Monsignor James Swaner passed away at age 85 at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria.


The funeral Mass will be at noon on Thursday at St. Mary Church in Utica, where Msgr. Swaner served as pastor from 2003 until his retirement in 2016. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, of the Diocese of Peoria will be principal celebrant and homilist. Visitation will take place at St. Mary's in Utica, beginning at 9:00 on Thursday and continuing until shortly before the funeral Mass. Burial will be at St. Columba Cemetery, Ottawa. The Burgess Funeral Home is assisting with the arrangements.


Monsignor Swaner was born March 25, 1936, in Chicago to Joseph and Emily (Railis) Swaner. He attended Catholic elementary schools in Cicero and Berwyn before entering Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago. He continued his studies for the priesthood at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein and later at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he would earn a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in history. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John B. Franz at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on May 28, 1961.


His first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Columba Parish in Ottawa. He would also teach Latin and social studies at Marquette High School, where he was named assistant principal in 1968 and principal the following year. In 1973, he was named pastor of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Eagle Township and St. Mary Parish in Kangley. He would later add duties as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Leonore. He also served as pastor of Resurrection Parish in La Salle, Sacred Heart Parish in Dimmick, St. Mary Parish in Wenona, St. John Parish in Lostant, and St. Patrick Parish in Washington, with a brief period as administrator of St. Luke Parish, Eureka.


In 2003, Msgr. Swaner became pastor of St. Mary Parish in Utica, where he would serve until his move to senior status in 2016. He guided the Utica faith community in its recovery from the devastating tornado in 2004 that left eight dead and damaged the century-old St. Mary Church.


Msgr. Swaner retired to a home across the street from St. Mary Church. He celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in May.

A former vicar of the Pekin Vicariate, Msgr. Swaner was named a prelate of honor with the title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 2000. In his later years, he taught religion part time at Holy Family School in Oglesby.


Msgr. Swaner has no survivors. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Geraldine Hensel.



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