Doesn’t it seem like it was just yesterday when the world was watching the Cubs win the 2016 World Series in baseball over the Cleveland Indians? Now, here we are and the 2017 exhibition baseball season is already under way. All the great players are gathering with their major league teams and have started their drills, and preparation for “spring time” baseball.
You are only as good as the crowd you hang around.” I remember being told that by a guidance counselor at a school I attended. I probably didn’t want to hear those words of wisdom then, but now at 58, I have come to know how true these words are. In fact, I was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this column because of an experience I had while attending a recent funeral Mass in Quincy.
On Jan. 22, approximately 300 clergy, religious and laity representing the seven deaneries and 129 parishes that make up the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois gathered in prayer with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at our mother church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh have never been under my tree. No one has ever given these gifts to me and I have not given them to others as a Christmas gift. They were the three symbolic gifts that the wise travelers laid at the manger as they honored Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.
I have made a commitment to offer the greeting “Merry Christmas” as many times a day as I can. I applaud the Knights of Columbus who have been strongly supporting this effort “to keep Christ in Christmas.” I do this with no disrespect to any person of another faith. I would hope that in the particular important dates of their respective faith, they would share these moments with me so that I may celebrate with them their faith, too.
It was in the seminary that I truly began to realize how much I took some things for granted. I also learned once I left home that I probably had not been truly a “thankful” person for most of my early life. Certainly I said the word “thanks” enough. But did I really possess a spirit of gratitude? Probably not.
Recently I received an article written by Paula Rehkemper of St. Paul Parish in Highland, sharing with me their success story of a wonderful event hosted at their parish after the four weekend Masses. Paula and her husband Jerry, along with their parish stewardship committee — also made up of Michael and Mary Kay Durbin, Shannon and Dawn Autry, Deanna Harlan, Austin and Shari Meyer, and Eric and Heidi Kukowski — are St. Paul’s representatives who are a part of the diocesan efforts to help bring “Discipleship as a Way of Life” to our diocese and its 128 parishes.
I truly feel it is an exciting time to be a Catholic in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. To be a part of the church’s invitation to create a “Total Stewardship/Discipleship Diocese” and to be a part of the Holy Spirit’s fire and tug has been wonderful. I am blessed and really feel the joy in this role of being director of Stewardship and Discipleship.
I visited with Bishop Eugene Gerber, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Wichita a few weeks ago. I told him about our diocesan efforts to begin to encourage “Discipleship as a Way of Life” as has been the “way of life” in his diocese since the early 1980s. (Wichita is the only diocese which is 100 percent a total stewardship [discipleship] diocese in the United States.)
Have you ever been to Kirchenfest? Every year on the fourth full weekend of August, St. Paul Parish in Highland opens their doors and hearts to an average, I once heard, of over 15,000 attendees for their weekend parish picnic. In German, “Kirchenfest” means church (kirchen) festival/picnic (fest). It is an amazing event filled with countless examples of “discipleship,” especially in the stewardship of time, but likewise in the stewardship of talent and treasure.