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Mourners remember Father Greeley for his teaching, challenges and hamburgers

The Rev. Andrew Greeley | Sun-Times files

The Rev. Andrew Greeley | Sun-Times files

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Updated: June 4, 2013 11:25PM

He was was widely known as an author, a scholar and a priest who challenged authority, but Father Andrew Greeley could also cook a delicious hamburger and teach a kid how to get up on two water skis.

That’s how his niece remembered him Tuesday.

“He’d teach us kids how to water ski, and he’d cook us hamburgers that he called ‘uncle burgers,’ ” Greeley’s niece, Laura Durkin, said Tuesday outside Christ the King Church in Beverly, where Greeley was being waked.

Greeley died Thursday. He was 85 and had been in poor health since 2008 when he was thrown to the street after his coat got caught in the door of a taxicab that was pulling away.

Several graduates of the 1960 class of Christ the King grade school remembered Greeley as a young parish priest who came to the parish in 1954 and taught them religion before becoming an iconoclast.

“We were growing up with an old image of God,” said Ken Brucks. “You know, the God with the beard who was pointing the finger, the mean God, and he totally reversed that and brought in a different image of a God of passionate love who cared about every individual and was totally forgiving, and he said when you receive communion all is forgiven and it was a totally new day and a new start and that’s the way life is and go for it.”

Greeley helped organize and run a youth dance for teenagers one Friday a month in the school basement at Christ the King, and was liberal with his car keys.

“If one of the teens needed to run an errand he’d let them use his old black Volkswagen Beetle,” said Jim Merrion. “He figured, ‘what else can they do to it? It’s already beat up.’ ”

Family members accepted condolences as Greeley’s body lay in a wooden casket. He was dressed in white vestments with a rosary placed in his crossed hands.

A steady stream of priests filed into the church Tuesday, including Pastor Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina parish.

“He never was concerned about climbing up the ladder of position in the church, but he was always concerned about calling the church to be its best and to be truthful and to challenge it,” said Pfleger.

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