PLEASANT PLAINS — Bill Mowder, a parishioner at St. Augustine Parish in Ashland, has found a significant calling in his retirement. As coordinator of Helping Hands Food Pantry in Pleasant Plains, he and other volunteers make sure that about 60 families a month get the food they need to survive and thrive.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought stress to new levels for many families as parents try to balance working from home, completing schoolwork and countless Zoom meetings, keeping the children occupied all day, and staying on top of all the new government guidelines. Throw in the fact that even before the pandemic, raising children in a world full of secular temptations, was already a daunting task.

EFFINGHAM — Father Mark Tracy, parochial vicar at St. Anthony Parish in Effingham and St. Mary Parish in Shumway, has already been preparing his body and mind before he heads off to complete basic training with the Illinois National Guard June 3 through Sept. 3. Over the past several months, he has been working out and running, even competing against students in a sit-up contest at St. Anthony Grade School during Catholic Schools Week.

Will include locally produced Catholic content

Catholics in and around the Springfield area are now more easily able to listen to Catholic radio programming provided by Covenant Network. On May 18, the St. Louis based Catholic radio network launched a full power FM station, 88.9 FM - WTTT, which will give listeners a stronger signal around the greater Springfield area.

Student demand for Illinois’ tax credit scholarship is at all-time high. This past school year, 377 students in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois received scholarships valued at $1,073,290.31 thanks to generous donations to Illinois’ tax credit scholarship program. When you learn, however, that 1,326 students in our diocese applied, it’s clear the demand is far exceeding the supply.

How Regina Villafuerte’s beautiful voice, amazing musical talents, and her trust in God brought her from Mexico to Effingham

EFFINGHAM — If you were to make the drive between San Juan del Rio, in the State of Querétaro, in Mexico to Effingham, your journey would encompass 1,787 miles and it would take you 28 hours — without stopping. That’s how far away 29-year-old Regina Villafuerte is from where she was born. Villafuerte’s amazing journey from Mexico to Effingham can only be described as providential. Villafuerte has been the director of music at St. Anthony of Padua for about a year now (she is currently working on her R-1 Visa: religious worker — she can only work for St. Anthony Parish). Since her arrival, her charm, commitment to the Catholic faith, and musical talents are bringing a whole new dynamic to St. Anthony Parish.

Before being ordained priests, Deacons Pawel Luczak and Piotr Kosk prostrate themselves before the altar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield May 2 as a sign of humility and submission to God. Later in the Mass, the two were ordained priests by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.

“I believe that I am really chosen by God to be a priest,” Father Kosk said. “As a young man, I felt that this is the way I should follow. I know how important the work of priests is and how badly people need the sacraments and the maternal protection of the church.”

“For me, becoming a priest is about building a personal relationship with Christ. I want to be close to him — as close as possible — and I want to share and lead others to that relationship,” Father Luczak said.

Father Kosk’s first assignment is St. Paul Parish in Highland. Father Luczak’s first assignment is St. Peter Parish in Quincy. Those assignments begin July 1.

On June 19, Bishop Paprocki will ordain six other men to the priesthood for our diocese.

Catherine A. “Cathy” Furkin, a longtime employee of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, died on April 27 at St. John’s Hospital. She retired in 2019 after 25 years of service. Over the years, she was secretary for the Office for Stewardship and Development and an executive assistant for the Office of the Chancellor and Pastoral Planning, the Office for Communications and Catholic Times.

Emma* came to Catholic Charities eight-and-a-half months pregnant and with her 2-year-old daughter, desperate for help with food, diapers, rent, and utilities. The coronavirus closed her husband’s work, and he could no longer provide financially for his family.

A friend intervened and helped them, but another month passed, and it seemed there was no hope in sight — until she found Catholic Charities.

Eight men, representing a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds, who come from different parts of the diocese and the globe, will make history in the coming weeks. That’s when they will be ordained priests at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, making them the largest class of new priests in the diocese since 1964.

Over the past decade, the diocese has averaged about three men every ordination class, so eight this year is a huge jump. So what is happening in our diocese that is positively impacting men and opening their eyes to the priesthood? Vocations Director Father Brian Alford says a big part of it is the seminarians themselves.

On June 19, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is set to ordain Chris Trummer, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Neoga, to the transitional diaconate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. He is the son John and Margaret “Bitsy” Trummer, has an older brother Johnathon “Jonny” and two younger siblings, twins Katrina and Deacon Michael Trummer. This summer, he looks forward to becoming an uncle to twins — his sister’s children.

It’s a common question: Why is my parish priest being reassigned to another parish? This question especially comes up when the priest is beloved by parishioners and then, quite naturally, there is angst about what the future of the parish will look like.

The first thing to remember is that diocesan priests don’t “belong” to a parish, but in fact, belong to the universal church. Diocesan priests, through their ordination by their local bishop, therefore, serve the people of their diocese.

As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the nation, the scandal of human suffering is constantly before us. The nightly news brings us stories of people dying alone, of healthcare workers laboring through fear, and of long lines of struggling families at make-shift food pantries. Amid this unfolding drama, we hear from public health officials seeking to understand how the virus works and what can be done to mitigate its spread — and from politicians wrestling with how to stabilize the economy and what can be done to help struggling families and business. Meanwhile, beneath this swirl of “hows” and “whats” simmers a question that science and civics cannot answer: Why? Where science and civics fail us, Scripture gives an answer which, even if not easy to digest, offers meaning and purpose in place of anxiety and despair.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has launched a new community service called the “Catholic Charities COPE Line” for people who are experiencing situational stress and anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak. The service is free of charge and available to the public for people living in the 28-county service area of the Springfield diocese.

‛Well done, good and faithful servant.’

Every spring Catholic Times recognizes priests who have served in and are living in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and are observing important jubilees sometime in the calendar year. Celebrating a silver jubilee in 2020 are Father Mariadas Chatla and Father Jeffrey Goeckner. The golden jubilarians are Father Don Blaeser, OFM, Father Michael Grawe, OFM, and Father Dennis Koopman, OFM. Celebrating 70 years are Father Peter Donohoe and Father Carl Schmidt. Congratulations to these seven fine priests!

JACKSONVILLE — Citing his “dedication and outstanding job,” the Jacksonville Correctional Center has honored Father Tom Meyer, pastor of Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville, as an Honorary Volunteer of the Year.


Forty parishes in diocese streaming Mass to the faithful; tens of thousands tuning in each week

It’s a new routine for the Manns family in Bethalto. Every day at 9 a.m., the five children (ages 9, 8, 6 and 3 years, and 6 months) join their parents for breakfast, and then they turn on their television to participate in Mass through a Facebook Live stream from their home parish, St. Mary in Alton.

Sunday, 19 April 2020 13:14

Mother of Father Bergbower passes away

EFFINGHAM — Donna Bergbower, Father of Father Dan Bergbower, passed away on March 25 at Lakeland Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Effingham. She was 85.

Donna was born on June 26, 1934, in Scottsbluff, Neb., daughter of the late Leo and Gertrude (Pieper) Lager. She married Don Bergbower on Nov. 25, 1955 in San Diego.

Sunday, 19 April 2020 12:42

Honoring our teachers

Presenting the first annual St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award finalists

We asked everyone from across the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois the following questions: What teacher in our Catholic schools is making a big difference in the classroom? What teacher goes above and beyond, someone whose impact is deep and personal? What teacher authentically lives out what it means to be Catholic and instills our faith into his or her students? What teacher embodies St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded Catholic schools in the United States?

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois continues its efforts to prevent child sexual abuse. Through appropriate educational trainings and screening of all staff and volunteers, our prevention mission continues. Although this year-round job is non-stop, Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to highlight these efforts.

Vicki Schmidt of Springfield may be feeling like she needs the patience of a saint as she awaits the eventual dedication of a very special statue that she and her family commissioned two years ago as a tribute to her parents Robert J. and Donna Bozarth Schmidt. The dedication of the life-size bronze statue of St. Teresa of Calcutta was to have taken place on April 26, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, however the coronavirus pandemic has put the ceremony on hold. For the time being, the statue is being safely housed in an indoor facility.

It’s still hard to be believe we have now had several weeks without Masses available to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. No one could ever have imagined this sort of thing happening. Public health restrictions have modified our day-to-day activities dramatically.

When the going gets tough, the faithful get going. That’s just what has been happening in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois since mid-March, when the threat of the coronavirus shut down Catholic schools and public Masses were no longer available until further notice. For the past several weeks, students have been remote learning, schools have been posting updates on social media, and many parish priests have been LIVE streaming Mass and rosaries.

It sometimes happens in life that we have a great desire to receive the Eucharist but for whatever reason we cannot receive it. Such situations might include a severe illness, an imprisonment, a failure to properly prepare for holy Communion, or the unavailability of the holy Mass, or the current situation with Masses closed to the public due to the coronavirus. Some of these situations are occasional and others longstanding. If we find ourselves in such a situation, what are we to do?

Sunday, 05 April 2020 12:53

Trust in times of trial

Having been in New York City on Sept. 11, the experience of recent weeks feels like walking back through that moment, but in slow motion and at lower volume. Efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have brought life, as we know it, nearly to a grinding halt. In addition to health concerns, the economic impact has now added financial concerns as well. We certainly are living in a remarkable time of uncertainty, change and anxiety. In this moment, however, our Lord’s words in the following passage from Matthew’s Gospel offer great consolation and guidance:

Sunday, 05 April 2020 12:51

What is the triduum?

During Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday (April 5) Lent comes to an end before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which is the beginning of the Easter triduum. The three chronological days are liturgically one day and form what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls “the summit of the Liturgical Year.”

One year after becoming Catholic, Effingham’s Rebecca McIntire is more joyful than ever.

This Easter, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is set to receive more than 200 peopleThis Easter, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is set to receive more than 200 peopleinto the Catholic Church.  Effingham’s Rebecca McIntire was in their shoes just last year. Catholic Times checks in with her to see how things are going, what she loves about the faith, and what we can learn from  her conversion story.

JACKSONVILLE — Lent is an important time to repent and reevaluate one’s life, especially in high school. Every day high schoolers face stress and hardships. They must overcome the temptations of life while finding themselves and their place in the world and in Christ. That’s why students at Routt Catholic High School in Jacksonville are focusing on identity during the Lenten season.

In 2015, Janet Chipman, an English teacher at Routt, began making a Lenten devotional booklet written by and for Routt students. Her brainchild continues to touch the lives of its readers. This year Chipman asked her freshmen and seniors to explore their identity in Christ.

Our priests need our prayers and they need them consistently. That’s the mission behind Seven Sisters, a prayer group at Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham. As part of the Seven Sisters Apostolate, which has local groups in parishes throughout the world, the Effingham group started in January of 2018.

QUINCY — Quincy University’s Board of Trustees entrusted Brian McGee, Ph.D., with Quincy University’s mission during a formal ceremony Feb. 28. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois joined other religious leaders, city officials, community leaders, and members of the campus community in celebration at the official inauguration of Quincy University’s 24th president in St. Francis Solanus Chapel.

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