For me personally, one of the main highlights of our diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land last fall was to walk on the road to Emmaus. I took time away from the other pilgrims and had my beautiful walk in silence down this simple, dirt road — a road that was filled with tremendous blessings. For years of hearing and preaching the Easter Gospels I have longed to “get there” and allow myself the privilege to go and walk this road with great hope that I would encounter his presence.
Lent has come and gone. Those 40 days have led us to the Easter resurrection. This springtime journey in our liturgical year invites each of us to enter into the paschal mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Our encounter of the paschal mystery depended on how much we were willing to journey into the darkness of our own sin and then seek the conversion of our heart from darkness and sin to reconcile our life and find our way, through “the light” — back to the path of holiness.
Recently, Father Carlos Martins, of the Companions of the Cross, blessed all those who made a pilgrimage to our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield to pray together and to see the Sacred Relics Exposition. Included in the exposition were over 150 relics of our faith, some dating back 2,000 years. While there, I talked to so many excited Catholics, like 9-year-old Marissa Davis of Riverton, who traveled from near and far. They shared with me they could “hardly wait” to see the relics.
Though the weather has not been all that bad this winter, I am ready for spring to get here. I like my lemonade (or Arnold Palmer, which is half tea and half lemonade) as my drink of choice when I go out for a meal. I get frustrated when restaurants tell me, “We do not have lemonade during the winter,” and yet they have iced tea? I don’t get it, but so be it!
Doesn’t it seem like it was just yesterday when the world was watching the Cubs win the 2016 World Series in baseball over the Cleveland Indians? Now, here we are and the 2017 exhibition baseball season is already under way. All the great players are gathering with their major league teams and have started their drills, and preparation for “spring time” baseball.
You are only as good as the crowd you hang around.” I remember being told that by a guidance counselor at a school I attended. I probably didn’t want to hear those words of wisdom then, but now at 58, I have come to know how true these words are. In fact, I was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this column because of an experience I had while attending a recent funeral Mass in Quincy.
On Jan. 22, approximately 300 clergy, religious and laity representing the seven deaneries and 129 parishes that make up the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois gathered in prayer with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at our mother church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh have never been under my tree. No one has ever given these gifts to me and I have not given them to others as a Christmas gift. They were the three symbolic gifts that the wise travelers laid at the manger as they honored Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.
I have made a commitment to offer the greeting “Merry Christmas” as many times a day as I can. I applaud the Knights of Columbus who have been strongly supporting this effort “to keep Christ in Christmas.” I do this with no disrespect to any person of another faith. I would hope that in the particular important dates of their respective faith, they would share these moments with me so that I may celebrate with them their faith, too.
It was in the seminary that I truly began to realize how much I took some things for granted. I also learned once I left home that I probably had not been truly a “thankful” person for most of my early life. Certainly I said the word “thanks” enough. But did I really possess a spirit of gratitude? Probably not.
Recently I received an article written by Paula Rehkemper of St. Paul Parish in Highland, sharing with me their success story of a wonderful event hosted at their parish after the four weekend Masses. Paula and her husband Jerry, along with their parish stewardship committee — also made up of Michael and Mary Kay Durbin, Shannon and Dawn Autry, Deanna Harlan, Austin and Shari Meyer, and Eric and Heidi Kukowski — are St. Paul’s representatives who are a part of the diocesan efforts to help bring “Discipleship as a Way of Life” to our diocese and its 128 parishes.
I truly feel it is an exciting time to be a Catholic in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. To be a part of the church’s invitation to create a “Total Stewardship/Discipleship Diocese” and to be a part of the Holy Spirit’s fire and tug has been wonderful. I am blessed and really feel the joy in this role of being director of Stewardship and Discipleship.
I visited with Bishop Eugene Gerber, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Wichita a few weeks ago. I told him about our diocesan efforts to begin to encourage “Discipleship as a Way of Life” as has been the “way of life” in his diocese since the early 1980s. (Wichita is the only diocese which is 100 percent a total stewardship [discipleship] diocese in the United States.)
Have you ever been to Kirchenfest? Every year on the fourth full weekend of August, St. Paul Parish in Highland opens their doors and hearts to an average, I once heard, of over 15,000 attendees for their weekend parish picnic. In German, “Kirchenfest” means church (kirchen) festival/picnic (fest). It is an amazing event filled with countless examples of “discipleship,” especially in the stewardship of time, but likewise in the stewardship of talent and treasure.
All of us in central Illinois watched with pride and extreme joy as Ryan Held, Sacred Heart-Griffin High School alumnus, won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. I joined his fans in screaming for joy when the relay finished with the U.S. team winning. The real beauty of who Ryan Held is was seen not only in his great accomplishment as an Olympic swimmer, but as well as we watched Held be “real” with his emotion during the playing of the National Anthem. A true American, his tears said it all and it brought all of us to tears as well. These are such great moments to remember.
I have been meeting at the seven deaneries continuing our focus on “creating intentional discipleship” in our laity, and in our parishes. At one of our deanery meetings a couple shared their journey. I asked permission to use their story in my Catholic Times column as a means of showing successful witness to living this “way of life” which is “intentional discipleship.”
When I was a kid I had mixed emotions about “going fishing” with the family. My dad and mom loved to fish. Dad was a “fly-fisherman” and so he was always actively engaged with that type of fishing and didn’t give much time to just “being” or teaching us kids how. My mom was that person. She always sat, and would patiently wait for the fish to bite. The concoctions she made by hand which she called her live bait were enough to make one gag. But it worked.
May 15 has been an important day for all of my 57 years of life. My parents were married on this day in 1954. I will offer Mass for their souls. When Easter comes early, like this year, the day also can be the day the church celebrates Pentecost.
For the past 45 years Quincy University has been the host site of a profound Catholic renewal called Cursillo, which means a short course in Christianity. This renewal program is a lay church outreach that invites adult men and women to share in a three-and-a-half-day gathering to renew folks in their Catholic faith.
Over the Easter holiday weekend I watched a wonderful television feature about a man who heard Billy Graham preach in his country of China. This Chinese man, probably in his early 30s, eventually converted to Christianity, but the journey of his conversion started in “the preaching of the Good News” by an evangelist named Billy Graham.
All throughout the diocese we hear the Alleluia sung with joy at the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate this joy for 50 days up to the great feast of Pentecost. Christ brought back hope as he stood in the midst of the Disciples in their locked room. Can you imagine what that glorious moment must have been like for the Disciples?
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki has shared about how many folks he has met on his pastoral visits have become concerned and often ask him, “Are you going to close our parish?” His second pastoral letter recently given to us, Ars crescendi in Dei gratia, has focused on growth in the diocese. We have set out to help all our parishes truly become “Total Stewardship Parishes,” parishes filled with many “intentional disciples.” How do you see your parish today? Is there a vibrant faith that truly is alive in Christ?
If you drive by the rectory/office of St. Augustine Parish in Ashland, you will see a sign in the pastor's office window that says, "It's Gonna Happen." That parish office is mine and I have it there while I am joining with all Cub fans who believe and hope that this year will be "the year" the Cubs can go all the way. (I know we have been hoping since 1908 — don't send a note or call to remind us.)
Lent has begun and we, like Jesus, are invited to enter into the desert of this season of conversion. Time well spent in prayer and introspection will encourage us to focus on where it is that God is calling me to experience growth and/or to a metanoia (change of heart).
Msgr. Paul Heinen was pastor of my home parish, Ss. Simon and Jude in Gillespie for more than 10 years. He came to our diocese from Germany. He was pastor in Taylorville, Jerseyville and Fieldon, and in Gillespie. He was such a well-loved priest in our diocese. In my first years of priesthood in the late '80s and early '90s every year the priests of our diocese always asked for Msgr. Heinen to speak to us at our annual Priests' Jubilee. He was such a great speaker, had a great sense of humor, and was an inspiration to all of us as a happy, joy-filled priest.