ST. CHARLES – After four decades and a few job titles, the Rev. David Peck is once again back in the community where he grew up.
Peck, who turned 58 on Sunday, this month completed his first full year as pastor of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in St. Charles. Besides a one-year stint as associate pastor at St. Patrick Church on the city’s west side, most of Peck’s life in the priesthood has been serving other Illinois communities. He welcomes the return to the place where his parents still live. His distant cousins belong to the family who once owned the farmland that is now Peck Farm Park in Geneva.
“I walked these streets as a teenager ... obviously there’s been a lot of growth,” he said.
Like Kane County, Peck has developed over the past few decades with an array of life experiences. He has law and business experience, speaks conversational Spanish and is also a certified firefighter. The St. Charles police and fire departments heard about Peck’s experience and certification and in fall 2013 asked him to become their volunteer chaplain.
The departments have not yet summoned Peck on a call, but he is ready to assist at an emergency day or night. Peck first took firefighter courses when he was a fire chaplain from 2000 to 2009 in Rochelle, where he served as pastor of that city’s St. Patrick Parish.
To have someone with his background willing to do this for the department is a tremendous asset, said David Kintz, a St. Charles deputy police chief. The St. Charles police and fire departments have each gone without a chaplain in the past few years, with the fire department having been without a chaplain for more than a decade.
Peck’s experience in Critical Incident Stress Management can also help any officers or firefighters struggling to cope with responding to a traumatic event, said Leo Veseling, a St. Charles fire captain and St. John Neumann Parish member.
Veseling said he has become friends with Peck, who doesn’t hesitate to participate in police officer training sessions or a swiftwater rescue class.
“I think that gives him an upper hand over other chaplains,” Veseling said. “He’s had the training, it gives him the creditability.”
Peck admits that he is an adrenaline junkie and is not afraid of fires. He believes that what he is doing with all his skills is his gift back to God.
“I was drawn by God to the priesthood,” Peck said. “I really believe that that’s what I was always meant to be, but I shied away from it.”
Peck first changed course when he moved to New York and attended law school for two years while working at various firms. Then he moved to the business world, working in mergers and acquisitions.
Even though Peck built up his professional career, he said he did not have a sense of peace and fulfillment. That’s when he considered becoming a man of the cloth, thinking back to his days at Mount St. Mary’s Academy in St. Charles and Sacred Heart Seminary in Geneva, which is now the site of the Kane County Government Center.
“This is my 20th year as a priest, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Peck said.
Area residents, like those at the Delnor Glen assisted living community in St. Charles, look forward to the weekly Eucharistic Service and the monthly Mass from Father Peck, said Cathy Duer, Delnor Glen’s marketing and sales director. Delnor Glen has been associated with St. John Neumann for the past 15 years, she said.
“Father Peck always has time for the residents and his explanations of the readings for the day are received with great appreciation,” Duer said.
Peck said he is embarrassed to talk about his accomplishments, but he hopes his life experiences can help serve the community.
“I don’t think they define me,” Peck said of his accolades. “I think what defines me is my relationship with God and with people. That’s what I’m proud of.”