Fr. Richard Pighini, CSV, liked to create beauty. Whether it was the lush gardens around Maternity BVM Church in Bourbonnais, or inside the sanctuary, where he personally led its dramatic transformation in 2013; he felt strongly about enhancing sacred spaces.

Fr. Richard Pighini

“The environment has to be beautiful, both inside and out,” Fr. Pighini said at the time. “Beauty is just important when it comes to faith.”

Fr. Pighini, who spent most of his priestly ministry in the Bourbonnais/Kankakee region, passed away peacefully on Aug. 21. He had been in hospice care at Addolorata Villa in Wheeling, IL, for just one week, when he died at the age of 79.

Fr. Pighini led Maternity BVM as its pastor from 2004 to 2018. Fr. Jason Nesbit, CSV, his successor, describes Fr. Pighini as a mentor, who instilled in him good, liturgical habits.

“He was an exceptional person, who put his heart into everything he did — whether it was his art, the liturgy, his priestly ministry and even in relationships,” Fr. Nesbit says. “We have continued that tradition of vibrant liturgies and a focus on getting people actively involved in parish life.”

The church underwent a dramatic renovation in 2013.

Fr. Pighini entered the Viatorian Community as a novice in 1978 and he professed his first vows in 1980. His first ministry assignments were as a religion teacher at Bishop McNamara High School in Kankakee and Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield. He entered pastoral ministry in 1989 at St. Patrick Church in Kankakee, where he served as parochial vicar and later pastor, before moving to Maternity BVM Parish in 2004.

“It hadn’t been repainted in nearly 18 years or so, so it really needed it,” Fr. Pighini said at the time. “Plus, I thought with the right color this little gem of a French Canadian church could really shine.”

The result was a deep blue ceiling with stars, that served to warm the sanctuary and bring the focus to a new white altar, set off by a hand-stenciled backdrop, with gold medallions. Two years later, Fr. Pighini led a fundraising campaign to replace the organ and finally, he redesigned the front plaza, making the focal point an historic statue of Mary.

“His crowning touch was the outdoor plaza,” Fr. Nesbit adds. “He wanted it to be a place that welcomed people and brought them home.”

Fr. Richard Pighini, CSV, pastor, meets with parishioners at the dedication of the church plaza

However, another lasting legacy of Fr. Pighini’s is the parish’s Camp MOSH, or Maternity Outreach Serving Humanity. The former youth ministry director, Patty Bailey, started the service project in 2009, under Fr. Pighini’s leadership, and it has taken place nearly every other year since then.

This year’s Camp MOSH drew 150 youth and adult volunteers, who spread out to work at 45 different sites across the Kankakee Valley. The parish-wide project reflected Fr. Pighini’s roots with the Peace Corps, whose volunteers work side by side with community members, and his mission as a Viatorian, to “embrace those accounted of little importance.”

Funeral services for Fr. Pighini will take place at Maternity BVM Parish, beginning with visitation from 4-8 p.m. on Aug. 25 and a 10 a.m. funeral Mass on Aug. 26. He will be laid to rest in Maternity BVM Cemetery in Bourbonnais.