Beloved Oak Lawn baking priest Rev. Lawrence J. Malcolm has died at 74
The Rev. Lawrence Malcolm was a gifted baker. He made fragrant coffee cakes, pizza bread and cinnamon rolls that were sold to raise money for schoolkids and the church. “But he was more than bingo and bread,” said the Rev. Louis J. Cameli, a friend.
“He smiled at people,” Cameli said. “That seems to be a small thing, but it’s huge because it means I look at you, and I want to connect with you; you can trust me.”
On Wednesday, students he once taught to bake bread made loaves for the funeral luncheon for Father Malcolm, pastor of St. Gerald’s Church in Oak Lawn for 11 years, who died July 4 at 74.
There “must have been 400 people or so” at the luncheon, said Al Theis, principal of St. Gerald’s School. They made “enough bread to send some loaves home.”
He taught kids to bake, and their treats “made a lot of money” at carnivals and fundraisers, according to Theis, who said, “Father Malcolm’s bread, people want to buy it like crazy.”
When he would bake, “The heavenly aroma would drift up to the parishioners during mass,” said Debbie Janicke, St. Gerald’s development director.
He grew up the oldest of six kids near Talcott and Harlem avenues in the 1940s and 1950s. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all were bricklayers. His dad Norman built their home, said his brother, also named Norm.
“My father used to come home with his trowel and say, ‘If any of my sons take this up, I’ll …. I’m not working for you guys to be bricklayers,’ ” Father Malcolm told the New World.
Growing up, young Larry liked baseball. His mother Sally used to take the kids to Wrigley Field on “Ladies Day.” But more than baseball, he loved trains and buses.
“He wouldn’t be collecting baseball cards,” his brother said. “He’d be collecting [CTA paper] transfers. He knew the routes. He would draw his own maps and put the train on it.”
He subscribed to Trains magazine and, during summers in college, drove a CTA bus.
Father Malcolm joked about how he decided on the priesthood, telling the New World: “At the end of fifth grade, a priest came in and challenged us to get up every morning that summer for mass, and he’d give us a prize. I just lived a block from church, so I got up every morning and didn’t even notice the priest was transferred in mid-summer. Something happened. I began to like going to mass.”
After Immaculate Conception grade school and Quigley Prep, he studied at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, where he “worked in the seminary bakery under Sister Lamberta,” he told the New World.
After being ordained in 1970, he served in Chicago at St. Bonaventure’s, St. Bede’s and St. Daniel the Prophet and in Palatine at St. Theresa’s. He built gyms at St. Gerald’s and at St. Daniel’s. He also got stained-glass windows from old churches to refurbish St. Gerald’s, said Rev. Jim Kehoe, a friend and retired pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish in Evanston.
In his casket, Father Malcolm was laid out with his red-and-white scarf at his feet. He’d wear it “for all the Christmas masses,” his brother said.
He loved to travel, calling himself a “Roamin’ Catholic.” He visited the shrines to the Blessed Mother at Fatima, Knock, Lourdes and Mexico City and took trips with friends, family and parishioners to Australia, England, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Father Malcolm is also survived by his sisters Patricia Avants and Nancy Heitner, brothers John and Dan, 17 nieces and nephews and 25 great-nieces and great-nephews. Services have been held.