Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Claretian Missionary Father Severino Lopez Dies

Published November 22, 2012

Claretian Missionary Father Severino (Sevy) Lopez, who retired in 2006 after ministering in Mexico and Guatemala and in parishes around the U.S., including in Illinois, Virginia and Georgia, died Nov. 6 in Chicago. He was 94.

Born on Sept. 9, 1918, in Lone Pine, Calif., he was the son of the late Severino and Isabel (Parra) Lopez. In 1926 he moved with his family to south Chicago, where he became a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, made his first Communion there and served as an altar boy in his early years.

He entered the Claretian seminary in California at age 13 as a high school student and made his religious profession as a Claretian Missionary on July 16, 1937. He was ordained a priest on May 28, 1944. After ordination, his ministry work began and took him to Trenton, N.J., San Gabriel and Los Angeles, Calif., and San Antonio, Texas.

He returned to his home parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe as pastor from 1952-1957 and again from 1964-1972. In between these assignments he did mission preaching in Mexico, which he loved. He toured Mexico with a Claretian mission band, validating marriages, baptizing babies and riding into the hill country on horseback to administer sacraments.

Father Lopez served the Claretian order as the provincial council of the Eastern Province from 1968-1972 and then as treasurer from 1971-1974. When he was made comptroller of his order in 1971, he enrolled at the University of Notre Dame for two summers and earned a graduate business degree. With a $3 million portfolio to manage, he told The Georgia Bulletin in a 1994 article, “I wanted to know what the whole thing was about.”

His hard-working attitude toward his priestly ministry was noticed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who appointed Father Lopez as one of the city’s five commissioners for human relations in 1973. The following year, he helped establish the city’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS), a citizens group mandated to investigate police corruption and violence that was the first of its kind and was active for some 30 years.

He returned to parish ministry in 1977 at St. Mary of the Sorrows Parish in Fairfax, Va., and also  served as campus minister at George Mason University. In 1984, he traveled to Isabel, Guatemala, to do mission work.

In 1985 Father Lopez returned to Chicago as pastor of St. Paul’s Parish in Chicago, before going to Stone Mountain, where he was a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish.

He retired in 2006 at age 88 after serving some 14 years as the director of the parish’s Hispanic community.

In his long and varied career as a Claretian priest, Father Lopez always followed a steadfast principle: “In my personal life, I have great trust in a loving and forgiving God, and in my relationship with others, I try to recognize and respect the dignity of every human being. The most satisfying part of my ministry was teaching the social doctrine of the Church to the benefit of those in need and the poor.” Father Sevy left a testimony of living that principle in his 2004 autobiography, “El Poche: Memoirs of a Mexican-American Padre.”

In the book he wrote of both the joys and struggles of priesthood. He had taken a three-year leave in his late 50s to work on his feelings of confusion and “spiritual dryness” that had been a part of his life since his childhood.  In 2006, he told The Georgia Bulletin that in his searching he “found a new sense of peace and God’s grace as a child of God.” In “El Poche,” he wrote, “God’s grace … led me to realize that I was a full-fledged child of his and the path he had placed me on at age 13 was the one I was to follow.”

During his active retirement years, Father Lopez enjoyed traveling, preaching missions and helping out in parishes in the Chicago area.

The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated for Father Lopez on Nov. 10 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Chicago. He was interred at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Ill.

Family members surviving Father Lopez include his brother Peter and wife Isabel and brother Benjamin and wife Ofelia; sister Carmen and husband William Aquino; and many nieces and nephews.