Sisters of Providence welcome new Chaplain
Father Terry Johnson feels like he’s in Shangri-La.
“It’s like I’m in Camelot,” Father Terry said regarding coming to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, to minister as the Congregation’s new Chaplain. “This is a well-oiled machine.”
Father Terry arrived at the Woods in early July from the greater Chicago area after ministering for 12 years at St. Irenaeus Parish in Park Forest.
Father Terry succeeds Father Dan Hopcus who officially retired from the ministry earlier this year. Father Dan, a native of California, served as the Congregation’s Chaplain for close to 20 years. He plans to continue to reside at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Prior to coming to the Woods
Father Terry was born in Chicago Heights and attended Marian Catholic High School there. He graduated from St. Xavier University in Chicago and then began a 10-year career as a teacher in religious education at Elizabeth Seton High School, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity. During that time, Father Terry earned his master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame.
In 1985, Father Terry became the Director of Religious Education at St. Benedict Parish in Chicago, which inspired him to consider changing course in life and enter the priesthood. Father Terry admitted, however, that the call to enter the priesthood had been with him for quite some time.
“The interest had been there all along,” Father Terry said. “I had looked at the priesthood in high school and college. It just never felt comfortable.”
But he felt comfortable enough to enter the Mundelein Seminary in 1991 and was ordained on May 21, 1994.
His first ministry was as an associate pastor at St. Christopher Parish in Midlothian from 1994-99, before he began a ministry with St. Francis Xavier Parish in La Grange from 2002-04. Father Terry also served on the formation team at the Mundelein from 1999-2007 before becoming the pastor at St. Irenaeus in 2009.
He also served in the Office of Catechesis from 1999-2002 and was the Director of the Hesburgh Sabbatical Program at Catholic Theological Union from 2004-09.
He celebrated his 25-year Jubilee in 2019.
Planting the seed
In 2018, Sister Teresina Grasso, SP, whom Father Terry knew from his time in the Chicago area, mentioned to him that the Sisters of Providence were looking for a new Chaplain. He submitted his resume and prepared to meet with the Congregation’s General Officers.
“They called pretty quickly,” Father Terry said. “There was something intriguing about it. It seemed like it would be a good fit. I came here in the fall of 2018 and met with a search committee.”
However, Father Terry had to receive permission from Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal Blasé Joseph Cupich and at the time, he was not allowed to minister outside the Archdiocese due to needs and circumstances within the Archdiocese.
But, after 2020 and COVID-19, Father Terry was again prepared to take a position outside of the Archdiocese. He was told he could pursue the position in November 2020 and the move appeared to be finalized in early 2021.
Becoming Chaplain at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods stemmed from Father Terry’s desire to be more involved with people. He said administrative duties in his position as pastor kept him from doing this regularly.
“What is really attractive about being a Chaplain is that it is pure ministry,” Father Terry said. “I get to visit with people and talk with them.”
Father Terry then mentioned a moment where he sat with former General Superior, Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, SP, which was quite meaningful to him.
“That’s what we are brought here for,” he said. “I hope to continue to do that at Lourdes and Providence Hall. Love, mercy and justice are very alive and well here. The spirit here, it exudes out of everybody. We all support that common mission.”