Viatorian Associate Francis Chamness was known throughout the Bourbonnais/Kankakee region by just one name: Foo.
His boyhood nickname stuck, and its gentleness and unpretentiousness captured Foo himself, who loved children and lived his life to serve others.
“He just radiated goodness,” said Father John Linnan, CSV, one of several Viatorian pastors to work with him at his Maternity BVM Church in Bourbonnais, Illinois, where he was a deacon.
Foo passed away July 6, 2011 at his home in Bourbonnais. He was 84.
Hundreds of people filled the church for his funeral Mass on July 11, 2011, that several Viatorian priests con-celebrated.
Father Jason Nesbit, CSV, delivered the homily, where he described Foo’s 25 years as a deacon in the parish, serving its members.
“His kind and loving demeanor embraced his family and radiated throughout the community, and around the world – even in Belize,” Father Nesbit said.
Foo made a living as a meat cutter, building the successful business, Tri-City Meats in Kankakee, with his brother-in-law, Red Marcotte. He and his wife raised their family of seven children in Bourbonnais, where Foo became more involved in his faith.
He was a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus and his parish involvement led him to study for the diaconate. In 1986, he was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Joliet, along with his brother-in-law, Viatorian Associate Euchrist “Mush” Marcotte.
“He was a caring, compassionate man,” said Viatorian Associate Patty Wischnowski. “His energy was boundless and he always was there if anyone had a need.”
Foo served under several Viatorian pastors at Maternity BVM, including Father James Crilly, CSV; Father Lawrence Lentz, CSV; Father Charles Bolser, CSV and Father John Linnan, CSV and Father Richard Pighini, CSV.
Universally, they described Foo’s help as a deacon as a vital one in delivering sacraments to parishioners.
“We were lucky to have both him and Mush,” Father Linnan said. “They knew everyone in the parish — and they were hard workers. They were willing to take communion to the homebound and to the nursing homes. They did baptisms and visited with families at wakes.”
Brother Dale Barth, CSV, recalls working closely with Foo at the parish, and he marveled at his ability to do so many things, beyond his ministry.
“He could cook and we often worked together at barbecues,” Brother Barth remembered. “He also had his pilot’s license and he loved to fly. He was just a good man. He loved serving people, in hands-on kinds of ways.”
As a Viatorian associate, Foo became active in the medical missions in Belize. With his wife, Henrietta, also a Viatorian associate, he and others, including Brother Barth and Patty Wichnowski, traveled to the Viatorian mission there, providing medical services to several villages on each of their trips.
Foo’s assignment was to support the makeshift pharmacy they established, but he was drawn to go out and serve the people, colleagues say. He always traveled with a duffel bag filled with candy suckers to hand out to the children.
“Once he handed out the first one, they’d run to him like deer,” Brother Barth recalled.
His most recent passion was to restore bicycles obtained by the Kankakee Police Department, but not claimed. Together with his brother-in-law, Mush, they restored nearly 10 shipments of bicycles to send to Belize.
“On one of his medical mission trips, he and Mush saw a man riding a bike that they had restored,” Father Nesbit said. “It was a rare moment in which he was able to see how his contributions had made a difference in the lives of everyday people.”
Article to be published in October 2011 edition of Viator Newsletter, written by Eileen Daday, Communications Director