Hey, Father! What can you say about people who leave Mass after the final blessing, but before the priest processes down the aisle and into the vestibule?
Phil in Maryville 

On one level, the Mass has technically ended. So, on one level, it is good that people are at least waiting for the final blessing to be over. It is better than leaving even earlier. With that being said, the priest processing out and everyone singing the recessional hymn is part of the Mass, at least in a loose and practical sense.  

I guess the question is: What is the reason people are leaving at that point? Are they really in that much of a hurry? If someone is legitimately in a hurry, then I think it is fine. I am thinking particularly of someone attending a daily Mass but having work shortly after. That seems to be a good reason. However, if someone simply just wants to leave earlier for the sake of being done earlier, to get out of the parking lot earlier, to go eat, etc., then I don’t think that is a good reason. 

As Catholics, we try to be united to each other during the Mass. It sort of kills the familial or unitive spirit to rush out of Mass. As Catholics, we are part of a family. There hopefully is some sort of interaction with our fellow Catholics. Even apart from the socializing, when people leave something early, one gets the impression that the person has something better to do or doesn’t want to be there. On a practical note, is there honestly that much time being saved by leaving before the priest processes out? 

Another relevant point: Many, if not most of us receive the Eucharist. We truly receive His entire person into our body and soul. Not just His body and blood, but also His soul and divinity. Nothing is more remarkable than that. The grace we receive can forever change us. However, there is a particular window of time where Jesus is fully present to us in the Eucharist. Once the Eucharist becomes digested enough, Jesus is not fully present to us in the Eucharist, although He and His grace do still remain in our souls. For that reason, it is important we are really focused on praying and staying with Jesus after receiving Him in the Eucharist. There isn’t an exact amount of time we can say Jesus remains intact in our bodies, but many recommend 10 to 15 minutes. St. Josemaria Escriva said, “Surely you have nothing so important that you cannot give Our Lord 10 minutes to say thanks. Love is repaid with love.”

To put it simply, we should wait until the priest processes out, pray a prayer of thanksgiving for at least a couple of minutes, then leave the church and socialize with others.

Father Michael Trummer is parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Thomas the Apostle in Decatur and chaplain at St. Teresa High School and associate chaplain at Millikin University.

11 28 2021 St. Elizabeth 150th tri panelThe 150-year history of St. Elizabeth Parish spans three churches and two cities.By ANDREW HANSEN  

GRANITE CITY — Three separate churches, two different cities, one parish. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Granite City has a rich history in our diocese, and this year marks their 150th anniversary. 

The parish began with farm families that lived in the area in what is now Madison County. About 20 families gathered in a house in 1870 for the first Mass. Seeing the need for a church, one was constructed in Mitchell for $4,900 with the cornerstone laid on Oct. 7, 1871, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. 

Fast forward to the 1950s and with the church overcrowding and rapid growth in Granite City and the surrounding area, a parish relocation was necessary. In 1952, Bishop William O'Connor appointed Father Lawrence Mattingly for the task of relocation, but the relocation wouldn’t be right away, and the project would be more than just the church. 

The first project, at a cost of $167,098, was the construction of a school, which opened in 1955. It had 125 students and a teaching staff of four Sisters of Divine Providence.

“The Sisters of Divine Providence were a driving force for our school that started in 1955, and their presence today, although in different roles, still reminds us of our history and how it began and of their dedication to education and to our families,” said Tammi Mooshegian, a longtime parishioner.

In 1957, a residence across the street from the school was purchased to be used as the rectory and the parish office. Then in 1959, the second phase of the expansion was started. A cafeteria and temporary church later to be used as an auditorium was built. From 1953 to 1962, both facilities in Mitchell and Granite City were being maintained. The last Mass at the old Mitchell church was celebrated on Nov. 11, 1962. The first Mass in the new “temporary” church, which was connected to the school, was celebrated the following Sunday. 

Eight more classrooms were added to the school in 1963 and a convent was built. From a parish of 20 families in 1871, it grew to more than 700 families in 1971 and had hundreds of students in the school. With continued growth over the next three decades, St. Elizabeth needed a bigger, new church. 

In 1996, the parish began working toward building a church to replace the “temporary” church. After much hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and faith of the St. Elizabeth parishioners, the current church was completed in 2002 at a cost of $2.3 million. 

11 28 2021 St. Elizabeth 150th apostolic blessingFather Alfred Tumwesigye (left) and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki hold a document sent by the Holy See to St. Elizabeth Parish that says imparts an Apostolic Blessing to the parish from Pope Francis. Bishop Paprocki celebrated Mass in honor of the parish’s 150th year on Nov. 13. Photo by Bret Ware“We're a family that has so many familiar faces with never ending connections,” said Michele Stabinsky, a parishioner who can trace her family back to the origins of the parish. “There are those that knew my grandparents, my mom, and now my family. There is a true sense of belonging.” 

In all, 27 priests have served St. Elizabeth over the last 150 years as missionaries, administrators, or pastors and on Nov. 13 this year, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki joined Father Alfred Tumwesigye, the current pastor, and parishioners of the parish in celebrating the 150th anniversary with Mass and a dinner reception afterward. When parishioners reflect on what they love about their parish, a common theme is the people.

“Our Pastoral Team, volunteers and organizations really care about this parish and put their heart and soul into seeing that St. Elizabeth remains a vibrant, religious, and growing community,” said Jackie Jones, the parish bookkeeper. 

“Faith-filled and faithful people working together to accomplish the many tasks it takes to keep the parish thriving for 150 years and on into the future,” said Cathy Cassy, the parish’s director of music.

“I love all the people over all the years of my life that have been at church with me,” said Frieda Hicks, a longtime parishioner who turned 103 years old on Nov. 20. “It is always good when I go.”

Thanks to Bret Ware, parish secretary, who compiled the church history. 

11 28 2021 St. Pat Grafton 150th first communionBy MARTHA CAREY 
Special to Catholic Times  

GRAFTON — In Grafton, a small river city that is located at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, you will find St. Patrick Church. The arrival of Jacques Marquette, SJ (sometimes known as Pere) and his fellow explorers to the area in 1673 is significant to the town of Grafton and the Catholic community there: To the town because it marked the first recorded appearance of anyone in the Illinois territory. To the church because these men were Catholics, one of them, Marquette, a Jesuit missionary priest.

On Dec. 8, 2021, St Patrick Church will turn 150 years old, their Sesquicentennial Jubilee. "Anytime a parish reaches its 150th anniversary, it is quite a cause for celebration, especially St. Patrick's Parish,” said Father Marty Smith, pastor. “This is because despite the fact that St. Patrick's was built just a few hundred feet from the Illinois River and has been flooded a few times in its history, the original church building still stands. That to me is a metaphor of the invisible grace and presence of God, and of the faith of the people of St. Patrick's Church throughout its history. 

“The church is beautiful, and the parish has loving, humble, hardworking, and faith-filled people who continue to celebrate and live by example their devotion to God and their Catholic faith, despite the storms and floods, spiritual and physical, encountered in life. I am humbled and very blessed to be assigned there.” 

Father Louis Hennepin, another priest explorer was very likely among the next group of men to arrive in the Grafton vicinity. Many years went by before the recorded appearance of the next Catholic priest in Grafton. Father Verreydt, SJ, in 1838 had Grafton as his mission, but it was not until the quarries came into prominence about the year 1856 that we find evidence of a Catholic community in Grafton. In the years following, Father Carroll celebrated Mass in the school while Bishop Henry Damian Juncker, head of then-Alton Diocese, conducted meetings in the Methodist church.

11 28 2021 St. Pat Grafton 150th spireIn 1871, the Catholic community decided to build a church. Before work could begin, a hurdle had to be overcome, and that was the location of the church. The Irish living in lower Grafton wanted the church located there, and the Germans living in upper Grafton wanted the church to be built in their area. A happy compromise was reached when it was decided to build the church in the upper part of town, for the sake of the Germans and name it St. Patrick in honor of the Irish.

On Dec. 8, 1871, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Catholics attended the first Mass in their church. The church cost $5,000 to build. This same building, with some alterations, still serves the community today. 

“I have a unique perspective of St. Patrick’s Church, as I am a life-long member and a lifelong neighbor,” said Karen Kinder, the parish sacristan. “Every morning I am greeted by the cross atop the steeple. This church and this cross have stood as a reminder to me and so many that with faith all things are possible.” 

To celebrate the Sesquicentennial Jubilee, a celebration will take place Dec. 11. The celebration begins with Mass at 5:45 p.m. followed by festivities including a Christmas light display, a live Nativity, and Christmas carolers. In the parish hall, the history of the church will be presented by Margret Ann Voke. The parish council has also been working on commemorative items including Christmas ornaments and holy cards. The parish has also received an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis. 

Martha Carey is a parishioner at St. Patrick and says that she is “honored and blessed to be a part of such a wonderful parish and to have raised my family in the rich traditions of the Catholic faith here. It is truly one of my favorite places on earth.”

History taken from 




Monday, 22 November 2021 15:15

Ten ways to make your Advent more joyful

GettyImages 1291247578By FATHER DOMINIC VAHLING 
Special to Catholic Times  

Rejoice! This word echoes throughout our churches and in our hearts as we sing the Advent song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Follow these 10 tips for a more joyful Advent. 

  1. Don’t miss the season — Stores and radio stations have been playing Christmas music since Nov. 26, but Advent should not be skipped. Advent increases our desire and longing for the coming of the Savior. 
  2. Listen to Advent music — We have a rich tradition of Advent hymnody. Look up songs such as, O, Come Divine Messiah, On Jordan’s Bank, Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, and Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding. You might find a new favorite Advent hymn! 
  3. Light an Advent wreath — Your church probably has one of these in the sanctuary, and your domestic church should too! Lighting the Advent wreath as a family can be a visual reminder of the passing of the four weeks. 
  4. Make a Jesse Tree — The genealogy of Jesus may not be your favorite Christmas Gospel, but it could be. Jesse Trees are a way to learn about Jesus’ family tree, and all the ways in which God’s Providence led Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Bethlehem. Planning for the first Christmas started a long, long time ago. 
  5. Pray the rosary — Advent may be the most Marian season of the year. Ask Mary to help you prepare for the coming of the Messiah, as she did at that first Christmas. How did she feel when there was no room at the inn? 
  6. Attend Lessons and Carols at the Cathedral —Christians have a great tradition of immersing themselves in Scripture and music in the days before Christmas. Come to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. to hear some angelic voices accompanied by a harp in giving praise to God. 
  7. Make a visitation — Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months while they were both pregnant. Do not allow the hustle and bustle to distract you from the need for quiet visits with grandparents, parents, or friends. 
  8. Attend eucharistic adoration — Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which translates as “House of Bread.” Even in his birth, Jesus was preparing us to approach him under the form of bread. Spending time with Jesus is never a waste. 
  9. Wait in line — The confession line, of course! If not already, you will soon be tired of waiting in line at the store. So, come wait in a better line, which leads to the forgiveness of sins and the peace that only God can give. 
  10. Befriend your guardian angel — Angels announced the coming of the Messiah to Mary and the shepherds. They are God’s messengers. Ask your guardian angel to prepare your heart for Christmas, as their angelic brethren have done for so many others. 

Father Dominic Vahling is parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield and co-chaplain at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield.

advent calendar

11 14 2021 beauty series mattoon wide view


Immaculate Conception Church is an iconic structure in Coles County that dates to 1884 when the cornerstone was laid. At a cost of $50,000, the church in Mattoon was dedicated by Bishop John Spalding of the Diocese of Peoria in 1887, 33 years after Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed Mary’s Immaculate Conception dogmatic Church teaching.

IC2“I believe the beauty of Immaculate Conception is that it is Mary’s church,” said Father John Titus, pastor. “As a parishioner said to me, when you walk in the church, you feel like Our Lady is putting her arms around you. It is named in honor of the Immaculate Conception. The windows and the art focus on Mary and make present Jesus Christ. My favorite thing about Immaculate Conception Church is that it feels like you are home. I am kind of prejudiced as I was born across the street and grew up in Mattoon. This just feels like home base. This is where it all begins.”

Some of that beauty includes the richly colorful depiction of the Last Supper on the front part of the altar, detailed images of the Stations of the Cross, several statues of saints, the striking shrine altar of Mary including a statue of her crushing the serpent, and a bright, white high altar with gold trim that makes Jesus and the tabernacle the central focus. 

Beyond the beauty, the history at Immaculate Conception is also deeply rich. In 1892, the diocese’s own now Venerable Father Augustine Tolton, the nation’s first black priest and a native of Quincy, came here to preach.

“There wouldn’t have been many African Americans in Mattoon at the time,” Father Titus said. “But Father Tolton was well received and many, many people came to see him.”

Father Titus also looks back on another historical moment in the parish, that of Father James Dunne, who after the first World War, died of the Spanish flu.

“He was much loved,” Father Titus said. “He had probably the largest funeral ever to take place in Mattoon. A lot of prayerful folks have been a part of this building.”

The church has seen several physical changes over the decades. A fire in 1890 destroyed practically everything. It is believed however, that what is called the beehive stained-glass window, which is located in the bathroom, survived the fire and is original. After the fire, Mass was held in the old church on Richmond Avenue until a dedication in 1891. Three new bells were cast in St. Louis specifically for the church and named by their benefactors: St. Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Patrick.  

IC3In 1934, the main altar, statues, and Stations of the Cross were refurbished. Then, in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, a major renovation occurred. The interior of the church was painted, carpet removed, among other interior changes.

In 2018, a new altar incorporating the Last Supper relief was built by parishioner Henry Unkraut and parish craftsmen. Decorative molding was added to the back and side altars and the side altar reliefs were painted to complement the Stations of the Cross.  In 2019, icons of the Luminous Mysteries, which completed the rosary windows, were written by Sher Lanham and Karen Boshart of Red Shoes Art Studio in Charleston and mounted in the side chapel. 

In 2019, a statue of St. Mother Theodore Guerin (who is buried near Terre Haute, Ind.) was placed in the sanctuary, a gift of parish alumni of St. Mary-of-the Woods College. Then, in 2020, sections of an altar rail were restored on each side of the front of the sanctuary. 

Other treasures inside Immaculate Conception include a solid marble Pieta in the side chapel which came from Italy and is dated 1909. The windows on the back altar are in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Cathedral Church of what was the Diocese of Alton, which then became the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. The top part of the St. Peter window was installed in error says Father Titus as it shows an upright cross with an upside-down crown. The prince of the Apostles was crucified on an upside-down cross.

For Father Titus, despite all the physical beauty and rich history at Immaculate Conception Church, what he thinks about the most are the countless numbers of souls who have worshipped here. “The baptisms of the thousands,” Father Titus said. “All the different priests and people who have been present and beginning their journey, right here.”

Monday, 08 November 2021 14:37

Heaven and hell: What is eternity like?

Heaven and Hell web banner

What is eternity like? What are the sights and feelings? Scripture and private revelation help paint that picture

The last four things: death, judgment, heaven (maybe a stop in purgatory along the way), and hell. That is what the Catholic Church teaches. In a culture that continues to write off life after death or paints hell as a picture of “you’ll probably be laughing with friends,” it is paramount that as believers, we always have in mind that what we do on earth, how we live our faith, and how we honor God and His creations has everlasting effects, good or bad. 

The truth is hell is far worse than any of us can imagine. On the other hand, the joys and beauty of heaven are also unimaginable. Despite not knowing fully what heaven and hell will look, feel, or be like, Scripture and private revelation offers us a glimpse, and we are not talking about puffy clouds, harps, or meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates.

In this edition of Catholic Times, we offer you Scripture passages and quotes from saints who had visions or dreams of heaven and hell that can help you better understand, picture, and appreciate what eternity is, and why you must always strive to become a saint. A quick note on private revelation: the Catholic Church says one does not have to believe private revelation. However, the Church also recognizes that private revelation from saints can be a good thing that can help people in their faith journey. 

When reading Scripture and quotes from saints who had dreams or visions, always keep in mind that they should not necessarily be taken literally because as Scripture tells us, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).  

Heaven — what we do know as revealed to us through the Catholic faith 

First, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states, “Those who die in God's grace and      friendship and are perfectly purified (either here on earth or in purgatory) live forever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they ‘see Him as He is,’ face to face” (CCC 1026).

  • Heaven is union with God. “By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (CCC 1026).
  • We do not become angels in eternity. We will not have our bodies at first, however, at the end of time, our bodies will be reunited with us (Cor. 15 16-18). 
  • Our bodies will become glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). While we do not know what that will truly look like, our bodies will be perfect.
  • We will retain our own identities. We will not become “someone different.” “To live in heaven is ‘to be with Christ.’ The elect live ‘in Christ, but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name’” (CCC 1025).
  • There is no pain in heaven. None.
  • At the end of the time, all the remaining souls in Purgatory will enter heaven. 
  • Speaking of the end of time, “The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God's justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God's love is stronger than death” (CCC 1040).

God s GraceWhat will heaven look and feel like?  

What Scripture tells us

“He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).  

“For this reason, they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:15-17).

“He (God) will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Phil. 3:21).

“Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22: 1-5).

What saints who had visions of heaven tell us

"Today I was in heaven, in spirit, and I saw its unconceivable beauties and the happiness that awaits us after death. I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures, making them happy; and then all the glory and praise which springs from this happiness returns to its source; and they enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whom they will never comprehend or fathom. This source of happiness is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures.”

St. Faustina 

“As I stood there basking in the splendor of those gardens, I suddenly heard music most sweet — so delightful and enchanting a melody that I could never adequately describe it. A hundred thousand instruments played, each with its own sound, uniquely different from all others, and every possible sound set the air alive with its resonant waves. Blended with them were the songs of choristers. 

“In those gardens, I looked upon a multitude of people enjoying themselves happily, some singing, others playing, but every note, had the effect of a thousand different instruments playing together. At one and the same time, if you can imagine such a thing, one could hear all the notes of the chromatic scale, from the deepest to the highest, yet all in perfect harmony. Ah yes, we have nothing on earth to compare with that symphony.”

St. John Bosco

the Saviour“It is a light which knows no night. Rather, as it is always light, nothing ever disturbs it. In short, no man, however gifted he may be can ever, in the whole course of his life, arrive at any imagination of what it is.”

St. Teresa of Avila

 “I then found myself in heaven with the Blessed Virgin, the angels and the saints. They treated me with great kindness. In their company were my parents. I saw the brilliant throne of the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ in His humanity. There was no sun, no lamp, but everything was bright with light.”

St. Mariam Baouardy

“The good of these souls is beyond what your mind’s eye can see or your ear hear, or your tongue describe, or your heart imagine. What joy they have in seeing me who am all good! What joy they will yet have when their bodies are glorified! But while they do not have this latter good until the general judgment, they do not suffer. They lack no happiness, for the soul is filled, and in this good fullness the body will share.”

St. Catherine of Sienna reported this is what God said to her

Hell — what we do know as revealed to us through the Catholic faith

  • Hell does exist. “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035). Mortal sin is “grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (CCC 1857).
  • What is hell? “The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (CCC 1023). 
  • One cannot get out of hell.
  • God predestines no one to go to hell (CCC 1037).
  • God spoke of hell and of its existence: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,’ but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven’” (Matt. 7:21).

What will hell look and feel like? 

What Scripture tells us

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice, ‘Anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand, will also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath, and will be tormented in burning sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb. The smoke of the fire that torments them will rise forever and ever, and there will be no relief day or night for those who worship the beast or its image or accept the mark of its name’” (Rev. 14: 9-11).

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matt 13: 41-42).

“For it is surely just on God’s part to repay with afflictions those who are afflicting you, and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:6-9).

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:43).

“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’” (Mk 9:48).

What saints who had visions of hell tell us

“The entrance seemed to be by a long narrow pass, like a furnace, very low, dark, and close. The ground seemed to be saturated with water, mere mud, exceedingly foul, sending forth pestilential odors, and covered with loathsome vermin. At the end was a hollow place in the wall, like a closet, and in that I saw myself confined. 

“I felt a fire in my soul. My bodily sufferings were unendurable. I have undergone most painful sufferings in this life, yet all these were as nothing in comparison with what I felt then, especially when I saw that there would be no intermission, nor any end to them.”

St. Teresa of Avila

“As soon as I crossed its threshold, I felt an indescribable terror and dared not take another step. Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains. They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave — walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal — everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can’t find words to describe the cavern’s horror.”

St. John Bosco

“The kinds of tortures I saw: the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one’s condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it — a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and, despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies.

“Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me!”

St. Faustina

“God the Father said to me, ‘I tell you, in hell there are four principal torments, and all the others are offspring of these. 

“’The first is that these souls are deprived of seeing me. This is so painful for them that if they could, they would choose the sight of me along with the fire and excruciating torments, rather than the freedom from their pains without seeing me. The first suffering revives the worm of conscience, and this is their second torment. For when they see that their sinfulness has deprived them of me and of the company of the angels and made them worthy instead of seeing the demons and sharing their fellowship, conscience gnaws away at them constantly. 

“’The sight of the devil is their third suffering, and it doubles every other torment. At the sight of me the saints are in constant exaltation, joyfully refreshed in reward for the labors they bore for me with such overflowing love and to their own cost. But it is just the opposite for these wretched little souls. Their only refreshment is the torment of seeing the devil, for in seeing them they know themselves better: that is, they recognize that their sinfulness has made them worthy of him. And so, the worm gnaws on, and the fire of conscience never stops burning.

“’Their suffering is even worse because they see the devil as he really is — more horrible than the human heart can imagine. You will recall that when I once let you see him for a tiny while, hardly a moment, as he really is, you said that you would rather walk on a road of fire even till the final judgment day than see him again. But even with all you have seen you do not know how horrible he really is. For my divine justice makes him look more horrible than still to those who have lost me, and this is in proportion to the depth of their sinfulness.

“’The fourth torment is fire. This fire burns without consuming, for the soul cannot be consumed, since it is not material but spiritual. But in my divine justice I allow my fire to burn these souls mightily, tormenting them without consuming them. And the tremendous pain of this tortuous burning has as many forms as the forms of their sins and is more or less severe in proportion to their sins.’”

St. Catherine of Sienna reported this is what God said to her

“Mary opened her hands once more, as she had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. 

“The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me).

“The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black, and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.”

Sister Lucia, one of the three visionaries of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 (Church approved Marian apparitions)

Did our Blessed Mother die before she was assumed into Heaven or was she still alive? If she did die, why would God have allowed it since she was the Immaculate Conception?
- Nancy, Springfield

Whether the Blessed Virgin Mary died or simply fell asleep prior to being assumed into Heaven is an open question. In the Latin Catholic Church, tradition has said Mary did die; in the Eastern Catholic Churches, tradition has said she fell asleep and did not die. Either way, we have no solid historical evidence to prove a position. 

When Pope St. Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus in 1950, he avoided the question altogether. Instead of answering the question directly, he chose a sort of middle position, saying, “… that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (no. 44). 

The conclusion of her earthly life may have ended with her death or with her falling asleep; we simply do not know. What is certain, though, is that her earthly life came to an end. Either way, God did “… not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb … ,” which is to say he did not allow her body to decay as our bodies will one day do (Preface of the Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). 

If she did die and was then raised before being assumed into Heaven, God may well have allowed her death because the Blessed Virgin Mary is the exemplar of what each of us is to be. Each of us must die on account of the original sin before we are raised on the last day. If Mary died, it may have been as a sign to us of a holy and peaceful death and as a reminder of the promise of the resurrection. 

Father Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Ashland and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2021 11:29

Beauty Series: St Rose of Lima – Quincy


St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Quincy has a rare distinction as it was designated a historic landmark by the city in 2000. Known for its impressively large, detailed, and richly colorful stained-glass windows that depict the life of Christ and images of various angels and saints, the church was built by the Irish community of Quincy and dedicated in 1912.

“Spaciously it’s very high,” said Father Joseph Portzer, FSSP, pastor. “In church language, that is lifting of you to God. You walk in and immediately you look up just to see how high it really goes. Then you look around and see amazing stained-glass windows and you can’t help but look at them. I love the stained glass the most. The stained-glass windows are a catechesis because they are so good. Sometimes, I use them for my sermons. Sometimes, they are better than my sermons!” 

6Despite its beauty and landmark designation, the church has not always been available to the faithful over the last 100-plus years. The church closed in 2005 and most of the contents were either moved to other churches or sold. Then, in 2007, then-Bishop George Lucas of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, gave permission to re-open the church for the traditional Latin Mass. It was reopened in 2008 and has been staffed by priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. On Jan. 1, 2014, St. Rose of Lima became an official parish of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois under a decree issued by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.

“The pews are original — for some reason they hadn’t been sold off,” said Father Portzer. “Everything else, they bought it again, and it looks a lot like the old. I think they wanted to make sure everything fit architecturally with what had been here so it’s a deliberate style choice.”

That includes three marble altars, taken from Barat College near Chicago, as well as the matching altar rail and pulpit. The original cross from St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy now hangs in St. Rose of Lima Church. 

5As you walk around the church, your eyes cannot stop looking around as beauty awaits in every corner. If you visit St. Rose, pay special close attention to the stained glass. Besides the beauty, there is rich Catholic symbolism in the scenes depicted. 

“Particularly, I like the scenes over the confessionals,” Father Portzer said. “Over one of the confessionals, we have Mary Magdalene who is down on the floor and using her hair to wipe our Lord’s feet. Jesus has his hand out over her, which is not in the story in the Bible. But it shows absolution. It shows the motion of the priest’s hand giving forgiveness to Mary Magdalene while she is weeping for her sins. It is really a beautiful thing.

“The opposite confessional has perhaps a less clear message, but when you look at it, it has the same message. There is the young woman, age 12, who is dead, and Christ comes to her and says, ‘Young woman, I say to you rise.’ His right hand is up the air. His left hand, he is holding her and bringing her back to life. The right hand is meant to be the hand of absolution, so He is showing a dead person being brought to the spiritual life by the work of the priest.”

3Whether it is statues of saints, the Stations of the Cross, a domed ceiling, the altar, or the stained glass, the elements inside the church come from the Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine styles which together make up the style known as Venetian Gothic — making this church one of a kind. 

“There was a man who came here for a blessing for his son who had cancer,” Father Portzer said. “I didn’t realize they were not Catholic. I gave them the blessing, and then I walked them through the church, and they were so fascinated by the church. I walked them all around and explained all the stained-glass windows, and they left. Only later did I hear from one of my parishioners who met up with them and how thrilled they were, how welcomed they felt, and the man said that he would like to come back to the church to just pray sometime. That is the impact this church has on people. It should do that. Every Catholic church should lift us up like that.”  

Box: In the next edition of Catholic Times we will explore Immaculate Conception Church in Mattoon. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2021 11:25

How do I talk to my kids about vocations?

I guess that parents would want a formula on how to talk to their kids about vocations — I’m right with you there! I would like one on how to talk to my parishioners about Jesus — but we do not get one either. And yet, this lack of an easy, pre-canned, downloadable, method seems to be the way with most of the most important things in life. 

As a kid, did you ever get a presentation on how to talk, or how to cook, or how to clean your room? Is there an app that can tell you how to go to school, or get your first job, or how to be a friend? No! These things are just parts of life, and a child naturally learns from Mom or Dad about how to do them. I would watch my mom prepare for dinner, and gradually began to pick up on the different nuances of it. I have never cracked a book to learn those skills, I just saw how to chop vegetables, season meat, and mix up pancakes. I watched my dad grill, or my mom mix something up, and as I helped them, I naturally absorbed how to do all those things myself. 

The same principle applies with vocations! As I learned the faith from my parents, it naturally came up that God loved each of us so much that He had a plan for us. What might that plan look like? Well, it might look like Mom and Dad, or Abraham and Sarah, or Joseph and Mary or St. Gianna Beretta Molla — married, raising a family. Or, it might look like Father Carberry (our pastor), or St. Paul, or St. John Vianney —a priest, caring for his flock. Or, it could be like the Franciscans or Benedictines, something like Moses or Elijah, or St. Francis, or St. Benedict — a monk or friar, devoted to prayer and poverty. Or, it might be like St. Mother Teresa or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton — women religious who were devoted to the poor and teaching young people the faith. 

What is crucial? That the parent engages those topics! Do you cook for your children? Do you invite them to help? Do you answer their questions when they ask them? Do you challenge them to try to make something themselves, or plan one dinner a week, or choose groceries based on a recipe? If you do not, they won’t learn how to cook. That knowledge must come from somewhere. 

This same principle is true in talking about vocations. You do not need a presentation. You do not need to know everything about every vocation. But you do need to tell your kids that God loves them, and you do need to talk about how you knew when God was calling you to marriage. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to pop into church after t-ball practice every once in a while — or pray a family rosary while you drive across town. You do need to give them examples of good married people, and priests, and religious, and invite people living those vocations into your home and into your child’s life. 

There is one silver bullet: Live a holy life, and your children will see that holiness is awesome, and they will find where God has holiness planned for them.

Father Dominic Rankin is Master of Ceremonies and priest secretary for Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, is an associate vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and has a license in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute in Rome.

padre pio 3000 x 1055 web banner

He is one of the more recent saints in the Catholic Church who was known as a mystic, who suffered the stigmata (wounds of Christ), and could read people’s souls in the confessional. St. Padre Pio, who died in 1968, was an Italian Franciscan friar who was declared a saint by Pope Saint John Paul II. 

Catholics are invited to see and venerate relics of St. Padre Pio after the 4 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on Saturday, Nov. 6 and after the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Nov. 7 until 4:30 that afternoon in the Cathedral atrium. Four first class relics and one second class will be available to the faithful to see and venerate. While the event is free, good will donations are appreciated and a second collection will be taken up during one of the Masses.   

Tuesday, 26 October 2021 11:14

Answering God's call to religious life

Answering God’s call to religious life
Celebrating National Vocation Awareness week

National Vocation Awareness Week, celebrated Nov. 7-13, is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promoting vocations to the religious life through prayer and education, and to renewing our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. In this edition of Catholic Times, we highlight two religious vocations stories that prove God can work in mysterious ways. Also, for parents and grandparents who see a religious vocation in their son, daughter, or grandchild, read Hey, Father!, in which we answer the question, “How do I talk to my kids about vocations?” 

He grew up non-Catholic. Marriage was ‘on the horizon.’ Then he had this ‘crazy thing’ 
The story of Father John Titus

Fr Titus 2 with Deacon Gene UptmorIn a sacramental way, the journey of God’s call in my life began on May 13, 1956, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. I don’t suppose, however, anybody in the Bradbury Free Methodist Church, north of Toledo, Ill., knew about Our Lady’s feast that day. Surrounded by cousins and folks in love with God’s Word at Bradbury, as a young child, my family moved to Mattoon where I attended the Presbyterian Church through my college years at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston. Active in Sunday school and church activities, I became friends with a few future Presbyterian ministers and felt God’s call to the ministry myself. During my college years, I visited a Presbyterian seminary but never took that “next step.”   

Growing up, I had Catholic relatives and friends and would sometimes attend Mass at Immaculate Conception in Mattoon and other parishes. Becoming involved in the pro-life movement in high school and college years, I was struck by the predominance of Catholic Christians among its ranks during those early days. I wondered to myself: Where were the people I had been praying with all my life? I was drawn to a faith that impacted how we lived our lives in the public square. Having been involved in political campaigns since high school, it just made sense that the most important choices we make for the greater community would be informed by our religious faith and the values of the Gospel. I loved the idea of a faith that informed our actions and choices not only as individuals but in the public square. 

At EIU, still “spinning my wheels” regarding a future field of study or career choice, I fell back on majoring in history which I had always loved. St. John Henry Cardinal Newman once said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be protestant.” While none of my professors would have suspected me of being very “deep in history,” my study did lead me to an awareness that divisions in the Body of Christ were the fruit of human sinfulness, culture, and politics and certainly not the will of God.

Ultimately it was of course my desire for the holy Eucharist that led me to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. Praying with John 6 and time spent before the tabernacle opened up to me the desire for the graces of the sacramental life. I had been attending daily Mass for some time when I finally stepped out in faith and talked to a parish priest about more formal “instruction” in the Catholic faith.

Fr Titus 1I was living in Decatur and working for Walgreens when I entered the Church at St. James. I became involved in the parish as my schedule permitted. “Thursday Night Parties” bingo was my main volunteer activity. I was dating a lady at the time who had a young son. The relationship was going well, and it seemed marriage might be on the horizon.  I shared with her that before we could take the next step, I had this “crazy thing” I had to get “off the table.”  I explained as a protestant minister, a wife and family was the norm, but if God was calling me to the Catholic priesthood, that could be a “deal breaker.” 

I assured my girlfriend that there was nothing to worry about, however. As far as I knew, Catholic couples brought little baby priests home from the maternity ward with little Roman collars around their neck. I was sure I would never be accepted to study for the priesthood anyway.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I wasn’t holy enough. I hadn’t been a Catholic all my life. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Once again, I sat down and visited with my parish priest and soon began a journey that continues to this day. The doors that I expected to close kept opening. An uncertainty about so many things developed into a quiet confidence and renewed hope. I learned priests aren’t ordained on the first day of seminary.  Formation is a process including prayer, study, and pastoral experiences where the Church gets to know you and you get to know the Church in fuller ways. With each passing month and new opportunity, I learned more and fell in love more with Christ and his people. 

The joy of walking with Christ’s risen body, the Church as a Catholic and a Catholic priest, is incomparable with any other experience of my life. I have learned God never wastes any experience and helps us to use in for the common good when we place it in His hands. Thirty-three years after my ordination as a transitional deacon, I have never looked back but get up each morning joyfully anticipating what surprises the Lord may have in store. 

Father John Titus is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon and St. Columcille Parish in Sullivan

‘He told me I would be a Dominican nun’
The story of Sister Mary Grace, OP

SR MARY GRACE OPMy family was blessed with an ideal childhood: a devout Catholic mom, devout Presbyterian dad, and children. We attended a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school. I was the youngest, very close to my sister, and adored my brothers even though they teased me to no end.

I was in the third grade when I received my first clue that I had a talent for art. The third-grade sister was showing the fourth-grade teacher one of my pictures. My art was encouraged at home in many ways and has been a big part of my life to this day. 

During those formative years, I was attracted to Catholic Church things and persons. In high school, a sister sat me down one time and suggested that I might have a vocation to the religious life, but I quickly rejected that thought. I imagined I was destined for marriage and family life.  

A secular university took me farther away from my earlier pious tendencies although I never neglected the basics of my faith. I achieved degrees in applied arts and teaching. After graduation, I taught art in an inner-city public school which taught me that teaching was not my thing. So, three of my fellow classmates and myself began a business out of my father’s second floor retail stationary store. That was an adventure and lasted until my associates began wanting more funds and better clothes. I lingered on for a while and eventually tried teaching again with the same conclusion. 

Several jobs later and all the time dating and hoping to settle down, nothing clicked in that process. Eventually I came to a crossroad in my life: I needed to make a strategic choice for which I was not prepared. By now I was 25 years old and, remembering a piece of advice in one of the many letters I received from my brother (who was a priest), that if I ever needed to talk with someone, this priest would be a good one. Not remembering the name of said priest, I went to the drawer in my room where I kept all his letters in random fashion and found the name in the first letter I picked up. 

Father Wenzel agreed to see me. After hearing my tale of woe, he suggested I join a sodality sponsored by Xavier University, which I did. The meetings and the required exercises, which I faithfully practiced, brought me back to a closer relationship to the Church. Around this time, the company I was working at went bankrupt, and I was looking for the next door to open. It did. A fellow sodalist mentioned that a missionary group, the Verona Fathers, were looking for a secretary. I loved that job and flourished there. 

In the meantime, because we were required to have a spiritual director, the first time I met with mine, a Jesuit, he asked me what kind of a man I was looking for. Wow! Was he going to go out on the campus and see if he could fulfill my requirements? I told him that I was beginning to think maybe God was wanting me to enter a religious community. “All right,” he said. “This is what you do: Give yourself a certain amount of time, pray very hard about this decision, and God will lead you.” So, I did, and before long it became very clear to me that I should enter religious life. But where?

sr mary grace op the artistSo, my director took me to the library and took out the large religious directory containing lists and descriptions of all the congregations in the United States. I was to write to any that would allow me to develop my art and one that was well established. I received stacks of mail, but nothing attracted me. Stalemate! I kept praying and one day, a woman visited the Verona Father who had a reputation for holiness. I got to talking with her about my problem and she suggested that I go to confession to a very holy priest, which I did, on April 1, 1962, April Fools’ Day — but what the priest told me I did not take as a trick. He heard me out in silence, followed by a sacred silence, and then he told me I would be a Dominican nun.

Although I knew nothing of cloistered life, nor that there was a monastery in Cincinnati, I immediately and wholeheartedly accepted his directive as the greatest gift I could be given. 

As I look back on my life, I realize that I did not have, at that time, the psychological maturity to discern for myself God’s will for me. And so, God took over in a very direct way which, after 56 years of monastic living, I can see as the very best possible solution for me, and I never cease being grateful for that day.

I was kept waiting to meet the prioress of Holy Name Monastery. She encouraged me and after many weekend visits there, the date was set for my entry on Dec. 8, 1962. Of course, the separation from my mother, the only family member still at home by then, was excruciating, for her and for me, more so for her who had been widowed at age 52 and now was facing life in the homestead by herself. When I was a postulant and in the presence of the prioress and myself, she asked how I was doing. The prioress answered that I was doing very well, and my mom’s reply was: “I was afraid of that.” Nevertheless, she never objected to my vocation and supported me and the monastery in every way she could. 

I was 27 years old then and was used to an independent life of my own choosing. The discipline of monastic living was jarring in many ways, but I was happy. All throughout my 56 years, the sisters have allowed me to continue developing my art. 

I cannot say that I am a born contemplative by any means. I pretty much began the spiritual life from scratch. I am still climbing slowly, but I value all the opportunities and even the atmosphere that are most conducive to living as close to God as I have grace for. Grace is never lacking but, as my Jesuit brother once told me, I am a slow learner.

Dominican monastic life for me has been and is a nurturing home and community which allows one to be who they are and to strive to become the best they can be in God’s plan.

Sister Mary Grace, OP, is a sister with the Monastery of Mary the Queen located in Springfield

Have you considered becoming a deacon? 

Deacon Kessler baptises babyThere are three informational meetings in different parts of our diocese for men interested in becoming a deacon. The first takes place in Jacksonville at the Knights of Columbus Hall (320 E. State) on Saturday, Nov. 13 from 9-10:30 a.m. The second takes place in Mattoon at Immaculate Conception Church Parish Center (320 N. 20th St.) on Tuesday, Nov. 16 from 6:30-8 p.m.  The third takes place in Quincy at the St. Francis Parish Center (1721 College) on Sunday, Nov. 28 from 1-2:30 p.m. The meetings will present information for those interested in the permanent diaconate formation which begins in the fall of 2022. Applications are being accepted at this time.

The permanent diaconate is open to men between the ages of 32 and 57 who are active in the practice of our faith and who desire to grow in their relationship with God and in their service to the Church. If interested, and if married, wives are welcome and encouraged to attend. For questions, email Deacon Dave Sorrell: . You can also visit



Managing Editor

MugShotSpringfield psychologist and author Dr. Kevin Vost says although he spent the first 18 years of his life as a practicing Catholic, it was reading the works of some well-known philosophers that ultimately led him to seriously doubt the existence of God, becoming an atheist. He says “then it only took him 25 years” to come back to the faith, thanks to the Holy Spirit and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Vost, a member of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, was born into a Catholic family, baptized as an infant and attended Catholic school. “We went to Mass, but we really didn’t talk about the faith,” he says. He is eternally grateful that his parents sent him to Catholic schools where he gained a strong sense of morality, was taught right from wrong, and earned self-discipline and how to be respectful of others. 

As he grew and became a teenager, his faith increased and so did his love of weightlifting. Many of those weight-lifter friends were members of non-denominational or Pentecostal churches. He attended some services with them but didn’t abandon Catholicism. “I ran into trouble elsewhere,” he has written, “within the musty pages of old philosophy books.”

Always interested in books and philosophy, at age 18 Vost — who also admired and read about Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer who challenged Christianity — immersed himself in the writings of Voltaire, Friedrich Nietzche, Bertrand Russel, and Ayn Rand. It was Rand’s writings that finally separated him from his faith, Vost said.

CatholicMarketingConf2016“A lot of these atheists, I was coming across arguments that I have never seen before that led me to think that the idea of God is either self-contradictory or that you really don’t need the concept of God,” Vost said. “For example, atheists bring up this argument of how can God be both all powerful and all knowing because if He knows what He is going to do tomorrow, then He doesn’t have the power to do something different. Another argument is that God is not really necessary because existence exists. Open up your eyes. There is the world out there. You don’t have to ask where that came from because that is the starting ground.” 

Unable to refute those arguments for atheism he said, “At that point in my life, reason became my god.” While still convinced the existence of God simply didn’t make sense, he went on to earn a doctorate in clinical psychology. He had a long career working in the disability evaluation field and teaching as an adjunct professor. He has been writing books for the last 15 years and was also a powerlifter and weight-lifting instructor.

Vost says that for over two decades he never spoke out against Catholicism but could not make himself believe in God. During that time however, he and his wife Kathy were married in the Church, had their sons baptized Catholic and sent those children to Catholic schools. “There was kind of a sadness. Personally, I deeply wanted to believe, but I did not feel that in good conscience I could pretend to believe what I did not.” 

A great proponent of ongoing education, Vost eventually came upon a DVD course on Natural Law that introduced him to the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. “That lead me to desire to read the works of St. Thomas Aquinas directly,” he said. It was the words of that Dominican friar, famous philosopher, and theologian that ultimately led Vost to return to the Catholic faith. 

“One of the first things I read is when Aquinas talked about the attributes of God and what God must be like,” Vost said. “This is where we get the answers to the questions that I thought were unsolvable like God is a contradictory or how can He do something tomorrow, and Aquinas talks about the eternity of God.

“If you think of God’s tomorrow, you’re thinking of God as a human being. But God lives in the eternal now. It is all present to Him,” he said. “So, there’s no contradiction. His will is unimpeded forever, as is His knowledge. Aquinas gives this wonderful analogy. He says that imagine you are walking on your way to a little village, and it’s a hilly road. So, you won’t see that village until you are at the top of the last hill. You also won’t know who is coming before you or who came after you. But imagine the perspective of someone high in the sky. They see the destination the whole time and everyone on the route, and in a sense, that is an analogy of God’s eternal knowledge all at once, and that wowed me.”

With that question answered, Vost then found his answer to when atheists say, “existence exists, or you don’t have to ask where the universe came from.” 

“Aquinas points out, look at the universe, look at yourself and ask which one of us gave us our own existence — well none of us,” Vost said. “Look at all the objects around us. Everything is constantly changing. So, what material thing gave itself its own existence and has the power to do that? Nothing. It is all contingent. It might exist, it might not exist. Aquinas also said at some point in time nothing existed, so then, there out be nothing to bring it into existence. So, basically Aquinas is saying there must be some necessary being that cannot not exist. This what we call God. So, reason and faith match up.”

This argument, that there has to be an unchangeable first mover (God) and there has to be an uncaused cause in in which everything comes from to get the entire existence going, also wowed Vost. 

All this happened when Vost was 43 years old.  “It was like a gradual process but then all of the sudden I realized, ‘Oh my Lord! I believe again.’ It was an awe-inspiring thing — it was kind of like the scales fell from my eyes,” he said.

DominicanAssocsMay2017 CMYKReturning to Mass and the sacraments was, of course, a welcome relief for not only Voss, but his wife, sons, and other family members. “My boys were thrilled. My brother told me that our mother (who had already passed away at the time) always prayed that I would return to the faith,” he said and then added, “I’m sure my mom knows.” 

Participating in Mass once again was something that gave Voss “great joy.” “It was a feeling that now I can fully participate. I’m really believing this,” he said. Going back to confession was incredible. “That wonderful feeling when the weight was removed — the burden of my sins. It was an absolutely joyful time.” 

Coming back to Catholicism has led Voss to write over 20 books that have been also largely influenced by St. Thomas Aquinas. His first book, Memorize the Faith!, remains his best-seller so far. 

“It took me 25 years to realize that I was wrong about the most important thing of all. You know, I always tried to live a virtuous life … but the real difference is there is now a deep sense of peace and joy and calm and relief,” he said. “It was just a life-changing thing. Our Catholic faith is full of beauty, full of life and also full of truth.” 

As for advice he has for parents who have children who have fallen away from the faith, Vost points to prayer first, but also having those deep conversations about what our faith really teaches. “If our children really understood the depth of our faith — it’s full of beauty, it’s full of love, but it is also full of truth, and we can defend that truth,” he said. “So, for the kids who are pulled away from these false arguments, keep in contact with your children and know what they are thinking in terms of the faith.” 

To hear more about Dr. Kevin Vost’s conversion story, including what he thought about the idea of eternal life as an atheist, how he came back to believe in the true presence of God in the Eucharist, and the five proofs of the existence of God as written by Aquinas, listen to Dive Deep, the official podcast of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Go to or search “Dive Deep” on all major podcast platforms. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2021 16:53

Celebrating World Mission Sunday Oct. 24

Click here to see how you can celebrate Mission Sunday

Managing Editor

WICHITA, Kan. — While growing up and then ministering as a priest in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Bishop Carl A. Kemme didn’t know much about the Diocese of Wichita, where he has been serving as bishop since 2014. In fact, he said, “I tell people here, the only things I knew about Kansas was what I learned from The Wizard of Oz.”

That all began to change on Valentine’s Day in 2014, when he received a call from the papal nuncio, telling him that Pope Francis appointed him the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita. “I think that was the most monumental phone call I’ve ever received or ever will receive,” Bishop Kemme said. 

Because then-Msgr. Kemme was traveling, he missed the nuncio’s initial phone call, so when he called back the nuncio was in a meeting. “He told me what he wanted and that he would call me back in 30 minutes for my answer,” Bishop Kemme said.

In that quick time frame, the future bishop of course took time to pray but he also quickly began to research the Diocese of Wichita. “I found it was amazing how much you can learn in 30 minutes time about a diocese,” he said, adding that the nuncio was prompt in calling him back. He accepted the pope’s invitation with the knowledge that God would lead him in the right direction. God has never let him down as he ministers to move forward in his diocese, he said. 

DSC 4434Bishop Kemme had 28 years’ experience as a priest in all corners of our diocese before he was ordained a bishop on May 1, 2014 — and that experience was varied. In those 28 years he served at parishes in Decatur, Collinsville, Springfield, Brussels, Meppen, Batchtown, Mt. Zion, Petersburg, and Sherman. In 2002, he was appointed vicar general and moderator of the Curia by then-bishop George J. Lucas. That same year he was named a monsignor (Prelate of Honor) by Pope John Paul II.  Additionally, he served as diocesan chancellor from January to June 2005. When Bishop Lucas was named head of the Archdiocese of Omaha, in June 2009, he served as diocesan administrator until 2010.  He continued to serve as vicar general and moderator of the Curia when Bishop Thomas John Paprocki was installed. 

It was his leadership in the Curia that helped Bishop Kemme feel more secure in being named Bishop of Wichita. “There’s always a lot of anxiety (when making a decision), but I had 12 years of administrative experience and one year as a diocesan administrator … so I knew most of what the governance of a diocese entailed,” he said. “So even though I felt like there were many more qualified candidates, I felt a certain peace and tranquility about it.” 

Leaving his home diocese was rather difficult, he admits. At the time his parents were still living on the small family farm. “I was sad to leave home, family, so many friends and brother priests,” he said. “My plan and desire was to live there (in the Springfield diocese) and serve my local church. But God had other plans.” 

Bishop Kemme remembers all the ceremonies and getting accustomed to being a bishop were daunting. “In the first two years or so I wondered, ‘Why am I here?’ but I am in my eighth year now. It has been a real blessing. This has become home. The people here are wonderful, and the priests are very cooperative. I am excited for this ministry here.” 

Speaking out on tough subjects can be a challenge for a bishop, Bishop Kemme admits. “Everybody wants to know what the bishop thinks,” he said. “Whether they like it or not, they want to know. But I know that God gives me the words he wants me to say, and I’m open to it.” A bishop’s schedule is grueling, but God has helped him out in that aspect, too, he said. 

DSC 4951Bishop Kemme says discipleship, evangelization, and stewardship are the touchpoints for his diocese’s pastoral plan — a plan that he and his strong leadership team are continually pursuing. “We work very closely together,” he said. “We aren’t there yet and we have a long way to go, but we’ve got a road map.” 

He also desires to make Sundays special again — a day for worship, family, and renewal. “We are really trying to reclaim Sunday as the Day of the Lord,” he said. “That’s a big challenge. By and large we’ve lost that through our culture.”

Bishop Kemme and the other bishops in Kansas meet with one another about four or five times a year, and those visits are valuable, he said. He also attends the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meetings. “You know, the life of a bishop can be kind of isolating, so I value very much my time with my brother bishops,” he said.

He also returns home several times a year to visit his parents, Donald and Marita Kemme, who now live in a small home in Effingham. From time to time, his priest friends and former parishioners stop by to visit him in Wichita. He says he remains grateful to all the people he served as a priest and all the friends he made in the Springfield diocese. “All of you helped make me who I am. … I have nothing but gratitude.” 

Bishop Kemme said no matter where he has been in life, he has never once stopped relying on and believing in God’s grace. “It has always been my experience that God helps us all and He gives us the grace to do what we are called to do. God promised the Holy Spirit and when we are open to that, God is ever-faithful, and he walks with us in our lives,” he said. “God is right here, and He never fails us.” 

Want to hear more from Bishop Kemme, including more thoughts on serving his people, God’s grace and his devotion to a particular young person on the road to sainthood? Listen to Dive Deep, the official podcast of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Go to on DATE. 

Anonymous in the diocese

For those who are unfamiliar with the Catholic Church’s devotion to the Blessed Mother, Mary the mother of Jesus, it may seem like the Catholic Church is lifting her up as a god. After all, many churches are adorned with pictures, statues, and images of the Blessed Mother, as well as other saints. So, what is the difference then of worshiping and venerating, in particular with regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary?

The Catholic Church recognizes that there is only One Triune God — the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church also recognizes that only through God are all things created, kept in existence, and saved so that we may have the hope of eternal life in Heaven with God. So, we do only teach that God is God and no one else is. 

We do, however, also recognize that Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection demonstrated to us that God uses intermediaries in this earthly life to help draw others to Himself. He does not do this because He needs to, but because in His love and generosity, He invites us to be a part of His ongoing plan. So, when we look throughout Scripture, and throughout the long history and tradition of the Catholic Church, we see Christ, and His Church, lifting up specific people who have demonstrated by their own lives what it means to be an authentic follower of Christ. Furthermore, since we believe in the Communion of Saints, we recognize that even after a person’s earthly death, they are still connected to us through God, and by the power of God are allowed to intercede for us and help us follow the Lord.  

Therefore, the Catholic Church teaches there are three levels of devotion. First is latria which is what we would know and understand as true worship. This is worship and devotion due only to God and God alone, recognizing Jesus as our savior. 

The next two are devotion not in the sense of worship but rather extreme honor because the Lord lifted them up as part of His plan of salvation. First, there is the Blessed Mother Mary because she was conceived without original sin in order to be the mother of Christ (the Immaculate Conception). She is recognized with the highest respect of created things. We call this respect and devotion, hyperdulia. The saints, because they can intercede for us and pray for us, are given a great respect and devotion that we call dulia. Neither dulia nor hyperdulia are worship, for worship is due to God alone, but rather, a way to remember that God, who created all things, often uses those things He creates to draw us closer to Himself.

Father Marty Smith is pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Jerseyville and St. Patrick Parish in Grafton and is an associate vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021 14:00

Beauty Series - St. Mary Church in Brussels

IMG 6633


Brussels, in rural Calhoun County, an area known in Central Illinois for its tasty peaches, is home to St. Mary Church. It is simple and small, yet one of the most beautiful churches in one of the most beautiful areas in our diocese. The village of about 150 people sits between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers on rolling hills and some dense forests. In fact, this village is named in memory of the first priest in the area, Father John Molitor, a native of Brussels in Belgium. He was also the first priest to be buried in Brussels. 

“The parish history goes back to 1858 when the parish was formed,” said Father Don Roberts, pastor. “Within a short time, they began construction of a church — the keystone on our church is 1863. I think one of the marvelous things about the parish is it is rooted in those who founded the parish. They came here to an isolated area especially during a time with no easy transportation when the parish was formed. The people made every sacrifice possible so that they could live their faith.”

IMG 6631The history of the church is filled with joy and sorrow and then joy again. The first joy was the construction of the original church, which was filled with sacred art and images. It lasted nearly 150 years before a Christmas Eve fire in 2011, sparked by an electrical malfunction in the attic, destroyed practically everything. The people of the parish were devastated. Through hard work, holy dedication, and generous stewardship, a radically restored church was reconstructed and rededicated by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2014. Then-Msgr. Carl Kemme was also in attendance that day. His first assignment as a pastor was at St. Mary in Brussels. He is now bishop of the Diocese of Wichita. The gold crosses on the walls of the church today mark the anointing and blessing of the restored church.      

“I think it was very evident at the time of the fire how this really generated in the minds and hearts of people just a great sadness — there were a lot of broken hearts,” said Father Roberts. “At the same time, as they were dealing with a real sense of loss, I think it drew them closer together which became a strength for them.” 

As you enter the church today, your eyes are drawn immediately to the altar and the area around it, due in part to the striking white color. Medallions found near the ceiling are titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary as found in the Litany of Loretto. The eight stained glass windows depict beautiful images and allow rich colored light into the church. The windows are more than 150 years old and were crafted by a German artisan and retrofitted by Emil Frei and Associates. St. Mary Church acquired them from the Archdiocese of St. Louis where they had been in storage and originally used at St. Boniface Church in St. Louis. Several statues of saints in fine, artistic detail can also be found all around the church. 

IMG 6627“One of the most outstanding features of the church are the windows,” said Father Roberts “They really bring a sense of  the sacred to the church in terms of the sensibilities of people, especially when it is a bright day, we see how beautiful the windows are. It really catches the attention of people. All the statues have been redone, and they really magnify the beauty of what is the original architecture of the church.” 

Today, St. Mary is part of Blessed Trinity Parish, made up of two other churches, St. Barbara in Batchtown and St. Joseph in Meppen. St. Mary School in Brussels has provided continuous Catholic education since 1869 with the current school structure built in 1930.

“Everyone here can basically trace themselves back to the early founders of the parish,” Father Roberts said. “That is a really marvelous thing. Their faith and family are all tied together in parish life and that is one of the things that is really genuine.”

10 17 2021 Blue Mass at Cathedral 2By ANDREW HANSEN 

Police officers, fire fighters, and other emergency responders from different parts of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois came to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield Sept. 28 for a Mass offered for them. Praying for their safety and continued diligence in their work; to thank them for their selfless commitment to taking care of people in our communities; and praying for the repose of the souls for those who died in the line of serving and protecting, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki celebrated the Blue Mass for emergency responders.

“There is risk with everything as it’s part of what we do,” said Carl Hinman, Captain Paramedic with the Springfield Fire Department. “It’s why we are called a ‘higher calling.’ We put ourselves on the line for others. Sometimes, all the help you can get can be the difference between saving someone and not saving someone, and sometimes that help has to come from places that we don’t really understand, and I have seen and even benefited from help from above.”

10 17 2021 Blue Mass at Cathedral 3“Every police officer knows there are moments when they have to have the help of God and it is only the help of God that sees them through that shift,” said Deacon Rob Sgambelluri of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, who is also retired from the Illinois State Police. “The Blue Mass — we pray for that — to pray for that help, pray for that guidance, and pray for protection for all of us and all the people we serve.”

The day began with emergency responders from several different agencies gathering at the Cathedral, followed by the posting of the colors, and then Mass. 

“We believe as Catholics that Christ comes present to us in the Eucharist,” said Bishop Paprocki. “So, for the sanctification of our work as we go forth and we are sent out from this Mass, we believe that we take Christ with us. So, with Christ in our hearts, we send our emergency responders to go out as they do their work to remember that Christ is with them and helping them in all that they do.”

Beyond having Christ within them, first responders say that coming together for this special Mass helps create a more positive culture in our society.  

“Everything that is going on and the narrative that ‘everything we are doing is wrong,’ the Blue Mass is just outstanding to show the support, the outpouring support, the community has, to pray for us that we come home safely and do our jobs efficiently,” said Cheryllynn Williams, the Chief Deputy for the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.

10 17 2021 Blue Mass at Cathedral 4“We believe prayer is good at this time, and it’s imperative that we do this (have the Blue Mass),” said Limey Nargelenas, the Springfield Park District Police Chief.

After Mass, Terrance Gainer was the guest speaker in the Cathedral atrium. He is a former U.S. Senate Sgt. At Arms, Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Director of the Illinois State Police, and is a retired Captain of the U.S. Navy.  

“I think part of this is just to thank the first responders — the police, fire, hospital workers, the ambulance folks,” Gainer said. “These have been a tough couple of years with COVID and some of the disorder across the United States. So, we need to support each other and be there for each other.”

official flier relics of padre pio archdioceses

He is one of the more recent saints in the Catholic Church who was known as a mystic, who suffered the stigmata (wounds of Christ), and could read people’s souls in the confessional. St. Padre Pio, who died in 1968, was an Italian Franciscan friar who was declared a saint by St. Pope John Paul II. 

Catholics are invited to see and venerate relics of St. Padre Pio after the 4 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on Saturday, Nov. 6 and after the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Nov. 7 until 4:30 that afternoon in the Cathedral atrium. Four first class relics and one second class will be available to the faithful to see and venerate. While the event is free, good will donations are appreciated and a second collection will be taken up during one of the Masses.   

QUINCY — Members of the Oakley family, for generations one of the most prominent families in the tri-state region, have made the largest single philanthropic investment in the history of Quincy University (QU). Quincy University is receiving a gift of $6.5 million, thanks to the generous financial support of multiple branches and several generations of the Oakley family. 

This gift represents a substantial new investment in undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, in improvement for several QU academic facilities, and in programs to enhance the student experience and for faculty support. The Oakley gift will have a direct and university-wide impact. Some elements of the gift will specifically support the activities of the university’s School of Business in recognition of the business success that made this gift possible. 

In response to the gift announced and the past philanthropic support extended to Quincy University and the tri-state region by members of the Oakley family, the university will permanently rename its School of Business, which now becomes the Oakley School of Business. Several new scholarships and institutional funds will also bear the Oakley family name. 

“The impact of the Oakley gift will transform the university in many ways and for generations to come,” said QU President Brian McGee, Ph.D. “We are so grateful for the generosity and vision of the Oakley family. Their investment will help the Oakley School of Business build on its strengths in preparing graduates for business careers, consistent with our Catholic and Franciscan tradition and the enduring value of the liberal arts. This gift also will enhance the work and experience of our entire community.”  

Many Oakley family members share a lifelong passion for Quincy University. They have been heavily involved in supporting many organizations in the region, but Quincy University has always been at the core of their community involvement and public service. 

“We are blessed to have great industries, a great hospital, great medical facilities, and wonderful schools that are all hugely important to our region,” said Ralph M. Oakley, a 1980 business graduate and former chair of the Board of Trustees. “Quincy University, however, touches every aspect of the tri-state area through its quality educational offerings and its many religious, cultural and athletic events, along with being a major employer and a driver of economic development in the region. There’s not a part of life that Quincy University does not touch in this area, and I think that is why the university is so important. Like other members of our family, I am a graduate of Quincy University. Because of what we learned at Quincy University, we were able to give back and to help QU continue its mission in the Franciscan tradition.” 

What is the proper hand gesture when praying the Our Father during Mass? Some people fold their hands, some are in orans position (hands outstretched sideways, palms up), and some hold hands with others.
- Diann from Jasper County

As you said in your question, praying the Our Father at Mass is a time when there is not uniformity among all Catholics in the pews. Because we are beings made up of both body and soul, our bodily gestures and postures during Mass are important for helping us enter more fully into the prayer of the Mass. For example, it is helpful to stand during the reading of the Gospel so that we can be more fully attentive to this high point of the Liturgy of the Word. Likewise, it is good to kneel during the Consecration to open our hearts to greater reverence to Jesus’ eucharistic presence. 

The rubrics of the Mass are laid out in a document entitled the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, commonly abbreviated as the GIRM (pronounced like “germ”). The proper hand gesture for priests during the Our Father is clearly laid out, but not for the laity. Paragraph 237 says, “Then the principal celebrant, with hands joined, says the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer. Next, with hands extended, he says the Lord’s Prayer itself together with the other concelebrants, who also pray with hands extended, and together with the people” (The Roman Missal, New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2011). 

The priest frequently prays with hands extended during Mass, especially when he is directing prayer to God on behalf of the people. In his role as the priestly intercessor for the worshipping assembly, the priest gathers the prayers of the people and presents them to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This gesture of having one’s hands extended is a particularly priestly gesture during the liturgy. 

Praying with one’s hands extended in personal prayer can be a beautiful expression of intercession, praise, and worship of God. However, during the liturgy, this gesture has traditionally been reserved to the ministerial priesthood. From what I understand in the rubrics, it seems to be implied that while priests pray the Our Father with their hands extended, deacons and the laity continue to pray with their hands folded. The GIRM gives instructions on what should be done, not on what should not be done. The GIRM does not forbid certain practices, but this does not mean that they are allowed. 

Some families have the tradition of holding hands while praying the Our Father at Mass. This does not seem to be a distraction for them, but in some cases holding hands can become a distraction. I have seen grade school classes forced to hold hands during the Our Father, including holding hands with the people across the aisle, which involves a lot of people moving and making noise. This practice distracts from prayer, and it seems to forget that Jesus Christ himself is present on the altar at this moment during Mass. Some families hold hands when they pray at the dinner table, but for many people, holding hands even with siblings and parents can be an uncomfortable experience. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, and the way to finding true unity among the Church is to find it in Jesus. Any practice that distracts from the Eucharist during Mass is to be discouraged. 

As a priest, I do not envision myself instructing families to stop peacefully holding hands during the Our Father. We have bigger battles to fight, and I honestly don’t think it’s a big deal. However, if a children’s Mass gets derailed by forced handholding, I would absolutely ask them to keep their hands folded and focus on praying to Jesus. 

So, here is my advice: One should not pray the Our Father with hands extended in the orans position like a priest. Holding hands with one’s family or friends is not envisioned by the rubrics of the Mass, but neither is it something that needs to be corrected.

The Church does nothing more important than celebrate the Mass, so it is important for us to discuss issues like this even though they may seem unimportant to some people. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian faith and God is pleased by our loving and reverent worship of Him.

Father Dominic Vahling is parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and co-chaplain at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School.

Monday, 13 September 2021 13:15

Longtime catechist finds joy in teaching

09 19 2021 Sr. Christina Frick teaching 3By Diane Schlindwein
Managing Editor

TEUTOPOLIS — At 81 years old, Sister Christina Marie Frick, SSND, continues to find joy in teaching young children — and she has been teaching so long that many of her original students now have children and grandchildren of their own. In retirement she continues to share the Catholic faith with PSR students at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Teutopolis.

Sister Christina Marie was born in St. Louis and grew up being influenced by women of the order she eventually joined. She attended St. Wenceslaus Grade School, which was taught by School Sisters of Notre Dame. She went on to attend Rosati-Kain High School, an all-girls Catholic high school that was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Like many at the time, her vocation came at an early age. “After graduation I went right into the motherhouse in St. Louis,” she remembers. She made her first profession as a School Sister of Notre Dame in 1960. She has devoted her decades of active ministry to teaching primary grade school students across both the Springfield and Belleville dioceses.

From 1962 to 1970 she taught at St. Paul Grade School in Highland, followed by three years at St. Dominic in Breese. She then moved to Herrin, where she served for four years at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. She then moved to Teutopolis, where she remains today.

Although she officially retired from teaching full-time at Teutopolis Grade School a few years back, she reports two days a week to spend 40 minutes teaching religion to children who attend public school in Teutopolis.

09 19 2021 Sr. Christina Frick teaching 6Sister Christina Marie calls Teutopolis “a very Catholic town.” There was a time when four School Sisters of Notre Dame taught full-time for various grades at the public school. Sister Christina Marie was the last of those sisters to retire. By that time, she was well into her 70s.

“I had a classroom at the school here from 1977 to 2017, and I taught every day,” she said. “Since I’ve retired, I volunteer two mornings a week.” She volunteers at other places, too, she added. 

Students who attend Sister Christina Marie’s class — as well as religion classes taught by other volunteers — begin religion class at 8 a.m. and spend time learning about their faith before their other school classes begin. Sister Christina Marie teaches on Thursdays and Fridays during the school year.

Children who are about 7 or 8 years old are a blessing to teach, Sister Christina Marie said. “They are so innocent, and they are ready to learn, their minds are wonderful.  They aren’t babies but they are not sophisticated just yet.  They are just a special age.

“I thank God for the blessings that Notre Dame has given me in ministry and living in community with SSND. Also, for the joy of preparing children to receive first Communion and first reconciliation,” she concluded.  “I am just so glad to have been a teacher all these years. I really have loved it.”

- Andrew in Springfield

Given the fact that access to gambling has drastically increased in many locations in the last few years, a frequent question being asked is, “Is it a sin to gamble?” The Catholic Church provides a good guideline for this question in Paragraph 2413 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement.”

What this means is that gambling in and of itself is neither good nor evil, it is a moral neutral like money itself is. Money is neither good nor evil but can be used for good purposes or evil purposes. The same goes for gambling. The circumstances around it determine when it becomes problematic or even sinful. 

For example, gambling runs the risk of becoming addicted to the activity and that is where real problems can occur. If someone begins gambling so frequently, or even sporadically, but it begins to have a negative effect on their relationships, finances, or responsibilities at home or work, then extreme caution should be taken. 

Gambling should be viewed as entertainment, in the sense that money spent toward it should not be money that is needed for bills, family needs, or other responsibilities. Just like we may spend money to purchase a ticket to a sports game or a movie, we are paying for something that may entertain us for a given time period, but one should always approach it with the expectation that once that money is paid, it is gone. Of course, with gambling there is always a chance that we may win something, but over the course of time, and especially when gambling frequently, one will most likely lose money.  

That is why no one should approach gambling as a quick way to make money, and risk money they do not have to spend. Nor is it prudent to continue to gamble to attempt to win back what we have lost, especially when doing so requires risking even more money than is budgeted for other responsibilities.  

If gambling starts to cause a strain in our relationships with a spouse, parents, children, or other family members and friends, we should stop, objectively look at the situation, and ask ourselves, “Why is this causing strain? Am I neglecting my responsibility at home, work, or toward my family, friends, church, or community because of my gambling?”  

One thing is certain, the availability and temptation to gamble is very prevalent in today’s society. Gaming machines are found at numerous restaurants, bars, even gas stations. The internet provides numerous sites and phone apps for online sports betting, online casinos, and even online lottery tickets. Internet betting can be a cause of other concerns as well because some of those websites are scams that are designed to steal your money with no way to get it back. Gambling on anything that is morally evil presents its own set of problems as well and should always be avoided. 

Even things like raffles, bingo, and other fundraisers, where we purchase a ticket or chance to win a bigger prize are a form of gambling, even though most times churches or community organizations may use the proceeds from those things to donate toward a charitable cause or institution. 

To reiterate, gambling in and of itself is not good or evil. It all depends upon the circumstances and the consequences it has in our lives, families, and upon our responsibilities. If we gamble, it is best to use moderation, and to treat it as entertainment without the expectation of winning. If we notice signs of addiction when we gamble, or our family members or friends do, take notice, use caution, and seek help so it doesn’t become something that controls and negatively affects our lives. The National Problem Gambling Helpline is 1 (800) 522-4700.

Father Marty Smith is pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Jerseyville and St. Patrick Parish in Grafton and is an associate vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.


Quincy students pack riceStudents from St. Peter’s School in Quincy work, packing rice meals for those suffering after the earthquake in Haiti.  Submitted photoIt was an ordinary morning on Aug. 14 in Haiti when the earth started to shake. As the shaking intensified, homes and buildings started to collapse, screams for help echoed in the streets, and within minutes, tens of thousands of people’s lives were left in ruins. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated the country. First, in the death toll — more than 2,000. Also, in what the earthquake left behind — rubble, chaos, and hopelessness.

Shelly Sands, a teacher at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton who also runs Missions International, a Highland based nonprofit organization that has been performing missionary work for over 30 years in the Caribbean and Central and Latin Americas, saw the images from Haiti and knew she had to help. Missions International has a “sister parish” program that involves connecting Catholic parishes in Guatemala and Haiti with "sister parishes" in the United States who then provide spiritual and financial assistance to their sister parish. Sands’ home parish, St. Paul in Highland, has a sister parish in Haiti. 

“After hearing of the earthquake, I checked on our pastor there, Msgr. Victesse and our sister parish, St. Charles Borromeo (in Haiti),” Sands said. “Haiti has been through so much lately with kidnappings, their president being assassinated, tropical storms, and the earthquake. When his reply was that they were scared and hungry, my heart broke. We had to do something!”

So, Sands put our Catholic faith into action. Sands requested rice meals from the organization Feeding Children Worldwide to have them deliver food to the Knights of Columbus in Highland and Quincy University. Then, on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 246 faith-filled volunteers from schools and parishes in our diocese spent hours packing all the food into boxes. In total, a whopping 18,360 servings of food were packed. From there, a team took the boxes to Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach in Springfield, who then delivered everything to Haiti. 

“Working on the Haiti project, I felt like I got closer to God because I was doing what he wants you to do to serve others,” said Isabelle Boudreau, a student at St. Peter School in Quincy. 

Highland stduents pack riceStudents at St. Paul School in Highland joined other Catholics from parishes in the area, helping pack rice meals for those in need in Haiti.  Submitted photo“It felt very good to do the rice project for those in Haiti affected by the earthquake,” said Sophia Baragree, a student at St. Peter School in Quincy. “Doing something for someone else less fortunate helps us feel closer to God.”

The entire operation, which had to come together quickly due to the dire nature the Haitian people are in, was a testament to putting our faith in action.  In all, 156 volunteers worked for six hours packing food supplies in Quincy. Parishes represented included Blessed Sacrament and the Church of St. Peter, both in Quincy; students, teachers, and parents from St. Peter School, Quincy Notre Dame High School, and Quincy University; and volunteers from St. Thomas Parish in Camp Point made the trip. 

In Madison County, 90 volunteers worked for three hours packing supplies. Parishes represented included St. Paul in Highland, St. Lawrence in Greenville, St. Jerome in Troy, St. Elizabeth in Marine, St. Gertrude in Grantfork, Mother of Perpetual Help in Maryville, St. Boniface in Edwardsville, Immaculate Conception in Columbia, and Our Lady Queen of Peace in Belleville. Students from St. Paul School in Highland were also part of the action.

Helping the people of the Caribbean is nothing new for these Catholics as most of the parishes involved in this emergency food effort have sister parishes in Haiti and Guatemala they help on a yearly basis already. What was different was the speed involved and the helping response from so many in making this effort happen.

“Packing rice meals is not something Missions International normally does,” Sands said. “If a country is not in crisis mode and we send free food, then the local farmers are hurt. It is important to walk with our brothers and sisters and understand the culture. I knew in my heart that this time the food was needed.”


Brendan20Daly20320credit20chiefsPhoto courtesy of chiefs.comDan Marino. Barry Sanders. Dick Butkus. Paul Brown. Marty Schottenheimer. Those are just some names of National Football League (NFL) greats to have never won a Superbowl. Winning just once on the sport’s biggest stage perhaps the biggest stage in the world is a moment every player and coach dreams about.

For Brendan Daly, the Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, he has lived that dream four times.

But getting to the big stage comes with a price. Moving constantly, long hours, working weekends, high stress, and not as much time with family and friends is what Daly has endured since he started coaching in the late 90s. So, how does the Springfield native who attended Christ the King School and Sacred Heart-Griffin High School (1993 graduate) in Springfield deal with the high pressure to win, long time commitments at work, and the constant uncertainty of his future that comes with coaching in the NFL? Leaning on and living our Catholic faith is his answer. 

Catholic Times editor Andrew Hansen interviewed Daly to talk faith, family, and football.

Let’s start first with your time growing up in Springfield and attending Catholic schools. What was your experience like?

It was a tremendous experience for me. I have a lot of fond memories of both of those places (Christ the King School and Sacred Heart-Griffin High School) and lifelong friendships for sure. Those places for me were very special not only for the people I was with in terms of classmates, but some great teachers, some great communities in terms of parents and the values and principles that were instilled in me during those years. Some of my friends have kids at those schools now so it’s interesting to see that dynamic unfold from a distance. 

What did you learn from Catholic education that has helped you in your NFL coaching career and vocation as a husband and father?

 It has been a foundation for who I am. It taught me to put others before myself. It definitely gave me an appreciation for the differences in other people and the will-

ingness to accept other opinions and other cultures and other views. That is probably the biggest thing I have taken from it. Those are things that have served me well. I try to put that into practice with own kids and with my professional life and my personal life and how I live day to day.

Brendan Daly credit chiefsPhoto courtesy of chiefs.comYou have coached at colleges such as Drake, Maryland, Oklahoma State, and Illinois State, and then in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, the then St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots, and now the Kansas City Chiefs. You have certainly had to “keep the faith” as you moved around and up the coaching ranks. How have you leaned on our Catholic faith during what I am sure were plenty of ups and downs and moving to different time zones so frequently?

There have been a lot of moments of euphoric in terms of highs and very disappointments in terms of lows. Trust in God. Trust that He has a plan for us. Trusting that ultimately, I don’t have control over this whole process. There are certain things you can control but being able to let go of things that you don’t necessarily have control over. That faith, that Catholic upbringing certainly comes into play in a lot of those instances. 

I would also say, some of the career decisions I have had to make, and they are not in a negative way as I have been extremely fortunate, but they have been difficult decisions, there has been a lot of prayer there. There has been a lot of prayerful moments in terms of trying to navigate through those decision-making processes. I have always prayed that I would have the open mindedness to accept whatever God’s plan has for me and my family. It has certainly been a journey, not a destination, which I think that is what life is. Certainly, the faith that I have from a Catholic standpoint, I have had to put into play from a navigating life standpoint.  

Your vocation as a husband and father is at the top on your list. You and your wife, Keely, are blessed with three children, one son and two daughters. But the life of an NFL coach is busy and stressful. How do you and your wife make it all work and how do you balance time with your children?

That is definitely a challenge and Keely, my wife, is kind of the glue of our family and holds things together. She does an unbelievable job. I wouldn’t be able to have the career that I have without her and the way she handles our family. That is the first thing. But we do the best we can. I would say, we try to be where we are. When I am at work, I am at work. When I am home, I try to be fully present when I am at home and engaged with the kids. I try to coach their sports teams whenever possible. I coached softball this past spring. I have coached baseball and basketball throughout my son’s athletic endeavors, and I love doing that. We try to carve out time that is special to our family and where we are turning off screens, and we’re going on day trips or adventures or doing things with all five of us together. Those are special times. We all enjoy those moments.  

Brendan20Daly20with20brother20Tim20and20sister20Maura20on20first20day20of20school20at20CTK204th20gradeBrendan Daly, (left) with his sister Maura and brother Tim, attended Christ the King School in Springfield.Sunday — the big day of the week for Catholics — going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist. During the season, NFL games are mostly on Sundays. How do you practice our Catholic faith on those game weekends?

One of the things I have appreciated is, and it has been the case in every NFL team I have been with, whenever we are playing, typically, the evening before the game, there is both a chapel and a Mass that is available to the players, coaches, and support staff. Everyone who is in the travel party. I have always been a regular participant at those. It has been a fun experience in terms of getting to know a number of priests in the various teams and cities I have worked in, but then also as you travel on the road and you are in a hotel somewhere, it’s usually a priest from one of the parishes there that you get to know. So, I have had the privilege of getting to know a lot of different priests and going to a lot of different Masses. I have enjoyed that experience.

So that is day before. The day of the game, we do typically pray in the locker room before and after the game, which I struggle with at times because certainly not everyone in that locker room is Christian, but the aspect of prayer is definitely respected, and I participate in. Some guys choose not to, and that’s fine. But that is one of the things the Catholic faith has taught me — to be able to respect those individuals and the fact they view things differently. 

What is the biggest challenge of a career in coaching, especially the NFL?

There have been many. The constant challenge is getting each individual to put the needs of the team first before their own goals and agendas. That is a constant battle in our society. I don’t think that is unique to my line of work or the NFL. But that is a challenge on a daily basis. It’s one that I enjoy working on. There is nothing more fulfilling than getting a group of people to buy into something that is bigger than them. A greater cause. My Catholic faith has definitely centered me and grounded me in that regard. Humbling yourself and believing in something bigger than you for sure.   

You have won four Super Bowls. Three with the New England Patriots, one with the Chiefs. Most would do practically anything for just one. What is the feeling?

It has been a privilege for sure. I have enjoyed it. It has been a fantastic run. It’s a wonderful feeling when accomplishing that goal. Some of the best moments of my life have been after winning the Superbowl and having my wife and three kids come and run out on the field and join me. That feeling is something I have not been able to replicate.

You still have family in Springfield. How often do you come back to your native city and what are some of the staples you have to do while here?

I love getting back to Springfield. The food. I mean some of the restaurants and places I miss so much. I miss horseshoes, Maid-Right, the pizza places in Springfield I love. I almost always go to SHG and visit with the coaches there, many of whom are still there from when I played. I enjoy meeting with the players who are currently there. Those have been some fun relationships I have built over the years. Washington Park is favorite of mine. I love taking my kids to the playground there, bike rides, and just hanging out with family.  

Who has inspired you the most when it comes to our Catholic faith?

My grandmother (Josephine) and my mother (Anne). That’s kind of where my core roots of my faith originated. They were my first inspiration and mentors. I have had a great family background. Catholic faith and Catholic education have served my family extremely well. I have had some great teachers along the way. Msgr. David Lantz, who was at Christ the King (now at St. Mary in Taylorville) and then taught at SHG, was a tremendous mentor. There have been some very special ones.   

Brendan20Daly20Freshman20year20at20SHGBrendan Daly during his freshman year at SHG.We saw last year Philip Rivers, a former NFL quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers, in his retirement statement mention our Catholic faith and St. Sebastian, as he is the patron saint of athletes. Do you have a favorite saint you turn for help?

I would say I turn to my namesakes. My first name, Brendan, is after St. Brendan, an Irish saint who was a sailor and came to American long before Columbus. And St. Patrick. My middle name is Patrick. Those have been two key ones for me. All the way through my life simply because of my name.  

What is your advice for young athletes today?

My first advice is to simply enjoy the opportunities. Enjoy your youth. Enjoy your ability to be involved in athletics. I would say, don’t turn it into a job. Limit the specialization. Play multiple sports and don’t allow adults to screw it up for you. I think our society has turned to the constant pressure to succeed, gain an advantage, and year-round specialization and club sports. I honestly would like to see kids play everything and enjoy it. Just go to the park and play.  

Quotes taken and edited from an interview Brendan Daly did with Andrew Hansen on Dive Deep, the official podcast of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, that aired on Sept. 3. To hear more from Daly’s interview, go to to listen and subscribe.

FSGM crash 2

Special to Catholic Times

The song It is Well with my Soul was written by Horatio Spafford in the year 1873 amidst deep sorrow and tragedy in his life. In 1871, he had suffered the loss of a 4-year-old son to scarlet fever while at the same time losing a fortune during the great Chicago fire. In 1873, knowing that his family, now consisting of his wife and four daughters, needed a vacation, he sent them on a boat to England with the plan to meet up with them after closing up some business dealings. The boat carrying his beloved family was struck in a terrible collision, drowning his four daughters. After receiving a telegram from his surviving wife, he set sail to be with her in their collective grief. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean, he came upon the sight of his daughters’ graves below the sea. The lyrics of this famous song suddenly poured forth as a prayerful cry from his heart and thus became a hymn of surrender to God with trust and abandonment. It has long been my favorite Church hymn.

FSGM20crash201Sister M. Clementia Toalson, Sister M. Magdalene Diaz, and Sister M. Michael Redding are in good spirits as they continue to recover from the accident. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

As I lay in my hospital bed after a horrific car accident of June 9 on I-55 outside Springfield, I began having vivid flashbacks of the wreck. I could see the blood dripping from my hands, could feel my body at an awkward angle resting in agonizing pain on the dashboard, and could sense the urgency of my beating heart as I considered if the other sisters were alive. In the hospital, sleep became allusive to me, and my eyelids would shoot open in fear. Another sister, recognizing my sleepless state, asked if she could pray over me and with me. As she opened her Divine Office book to begin Night Prayer, she asked for a song I would like for her to sing. My troubled heart instinctively turned to It is Well with my Soul. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the musical notes descended upon me. With all that I had been through and with all that I knowingly would suffer in my recovery, I could honestly say, “It is well with my soul!” A sudden peace took over my debilitating fear as the Lord revealed to me his faithfulness and love in the midst of this tragic event. It was at that moment that I began journeying the path of abandonment, trust, and mercy.

Remembering the accident

Sister M. Magdalene, Sister M. Michael and I were heading to our motherhouse in Alton from our convent in Rock Island.(Editor’s note: they are all Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.) We would be beginning our summer assignments and Sister M. Magdalene would be commencing a new apostolate in her transfer to Alton. Our van was packed with luggage and boxes.

FSGM20crash203The sisters’ vehicle was unrecognizable after the June 9 crash on I-55 outside of Springfield. Along I-55 outside of Springfield, traffic came to a sudden stop in a construction zone and our van was struck at seemingly high speed from behind, sending us into the two cars in front of us. Our van was later described as a crushed soda can or accordion. It was an accident scene in which any passerby would say to themselves, “There is no way anyone survived that.” All three of us blacked out upon the impact and my body was hurled, even with a seatbelt on, to an unexplainable position. The passenger seat I was occupying separated, breaking the back rest from the cushion. My legs were thrown on top of the dashboard and my head rested upon the seat cushion. Later I would discover how impossible — saving all things are possible with God — that my legs were not crushed under the front of the van. When I finally came to, I slowly lifted my hand, saw the blood, and realized I was injured. My next thought, which was clearly impelled by the Holy Spirit, was, “Stay calm. Don’t move.” This mantra repeated in my head, convincing myself that help was on the way.

True to His faithfulness, God immediately showed His love for his brides in sending us a bishop, priest, and seminarian who happened to be traveling through Illinois a few cars behind us. The first on the scene, they spoke to me from the broken window and discovered that we were religious sisters (our veils had flown off at impact). Soon I was anointed, and my hand was being held as I spoke to the priest, asking him questions in total coherence. I began to say, over and over again, “Jesus, I trust in you” as the paramedics and rescue teams arrived. Assessing the situation, they soon realized that my door would need to be pried open with the “jaws of life.”

My left leg was severely broken on the tibia and fibula, three of my left ribs were fractured and there were many unknowns at the time in regard to my spinal situation. Later, it would be discovered that the middle of my back was broken vertically at the jut-out of the vertebrae and another vertebrae was slipping forward. After quite a long time in the trauma room after our transport to HSHS St. John’s Hospital, I was given an Emergency Department room to await further tests. The arrival of the first sister to be with me, console me, and hold my hand brought about guttural sobs as everything I had endured hit me. As I lay in this vulnerable state, more sisters and family arrived, many calls were made, and I was surrounded in utter love.

Compassion in community

FSGM20crash204This picture of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus was the only thing with glass that survived the accident fully intact. In December of last year, Pope Francis declared this year the Year of St. Joseph, which concludes on Dec. 8.Along with the appearance of the first sister to the emergency room, I have experienced a profound understanding of the beauty of my religious community throughout this time of physical and emotional suffering. After my hospital stay, I was transferred to the infirmary of our motherhouse in Alton to recover, heal, and begin physical therapy. As I settled into my new room the afternoon of my arrival, I was surrounded by nearly 30 sisters. Each one had tears in their eyes and had a look of relief washed over their faces.

At that moment, it struck me how the word “compassion” is true to its etymology: “to suffer with.” My sisters suffered through the agonizing unknowns of the accident, the anxious awaiting of any news, and the torment of hearing their sisters were being rescued through the jaws of life. They had to patiently endure the medical updates and the fear of losing one of their sisters. Though their suffering was not physical, it held deep weight emotionally and mentally. Their suffering has lessened my own suffering. I continue to feel that I am being held in a tender embrace by their compassion.

Over the last few months, I have had experienced sisters reach out to assist me in my needs, squashing the lie that I am a burden. Through my daily tasks of tying my shoes, taking care of my personal hygiene, getting my meals, attending medical appointments, going to faraway places in the convent in a wheelchair, and much more, my sisters have been instruments of great healing within my heart. It often happens that God sends to me a sister with whom I might have a previous grievance toward, healing the sin of unforgiveness that was eating away joy within my heart. Sisters have held me in their arms as I sobbed, strengthened me through their prayers, and have given me encouragement when fear settles in. I am so grateful to God for calling me to this community.

Learning abandonment, mercy, and trust

I have not once felt an animosity or bitterness toward the man who hit us. In fact, I have been deeply praying for him. More importantly, I have not once sensed that I have been abandoned by God in this great suffering. Before the accident, like many people, I carried within me a deep wound of abandonment. Through the various events encompassing my life, I struggled reconciling with a God who would allow such deep pain and woundedness. I held on to bitterness and resentment. I allowed my past to control my reactions, my anxiety, and my joy. The accident brought about in me a surrender of this control — I could do nothing to stop the pain but could only give God permission to draw good out of the situation. I saw His presence through every twist and turn and miracle of the wreck. I was not abandoned. I was loved and held. My wound of abandonment had turned into the virtue of abandonment — surrender — to the God who created me and sustains me.

Along with a true sense of abandonment has come a deeper understanding of mercy and trust. The charism of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George is to “make Christ’s merciful love visible.” The deepest and most profound expression of our charism is that of suffering. Coupling our charism with my religious name for Divine Mercy, Jesus has continually drawn me into the mystery of my most wounded parts. The reality of my namesake is that I am called to a deeper trust and intimacy with the Lord through suffering, be it either physical, mental and/or spiritual. Through years of coming to an understanding of the multiple reasons for God naming me for his greatest attribute, I have developed a personal definition of mercy:

Mercy is when my brokenness and sinful misery encounter God’s faithfulness and steadfast love so that we can have access to one another’s hearts through our wounds — me with His and His with mine — resulting in a mutual exchange of trust born as fruit.

Through the accident, I have been drawn into the mystery of His mercy. Jesus has beckoned me to snuggle into his wounded heart to find refuge and protection instead of embracing the lies of fear and abandonment. His pierced side pours out blood and water — the rays of his mercy — which in turn give radiating light that pierces through the suffering of my own wounds.

No wasted suffering

The Venerable Fulton Sheen (Peoria native) once said, “There is nothing more tragic in the world than wasted pain.” My first prayer while in the emergency trauma room was that I might “suffer well.” I have prayed for this grace throughout this post-accident time. Though I may never see the impact of the miracles that took place via the accident nor the fruits of my suffering, I trust that God is using it for His glory.

It is well with my soul in both joy and pain. It is well with my soul because I know that God, in His great mercy, has permitted this accident to draw bountiful goodness out of it. It is well with my soul because I know that Jesus Christ has allowed me to fall into his wounded side so that he may increase through my own suffering. I pray with the Venerable Fulton Sheen and say, “Here is my body, take it! Here is my soul, my will, my energy, my strength, my poverty, my wealth — ALL that I have. It is yours. Take it! Consecrate it! Offer it! Offer it to the heavenly Father with Yourself, in order that He, looking down on this great sacrifice, may see only You, His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.” 

Sister M. Clementia Toalson, FSGM, is in the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton. She is a member of St. Pius X Church in Rock Island, and currently serves as a fourth-grade teacher at Jordan Catholic School.


For several priests and many parishioners growing a garden is just one way to enjoy God’s gifts over the spring, summer, and beyond. Whether the gardens are small or large, sometimes digging in the dirt, planting, weeding, and harvesting are great ways to relax, spend some time in prayer, or even burn off frustration.

Father Michael Meinhart, parochial vicar of St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville, says he is happy to get back to following in his family’s footsteps. “Growing up we always had a large garden. … It just seeps into your being when you grow up doing it,” he said. “When visiting my parents during the summers, I would often still help in the garden. 

“I tried my hand at container gardening a few summers while assigned at parishes during seminary, with varying degrees of success. Last year I tried putting out a small garden in the backyard before I moved in July 1, but it is hard to maintain a garden when you don’t live somewhere yet. This year was my first opportunity to put in a better and more extensive garden.”

4Father Meinhart’s garden contains strawberries, cucumbers, kale, onions, spinach, carrots, turnips, full-size tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green bell peppers, sweet corn, zucchini, yellow squash, watermelon, gourds, sweet potatoes, green beans, Asian cucumbers, and rhubarb.  “I’ve got marigolds and sunflowers throughout,” he said.

Gardening takes time and is worth the effort, but the priests say sometimes their parish schedules mean the plants must take a back seat. “It depends on the week for how much time I put into it,” said Father Meinhart. “I do it as a hobby, so if something doesn’t get done when it should — oh well!  Usually, I work on it on Mondays, my day off.”   

Father Allen Kemme, pastor of Little Flower Parish in Springfield, says he began gardening when he first became a pastor, about 20 years ago. “I gained interest in gardening from my dad.  He had a large garden in our backyard, and he taught me most of what I know about gardening,” he said. “I enjoy working in the garden, being outside and experiencing the fruits of my labor.” 

In his garden Father Kemme grows lettuce and radishes in the spring; green beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes in the summer; and sweet potatoes and honeydew in the fall. He says harvest time is his favorite part of gardening, while he doesn’t really enjoy pulling weeds “and keeping the critters out of my veggies!”

Father Kemme says pulling weeds does give him quiet time for reflection. “Most of my prayerful time comes when I am planting the seeds.  Usually early in the season the weather is pleasant, and planting is kind of an act of creation in itself,” he said and then added, “Sometimes when I am fed up with parish administration, etc., it is really good just dig in the dirt!” 

IMG 2698Father Mark Schulte, pastor of St. Mary in Pittsfield and St. Mark in Winchester, says gardening is “in his blood” as his maternal grandparents were gardeners by profession. Their company was called Frericks Gardens and Greenhouses in Quincy. As a boy, he helped with the family business and then rediscovered gardening again after college. He has small garden plots around the parish grounds, which are mingled among the flower beds. 

“I also operate a large garden with our Knights of Columbus Council on some ground that a parishioner generously lets us use,” Father Schulte said. “We grow most of the common vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, onions, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, cabbage, melons, pumpkins, and peppers.  I started growing oak tree seedlings from acorns this year. I also grow a fairly large selection of perennial flowers and herbs.” 

Father Schulte says he doesn’t have a favorite part of gardening. “It’s all part of a whole. One thing is connected and dependent upon another,” he said. “It is organic just like our Catholic faith (CCC 18). But it is very gratifying watching God’s handiwork in the various plants. There really isn’t anything I don’t like about gardening, even the sweat and toil. I understand how it all goes together, like a piece of art or a fine piece of furniture. The work is simply part of the finished product.” 

Father Schulte says he is a big fan of “abundance.” “I can’t eat everything I grow,” he said. “Most of the produce goes to the Knights of Columbus vegetable stand where the proceeds go to charitable causes. The vegetable stand is on the parish parking lot and people come from all over town and even from some distance to support it.” 

Holy20FamilyAt Holy Family Parish in Granite City, parishioners began a community garden this year. “Through our community outreach program, we felt this would be a good way we could offer assistance to both our community and our parish family,” said Mary Wilkinson, who spearheaded the program. “We offer it as an extension of our food pantry.” 

The Holy Family garden sits next to the parish. “We are lucky, our parish has a parcel of land next to our parish grounds that we are able to use,” Wilkinson said. “Since this is our first year, we started with about eight people working on the project. We had workers preparing the land and building wooden garden boxes. Then we had the expertise of gardeners and workers to help maintain the garden. 

“The garden is available to our neighborhood and parish community,” she said. She said a parishioner, Ricky Smith, built a veggie stand that holds the produce. “Our first goal is to benefit those in need. But we also encourage our parishioners to get veggies because we do not want to see any go to waste.” 

Father Schulte says so much good comes out of gardening. In fact, he believes gardening is form of prayer in itself, “because work is a form of prayer and a fulfillment of God’s will.” “After the fall of Adam and Eve work was no longer an optional thing, but an essential part of fulfilling God’s will.” 

Gardening, and agriculture in general can play an integral part of his homily preparation, he says. “The Gospels are full of agricultural metaphors. … A man will do well to have some familiarity with the soil. Like the plants he cultivates, he will become part of it someday. Even the cemetery is a garden that should be maintained well.” 

As far as priests and gardening, Father Schulte sees a connection. “Gardening can be good training for the priesthood,” he said. “If a man is not willing to sweat and get his hands dirty, he is not likely to be a good candidate for the priesthood.” 

Wednesday, 01 September 2021 08:28

Hey, Father! What is privilege of the faith?

I always heard about the “privilege of [the] faith.” What is it and can it affect a divorced non-Catholic if they join the Church?

                 — Anonymous in the diocese


We keep in mind that Church authority can declare marriages null if one party to the marriage petitions and facts are presented proving nullity. There also exist dissolutions of marriage (we cannot begin to examine any such marriage until there has been a divorce).

For centuries, popes have dissolved marriages which were celebrated but never consummated. In the 20th century, American canon lawyers began to present to popes cases in which at least one party was certainly unbaptized for the duration of common life. They argued that if the pope can dissolve a sacramental marriage (both parties baptized) which has not been consummated, all the more can he allow dissolution of the so-called “natural bond” marriage — one in which at least one party was certainly an unbaptized person throughout the course of common life, and which is therefore, non-sacramental.

So began the granting of dissolutions of marriage “in favor of the faith.” This may refer only to the faith of the prospective Catholic spouse; an unbaptized party is not required to receive baptism. Such a dissolution is looked upon as a “privilege,” in contrast with the vindication of a proposed “right” to have a marriage declared null.

It is understood that this favor is granted personally by the pope. When we are between popes, these cannot be granted. We have to wait for a new pope.

The diocesan tribunal aids the petitioner in preparing a petition and the proving of the facts which must necessarily exist. The key fact is to prove that at least one party was an unbaptized person throughout the time that the parties lived together. We rely on witnesses. Parents are preferred witnesses, but other close relatives and people who have known a party a long time can so act. If the presumably unbaptized party ever attended a church, the tribunal asks that church whether there is a record of baptism. When the tribunal has gathered the necessary proofs, the file is sent to the Matrimonial Section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

A panel of three judges at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) reviews the file and, if they find that the necessary facts have been proved, the petition goes directly to the pope. I have been told that CDF officials have a weekly audience with the pope for this purpose. When the pope approves, the tribunal receives a document reporting that the marriage can be dissolved. The pope does not himself dissolve the marriage; it is understood that the new marriage dissolves the previous one.

So, yes, this sort of case is one way for a divorced non-Catholic to enter a new marriage according to the law of the Catholic Church. 

Father Kevin Laughery, pastor of St. Jerome Parish in Troy and St. James Parish in St. Jacob, has been a judge of our diocesan tribunal since his priesthood ordination in 1983.

If you have a question for the Hey, Father! column, please send it to: Subject: Hey Father! Please include your first name and city.


Dozens of Father McGivney Catholic High School (Glen Carbon) students traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich., last month with Group Mission Trips to exercise authentic discipleship. Thirty-nine students and eight chaperones were sent in crews to different locations throughout the Grand Rapids area for one week and were assigned tasks such as painting, cleaning, building porches, and making repairs to help families in need.Dozens of Father McGivney Catholic High School (Glen Carbon) students traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich., last month with Group Mission Trips to exercise authentic discipleship. Thirty-nine students and eight chaperones were sent in crews to different locations throughout the Grand Rapids area for one week and were assigned tasks such as painting, cleaning, building porches, and making repairs to help families in need.

“The mission camp provides our students with the opportunity to mix hard work, fun, and working with a diverse team with McGivney’s focus on service to others,” said Joseph Lombardi, principal at Father McGivney. “This is one of the many ways we integrate faith into the McGivney experience, with the ultimate goal of fully developing our students — mind, body and spirit. Our students will be leaders. It’s important they see how compassion and humble service to those in need are necessary when taking on a leadership role.”McGivney experience, with the ultimate goal of fully developing our students — mind, body and spirit. Our students will be leaders. It’s important they see how compassion and humble service to those in need are necessary when taking on a leadership role."

Some crews focused on building porches while other crews painted sheds or sides of homes.

“Every year, the group on the mission camp comes back exhausted, covered in paint, and in need of rest,” said Craig Brummer, Father McGivney High School faith formation director. “Yet, at the same time, they come back having grown in their ability to know and love their neighbors and the Lord. This summer’s mission was no different. Tripling in size since the last mission in 2019, this team was led by fearless adult chaperones who handled this week with grace, humility, and generosity. The kids had fun demoing, building, and painting. The adults of the group saw just how satisfying it is to give of oneself, in order to find oneself. In the hardships of what has been a year for the history books, our kids were troopers.

“When we return from an experience like this, we must remember in humility that we are doing what we were created to do, discovering who we are in the process. No one should be ‘impressed’ by this group for what they did, as though it was something extreme, beyond imagination, impossible for the rest of us. Instead, they should be edified, encouraged, and motivated to do the same. Yes, these kids learned how to build porches and paint siding, but that wasn’t the end goal. The work is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end in virtue, humility, charity that we are all meant to strive for. We are called to holiness, to love, to serve, and to give. We must learn how to do this. This mission camp is a week of the year where that lesson is very much at the forefront.”

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