By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
GRANTFORK — On Sunday, May 15, parishioners from St. Gertrude Catholic Church will welcome Bishop Thomas John Paprocki for a celebration of their parish supporting Catholics in Grantfork for 150 years. Bishop Paprocki will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m., followed by a luncheon in the parish hall.
St. Gertrude was established on Sep 1, 1870 — way back when Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. At that time, a group of approximately 30 Catholic men from the Grantfork vicinity (then known as Saline) met with Father P. Peters of St. Paul Church in Highland to form a church for their community. It was a few years before a simple brick structure, housing only those things necessary for worship, was completed in 1872. It stood on a block of ground donated by John Bardill of Grantfork.
The parish was served by priests from St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Marine until January 1880, when Father Michael Weis became the first full-time priest. By that time, the parish consisted of approximately 70 families.
A rectory was built in 1878. Classes were also held there until the school was built. The original church was remodeled and enlarged in 1880 and on Sept. 15, 1881, the church was dedicated by Bishop Peter Baltes from Alton. Concluding this dedication, Bishop Baltes confirmed 39 people.
The current church was built in spring of 1904 (using suitable material salvaged from the old building) and completed for a June 12, 1905, dedication by Bishop James Ryan from Alton.
A new rectory was built in 1948 and was then demolished in 2020. The parish hall (formerly referred to as the confraternity hall) was completed in 1968. It was dedicated on May 26, after which Bishop William A. O’Connor of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois administered the sacrament of confirmation to both children and adults of the parish. The pastor at the time, Father Edward Groesch, said the cost of the building was kept low because men and women of the parish volunteered their help with the painting, shingling, and tiling the ceiling.
Over the years, there have been many changes made to the church and parish hall. Following the Second Vatican Council, interior changes were made in the current St. Gertrude Church so that liturgical guidelines would be followed. Those changes were made in 1972 for the 100th anniversary. Bishop O’Connor offered a Mass at the parish in honor of the occasion.
Tradition is important to the parishioners in Grantfork. The annual chicken dinner held on the first Sunday of June began in 1969 and was held through 2019 until being cancelled due to COVID restrictions. It will return this year as a drive-through only event and will hopefully eventually return to its earlier form in the future.
Father Paul Bonk, the current pastor, was appointed pastor of St. Gertrude Parish in 2018. This appointment also included St. Nicholas in Pocahontas and Immaculate Conception in Pierron. The current congregation of St. Gertrude consists of 94 families who make up the active and ambitious parish. Quarterly meetings are held by the Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Committee and the Altar Society meets various times throughout the year. The Parish School of Religion (PSR) classes are now coordinated by a lay coordinator who is backed up by the parishioners.
Father John Farrell (now deceased) was the first to be ordained from St. Gertrude Parish in 1943. Father Pat Jakel was the second to be ordained from the parish. Father Jakel served as pastor or St. Gertrude for two years just prior to his current assignment as pastor at St. Paul in Highland.
Father Jakel says the pastor at St. Gertrude during his teenage years, Father Henry Schmidt, was a profound influence on his personal vocation. “I always wanted to be a carpenter, get married and have children; however, over the years, Father Schmidt would say to me, ‘Pat, God is calling you, but you’re not listening.’ … It was at the end of that summer (after high school graduation) that I finally answered God’s call,” he said. “Due to the great support of Father Schmidt pulling strings, within two days I entered our Diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception on Lake Springfield.
“Now after almost 37 years of priesthood, 34 of them as a pastor, I reflect back on the people who influenced me. First was my parents and family, then my parish priests, my friends, and lastly, but not least, my parish family of St. Gertrude, Grantfork. I started to list the families at St. Gertrude who were my influencers, but the list became too long.”
Father Bonk has had various committees formed and several events have been planned for throughout the anniversary year. On Sunday, Feb. 27, a kick-off Mass was held at St. Gertrude. St. Gertrude parishioners will also be taking part in the annual Grantfork Homecoming which takes place in August. On Sept. 18, there will be a 10 a.m. joint church service with the Grantfork United Church of Christ, which is also celebrating their 150th anniversary. The service will be followed by a pot-luck lunch. The Feast Day of St. Gertrude is Nov. 16, and on Sunday, Nov. 13, at the 8 a.m. Mass, St. Gertrude will celebrate their closing Mass of their 150th anniversary year.
Lawrence Schwarz, one of the three current lifetime members of St. Gertrude Parish, is compiling information for a book which will cover the history of the past 150 years.
Father Bonk says he feels very honored to be the current pastor at St. Gertrude and to be able to participate in the events planned for the special celebrations of the 150th anniversary year.
MaryAnn Frueh, a parishioner at St. Gertrude Parish, contributed to this article. Additional information came from newspaper clippings from Western Catholic and Catholic Times.
St. Gertrude Parish in Grantfork is celebrating 150 years as a parish this year. Bishop Paprocki will be celebrating a Mass there on May 15.
By ANDREW HANSEN
EDWARDSVILLE — When Kayla Bridick, a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), took a class called Biblical Studies, the senior from Granite City said it was one of her favorite classes, but it opened her eyes to how little she knew about Scripture. For Joshua Coleman, a graduate student at SIUE, he was simply “coasting” through his faith life. Both of these students were in different places of their life spiritually, but they both recognized they desired something more. Little did they know that hunger would be filled through a Bible study, organized by FOCUS, a team of young adult missionaries serving on campus.
“I have been able to shape my understanding of the Bible through the Catechism, Catholic social teaching and doctrine, and at the same time, I have been invited to pray with Scripture and make connections with what the Lord is trying to say to me personally in my own life,” Bridick said. “This year, I have been lucky enough to take on the role of being a leader of my own Bible study group. Because I had witnessed such incredible transformations in my own relationship with God through Bible studies, I knew I wanted to help invite other women to do the same. I expected the Lord to provide everything I needed, but in His usual fashion, He has provided even more than I could ever have imagined.”
“I have enjoyed not only the amazing community and friendships that I have formed, but the deeper understanding I have begun to develop about the Gospel,” Coleman, an Edwardsville resident, said. “Through that deeper understanding, I have been able to continue to grow in depths of my relationship with Christ that I never thought I would enter.”
These weekly Bible studies started in 2020 when FOCUS came to campus. This year, there are 11 different groups (men and women groups), with about 70 students as regular participants and at least 100 students have joined at least once.
Some of the Bible studies are led by FOCUS missionaries, while others are student led. They begin with a prayer and then the flow normally goes: Scripture, questions, discuss, and repeat. Fellowship usually follows afterward.
“I love to watch God’s grace move by seeing people grow in their relationship with Christ over time,” said Willie Jansen, the leader of the FOCUS team. “If someone is faithful to showing up and taking the next step Christ is inviting them into, He leads them on an incredible journey, and it has been fun to watch students walk this path. This highlights a key part of these Bible studies — they are deeply and intrinsically relational. So, while so much happens in the 60 to 90 minutes of Bible study, a lot happens in the time spent and conversations we have outside of that time.”
Jansen has seen firsthand the impact these Bible studies are having on students.
“One of the many graces from Bible studies this year comes from a male, student led study,” Jansen said. “Early in the fall, Luke invited one of his classmates named Josh to join his Bible study. Josh accepted the invitation and has been loving it. He was not raised in any faith tradition, so he is taking a lot in. Josh has been joining for Mass, community events, and service with the Missionaries of Charity. This is a great example of what we hope for these Bible studies — these two men are not just in a Bible study together. They have an authentic friendship that is orienting their lives in the direction of Christ and His Church. It all started with a simple invitation, and it continues through real friendship, both with the other and with Christ.”
Bridick can relate. Her group consists of four women who meet once a week to pray with Scripture, share in joys and sorrows of the week, and just be with each other.
“My favorite thing about the study is that we are able to just be honest, vulnerable, and real with one another,” Bridick said. “On college campuses, it can be hard to find a safe space to connect with like-minded people especially on the topic of faith. I’ve been told many times by all of the women in my study that being a part of this group has changed their life — both spiritually and personally — and that it is the best part of their week.”
For Coleman, he says the Bible studies have helped him better understand the deeper levels of our faith.
“There have been more ‘Now I get it!’ moments than I can count, but I think my favorite ones have been going through the Salvation history and growing in my understandings of Christ,” Coleman said.
While these weekly Bible studies are part of the SIUE Newman Catholic Community, they happen in places such as dorm rooms, apartments, and other places.
“When people hear the words ‘Bible study,’ I think many people think of a Theology class or they assume they must perform and have a lot of previous knowledge,” Jansen said. “While I do hope the students are learning so much about who God is, who they are and what His plan is for their life, ultimately, I hope Bible studies lead students to deep covenantal relationship with Christ and His Church for a lifetime. I hope Bible studies lead them to a deeper receptivity to Christ in His sacraments. I hope it leads them into more receptive and consistent daily prayer lives. And I hope it leads them to an unshakable faithfulness to the Church’s teachings.”
“As a Bible study leader, I have been hearing the voice of God and learning about my relationship with the Father in a whole new way,” Bridick said. “In order to lead my group of women well, I have to constantly be in relationship with and relying on the Father to provide everything we need.
“I can’t imagine where I would be in my faith journey without the community that the Lord has placed around me, whether it be as simple as a friend sitting next to me at Mass when I’m feeling alone or something larger, such as being pushed to spend my summer in another state with other students focused solely on growing in our faith,” Coleman said. “Each moment every day with this amazing community plays a pivotal role in pushing me closer to Christ.”
Honoring our teachers
Presenting the third annual St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award
We asked everyone from across the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois what Catholic teacher in our 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?
The Office for Catholic Schools and Office for Communications for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, organizers of the award, received a record number of nominations — 72 teachers in all — from principals, teachers, parents, priests, previous students, and current students this year. A team consisting of former educators in our diocese poured through the nominations and read all the stories of impact about each teacher, narrowing the list to five finalists, which Catholic Times presents in this edition along with quotes taken from nomination forms. Catholic Times will reveal the winner of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award in the May 15 edition. Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination and thank you to all our teachers who work so hard!
Sacred Heart School, Effingham
“I first met Mrs. Wenthe when my oldest son began school at Sacred Heart School in 2013. My first impression of her was that she was someone who lived her faith in her life, every day, all day. It was apparent to me that God was center in her life and that resonated with me because that was something that I needed to work on in my own life. Seeing her was a great example for me. Mrs. Wenthe reinforces religion all day long and integrates it into her teaching. This is natural for her because she chooses to always keep God first in her own life. Mrs. Wenthe volunteers her time to stay after school and help students who need a little more time with her. It is important to her as an educator that every child succeeds, and she makes that happen by going above and beyond with giving of her time and talents to her students. She also volunteers her time to teach for our PSR program. She serves as a greeter for Mass, is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and helps with social events.”
Billi Jansen, colleague
“I have known Mrs. Wenthe for eight years and in those eight years, I have worked with her in a variety of roles. She has been a principal, teacher, volunteer, and one of my beloved parishioners. In every role, she has taken and in every day of her life, she puts God first and lives her faith.
“Currently, as our fourth-grade teacher, I see Mrs. Wenthe focus on the academic excellence in her classroom, while maintaining Christ in the center of her lessons. She volunteers her time to tutor her students after school if they need extra help. She is a disciple of Christ and gives of herself to help others.
“Mrs. Wenthe joins me for prayer in church on a regular basis, and this also brings her closer to Christ. She understands the importance of time with God and shows her students that also. She ensures that they are shown the importance of prayer by bringing them to church during the school day.”
Father Michal Rosa, pastor
St. Paul School, Highland
“My daughter was blessed to have Mrs. Tallman as her second-grade teacher. Mrs. Tallman is innovative in the way that she teaches her students, and she loves and cares for her students like they are her own children.
“When my daughter, Lillian, entered second grade, I was concerned about her reading abilities. Mrs. Tallman quickly noticed her challenges and reached out to me. From that point forward, she did anything and everything she could to support Lillian. Her expertise even helped her to realize that Lillian had a tracking problem and was in need of glasses. But she did not stop there. One of the things she knew about Lillian is that Lillian likes reptiles. Mrs. Tallman is an animal lover herself, and she had a bearded dragon at home that was no longer getting much attention from her own children. With our permission, she asked Lillian if she would like to take the bearded dragon, Lizzy, and take of her care of her for a while. One thing about Lizzy is that she really likes being read to, and Lillian would have to take time reading to her new friend. After a few months of Lizzy staying at our house, Lillian’s reading scores began to improve. To reward Lillian, Mrs. Tallman surprised Lillian by presenting her with an adoption certificate. A year later, Lizzy has become a part of our family. She is a constant reminder of the hard work Lillian has put in and of what a caring teacher Mrs. Tallman is. At the start of second grade, Lillian scored in the third percentile on her readying test and this year, she has moved up to the 56th percentile. Mrs. Tallman exemplifies what the love and support of a wonderful teacher can do for a student. She is truly an example of a teacher who brings light and love to her students in the same way Christ does for His followers.”
Susanne Himsel, parent of student
“My son, Matthew, struggled with reading, and that had led to behavior issues in first grade. We worked with him constantly, and he made little progress. With COVID and all the changes, it was a battle. Starting in second grade, he just wasn’t confident. Before the school year started, I spoke to his new teacher to make sure everyone knew he might need extra help. She was very reassuring and confident they could work on it.
“About a month into the year, Matthew had changed. He had so much excitement to go to school each day! His reading level improved to his grade level. I sincerely couldn’t believe it. Matthew also received the Viking Award from the principal based on his kindness and behavior at school.
“We have four children, our oldest graduating from Father McGivney Catholic High School in 2018. We have experienced a lot of different teachers and teaching styles. I have never been so impressed with the attention, understanding, and passion Mrs. Tallman gives all her students. I am extremely grateful for all of the extra love and attention she has given Matthew.”
Suzanna Bushur, parent of student
St. Agnes School, Springfield
Junior high literature teacher (grades, 6, 7, 8)
“Mrs. West always makes sure her students, no matter what their background or skill level is, understands and comprehends the material she is teaching. She spends so much time preparing lesson plans that meet the needs of all students. She also tries to make learning fun for the students by preparing activities to play on ‘Fun Friday’ that are related to the curriculum that is being taught. Mrs. West has improved mine and many others’ understanding of English and reading, and I feel like she has very much prepared us for high school, college, and beyond.”
Emma Johnson, current student
“Mrs. West is always in a good mood no matter what. She always has a smile on every day. Mrs. West constantly strives to make sure every student gets the education they need and gives everyone enough time to complete any assignments. She is always focusing on the mental health of the students and worries about how each student feels. Every day at the start of class, she asks us how our day is going, as a way to ‘wind down’ as it comes toward the end of the day. She gave me great advice that I still keep with me today. She told me, ‘Separate yourself from people who put you down.’”
Gloria Ayilisungu, current student
St. Mary School, Brussels
Third/fourth-grade teacher, fifth/sixth-grade language arts teacher
“Mrs. Tepen exemplifies the ideal Catholic school teacher. She instills a love of God in all her students and her reach extends to each child’s entire family. She teaches with joy, love, and understanding. From the moment I saw in her parent orientation, I was in awe of her passion. She read the Starfish Poem, highlighting how small acts can make a big difference. In a world where it is easy to be distracted on what is important, Mrs. Tepen is focused on her faith and leads by example for all her students.
“One of the most impactful aspects of Mrs. Tepen’s teaching is her handwritten notes for each student. During parent-teacher conferences, she presented a three-page written letter highlighting my child’s strengths in the most beautiful words. She eloquently included areas my daughter needed to work on but made sure to express that all children have different talents, all children are not on their best behavior every day, and through all of it, God loves them.
“Mrs. Tepen has been a teacher at St. Mary School for more than 20 years. Without a doubt, she has made a positive difference for every child blessed enough to be part of her classroom.”
Renee Rose, parent of student
“Mrs. Tepen will do anything for her students. She got to share the miracle of being a grandmother with all of us, her students. She is very dedicated to being Christlike and holy. She loves God with all her heart. She is really sweet and an amazing teacher. At Lent, she hand- makes boxes for students to put money in for the missions. She inspires me to be the best version of myself. She helps us all to love God, learn about God, and spread the Gospel. She loves anything Christlike.”
Conley Klocke, current student
Our Lady of Lourdes School, Decatur
Religion teacher (grades 3, 5, 6, 7, 8)
“Mrs. Keller organized over 60 students and led them during the March for Life. She spent hours during the weeks before explaining and teaching our Catholic belief that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death. She walked alongside the students. I’ve always likened her to our very own St. Mother Teresa. Finally, Mrs. Keller makes every student feel loved. I’ve seen her wrap her arm around the shoulder of a student and say, ‘I love you,’ and “I hear you.’ You cannot be in her presence and not feel joy!”
Elizabeth Wherly, parent of a student
“Mrs. Keller has been a pillar of Catholic education in Decatur for many years now. She taught for 25 years at St. Teresa Catholic High School, and everyone I’ve met who has had Mrs. Keller as a teacher loves and respects her greatly. With her at Our Lady of Lourdes, I watch the way her students interact with her, and I’m so impressed. She has their affection, their attention, and their utmost respect. When I’m in her classroom, I watch as student after student come in to give her a hug or tell her ‘Good morning.’ They truly love her — and she takes a vested interest in every aspect of their life. When they need to be loved and healed from the difficulties of young adolescence, Mrs. Keller is there. When they need to be challenged to rise to a better version of themselves, she is there.
“As a religion teacher, she is not teaching them — she is modeling for them what true discipleship is. I see this especially when Mrs. Keller has to challenge them to love and respect each other more. She simply does not shy away from the difficult conversations, but the way in which she addresses them with love and sympathy is unparalleled in my experience. I’m truly grateful to have her as a teacher at my school! I enjoy seeing her love for the students, and it’s a privilege to see the care and generosity that she has reached now with a second generation of students in Decatur.”
Father Michael Friedel, pastor
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
On Wednesday, May 4, priests from around the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will gather at Villa Marie Retreat Center on Lake Springfield for a day of celebration. That day they will hear from special guest and speaker Bishop Michael McGovern, of Belleville. Additionally, they will take part in Evening Prayer, a social hour, and a dinner, after which Bishop Thomas John Paprocki and the priests will honor several priests who are celebrating Jubilees this year. Those priests include Father Louis Schlangen and Father Henry Schmidt, who are celebrating 65 years; Father Philip Kraft, Father Jerry Wickenhauser, MM, and Father Joseph Zimmerman, OFM, who are celebrating 60 years; as well as these priests who are celebrating 50 years or 25 years of priesthood:
Father John Beveridge
Springfield native Father John Beveridge grew up in the see city, where he, his parents and his siblings were members of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish. He attended Ss. Peter and Paul Grade School and then graduated from Griffin High School in 1964. He began his studies for the priesthood at the Diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception on Lake Springfield and attended St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, Ark., before continuing his studies at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Quincy, and then completing his training at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis. On May 27, 1972, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop William A. O’Connor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.
Over the last 50 years, Father Beveridge has held a number of assignments. He was an assistant at St. Paul in Highland from 1972 to 1976, at St. Anthony in Effingham from 1976 to 1980, at Our Lady of Lourdes in Decatur in 1980, and at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield from 1980 to 1984. In 1980 he was also a pastoral consultant in the Catholic Education Office.
He was named parochial administrator of St. John the Baptist in Quincy in 1984, before being named pastor there that same year. He remained pastor at that parish until 1999. He was also pastor of St. Brigid in Liberty and St. Thomas the Apostle in Camp Point from 1991 to 1994. He was dean of the Quincy Deanery from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, Father Beveridge was for a brief time parochial administrator of All Saints in Quincy. In 1999 he also began his longest assignment when he was named pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in Collinsville, where he has been serving for almost half of his priestly life.
“It is a very humbling experience to look over all these years and realize how quickly they have gone,” Father Beveridge said. “There are many challenges, yet the Lord is always there, healing and strengthening for the mission that needs to be done. Each year has been a blessing whether it held a challenge, a question, or sheer joy and happiness.”
He says the Eucharist is his greatest joy. “It is the Easter celebration all over again. To share in that same Eucharist that has taken place over these many centuries brings me to my knees. He loves us with such a deep love, despite our weaknesses and sinfulness.”
Developing ministries, identifying gifts, and helping people use them for the good of the community is one of the most important parts of being a pastor, he said. Through it all, his parishioners have “embodied God’s love in an extraordinary way.” “May God bless them for their love, prayers and support over these many years,” he said.
On July 1, Father Beveridge will be assigned as pastor emeritus of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Collinsville.
Father Richard Chiola
Another Springfield native, Father Richard Chiola, was ordained by Bishop William A. O’Connor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 27, 1972.
Looking back, Father Chiola says he was blessed to grow up surrounded with family and friends “who knew Jesus, went to church, and prayed.” He especially credits his late mother, Faye Chiola, for helping him discover his vocation.
His first assignments were as associate pastor of St. Thomas in Decatur, St. Agnes in Springfield, and St. Bernard in Wood River. From 1984 to 1988 he was parochial administrator and then pastor of St. Louis in Nokomis and St. Barbara in Witt.
“I remember after seminary I felt the need to continue my study of theology, so that I could explain our Catholic faith more clearly. Study and prayer kept me close to God. I did my postgraduate studies while I worked in parishes,” he said. He says the Ignatian Exercises, the 30-day retreat, was “formative of my prayer and practice of spiritual direction … .”
Father Chiola has a Ph.D. in historical theology and a master’s in human development counseling, is a licensed professional counselor and certified sexual addiction therapist, worked in the Tribunal, and has taught at various universities. He worked with the Franciscan Hospital Sisters on integrating the Catholic healthcare mission in their hospital system. For more than a decade he was a therapist and spent a few years teaching doctors how to become psychiatrists at SIU School of Medicine. Additionally, he has authored a book and served for a decade on the U.S. Catholic China Bureau’s Board of Trustees. He also gave retreats and workshops with the Missionaries of Charity in Central and South America.
After many years teaching and serving in other areas, Father Chiola returned to the Springfield diocese. “When my father was dying in 2000, I moved back to the diocese until retirement,” he said. He was diocesan director for the ongoing formation of clergy for six years and the delegate for clergy health and wellness for three years. He was parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament in Springfield, at St. Agnes in Springfield, parochial administrator of St. Augustine in Ashland, and finally pastor at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Springfield from 2004 to 2015, when he became pastor emeritus at that parish. He also served as parochial administrator at St. Joseph the Worker in Chatham in 2016.
Father Chiola is currently writing another book, continues to work as a spiritual director, assists in parishes as needed, and sometimes gives retreats and workshops in various dioceses and to religious women. “Next fall, I will teach a course in pastoral care at Aquinas Institute, a Dominican graduate school of theology in St. Louis. And this summer I will conduct a reading course for a priest from a Chinese seminary,” he said.
Looking back on the priesthood, Father Chiola surmises that he emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus, and prayer. “There is one thing that cannot be avoided, that is suffering. Priesthood is not a career but a sharing of fullness of what the Spirit of God is doing in you. You will only be as compassionate toward God’s people as you are aware of God’s compassion toward you.”
Father George Nellikunnel
Father George Nellikunnel was born into a traditional Catholic family in India and entered the seminary as a teenager in 1984. He was ordained a priest on April 30, 1997. “My parents were farmers, and I am the third in line of seven children,” he said. “My sisters and a niece are religious sisters.”
During his earlier years as a priest, Father Nellikunnel served in a variety of places, often with youngsters. “I have participated in the International Catholic Agriculture Rural Youth Movement with my training in Germany and Sri Lanka. I have participated in the World Catholic Youth Day in Germany and Asian Catholic Youth Day in Hong Kong and in India, also worked for six years as a regional youth director in rural areas of Western and Central India and organized national and regional youth conventions for 16 dioceses.
“I was very active with many youth groups and organizations in India,” he said. “I served as a pastor, manager, and principal of a school in Delhi for three years and then continued to work in the African land of Zambia as a pastor.”
Having worked in the African mission areas of Zambia, Father Nellikunnel was asked to discern work in the United States and to support the Zambia mission. “Then the Springfield diocese needed priests and I was asked to come and minister to the diocese,” he says. He came to work at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, where he served as chaplain from 2014 to 2019. He has also been in various parishes, serving as pastor of St. John Vianney in Sherman from 2015 to 2021, Holy Family in Athens from 2019 to 2021, and at St. Aloysius and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, both in Springfield, from 2021 to the present time. Before COVID, he was able to visit his family in his home country once a year.
Although he was incardinated with the Pallotine Fathers and Brothers, he is now ad experimentum in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. “What I like here is the vibrant Catholic communities, rooted in Jesus Christ with the spirit of joy and collaboration and sharing Jesus through Eucharistic celebration,” he said. “The favorite aspect of my priesthood is the celebration of the Eucharist. Every priest is called to be a eucharistic priest. Without priests there is no Eucharist and without Eucharist there is no salvation.”
Father Nellikunnel says the sacrament of confession is also especially important. “Another favorite sacrament for me as a priest is confession, because I have found unconventional mercy of God in it,” he said. “If I am merciful to others in my ministry and teaching, it is because I have been shown great mercy. Confession has proven to be the reminder of my own weakness and need for the mercy of God to live well this earthly life.”
When a young man believes he has a vocation to the priesthood, Father Nellikunnel suggests “praying well to make the right decision” and “trusting in the Lord and His plan.” “It is not your desire, but God’s call and you need to make lots of sacrifices to follow the path of Jesus,” he said. “Attend daily Mass and pray the holy rosary. The Blessed Mother will inspire you and guide you to take the right choice.”
Father Mark Schulte
Father Mark Schulte was ordained May 24, 1997, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. Prior to becoming a priest, he was in the Army, where he was a skydiver and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. He then received a degree in agronomics (crop science) and worked as a production manager for various tree and shrub nursing productions. However, his vocation to the priesthood was with him for years, he says.
“I was ordained a priest at the age of 45. But the calling to priesthood started long before that,” he said. “There was no particular event that influenced me to be a priest, but many smaller things along the way, such as a strong Catholic family life while growing up, being an altar boy, praying the rosary, devotion to the Blessed Mother, and reading Catholic devotional books.”
Father Schulte’s first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Agnes in Springfield. While serving there he also spent a year as chaplain for the University of Illinois at Springfield. From 2001 to 2005, he as pastor of St. Bernard in Wood River, and also spent 2004 to 2005 leading St. Matthew in Alton. He returned to Springfield from 2005 to 2010 and was pastor of St. Aloysius. Since 2010, he has been pastor of St. Mary in Pittsfield and St. Mark in Winchester.
“Every parish is unique in its own way, whether it is a larger parish with a school, or a small-town parish,” he said. “My favorite aspect of being a priest is having the opportunity to minister to people in various stages of their life, but most importantly, having the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments — especially that of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. My favorite sacrament is the holy Eucharist. The mystery of the holy Eucharist, celebrating the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is all-encompassing.”
When he isn’t serving his parishioners, Father Schulte likes to spend his time outdoors. He once walked 85 miles raising money to fund a new altar during a renovation project for his church in Pittsfield. “I continue to walk the neighborhood for exercise, but I still hike through the woods and hill country. Walking is an excellent way to pray and meditate.
“I do like to grow things in a garden and in the flower beds,” he said. “My background is in agriculture for the most part. But I also love to read, hunt, fish, and just generally spend time in the outdoors. I have always found it easy to encounter God in His creation; in the mountains, along the river, in the woods and walking in a beautiful field.”
Father Schulte says that the past 25 years as a priest “have been very rewarding” and adds, “Any man who thinks he has a vocation to the priesthood should pursue it.”
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
EFFINGHAM — When Father Michal Rosa, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham, first heard of the Russian attacks on Ukraine — and the plight of the people fleeing their home country for Poland — he was naturally concerned. His parishioners, knowing their pastor had grown up and was ordained in Poland, were especially eager to help the refugees and asked Father Rosa what they could do. Of course, he first requested that they pray.
However, in March “after much consideration and prayer” Father Rosa decided to reach out to his friend, Father Marcin Kokoszka, to see if the Effingham parishioners could also help financially. As luck would have it, Father Kokoszka had already planned to travel to see Father Rosa in Effingham, so the two friends went ahead with their visit. Together they also met with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Rosa says he knew Father Kokoszka, who lives in Poland two and a half hours from the border of Ukraine, would know what to do. Moreover, Father Kokoszka, who is the economist for the Diocese of Tarnov, has personally been actively involved in helping Ukrainian refugees.
Father Kokoszka agreed that if money was collected, he would ensure the funds were used to help the people in need. By the time Father Kokoszka completed his visit to the Springfield diocese and was set to return home, Sacred Heart parishioners had already donated close to $31,000. That money was carried to Poland by Father Kokoszka. Since that time the parish has collected nearly $8,400 more, with donations still coming in, from Sacred Heart parishioners and some others as well.
“Growing up in Poland, Ukraine is Poland’s neighbor, three hours away from my parent’s house,” Father Rosa said. “So I am familiar with the areas that are now in the middle of the conflict. And I am in regular contact with my family, especially my parents, in Poland. The great openness of the hearts of the Polish people is being shown right now through their assistance to Ukraine people. And I know many priests with the Diocese of Tarnow. They are actively helping refugees every day.
“As for the people of my parish, they came to me and asked what they could do, and this was one way we could help right away, because we had a direct connection,” Father Rosa said. “I am very happy that the people here were so generous.”
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD — There are 19,281 LIFE Runners in 3,201 cities across 41 nations, and it was Bishop Thomas John Paprocki who received the LIFE Runners 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award at the LIFE Runners annual banquet in Omaha, Neb., March 25. LIFE Runners is the largest pro-Life team of runners who wear the "REMEMBER The Unborn" jersey.
Founded in 2008 by Patrick Castle after he said he had “an encounter with St. Padre Pio,” Bishop Paprocki has been the national chaplain for the group since 2011 and was also the recipient of the first LIFE Runner Man of the Year Award (2011).
“Bishop Paprocki is a bold Catholic shepherd for the Gospel of Life,” said Castle, who is also president of LIFE Runners. “He inspires our team, leading by example at our national events. At our annual national race and the annual A-Cross America Relay finish line, he leads prayer at the local abortion facility. Bishop Paprocki is heroically pro-life. He is truly all in Christ for pro-life!”
One can join LIFE Runners by registering for monthly updates, order a "REMEMBER The Unborn" jersey to wear as a public witness, and have a committed faith. Running is optional. Go to liferunners.org/join.
In this photo, Bishop Paprocki speaks at the annual banquet in Omaha on March 25.
By ANDREW HANSEN
ALTON — In digging through your family history, imagine finding out you were related to a former president of the United States? That’s what Sydney Ehrman, a senior at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton found out recently. Her distant relative is President Benjamin Harrison, who lived between 1833-1901, and was our nation’s 23rd president.
The discovery was due to Ehrman taking the Living History course at Marquette Catholic, taught by Paula Mattix-Wand, the Theology Department chair and instructor in the Theology and History Department.
“I’ve enjoyed digging into my family history and learning more about my ancestors and where they came from,” Ehrman said. “I found out that a few of my family members traveled to Arkansas and got married there. The class has helped me to understand the struggles that my ancestors went through.”
Senior Adam Vowels was fascinated to find out that his family is from Kentucky. “Learning about the history of my name has given me more respect for my great-grandpa,” Vowels said. “He was a great man and learning more about where he came from really shows how much he did in his life.”
This is the first time Marquette Catholic is offering this class, open only to seniors.
“We had a need for electives in the history department,” Mattix-Wand said. “I had offered to create this class a couple of years ago, but it didn’t materialize. This year, my schedule matched up with the need. I have training in genealogy research through my involvement with the Ninian Edwards Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and through my own family research. I began researching when I was a senior in high school through a home economics class.”
The goals of the class are to become proficient in using an online genealogy service; to develop research skills and learn document analysis using public vital records; to understand the connection between historical events and the present; and to help students appreciate their place in modern history.
“We started the semester by having them talk to their relatives and gather information on what is already known and available,” Mattix-Wand said. “Who are the historians in their families and what do they know? They talked to grandparents, aunts, uncles, anyone who had information. I received a grant from ancestry.com through their AncestryK12 Classroom Program. The classroom version of ancestry.com is very similar to the subscription and includes access to other online genealogy resources. The seniors research every day and help each other interpret documents and make connections. Seniors are free to call relatives during class and to clarify their research. When we have research or document questions that effect the entire group, we discuss it as a class.”
That research has led to some interesting discoveries. One student found a connection to Daniel Boone, one of America’s first folk heroes. Another student discovered a connection to the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
“This class is important because it gives students a different way to experience history,” Mattix-Wand said. “Instead of memorizing dates and places, this class allows students to learn the context of how history impacted their family. It’s also important because we are making connections with living relatives. Several students have mentioned how they have enjoyed spending time with their grandparents and learning about their lives. Finally, I think it’s important because we encounter and discuss difficult periods in American history. We have discussed slavery, poverty, immigration quotas, war, and difficult family relationships. These are not easy topics, but they have shown great maturity and compassion toward each other.”
Throughout the semester, the students have three big projects to complete: a pedigree chart listing the direct ancestors that they have found; a binder of documents including but not limited to: vital, census, military, and cemetery records; and a presentation which connects their family to an event in U.S. history.
“At first, the biggest challenge for the seniors is realizing that this project is never finished,” Mattix-Wand said. “In all of their other classwork, there is a definite end. With genealogy, there will always be more people to discover and more details to add to the family’s story.”
Interested in learning about your ancestors?
You can use sacramental records to trace your family history. Baptism, first Communion, confirmation, marriage, and burial records are fantastic resources for genealogists. The Office for Archives and Records Management for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois accepts genealogy requests online or by mail. Visit https://archives.dio.org/services/genealogy.html to learn more.
If you already have experience performing genealogical research, they have partnered with Ancestry.com to digitize and index the sacramental records of the diocese that are considered open and accessible for genealogical research. Learn more about the partnership here: https://archives.dio.org/services/ancestry.html.
New to genealogy? Here are some tips to help you get started:
Who makes and divides up the holy oils that the bishop blesses during Holy Week each year?
-Rosanne Wiatrolik, Springfield
Rosanne, you have asked the right person! The past few years, I have had the happy work of setting up everything for the chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week, including preparing for the bishop to bless the holy oils. It is a fairly ordinary process!
The holy oils that the Church uses in the sacraments are all composed of olive oil. So, we start with several dozen gallons of pure olive oil, and through a process perfected over many years, through the generous efforts of everyone willing to help (in recent years, our Knights of Columbus Council at Cathedral in Springfield has led the charge), we go about carefully filling more than 300 individual bottles using a conglomeration of funnels and old coffee urns, labeling them as “oil of catechumens,” “oil of the sick,” and “sacred chrism” as we go, and placing one such bottle in each box, which is labeled with the parish or institution to which it is destined to go. Before filling the bottles that will become sacred chrism, we mix in the balsam extract to the point where the scent is obvious, but not overpowering (and we don’t run out of balsam before filling all the bottles).
Of course, we also fill the larger glass jugs that are used during the chrism Mass with oil as well and it is these that will be carried in procession up to the bishop for him to bless (oil of catechumens and oil of the sick) and consecrate (sacred chrism) at the proper points in the Mass. The boxes with their bottles are placed in front of bishop before the Mass begins.
After the Mass, the larger glass bottles are kept in the ambry at Cathedral, which is the place, often looking much like a tabernacle, that houses each of the oils in every parish, and all the pre-boxed sets of bottles are distributed to their various destinations. Most years, they are collected by the pastor or a delegated member from that parish, though during 2020, they were carried to each deanery by a few of the priests in Springfield because the lockdown didn’t allow for representatives from each parish to be at the chrism Mass.
One interesting sacramental twist to the story: The rite of the Church seems to prefer that the bishop himself mix the balsam into the oil before consecrating the chrism, and thus that the oils only be distributed into smaller bottles after the chrism Mass. Thankfully, the Vatican has clarified that it is valid to mix and bottle everything ahead of time, and this is how we have done it here in our diocese in order to expedite the process of distributing them out to their various destinations after the Mass.
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.
By FATHER ROBERT JALLAS
Special to Catholic Times
“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. The old things have passed away, behold, new things have come. All this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation … so we are ambassadors of Christ, as if God were appealing through us” (2nd Corinthians 5:17-20).
The apostle Paul speaks frequently in his letters of entering a new creation, of allowing the mind and heart and attitude of the risen Christ to take over us, to “put on Christ.” This putting on of Christ began at our baptism and unfolds throughout our lives. We are aware that this takes place symbolically in clothing the newly baptized with a white robe. Indeed, across our diocese at the Vigil of Easter, more than one hundred people were to be so clothed in being initiated into the life of Christ and his Body, the Church.
But what does this putting on of Christ, this entering a “new creation” look like? The word of God this past Lent gives us some clues, one of which stands out in particular I find this year. It is compassion that ushers forth in forgiveness. Whether during liturgy, in personal prayer, study, or prayerful reading, many have the experience of listening to the word of God in a fresh way, of being struck by passages that are so familiar, yet one seems to really hear them for the first time.
I found such to be true this past Lent. The powerful and recklessly lavish parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the electrifying encounter of the woman accused of adultery (John 8:1-11), or the cultivation of an attitude of compassion in Jesus’ saying to forgive “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). Again, we hear at times the familiar in a different or striking way given the circumstances of our lives and our world.
I have come to see that the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus, the sign that we have put on Christ, that Christ is taking us over, of entering a new creation as Paul speaks of, is compassion. Compassion that ushers forth in forgiveness. Such takes work. Such takes discipline. Such an attitude of compassionate forgiveness is a focus not only for Lent or even Eastertime, but for all our days. How that plays itself out in our lives is as unique as each one of us. But the freedom and freshness of spirit that such forgiveness brings are a taste of the new creation into which we are continuously invited. Such gifts! Easter blessings in the risen Lord!
Father Robert Jallas is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Edwardsville.
‘It was because of a promise’
Gerald Broadwater of Granite City shares his conversion story
By ANDREW HANSEN
GRANITE CITY — At 74-years-old, Gerald Broadwater’s conversion story to the Catholic faith involves a car accident that should have killed him and a promise to his wife that will bring a tear to your eye.
Growing up in Granite City, Broadwater’s parents did not attend church of any kind, and they did not take him to church either. He does remember, however, neighbors who were a strong Catholic family that planted a Catholic seed in him that would not take root for more than a half a century.
Gerald married his wife, Viv, in 1966 in a Methodist church at the age of 18, but after that, going to church was maybe once a year for the two of them. Fast forward to having two children, Machele and Bret, and Broadwater says, “Finally, once our children and grandchildren were baptized Catholic, Viv and I attended St. Elizabeth (in Granite City) many times throughout the years.”
But attending Mass did not make them Catholic. They both remained unbaptized. Decades went by. Broadwater then retired from the Edwardsville School District as a custodian. Then everything in his life changed in 2020. What happened ultimately led him to become Catholic in 2021, receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first holy Communion. Now a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Parish in Granite City, Broadwater shared his conversion story with Catholic Times Editor Andrew Hansen and spoke about how his wife made all the difference.
You grew up a non-Catholic, but you had neighbors who were. What do you remember about the Catholic faith as a young person?
Growing up, we were neighbors with a very strong Catholic family, William and Louise Mank, and those neighbors were my only exposure to Catholicism when I was young. The Manks had seven children, and one of them, Virgil, even became a monsignor. I can remember vividly a time when the Manks took me to Mass at St. Joseph in Granite City. I remember the Mass being in Latin, and I also remember being intrigued by the clothing worn by the priests and nuns. I was honestly in awe of the mystery of it all! I also recall the Mank family going through some extremely hard times throughout the years. It was their genuine trust in God and dedication to their Catholic faith that guided them through those very difficult times, and that really stuck with me. Truly, a wonderful Catholic family.
In 2020, your wife of more than 54 years died. Her conversion story to the Catholic faith alone is inspiring. But it did not end with her. What happened?
My faith changed drastically after Viv’s death. Just nine months later, I was initiated into the Catholic Church — fulfilling a promise that I had made to her a few months before her death.
You see, Viv had longed for years to be Catholic — we both had — but for various reasons, it just hadn’t happened. And then in February of 2020, after being told by her hospice nurse that she had only weeks left to live, Viv let us know her heartfelt desire to become a Catholic and to receive the sacraments before the day God would call her home. With that, our daughter flew into action, and thanks be to God, on March 7, 2020, just 16 weeks before her passing, Viv received the sacraments of reconciliation, confirmation, and first holy Communion from Father Zachary Edgar in our home. But that wasn’t all that happened that day. Just after Father Edgar initiated her into the Church, Viv asked me to promise her just one last thing — that after her death, that I too would be baptized into the Catholic Church so that we would one day be in Heaven together! I promised my beautiful wife that day that I would do just that — and I did!
You became Catholic in April of last year at the Easter Vigil. How has the Catholic faith helped you grieve better and remain close to your wife?
I’m attending Mass every week at St. Elizabeth, and I’m praying more than ever before! While I miss my wife with every ounce of my being, because of my newly found faith, I am at such incredible peace.
Was there anything about the teachings of our faith that you struggled with and if so, how did you overcome that?
Not really. Our journey to the Church honestly began about 32 years ago when our daughter was married in the Church. Not long after that, our son married into a Catholic family as well. Soon, grandchildren were arriving, and because of their baptisms, confirmations, and attending St. Elizabeth School, we found ourselves at St. Elizabeth Parish many times throughout the years. And then once both of our children were baptized in the Church — more than 20 years ago — they began discussing with us the Church’s teachings, answering any questions that we had along the way, and all the while, hoping and praying that Viv and I would someday be led home into the Catholic Church.
Is there a saint you fell in love with, asking him or her for their intercession and if so, which saint and why?
I was drawn to St. Brendan the Navigator for two reasons: We share an Irish heritage and have both sailed the seas. St. Brendan was in search of the land of promise, and I served our country in the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. Constitution. I felt a real connection to him.
On the day you became Catholic, you were baptized, and you received confirmation and first holy Communion. What was that day like?
It was a wonderful day! I felt so very blessed to have my children, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and several of my grandchildren present to see their 73-year-old father and grandfather being baptized, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, and fulfilling a promise that I had made to their mother and grandmother.
What do you love most about our faith?
The Eucharist and the saints in Heaven!
When you look back over your journey to our faith, what stands out?
When I was 15, I was involved in a serious automobile accident. I went through the windshield of that car — ending up on the hood — requiring more than 100 stitches in my head and the top portion of an ear being severed. I also suffered a dislocated knee, hip, broken collarbone, and broken jaw. The day after surgery, my doctor came in and told me that I should have died in that accident, but that God had saved me for a reason.
I lived with that all my life, wondering just what that reason was. It wasn’t until my faith journey that I finally came to realize that I was put on this Earth to be married to the love of my life for 54 years, to father two of the most beautiful children on this Earth, to be a grandfather to nine precious grandchildren, and to ultimately be granted the privilege to be Viv’s caregiver in the final months, weeks, and days of her life, and to love her, cry with her, and hold her throughout her sufferings and anxieties — up until the very moment she took her final breath. That was the reason God spared my life all those years ago.
It was because of a promise that I made to my wife in the final months of her life, that I became a member of the Catholic Church, the church instituted by Jesus Christ! I am thankful to Him for every single second that He allowed me to be with Viv, and I am thankful to Him for bringing me to where I am today.