The University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary is proud to honor Fr. Wayne Watts, Pastor at Saints Joseph and Francis Xavier Parish with the 2023 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin In Service of One Another Catholic Humanitarian Award.
Born and raised in Oak Park, IL., Fr. Wayne F. Watts is the sixth of nine children of James and Dorothy Watts. He is a graduate of St. Giles Elementary School (Class of ’78), Fenwick High School (Class of ’82), and Marquette University (Class of ’86). After Marquette, Fr. Wayne attended the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary (Class of ’90) and was ordained on May 19th of that year. The class’ ordination theme was “Caritas Christi Urget Nos” which translates as, “The Love of Christ Impels Us.”
Fr. Wayne first served as Associate Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Wilmette (1990-96) where he was active in many parish ministries, especially ACTION, the parish youth group. In 1996, Fr. Wayne was named Resident at Queen of All Saints Parish, Sauganash (1996-2006) while he taught and served in leadership positions at Quigley Preparatory Seminary. In 2002, Cardinal George asked Fr. Wayne to become an Associate Administrator at Catholic Charities and, in 2006 Fr. Wayne was appointed Pastor of St. John Berchmans Parish in Logan Square (2006-2018). In December, 2018, Cardinal Cupich named Fr. Wayne as Pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Wilmette which shortly thereafter combined with Saint Francis Xavier to become Saints Joseph and Francis Xavier (JFX) Parish, a new parish created as a result of the Renew My Church Initiative in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Since January, 2019 Fr. Wayne has led Saints JFX Parish and has been widely praised for his engaged, energetic presence in the parish and for the creative, unifying ways he led his parishioners through the pandemic, always working to build and sustain a vibrant, welcoming community of faith.
In addition, since 1995, Fr. Wayne has led faithful travelers on annual pilgrimages to Lourdes, France. Except for two years (2020-2021) when the pandemic postponed these trips, Fr. Wayne has led one, and often two trips to Lourdes a year to the holy places where St. Bernadette saw 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858. Those travelling on Fr. Wayne’s trips celebrate daily Mass, visit and participate in all of the sites in Lourdes, and help people who have come to Lourdes form all over the world seeking spiritual and physical healing. Hundreds of teenagers and older adults have said that their trip(s) with Fr. Wayne have strengthened their faith in God, and their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in ways they could never have comprehended before. A handful have even entered Mundelein Seminary, have been ordained to serve the Church as priests, and attest their time in Lourdes with a big part of why.
Despite his increasing pastoral duties in his 33 years as a priest, Fr. Wayne has continued his ongoing dedication to numerous programs and ministries at Catholic Charities, Mundelein Seminary and in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Today, at Catholic Charities, Fr. Wayne strives to live the Corporal Works of Mercy and invites others to join him. He is a parish representative as Catholic Charities Regional Mission Boards expand in the six Vicariates of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He regularly assists at Tuesday Night Suppers, attends numerous Catholic Charities events, acts as advisor on key committees, and serves as Staff Chaplain, celebrating weekly Masses and Liturgical Services throughout the year, ministering to employees and leading Monthly Staff Prayer Services.
In addition, in August, 2022, Cardinal Cupich appointed Fr. Wayne as Dean of Deanery II A for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In this role, served concurrently with the positions mentioned above, Fr. Wayne assists Cardinal Cupich, the vicar general and the episcopal vicar of Vicariate II on issues related to the pastoral governance of our local Church.
Archdiocese of Chicago Key Dates and Assignments
Ordained: May 19, 1990
- Associate Pastor, St. Francis Xavier Parish, Wilmette (1990-1996)
- Resident, Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago (1996-2002)
- Pastor, St. John Berchmans Parish, Chicago (2006-2018)
- Pastor, Saints Joseph and Francis Xavier Parish, Wilmette (2019-Present)
Fr. Wayne’s ideas and tireless service during the pandemic included:
- Initiated a daily Virtual 7:30AM Rosary (March, 2020-Present), which draws dozens of parishioners and friends around the country in prayer for intentions submitted to Fr. Wayne
- Initiated a parish phone call/email campaign to every parishioner, during the height of the pandemic to offer parish support and assistance
- Served as a core team member of the Archdiocese COVID Task Force,
- Served as a Covid Anointing Priest, one of a few dozen in the Archdiocese.
- Helped create and implement the Archdiocesan Call to Prayer phone line for anyone to call and join in prayer with a volunteer during Covid.
- f) Constructed an outdoor chapel in Saints JFX Parish so Drive-In Masses could be held
Additional Archdiocesan Roles:
1. Quigley Preparatory Seminary (1996-2002)
a) Vice-President, Institutional Advancement
b) Religion and Formation Faculty Member
c) Marketing and Communications Department- Fr. Watts convened a group of
professionals to create a public relations campaign about the priesthood that garnered
national and international acclaim.
- Associate Administrator, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago (2002-Present)
Since 2002, Fr. Wayne has shown steadfast dedication to the mission of Catholic Charities. He has faithfully served in numerous leadership, board, and committee roles to create greater awareness of Catholic Charities programs and services throughout Cook and Lake counties, while continually inviting civic leaders, corporate benefactors, and friends, far and near to join in the rewarding work of the organization. Fr. Watts helped establish a number of dynamic programs that have eased the burdens of many clients and strengthened support for Catholic Charities. In addition, Fr. Wayne has shown profound empathy and concern for all those who carry the burden of being homeless, hungry, and weary from their struggles in life. His personal friendships with thousands of Catholic Charities clients are a testament to what a kind and special person he is, far beyond what might be expected in his pastoral role.
- Program Involvement
Co-Founded, After Supper Visions Photography Program (2002-Present)
- Co-Founded, CCLA (Catholic Charities Legal Assistance Department)
- Co-Founded, Junior Board and continues to serve as its Chaplain and Advisor (2002-Present)
- Tuesday Night Suppers (2002-Present)
- Board Service
Partners in Mission (June, 2022-Present)
Cornerstone Society (March, 2023-Present)
Board of Advisors
Women’s Auxiliary Board
- Event Committees
CCLA (Catholic Charities Legal Assistance) Legal Lifelines
Junior Board Casino Night
- Other Committee Involvement
Community and Outreach Commission
Development Staff Advisor
Assistance to Asylum Seekers (2022-Present)
- 2005: Guardian Angel Award, Amate House Magic Dinner, Archdiocese of Chicago
- 2008: Honorary Chaplain at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Bishop of Tarbes, France 2008
- 2014: Lumen Tranquillum Award, Fenwick High School; Highest Alumni Award given annually
- 2019 The Bishop’s Medal of Service, The Diocese of Belley-Ars France for his work with their Malades at Lourdes