Father Charles Edwards

Two weeks ago I was welcomed to the Charleston Catholic community to offer the weekend Masses and also offer an Advent mission. Charleston is blessed by having a wonderful parish family of St. Charles Borromeo as well as the Eastern Illinois University Catholic Newman Center community. Father Hyland Smith is their young and energetic pastor, and is loved and well-respected by those he serves. Roy Lanham has served the EIU Newman community for over 32 years, and has a great connection to the college students.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 12:23

This Advent, let’s herald the Good News

As I grew up I really enjoyed reading the Litchfield News Herald which kept me informed about all the important news of what was happening in both Montgomery County and my own Macoupin County in central Illinois. In my early years of priesthood I was assigned to St. Mary Parish (now Blessed Sacrament) in Quincy of Adams County, where I enjoyed keeping up with the area happenings by reading the Quincy Herald–Whig. Both these papers were excellent in my humble opinion.

As I mentioned last issue, some 65 “intentional disciples” from the Springfield diocese traveled to the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., for a three-day conference/mini retreat on “Discipleship as a Way of Life.”

In this issue, I asked another guest columnist, Carlos Tejeda, director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life in the Department for Vocational Services, to share his experiences of attending this great conference.

Recently 65 “intentional disciples” from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois traveled to the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., for a three-day conference/mini retreat on “Discipleship as a Way of Life.”

Our experience was truly amazing. Some of the Wichita diocese’s best and most committed “disciples” came to speak to us on stewardship and discipleship. Most of all we witnessed by their very presence how to live “Discipleship as a Way of Life.” You could see very clearly how the four pillars of hospitality, prayer, formation and service have become this way of life for these evangelizing disciples. It was great to see and encounter their witness of what it means to live as one of Christ’s disciples.

Calhoun County is an amazing area which is filled with many strong stewards in our Catholic diocese. I was presider at five liturgies there while preaching the Good News and offering the invitation to grow deeper in the Lord’s call for us to become true “intentional disciples.”

My first Mass was kind of unique. The Saturday 4 p.m. Mass at Kampsville was filled with many good folks, and so many came from many other parishes as this was the “earliest Mass option” in the area. A very nice man came to me and said, “Father, you probably won’t have servers. Do you want me to go up and light the candles?” I said that would be great. As he did this act of kindness, I asked the almost full church if there was a server in the crowd to help me with Mass. The nice man was right. No one responded. I tied into my homily (which I built in the call to “discipleship as a way of life”) the fact that I was surprised there were no servers. During the Creed after the homily, a man in his middle 50s got out of his pew and came up and stood with me in the sanctuary and simply said, “You are going to have to coach me.” I was impressed. The Holy Spirit at work — and the gift of courage this man showed — was an inspiration.

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for music and my love for singing, which I developed at an early age. I do not have the gift of playing any instrument, but have been given a gift to use my voice to sing. I know many of you who are reading this have this same gift.

As I write this article I have my mom close to my heart as today is the 15th anniversary of her death. One of my fondest memories was most every night around 5:30 our dinner was made and being warmed in the oven. We would await my dad’s nightly return from his work. The smells were wonderful. While waiting, my mom would be sitting in the darkened dining room at the piano, playing the soft, delicate yet moving songs she knew by heart. Both my parents could play the piano. My father had a beautiful tenor voice. They first taught me to love music.

For many years Ursuline Academy in Springfield had as its motto Serviam, which is Latin for service (serve). A large part of the Christian formation of the UA students was centered on offering “service” in the church and the community.

Often, in the sacrament of confirmation programs of formation for young adults, one of the important components is completing “service hours.” Often parents (not the youth) would ask if a certain task would be “counted” as falling under the umbrella of “Christian service.”

I had the privilege to spend some quality time with the majority of our diocesan seminarians at a gathering at the Villa Maria Catholic Life Center a few weeks ago. I fully agree with our vocation director, Father Brian Alford, that our diocese is so blessed with the 24 seminarians (counting the transitional deacons) that God has called to discern becoming diocesan priests for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

This is one of the finest groups of men I have ever seen for our diocese. They have a strong bond and support each other well. You may have met some of these men who may have been assigned to your parish for a summer internship. I hope you got the opportunity to get to know them, and personally welcome them to your parish, as well as having kept them in your prayers.

One of our treasures in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois with a particularly unique history is the beautiful Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Alton.

Our diocese was once known as the Diocese of Alton from 1857 to 1923. Ss. Peter and Paul were the patronal saints of that diocese, and this amazing parish church was the cathedral (or mother church) during these years.

I was presiding recently at their weekend Masses, with a welcoming invitation from new pastor Father Jason Stone. At each of the three Masses I was blessed to be able to pray with a wonderful parish family who is filled with many stewards who blessed the parish worship as they serve in many ways.

When was the last time you truly felt blessed by God and maybe shared your true feelings with another person? Did your parents buy you a new car for your graduation? Did you sell your home after burying St. Joseph in the backyard? Did you get hired for the job you and nine others interviewed for? Did you marry the love of your life, and now 50 years later are still celebrating that love you felt when God united you as one? Was it when you held your first born for the first time in your hands? When do we get to that point where we simply know, “I am blest”?

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