Father Theodore T. Cilwick dies at 94

Father Theodore T. Cilwick, Church of the Nativity, New York, Maryknoll, Saint Meinrad Seminary, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy

Father Theodore T. Cilwick, Church of the Nativity, New York, Maryknoll, Saint Meinrad Seminary, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of MercyCHARLESTON—Father Theodore T. Cilwick, a retired priest of the Diocese of Charleston, died Jan. 23. He was 94.

The funeral Mass will be Jan. 29 at 11 a.m. in Church of the Nativity, 1061 Folly Road. The Rite of Committal will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Father Cilwick was born Sept. 13, 1915, in New York, a son of Benjamin and Emilia Karczewska Cilwick. He attended Sts. Peter and Paul grammar school in Bronx, N.Y., Cathedral and Maryknoll colleges, and was a graduate of Saint Meinrad Seminary in Saint Meinrad, Ind.

From 1937 to 1938 he was a novitiate with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. He wished to continue his missionary work and in 1938 he moved to South Carolina to join the Congregation of the Oratory in Rock Hill. He was ordained into the priesthood on May 2, 1943, by Bishop Emmet M. Walsh. He left the Oratorians in 1950 to become a diocesan priest.

Father Cilwick served as pastor of St. William in Ward for six years and at St. Patrick in Charleston for five. Afterward, he was pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville until 1978. While he was in the Upstate, the priest said a charismatic prayer group opened his sensitivity to the needs of others. He came to see hugging as a ministry, he said in a New Catholic Miscellany interview.

“I think I may be doing more good through hugging than most anything else I do (beyond the spiritual) and I recommend it to everybody,” he said.

Father Cilwick was next assigned to St. Mary in Georgetown then St. Thomas the Apostle in North Charleston. In 1959 Bishop Paul J. Hallinan gave Father Cilwick the weighty task of building the Church of the Nativity on James Island. During the building process, the priest lived at the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy motherhouse. When the church was complete he slept in the cry room on a folding bed until the rectory was finished.  He was pastor for 13 years. In 1972 he began a decade- long assignment at St. Mary on Yonges Island and Sts. Edward and Stephen Mission on Edisto Island. Father Cilwick retired in 1993.

His administrative duties over the years included: director of St. Lawrence Cemetery, priest consultor on the Diocesan Building Commission, Personnel Board, Dean of the Florence Deanery, a member on the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, chairman of the Priests’ Senate Presbyteral Council, and vice-president of the Priests Association. From 1943 to 1944 he was an auxiliary chaplain in the U.S. Navy and from 1955 to 1960 he was the Charleston Port Chaplain.

At age 78 Father Cilwick looked back at his ministry with joy and forward to his retirement.

“I am at that point in my life where I can put my whole heart in the Lord’s hands,” he said. “I know from experience that the Lord has led me in so many odd and beautiful ways, and He has done such a good job up to now that I’m going to trust Him for the rest.”

Father Cilwick is survived by his sister-in-law, Rosalie Cilwick, of Albany, N.Y., and a nephew, Theodore Cilwick, of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Messages of condolence may be sent to: Mrs. Rosalie Cilwick and family, 363 S. Manning Blvd., Albany, NY 12208. Memorial donations or flowers may be sent to: Missionaries of Charity, 335 E. 145th St., Bronx, NY 10451.