Monsignor Charles Meyer Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Priestly Ordination

Posted on March 11, 2020

On February 24, 2020 Monsignor Charlie Meyer celebrated his 75th Anniversary of Priestly Ordination at Presence St. Benedict Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niles, Illinois. At age 99, Monsignor is both the oldest faculty member of Mundelein Seminary and the most senior priest, by age, in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Join us in congratulating Monsignor Charlie Meyer on a happy 75th Priestly Ordination Anniversary and prayers for his good health.

Monsignor Charles Meyer’s photo is third row from the bottom and last one on the right.

Tribute to Msgr. Charlie Meyer

By Fr. Martin Smith, (Springfield, IL ’15)
This article originally ran in the Spring-Summer 2015 issue of the seminarian-produced BRIDGE magazine. The full magazine can be viewed here.

For anyone who has been a part of Mundelein Seminary, there are many experiences that can come to mind when thinking about one’s time here as a student, teacher or employee. Perhaps taking a walk down by the boathouse on a warm spring afternoon, attending liturgies, institutions and ordinations in the beautiful Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, even tracking between the giant mounds of snow in bitter cold temperatures as one heads to the classroom. All of those things, and more, make up the overall narrative that is Mundelein Seminary.

However, for almost anyone who has been a part of Mundelein Seminary for the past 70 years or so, there is another experience that is for many as concrete and tangible as the bridges that surround the lake, and as mysterious and intriguing as the woods that surround campus. That of course is the experience of knowing Msgr. Charlie Meyer as a teacher, fellow faculty member and, most importantly, a priest.

Msgr. Meyer is now 94 years old. I went to talk with him about the past 70 years of priesthood and learned what stories, wis dom and advice he has to pass onto the next generation of priests. Msgr. Charlie Meyer was born on September 30, 1920, on the North Side of Chicago near Wrigley Field. When asked about when he first thought about priesthood, he recounts the story of when he was around 12 years old and a student at St. Andrew’s Grade School in Chicago: “Cardinal Mundelein visited, and I was the cardinal’s train bearer when he came to my parish. The cardinal turned to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You’re going to come to my seminary, and you’re going to be my priest.’ I said, ‘OK.’” Msgr.

Meyer attended Archbishop Quigley Seminary and met many other men who were also planning to enter Mundelein Seminary. At Quigley Seminary, he met one of his mentors and greatest teachers, Father Harry Rynard of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Father Rynard taught physics and mathematics at Quigley and had a deep impact on the young Charlie’s life.

Msgr. Meyer said that after finishing at Quigley, he remembers when he first came to Mundelein Seminary and Msgr. Reynold Henry Hillenbrand was the Rector. Msgr. Meyer remembers that Hillenbrand was a quiet and intelligent man who was wellrespected. He shared one memory he had of Hillenbrand that came from October 2, 1939: “We had just begun retreat and we were all together in the main chapel. Msgr. Hillenbrand came up and made an announcement, but he had a very weak voice so no one except the front row heard what he said. Eventually the word was passed back and we heard what he had announced: ‘The cardinal has died in his residence.’ It was a sad day … I remember his funeral.”

Msgr. Meyer continued on through Mundelein Seminary remembering the strict discipline that was evidenced by its unofficial nickname of “The West Point of the Midwest.” “I never had a problem with the discipline, some others may have, but I don’t remember it being a problem. We were not allowed newspapers or radios, but some of the teachers would make a list of the top news stories that were currently happening and would read them to us before class. If it was a really big event, they would cut out the article and put it on the board so that we could read it.”

Msgr. Meyer was eventually ordained a priest in February of 1945 and went on to Rome for further studies at the Gregorian University. During his time in Rome, he remembers meeting Pope Pius XII: “I found him a very interesting man, he shook my hand and gave me a blessing.”

In 1947, then Father Meyer was reassigned to Mundelein Seminary to be a professor, where he continued to teach up until November of 2014.

“I always liked teaching, even as a student, we sometimes went to high schools to teach religion, so it has always been something I enjoyed. I started out teaching Church history. I had a degree in it, but at that time the Jesuits were teaching all the other classes, so the only course open to teach by a diocesan priest was Church history.”

Msgr. Meyer has witnessed many changes in the seminary and in the Church during his 68 years teaching at Mundelein and said he had many memorable students throughout the years. His favorite subject to teach was systematic theology and his favorite theologian is St. Thomas Aquinas, which he says is reflected in the books he wrote during his time teaching.

When asked what advice he had for newly ordained priests and those preparing for ordination this year, he smiled for a moment and said, “Prayer. Pray every day and realize God is with you. Recognize God’s presence in your life and foster that. The people of God will then recognize that God is with you and they will listen to you.”

Further advice he gives is in learning: “A priest should always be a student of theology, there is always something to learn even when you have exhausted St. Thomas Aquinas like me!” Msgr. Meyer reiterated the importance of continuing to study some Greek and Latin so that one can be able to study the Scriptures in deeper ways: “The translations are not always that good, so to be able to study them in those languages is important.” He also stressed the importance of having good relationships with other priests. “Having a good fellowship among the clergy is important, groups of priests that you can trust and talk to, even something as simple as meeting to go out to dinner once a week. It’s important.”

On this, the celebration of Msgr. Meyer’s 70th anniversary as a priest, I asked him about his thoughts on the fact that he has been a part of the Mundelein experience for the thousands of students who have passed through these halls of the seminary over the past several decades. “I hope I helped them,” he said. “I was happy to be part of their education.” But the truth is Msgr. Meyer’s work, dedication and service as a priest, teacher and formator doesn’t just stop at the door of the classroom. The impact of his priestly service and example have positively impacted the vocations of so very many, reinforcing the pillars of human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation in the seminarians and priests he has encountered.

Indeed, Msgr. Meyer is as much a part of the Mundelein narrative as the bridges around campus, because he has been, and continues to be, a bridge for so many, teaching generations of priests. From grace and Church history, to systematic theology and the EPR Paradox, his lectures, work and writings in theology will continue to benefit future students for years to come. He is who he is, fiercely intelligent yet humble, straight to the point but lined with a dry humor, all in all authentically himself – and that is one of the best tools of evangelization a priest could ever hope for.

Thank you, Msgr. Meyer for your 68 years of teaching at Mundelein Seminary and congratulations on 70 years a priest! Ad Multos Annos!

This article originally ran in the Spring-Summer 2015 issue of the seminarian-produced BRIDGE magazine. The full magazine can be viewed here.

Books written by Monsignor Charles Meyer