Generations of Dedication to Parish Priests: The Joseph O’Hern Family

Posted on July 19, 2017

“We are Mundelein. We form parish priests.”

The beautiful core of this phrase is found in the “We.” The easiest reference is to academic faculty and formators on campus, those men and women who work closely with these future parish priests. However, that WE also includes staff, families, donors and supporters of Mundelein.

Since its establishment here in 1921, the staff of Mundelein Seminary have dedicated tireless hours, days, weeks, years of their lives to support the mission of forming parish priests. The staff’s commitment to sturdy buildings, updated technology, hearty meals, current files and more afford these men the opportunity to focus on their prayer and studies.

One of the first lay employees of Mundelein Seminary was Joseph O’Hern, an engineer with unique knowledge of circuits and a patent on individual apartment thermostats. He worked as the Chief Engineer, directly collaborating with our founder George Cardinal Mundelein to imagine, build and maintain a specific vision for this campus when it was first erected. Joseph wasn’t just wiring buildings; he was forming parish priests.

Joseph’s 42 years of work at Mundelein started his family’s legacy of dedication to the place where thousands of men have developed the skills to serve as parish priests. His son John would graduate from college, go into the service, and work 9 years of night school to get his engineering degree while he worked at Mundelein, eventually following in his father’s footsteps to become our next Chief Engineer.

Love and support for Mundelein Seminary has been handed down through generations of the O’Hern family. John (“Daddy”) was on 24-hour call with the seminary, and his wife, Frances, said he could sleep through anything. She used to joke that she would have the seminary call him when one of the children woke up crying, because those calls were the only things that could get him out of bed!

Numerous members of the O’Hern family have worked at the seminary on everything from the library to the switchboard to engineering. In addition to their work for the seminary, their prayers and financial support have directly formed parish priests.

Another dedicated worker was John’s right-hand man, Hugh McLarnon. He came from Ireland in 1954 and worked tirelessly for 47 years. He and his wife Charlotte still live in Mundelein.

Recently, Frances O’Hern purchased a bench that overlooks the belvedere and lake that was installed and dedicated to the O’Hern family in honor of their nearly century-long dedication to the mission. The O’Hern family, from Joseph to John to Frances and beyond, forms parish priests, and we are filled with gratitude for all of the family’s contributions over the years.

Our financial and prayer supporters, staff, families, and faculty are vital to the formation of these future parish priests. Together with you in Christ, WE are Mundelein. WE form parish priests.

Frances O’Hern

Cardinal Mundelein addressing the people at the ceremonial laying of the cornerstone for the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo provided by Frances O’Hern)

The cornerstone of the chapel today