Rev. Walter J. Surprenant, CSV, a former provincial of the Clerics of St. Viator and longtime pastor of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Bourbonnais, died peacefully in his sleep on Oct. 28, 1957. He was 75.
Fr. Surprenant was born Dec. 30, 1881 in Lake Linden, MI, one of eight children. At the age of 16, he went to St. Viator Normal Institute in Chicago. While studying there and teaching at the old Holy Name School, he pronounced his first vows on July 4, 1902.
He was a graduate of St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, earning his bachelor of arts degree in 1904, and a master’s degree two years later. He was ordained the following year on May 25, 1907 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago by Archbishop James Quigley.
His first assignment was as a teacher at St. Viator College and later as director of studies. In addition, from 1902 to 1907, he served as assistant to the director of music at the college.
In 1909, he was appointed the first president of Columbus College, Chamberlain in SD. At the time, he was the youngest college president in the United States.
Fr. Surprenant returned to St. Viator College in 1914 as teacher of Latin, French, Greek and history. These were his last years in the classroom.
In 1916, he entered parish work serving in South Dakota and Beaverville, IL before returning to Bourbonnais in 1920, this time as pastor of Maternity BVM Church, a post he held until 1954. He served as pastor of Maternity BVM Church when it celebrated its diamond jubilee in 1922 and its centennial in 1947.
In between his historic pastorates, Fr. Surprenant also served as provincial of the Clerics of St. Viator in the United States, from 1922-1929.
Following his last term at Maternity BVM, Fr. Surprenant became the chaplain of Alfred Fortin Villa, an orphanage in Bourbonnais, until his unexpected death.
Funeral services were held Oct. 31, 1957 at Maternity BVM Church. Bishop Martin D. McNamara presided at the requiem Mass. Fr. Surprenant was laid to rest in the Viatorian plot at Maternity BVM Cemetery.
Taken from obit published in the 1957 Annuaire, a publication of the General Direction, pp. 118-122 and a newspaper obit – date and publisher unknown