The Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark, Bishop-Elect of Chicago
The Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark was elected to become the 13th Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago in December of 2020 succeeding the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee who retired at the end of 2020. Upon her consecration, she she will oversee the diocese that includes 31,000 Episcopalians in 122 congregations across Northern Illinois. Most recently, Mother Clark served as canon to the ordinary and chief of staff in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, She received a Master of Divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia and served at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D. C. and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beltsville, Maryland, before joining the staff of Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde. Her work for the diocese focused on clergy development and multicultural and justice issues. Due to an ongoing health issue, her consecration has been postponed. A letter from the Diocesan Standing Committee regarding the Bishop-elect's return to work in March 2022 can be read here.
Interim Rector - The Rev. Thomas Heard
Fr. Thomas Heard comes to Church of the Ascension as Interim Rector from Mobile, Alabama, where he served Saint John’s Church as its rector since August of 2007. Prior to that cure, he served as an assisting priest at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri. He was ordained to the priesthood in June of 2007 following his graduation from The General Theological Seminary with the degree of Master of Divinity in May 2007. While in New York City, Fr. Heard was seminarian and deacon at The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Times Square, where his formation continued in the Anglo-Catholic tradition under the care of the parish clergy.
As part of his own discernment process, Fr. Heard enrolled in the formation program for Deacons in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. It was through this program that Fr. Heard found his calling as priest.
Prior to answering the call to priesthood, Fr. Heard enjoyed a 26-year career with A.G. Edwards (now Wells Fargo Advisors) in St. Louis. His career was split between service to the Information Technology area and head of the Business Continuity and Contingency Planning practice of the firm.
Fr. Thomas is originally from St. Louis. He attended the University of Kansas, pursuing degrees in music and electrical engineering. He is an instrument-rated private pilot, fly fisherman, and enjoys tennis, SCUBA, bicycling and skiing. Fr. Thomas is married and he and his wife have one child and one grandchild.
Curate - The Rev. Meghan Murphy-Gill
Mother Meghan Murphy-Gill was called to be Ascension's Curate in August of 2021 and began her curacy in September. She was ordained to the transitional diaconate in February 2021. Her priestly ordination took place here at Ascension in October 2021. Before coming to Ascension, Mother Murphy-Gill was the seminarian at Church of the Atonement in Edgewater, where she discovered a deep sense of connection to sacred music and Anglo Catholic liturgy. Prior to stepping onto the ordination path, she studied systematic theology and church history at Catholic Theological Union as a Bernardin Scholar. She was an editor for U.S. Catholic magazine for 10 years and served as the managing editor from 2016 to 2018 before stepping down to focus on formation for priesthood and writing. She continues to write about food, faith, and culture, with bylines appearing in the New York Times to Chicago Magazine, and is currently writing a book on the spirituality of bread. While not reading and writing, Mother Murphy-Gill loves to cook, eat, and run (on repeat). She lives in the Edgewater neighborhood with her husband, Andrew, and their son, Albie.
Deacon – The Rev. Charles Farrell
Deacon Charles Farrell was ordained in 2013 and served at Christ Church Cathedral, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, prior to a 2017 move to Chicago. Deacon Farrell has served in numerous hands-on and leadership roles in a wide variety of outreach programs devoted to feeding, clothing, and sheltering people in need. His appointment as Deacon from the Bishop of Chicago is divided between Ascension and Church of the Atonement, Chicago. In his secular work, Deacon Farrell serves as Executive Director of Student Centers at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Assisting Priest – The Rev. Gary E. A. Lawler
Fr. Lawler has been a priest for nearly thirty years and served parishes in New York City, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Morrison, Illinois, and is now retired and living happily in Edgewater, a neighborhood along Chicago’s lakefront. These days, upon request, he gladly helps-out/fills-in where and when he can. He fills his spare time with cultural activities, concerts, 12-step meetings and travel.
Assisting Priest – The Rev. Robert Petite, D.Min, BCC, LMFT, ACPE
Fr. Petite was ordained in 1971 in the Diocese of Nova Scotia, Canada, where he served for twenty years as a parish priest and hospital and military chaplain. He arrived in the Diocese of Chicago in 1989 for training in Clinical Pastoral Education. Fr. Petite is a Certified Pastoral Educator (ACPE) and a Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Illinois. He retired as Chaplain and Executive Director of Church Home at Montgomery Place in 2014 where he served for twenty-two years. Fr. Petite continues to practice as a CPE Educator/Consultant, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Spiritual Director. He and his spouse, The Rev. Mark Tabbut, live in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago.
Senior Warden – Ken Kelling
The two Wardens of the parish, Senior and Junior, are the chief lay officers of the Vestry.
Ken Kelling serves as Senior Warden after serving as Junior Warden in 2021 and as a Vestry Member 2017-2020. He has been a Volunteer Lay Chaplain, Eucharistic Minister, and Elder Liaison for the parish since 2013. He enjoys his ongoing role as moderator of the Ascension Book Group. Over the years his participation on various Vestry Committees has kept him active in the life of the parish and its role in the community.
During a time of struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous changes in the Ascension parish and its larger community, he strives to keep our membership strong while adapting to the frequent changes, both expected and unexpected, that affect the life of the parish and its members. He wishes to seek out new ways of increasing parish membership and activity through new programs, through welcoming newcomers and guests, and by getting more parishioners involved in the ongoing life of the church.
Junior Warden – LaVerne Rollé Saunders
LaVerne Saunders serves as Junior Warden. She has been a member of Ascension for over 40 years and has served on previous vestries, twice as warden. She is active as an altar server, usher, lay reader, coffee hour host, and has served as Sunday school teacher and as the "official" dishwasher for the Annual Thanksgiving luncheon for our neighbors. In the diocese she has served as a delegate to the diocesan convention and as a deanery representative. Her work experiences are varied and eclectic: In the 1970s she was both a New York City cab driver as well as Counsel for the Labor Committee in the Lower House of the New York State Legislature after graduating from Cornell University. From 1987 through to her retirement, her work was in the legal field, finally serving as an Administrative Law Judge. She is a cradle Anglican seeking to keep Ascension’s Anglo-Catholic practices and tenets alive for, and in, the 21st century.
The Vestry, or parish council is responsible for all budgetary and property issues as well as collaborating with the Rector on strategic planning for parish growth and programming. It is comprised of members of the parish who are elected at the annual meeting to three-year terms. In addition to the two wardens listed above, the 2022 Vestry includes: Ian Barillas-McEntee, Ken Cozette, Marlea Edinger, Sean Hansen, Jim Lo Bello, George. Pineda, Joshua Simpson, Samuel 'Sam' Sommers, Enrique Vilaseco.
Choirmaster – Benjamin Rivera
Benjamin Rivera, appointed Choirmaster in 2016, has prepared and conducted diverse choruses in repertoire from sacred polyphony and chant, choral/orchestral masterworks, and contemporary pieces to gospel, pop, and folk. He has served as Chorus Director and regular conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic since 2013 and has appeared multiple times as Guest Chorus Director of the Grant Park Music Festival and elsewhere. He also serves as Artistic Director and conductor of Cantate Chicago and High Holidays Choir Director at Temple Sholom, Chicago. Rivera also sings professionally, as a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus for over twenty seasons—including twelve as bass section leader—and in numerous other ensembles and venues.
Organist – David White
Before being appointed in 2016 to succeed legendary Ascension organist David Schrader, David White served as Organist/Choirmaster at several prestigious congregations, including St. Thomas, Medina (WA) and St. James Cathedral, Chicago. He shares parish music leadership with Choirmaster Benjamin Rivera and is primary organist for all liturgies, monthly organ recitals, and special concerts. White has performed internationally as organist and pianist, and is a prolific composer of choral music for the Episcopal Church, among many.
Treasurer – Susan Schlough
The Treasurer is an officer of the parish appointed by the Vestry. The Treasurer monitors the financial health of the church by tracking income and disbursements, reconciling bank statements, and analyzing Investment performance; an analysis is provided monthly to the Vestry. The Treasurer ensures that salaries and bills are paid on time and that parishioner contributions are recorded in a timely manner.
Technology and Communications - Gary Alexander
Gary Alexander serves as the Minister of Technology and Communications. Created in 2020, this part-time position (an average of 10 hours a week) manages Ascension’s live stream on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Holy Days and helps to facilitate other technical needs of the parish. Gary is also responsible for maintenance of the Ascension website and Facebook page and assists with marketing and outreach efforts through these and other media. Since returning to Ascension in 2014 from another parish, Gary, a life-long Episcopalian, has served on the vestry, as warden, as lector, and at the altar. He is a professional actor and director. He is also a certified yoga instructor and has been teaching since 2010. He began the yoga program at St. James Cathedral and currently has a full schedule of group, individual, and online classes.
Facilities Manager – George Panice
As Facilities Manager, George Panice manages nearly all aspects of church maintenance, cleaning and repairs. He is skilled in numerous trades and, when unable himself to perform repairs or make needed improvements, George finds, schedules and collaborates with other professional contractors. George is also the guy who clears the sidewalks when it snows and who is called when the security alarm goes off in the middle of the night.
Parish Office – Nathanael Deward Rahm BSG
Br. Nathanael provides general office support to the rector, staff, and congregation, supporting the ministries and mission of Church of the Ascension. Among other things, his work includes bulletin and e-newsletter preparation, phone and email support, management of church space use by parishioners and outside groups, supporting the church and collaborating with volunteers. While being a resource person for both members and non-members, Nathanael is a welcoming and responsive presence in the Ascension’s office.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
Church of the Ascension
1133 N La Salle Dr.
Chicago, IL 60610-2601
Sunday Worship Schedule
8:30 a.m. - Morning Prayer, via Zoom
9:00 a.m.-In-person Sung Mass (with organ voluntaries and hymns )
11:00 a.m. - Solemn High Mass (In-person and streamed on Facebook and YouTube)
(pre-registration is not required for in-person services, but please check in with an usher upon arrival)
Our free parking lot is located on the northeast corner of La Salle Boulevard and Maple Street.