese of Rockford in 1955 and again in 1956.
Cardinal Stritch, as Metropolitan for the Province of Chicago, announced in November 1955, that the Vicar General, Monsignor Andrew J. Burns, Pastor of St. Mary Parish, Sterling, would be the Administrator of the Diocese of Rockford, such was the state of health of our Bishop Hillinger. Monsignor Burns administered diocesan affairs until Bishop Hillinger was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago on June 27, 1956, resigning as the fourth Bishop of Rockford. Bishop Hillinger was also appointed the Pastor of St. Mel-Holy Ghost Parish where he remained until his retirement in 1968.
In his retirement, Bishop Hillinger’s healthnever improved and, in fact, worsened and after a protracted illness, he died on Saturday, November 13, 1971, at the age of 67. He was buried in All Saints Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois. Though his episcopate in Rockford was brief in numbers of days, Bishop Hillinger remains fondly remembered by clergy and laity alike as a holy and kindly bishop, always concerned for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his people.