Bishop Timothy J. Lyne, one of the oldest Roman Catholic bishops in the United States, had a front-row seat to Chicago history during 70 years as a priest.
He died Wednesday at 94 in the room where he had lived for 47 years, in a building named for him, the Bishop Lyne Rectory at Holy Name Cathedral.
Bishop Lyne administered the last rites to Mayor Richard J. Daley; was pastor at Holy Name, and knew six Chicago cardinals, stretching back to when he caddied for Cardinal George Mundelein, who became cardinal in 1915.
This month, the National Catholic Reporter said he was the fourth-oldest Catholic bishop in the United States.
He was still helping to celebrate mass in recent days, and he spoke at a funeral two weeks ago.
“The Archdiocese of Chicago is mourning the death of a beloved bishop, and Chicago mourns the death of a great citizen,” Cardinal Francis George said. “Always, he was the model of a Christian gentleman, shaped by his faith to see the good in everyone; and everyone responded with respect and affection.”
Bishop Lyne, the vicar for senior priests, grew up near Garfield Park on the West Side, the son of a police officer. His parents were Irish immigrants.
He attended Resurrection and St. Mel grade schools, where he was impressed by the young priests.
“They could hit the ball out of the ballpark,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg last year. “They were just interested in us and encouraged us, so I went to Quigley [Preparatory Seminary].”
His father supported his religious calling, Bishop Lyne told the Sun-Times, “but he thought that priests didn’t know a lot about what was going on in the world. . . . So every year I had to work at a different occupation during the summer,” including a job in women’s court, where most of the cases at that time involved prostitution.
“I came home and the first thing my father said, ‘You don’t have to tell your mother everything you heard today.’ ’’
He attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. He was ordained by then-Archbishop Samuel Stritch in 1943.
From 1943-1962, he was associate pastor at St. Mary parish in Riverside, where he supervised construction of a new grade school and convent, according to Catholic Charities.
Next, he was associate pastor at St. Edmund in Oak Park. In 1966, he became associate pastor at Holy Name, and he was pastor there from 1967-1990. He oversaw a large-scale renovation of the 1874 cathedral, and later, the installation of a new 5,586-pipe organ.
In 1983, he was named an auxiliary bishop. He oversaw all parishes north of the Chicago River to Highwood, and northwest to Park Ridge, according to Catholic Charities.
He was a sought-after mentor to generations of priests. With his optimistic temperament, institutional memory and long view, Bishop Lyne was sometimes a mediator between cardinals and priests.
“I worked with Cardinal Bernardin closely, and the cardinal trusted Tim’s insight and advice,” Msgr. Kenneth Velo said.
He was “a very pastoral bishop,” Velo said. “Loyal, dedicated, yet at the same time pragmatic and flexible. . . . Tim dealt with the high and mighty and also dealt with the ‘little people’ the same way.”
“He had a style of telling the truth to powerful people, and he would do it in a graceful way, but it was direct and honest,” said the Rev. Tom Nangle, the retired chaplain for the Chicago Police Department. “He represented the church as an institution, but he represented the church as the people of God even more. “
Friends say he had the gift of empathy, and he shed light on why in the Sept. 14 issue of the National Catholic Reporter.
As youngsters, he and his brother John were hit by spinal meningitis.
Young Timothy recovered, but his brother was left with long-term complications. “This influenced my life tremendously,” Lyne told the National Catholic Reporter. “It gave me insight into the suffering people go through.”
He recalled his early family life in an interview in June in the Catholic New World newspaper. Chicago was once a huge destination for immigrants from County Kerry, Ireland.
His mother was from Castlegregory, and his father, Michael, was from Cahersiveen, he told the New World. Michael Lyne became a police officer at the Shakespeare Avenue district.
His uncle, Capt. Timothy Lyne, headed a training facility that evolved into Chicago’s Police Academy, according to Catholic Charities.
He had a plainspoken Chicago style of speaking. In 2006, he explained to Chicago magazine why the cathedral had relics only from St. Timothy and St. John.
“Normally, a church tries to get relics for the saint they’re named after, but since we’re Holy Name, and Jesus Christ rose from the dead, that would have been impossible,” he said.
He had season tickets to the Lyric Opera since 1956, and he loved golf and chocolate ice cream, the New World said. He also was a fan of Notre Dame football, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
He is survived by a sister, Mary McCloskey; a brother, Frank, and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation is from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday and from 9 to 10:15 a.m. Monday at Holy Name
Cathedral. Cardinal George will celebrate a funeral mass for Bishop Lyne at 10:30 a.m.
Monday at Holy Name.
Burial will be at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside.