Father Donald J. Lenzini, who died Dec. 31, at St. Paul Home in Belleville, will be remembered as “bright, insightful and caring,” longtime friends say.
Father Lenzini, who has been in failing health for some time, was 91.
Sister Carolyn Schilling, ASC, was a close friend of Father Lenzini and remembers him as “pastoral pastor” who cared about people on the fringe and did it in his own quiet way. “He was bright, insightful and caring, and priests sought him out for his wisdom,” she said. “When people in need knocked at his door they would not leave empty handed.”
Father Joe Trapp and Father Lenzini were close friends since the early 1960s. Father Trapp remembered Father Lenzini as a man who enjoyed life and was not shy about speaking out against injustice. “He taught me to respect people and to care about people,” Father Trapp said.
In a statement, Bishop Edward K. Braxton said: “Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ, I am very sorry that I am away from the Diocese and unable to be with you for the Celebration of the Liturgy of Christian Burial for Father Donald J. Lenzini. I wish to express my personal condolences and sympathy to Fr. Lenzini’s family members, fellow priests, and friends who are gathered in St. Church. I join all of you in prayer and gratitude to God for Father Lenzini’s 66 years in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Throughout his years of ministry, during the years of retirement and during his time of illness, his life of service and prayers surely had a profound impact on more people than he ever knew. During the time that he resided at St. Paul’s Senior Community I was always happy to greet him, even though the light of his memory had dimmed.
“Please know that I will be celebrating a special mass for Father Lenzini at the very hour that you are participating in the Funeral Liturgy. May the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Incarnation and Nativity we are now celebrating, be merciful to him and give him a share in the Eternal Life promised to His faithful disciples.”
Father Donald Lenzini was born Feb. 18, 1926, in Zeigler, the son of Joseph and Josephine Herzog Lenzini.
He attended St. Henry Seminary in Belleville, completing his seminary studies at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., before his ordination by Bishop Albert Zuroweste May 15, 1951, at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville.
After a summer assignment as an associate at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville, Father Lenzini’s associate assignments were at St. Joseph Parish in Murphysboro (1951-1955), St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville (1955-1956), St. Charles Parish in DuBois (1956-1958) and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Herrin (1958-1960).
After a temporary six-month assignment as the administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Marion, he was assigned to his first pastorate at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Todd’s Mill (1960-1969), followed by pastorates at Immaculate Conception Parish in Centreville (1969-1980), St. Damian Parish in Damiansville (1980-1991) and St. Joseph Parish in Benton (1991-2000).
Father Lenzini’s diocesan appointments included serving as dean of the North Central Deanery and on the Presbyteral Council.
After his retirement from full-time ministry in 2000, he served as a temporary administrator at St. Augustine Parish in Breese and St. Anthony Parish in Beckemeyer and for some years was a weekend assistant at SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Waterloo.
After full-time retirement in 2000 he resided at the Hincke-Sense Home for Retired Priests in Belleville and later at St. Paul Home in Belleville.
Father Lenzini is preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Robert Lenzini and his sister, Joann Readhead. He is survived by his brother, Dr. Arthur Lenzini, D.D.S. of Herrin.
The liturgy of Christian burial was celebrated Jan. 6 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Benton, with Father Joseph Trapp celebrating and Father James Dougherty as homilist. Burial was at Royalton-Ziegler Catholic Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to the Clergyman’s Aid Society and the Hincke-Sense Residence in Belleville.