LOVES PARK— Msgr. John J. Mitchell died Nov. 22, 2017, at Lincolnshire Place, here, where he was a resident. He was 81.
Msgr. Mitchell was born on March 21, 1936, in Elgin, to William P. and Rita J. (Meagher) Mitchell.
He graduated from St. Edward Catholic High School, Elgin in 1954. He then attended St. Charles College, Catonsville, Md., and completed his philosophy and theology studies at St. Mary University, Baltimore, Md. He attended St. Mary Seminary, also in Baltimore.
He earned a Master of Divinity degree from St. Mary, Baltimore, a Master of Arts from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and an administrator’s certificate in education from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb.
Msgr. Mitchell was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1963, by Bishop Loras T. Lane at St. James Pro-Cathedral in Rockford. After ordination his first assignment was as Parochial Vicar at St. James Parish, Rockford. He then was Parochial Vicar at St. Bernadette Parish, Rockford.
Msgr. Mitchell was well known for his service to education in the Rockford Diocese. At Boylan Central Catholic High School, Rockford he served on the faculty, as director of religious education as well as vice-principal and principal. He served as principal at Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling and served as superintendent of Sterling and Rockford Area Catholic Boards of Education.
In 1994 he was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Education for the diocese.
In 1983 he was named pastor of St. Bridget Parish, Loves Park, where he served until he retired from the active priesthood in 2008. He was named Prelate of Honor (monsignor) by Pope John Paul II in January, 1996, with his investiture ceremony held March 31 of that year at St. Bridget Parish. In 2006 he was honored as alumnus of the year at St. Edward Central Catholic School in Elgin.
In 2013, St. Bridget Parish in Loves Park dedicated its parish center in Msgr. Mitchell’s honor with a Mass and dedication ceremony celebrated by Bishop David Malloy and by Msgr. Mitchell’s best friend, Bishop Emeritus Thomas G. Doran.
During his priesthood, Msgr. Mitchell served as Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice in the diocesan Tribunal; was Vicar Forane (dean) of the Rockford Deanery; was a diocesan Consultor; member of the diocesan Finance Council and of the Presbyteral Council; member of the diocesan Personnel Board and diocesan Conciliation and Arbitration board. He served terms as chaplain to the Serra Clubs in Rockford and Sterling and to the Legion of Mary in Rockford.
In a past interview with The Observer, Msgr. Mitchell said that he thanked God every day for the call he “so anxiously pondered back in the seminary,” many years ago. “While proclaiming the Gospel and living out the ministry of priest entails some hardship, the joy and satisfaction I have experienced cannot be matched. The love and grace of the Lord Jesus makes it not only possible, but a joy to serve His people,” he said. Msgr. Mitchell also told The Observer that the challenge for the everyday Catholic is to “reflect the joy that Christ came to bring the world ... . For we are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.”
Msgr. Mitchell is survived by his sister Nancy Shoemaker of Geneva, sister-in-law Beth Mitchell and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers William Jr. and Terrence.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Nov. 29, 2017, at 11 a.m. at St. Bridget Parish, 600 Clifford Ave., Loves Park.
A visitation will be held Tuesday, Nov. 28 at St. Bridget Church with rosary at 7:45 p.m. and at 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Nov. 29 at St. Bridget prior to the Mass.
Private burial will be at St. Mary Cemetery in Gilberts.
Memorials may be given to the Rev. Msgr. John J. Mitchell Scholarship Fund at St. Bridget Catholic Grade School, Rockford.