By Diane Perry
You’ve probably seen him in the church narthex or greeting people at the front entrance on Sundays or Holy Days. He has a friendly, warm, and familiar face with a genuine smile. Who is he? Bob Cornejo.
Bob has been a St. Mary parishioner since 1995 and has held the role of Director of Liturgy for the past two years. “I do anything related to the Mass,” he says.
He and Sacristan Zina Habib coordinate the ushers, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and altar servers for all Masses. When the use of youth altar servers was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bob would fill in when one was needed.
Bob said he is inspired by being involved with the Mass. “I like participating on the altar, being an active part of the Mass, and I enjoy interacting with the priests and the deacons,” he says.
A Man of service
Bob said he was born and raised Catholic. He participated as an altar boy and truly considered becoming a priest early on. His childhood parish was St. Isidore’s in Blue Island, where he received his Sacraments.
“My duties at St. Isidore’s were fulfilling,” he recalls. “I was an altar boy, commentator, lector, and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.”
He adds, “I attended Quigley South High School, a preparatory seminary which was located at 77th and Western Avenue in Chicago (It is now St. Rita High School.) Upon graduation, I attended Niles College. At that time, it was the minor seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago.”
Bob describes the difficult choice he had when choosing his life’s vocation. “…It came down to a struggle between two vocations . . . the desire to serve as a priest of Jesus Christ . . . and the desire to share my life with a wife, and raising a family,” he says. “As I considered the two vocations, I envisioned myself being both happy and fulfilled in either choice. I knew that whichever my choice, it would be what God has willed for me as the best way to serve Him, and to lead others to Him.”
Ultimately, he chose marriage to his wife, Sandi. They attended St. Terrance Church in Alsip before joining St. Mary Church when they moved to Mokena in 1995.
His work at St. Mary Church is voluntary since he works full-time at the College of DuPage as a computer programmer. Bob contributes much of his time to the parish and loves every minute of it.
With his calm and peaceful demeanor, Bob is a natural when working with families organizing funerals. He makes them feel comfortable. “I will sit down with the family to pick out readings and songs for their loved one’s new life,” he explains. “I get a chance to be pastoral with them as they talk about their loved one. Sometimes, there are tears and sometimes there is laughter.”
organizing the men
When Father Dindo Billote became pastor of St. Mary in August of 2014, he launched the Christ Renews His Parish retreat program. Bob was part of the team of men who produced those retreats.
He said men were invited by word of mouth and attended the retreat program over a weekend. The men who attended the retreat become the presenters of the next retreat. The program is a way to get the men of the parish involved in their faith.
“The retreat included prayer and scripture,” Bob explains. “Men gave witness talks related to the scripture readings. A favorite part of the retreats was a teaching Mass offered by Father Dindo. He would explain the various parts of the Mass including the vestments, the prayers, and the gestures and movements. Also, the men share stories and fellowship while having meals together.”
Another wonderful St. Mary program Bob supports is the Men’s Ministry. This ministry was begun by men who participated in the original Christ Renews His Parish retreats and gives men the opportunity to become more involved in their faith and in the parish. The Men’s Ministry meets once a month to listen to speakers, share reflections on Scripture, and enjoy a nice breakfast.
“The Men’s Ministry will celebrate their 5th Anniversary this coming October,” beams Bob. He is delighted the program has inspired so many men as they continue to attend each month.
Whether it’s this program or the other ministries and parish activities he has a hand in, Bob looks forward to continuing his support of St. Mary and its mission.