Diocesan Administrator Account

georgeSPRINGFIELD - The author of a new biography about the late Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. of Chicago will offer the book for purchase and have a book signing and presentation at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception atrium on March 19 at 11 a.m.

Michael Heinlein's Glorifying Christ: The Life of Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I. provides not only a factual record of the life of Cardinal George, but also a compelling narrative of the cardinal's extraordinary virtue and humility befitting a true servant of God.

A native Chicagoan, Cardinal George was told as a young man that he would never be a priest in Chicago because of a physical disability resulting from polio. He went on to be ordained a priest with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1963. The native son was appointed as archbishop of Chicago in 1997, created a cardinal in 1998, and served in Chicago until 2014, just months before his death in April 2015. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois served under the leadership of Cardinal George as a priest and auxiliary bishop of Chicago. 

"March 19 marks the 20th anniversary since I was ordained a bishop by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago," Bishop Paprocki said. "It was a great privilege for me to have served as his Chancellor and Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago and as one of his suffragan bishops in the Province of Chicago. I learned an abundance of important lessons that have shaped my life and ministry as a bishop by observing and working closely with this brilliant and holy churchman over the span of almost two decades. Now, thanks to the outstanding biography of Cardinal George by Michael Heinlein, many more people who never had the opportunity to meet Cardinal George will get to know this saintly and towering figure who dedicated his life to giving glory to Christ in the Church and in the world."

Cardinal George was a prophetic voice in the Church - a man able to see things as they are and from the point of view of the whole Church. His episcopal motto, "To Christ be

glory in the Church," encapsulates his legacy, because every decision he made, every action he took, every suffering he endured was about serving others and pointing them to our Savior.

Most of all, Cardinal George was a Christian in every sense. He was concerned about relationships and people, not careerism or advancement. He was attentive to the poor and those on the margins. He was a man of prayer, dedicated to Our Lady, and devoted to the Eucharist. He articulated the faith and was committed to reform. He was honest, accountable, genuine, and holy. Admired for his pursuit and proclamation of the truth and his personal witness to the Gospel, Cardinal George remains a model for discipleship and leadership.

Heinlein's presentation at the Cathedral is free and open to the public. The book retails for $29.95

Wednesday, 01 March 2023 14:08

Women of diocese invited to Lenten retreat

Managing Editor

The Springfield Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (SDCCW) is sponsoring a Lenten retreat Tuesday, March 28 and Wednesday, March 29 at the Villa Maria Catholic Life Center in Springfield. The subject of the retreat is “Our Journey of Faith.” 

The SDCCW retreat is a tradition and features spiritual presentations, prayer, Mass, rosary, the sacrament of confession, and fellowship. The retreat begins with registration and a light breakfast at 9 a.m. on March 28 and concludes after lunch on March 29. 

This year’s retreat speaker is Kim Padan. After the birth of a stillborn son, Padan and her husband Bruce were foster parents to 41 foster children over an eight-year period. She was the executive director of the local prolife group for 11 years. She joined and served two years as president of the Peoria DCCW. She joined the national Spirituality Commission in 2018, and is currently the chair of that commission. She  periodically writes articles for The Catholic Post, the newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, and is also a lay Dominican. 

Retreat costs include meals, refreshments, retreat materials, and the use of the Villa Maria facility, which is located on the shores of Lake Springfield.  The cost for an overnight stay, double occupancy is $100. An overnight stay, single occupancy (if available) is $120. Commuters pay $70.  For those who want to stay overnight on March 27, the fee is $70 double/$50 single, with no  meals.

Registration fees payable to SDCCW are due by March 21. Contact your parish office, your women’s group, or your deanery president for additional information and registration form, or contact Alice Massey at or (217) 371-1108. 

Managing Editor

Thanks to her strong faith, as well as the encouragement of her spiritual director, her parents, and her friends, Maggie Deckard had a book of poetry published when she was just 22 years old.

Deckard’s book, Becoming, contains a collection of 31 poems that are close to her heart and bare her soul. They include words that she hopes will “serve as a safe place for women to go to, a place of consolation.” “If my book can do that in some way — then it is a privilege,” she says.

Deckard first starting writing poetry in high school (at Sacred Heart-Griffin in Springfield), but says it was in college (at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) that writing poems became very therapeutic and drew her closer to Jesus. “Whenever I did not know how to process what was going on in the ups and downs of college, I turned to writing as an outlet,” she says.

Each poem in her book is a part of her “heart and story,” she says. “The topics I chose to put in the book were all real things that I went through and processed during college, some of them very tough and vulnerable, so if my book helps anyone else feel less alone, then to me it is worth it.”

front coverDeckard’s book is obviously faith-driven. “The whole process of creating this book felt very guided by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so that helped overcome some of the fear around sharing hard things,” she says. Some titles included in the book are Misplaced, Secret Tears, I’d Never Tell You, and One Hail Mary.

Each poem title is accompanied by a reference to a Scripture quote.  “The poems came before the Scripture quotes,” Deckard says. “I actually didn’t have the idea until over halfway through the editing process of the book. I knew I wanted Him (Jesus) to have the final word of the book, so Scripture felt like the best way to do that.”

Before her book was published, Deckard said sometimes it was easy to share poems with friends, yet sometimes it was difficult. “Many of the poems in my book, I shared with a few friends here and there, especially if I thought they could relate,” she says. “Every time I shared a poem, my friends’ responses were always so positive, and they always encouraged me to write more. I eventually just had this strong desire and conviction that my poems needed to go beyond my computer screen. There were definitely times when I would get nervous if I thought too much about what other people would think of certain  poems, especially the deeper ones, but the desire to share them always outweighed the fear.”

It was in her freshman year at SIUE that Deckard began taking part in Newman Center activities and began growing in her Catholic faith. She says it was there she came across Father Rob Johnson (pastor of Mother of Perpetual Help in Maryville), who eventually helped to get her book published. “I first met Father Rob my first week of college at SIUE. I met him at the Newman Center during a community night,” she says. “I got to know him my first semester of college through different Newman events and then later that year he became my spiritual director. He helped me grow in my faith immensely, and he helped me to actually know Jesus as a person, as a friend.

“After he became my spiritual director, I began sharing different poems with him over my time in college, because writing poetry was a form of prayer for me,” she says. “And then during my senior year, he told me if I wrote a poetry book geared toward college students, that he would help me get it published. And here we are. His support helped give me the courage to share my writing with the world.” Today, Father Johnson, who wrote the forward to her book, is her pastor, too.

Deckard’s friend, Kayla Bridick, was the illustrator for Becoming. “We met at college through the Newman Center,” she says. “The illustrations were really fun to brainstorm and see come to life. Kayla really wanted to make the illustrations, images that were not specifically described in the book, yet had significance to the story. The illustrations were actually all based on actual items or objects in my house, or from Mother of Perpetual Help Church.”

Another person who assisted Deckard was her friend and editor, Megan Ulrich. “She has written and self-published two of her own poetry books, Hell, Bring the Kids Too, and Return Unto Me,” she says. “She helped guide me through the self-publishing process which I have come to learn is very tedious. It was a labor of love to say the least.”

Originally from Springfield, after her graduation from SIUE, where Deckard earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, she accepted a dual teaching position at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville. “I am a PreK teacher for 4-year-olds on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then I am the art teacher for kindergarten through fourth grade on Tuesday and Thursday,” she says. “I never thought I’d be an art teacher, but they had a need for an art teacher and I needed a full-time job when I took the part-time PreK job, so I took it. It has actually been so fun to get to be creative with the kids. What can I say, Jesus always knows better than me!”

03 05 2023 Maggie Deckard 1In addition to teaching, Deckard says now that she has published one book, she is working on a new collection of poetry. She hopes to publish that book and since children are so important to her, “Eventually, I think it would be cool to write a children’s book.”

As far as her faith goes, Deckard has an important message for young people. “I want to tell people to simply show up. There have been times when I did not want to go to Mass at all, but I showed up anyway and that made all the difference,” she says. “Even though I did not realize it in the moment, Jesus used those times for good. He grew my heart in those times. Show up, that’s all.  Jesus will do the rest.”

Note: Becoming, by Maggie Deckard is available on Amazon and There is a hardcover or an eBook option.

I see that St Patrick's Day falls on a Friday during Lent again this year. So, I assume Bishop Thomas John  Paprocki will not give us permission to enjoy corned beef in our Irish celebrations. Would it be a mortal sin to travel to a nearby diocese where their bishop grants a dispensation, allowing Catholics to enjoy their corned beef that day?
- Nancy in Springfield

Dear Nancy,

You must be quite the devotee of American custom that you would be willing to drive outside of our diocese to enjoy corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. Would it be a mortal sin to do so? I would argue no, but one could make an argument that it is still sinful, though less sinful, to attempt to circumvent the Church’s Lenten disciplinary laws in such a manner. That being said, you may not need to go to such lengths to licitly get your corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.

No, Bishop Paprocki is not granting a diocesan-wide dispensation for St. Patrick’s Day. Granting a dispensation from an ecclesiastical law is seen as a “wounding” of the law so there needs to be a proportional reason for doing so, especially such a broad action as dispensing an entire diocese. If we were the Archdiocese of Boston, filled with Irish Catholics, there would be greater reason to justify the dispensation, but that is not so much the case here. However, you may approach your own pastor who has authority to dispense his own parishioners in such matters on a case-by-case basis. He may grant you the desired dispensation or he may commute your observance of abstinence from meat to another day such as the day before or the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Pastors can find this in canon 1245 in the Code of Canon Law.

Earlier I referred to the custom of eating corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day as being American. I remember a conversation with a buddy of mine in college about the Irish and corned beef and St. Patrick’s Day. Mark, whose parents came over from Ireland to the United States before he was born, told me that in Ireland the Irish would never dream of eating corned beef in honor of St. Patrick. Beef was never a staple of food in Ireland, like pork or lamb, and beef was completely unaffordable for most of the Irish population after the nation was subjugated by England. The custom of eating corned beef comes from the arrival of the Irish in America in 19th and early 20th centuries and the fact that they could afford some beef when they came to the United States, but mostly only corned beef.

Whatever we choose to do or not do in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I would encourage all of us to remember the man himself. History tells us that Patrick was devout, very determined, and rather austere. Let us ask the great Apostle of Ireland to pray for us that, like him, we might seek to bind ourselves to the Blessed Trinity in all that we do.

- Father Christopher House is pastor of Christ the King Parish in Springfield and is vicar judicial and director of the Department for Canonical and Pastoral Services.

House opened in November 2022 and welcomes women/children in need


st mary house cover 2MATTOON — It was a dark, cold night in Mattoon last December. For a mother of four girls living in the city, the night represented her year.

“I’ve had an extremely difficult year,” the mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “I’ve lost everything. I need help getting into my own place.”

Another young woman, also living in Mattoon, who also wished to remain anonymous, felt empty.

“I moved to Illinois in 2022,” she said. “I didn’t have much and was struggling to find a secure, safe, and stable place. I was staying with a friend for a couple of months and then was asked to leave due to ‘life happening.’”

St Mary House Mattoon 2 blessing Sept 28All hope seemed lost for these women until the Catholic and pro-life community in Mattoon stepped in and offered these women things they desperately needed: love, support, resources, and a warm, comfortable place to live. That place, the St. Mary House, which opened in November of 2022, has become the symbol of hope for these women and future women who will live there.

“Having been a part of the community effort in Charleston that brought together St. Charles Borromeo Parish, the Newman Center at Eastern Illinois University, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society that walked with people in need, we saw an opportunity to provide a transitional home environment in Mattoon for women and children on the Catholic worker model,” said Father John Titus, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Mattoon and St. Columcille in Sullivan.

St Mary House Mattoon 3When a home across the street from the Immaculate Conception Church parking lot opened, the Catholic and pro-life community acted. Money was raised, the home was demolished, and the new, three-bedroom St. Mary House was built in one year.

“As Catholics, we embrace the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” Father Titus said. “The St. Mary House is a manifestation of both, caring for body and soul and helping make it possible for women to regroup. We affirm that every life has value — born and unborn. We want to help mothers make good choices for themselves and their children at the dawn of life and in the shadows of life. When a cynical world scoffs and says as Catholics we do not care about what happens to moms and their children after birth, we can invite them to join our efforts to serve even more women and children in our community.”

St Mary House Mattoon 4For these two women, the St. Mary House has become a beacon of light in their lives.

“The home is beautiful,” the young woman said. “It’s homey and safe, and you feel nothing but love when you walk in. Physically and emotionally, this home has helped me become more OK with spending time with myself, and it has helped me create a healthy routine. I was able to find a job within walking distance so maintaining that means saving money will be a lot easier.”

For the mother of four, the St. Mary House is also giving her a new, refreshing outlook.

“You have your own private bathroom which is a plus for me,” she said. “My youngest and I love that it’s safe. There’s also a code for entry into the home. The home has given me hope that there are people out there that still care.”

Those caring people include the Springfield Dominican Sisters who offered a grant, generous individual donations, including from area businesses, and one family that gave $25,000, all which contributed to the construction of the home. The Springfield Dominicans also donated furniture. Proceeds from fundraisers in the area and more donations keep the home in operation for women and their children. 

St Mary House Mattoon 5Guests of the home sign off on the “Expectations of Guests” policies and agree to a background check.   The home is communal living with shared house responsibilities. The food is shared and the home offers commonly used items. The home has a washer and dryer, and volunteers are “on the house” throughout the week, which means while they are not babysitters, Uber drivers, cooks, or housekeepers, they may voluntarily come to assist in any of those capacities, and they are a caring presence who visit and help the guests to become acquainted with the larger community and often help guests plug into community resources. Each guest has a volunteer contact person who meets regularly with them to discuss personal and financial goals. There is no charge for rent or utilities, and there is no expiration date for a guest’s stay, but they need to develop an exit strategy. This is part of their regular discussion with their contact person. The St. Mary House is run by an independent board and is registered as a not-for-profit. While there is no formal or financial relationship with Immaculate Conception Parish, the faithful play an active role. 

St Mary House Mattoon 6“When you give people the opportunity to be generous and do good things according to the Catholic principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, then you will change hearts and lives in time and for eternity,” Father Titus said. 

“I am extremely thankful to the Catholic community,” the mother of four said. “It has put my faith back that people still help and that there are angels among us still.”

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve been able to care for myself solely and learn that it is OK to be alone,” the young woman said. “Staying at the St. Mary House has helped me in so many ways, and I am beyond thankful to everyone that was involved in the making of this beautiful home.”

Want to support the St. Mary House?

Mail checks made out to “St. Mary House” to: St. Mary House, 320 N. 21st St., Mattoon, IL 61938.


As a child, Allison Jayne Meinhart of Dieterich remembers attending Baptist and Methodist churches. Despite that non-Catholic background, Meinhart says that she had always been intrigued by the Catholic faith especially the structure and prayers. Little did she know that her marriage to her husband, Anthony, and two children would be a catalyst for her joining the Catholic faith.

“I watched my son (Gavin) be baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church,” Meinhart said. “We then had our daughter (Mabri) and again baptized her in the Catholic Church. I went to sign my daughter, Mabri, up for religion classes at St. Rose of Lima Parish (Montrose) and talked with Lisa Probst, who was very helpful I might add about joining the Church. At this point, I knew we were going to be raising our children in the Catholic Church and wanted to be able to understand everything they were doing and be able to take them to church and participate with them.”

Going through the process of learning and accepting all the Church teachings can sometimes be a daunting experience for people going through a conversion, but for Meinhart, it was anything but.

“I didn’t struggle with anything that I can recall,” she said. “Matter of fact, I felt like things became much clearer for me once joining the Catholic Church, and I feel so much closer to God.”

03 05 2023 meinhart conversion cup. CYMKIn 2022, Meinhart was baptized, confirmed, and received first holy Communion at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Montrose. It’s a day she’ll remember forever, especially receiving the Eucharist for the first time.

“It was so different from what I was used to growing up,” Meinhart said. “Growing up when we would do communion, we would get a broken-up cracker and grape juice and just pass it down the pew on the first Sunday of every month. I love that you receive the Body of Christ at every Mass.”

As a 34-year-old wife and mother who works in the medical field as a respiratory therapist, Meinhart says she chose St. Gianna Baretta Molla as her confirmation saint for several reasons.

“St. Gianna is known as the patron of mothers, physicians, and unborn children,” Meinhart said. “St. Gianna was a loving wife, a working mother, and worked in the medical field as I do. St. Gianna chose the gift of life for her daughter when she was told she had a tumor in her uterus. I could relate to this in a couple of different ways. When I was conceived, my mother was told that I would have Down Syndrome and the doctors recommended that she have an abortion. My mother also chose the gift of life and here I am today with no development delays. I also was told a few years after having my son that I had pre-cancerous cells, and it was strongly recommended that I have a hysterectomy. I knew that I wanted more children and refused to have the hysterectomy at that time and am glad I did because many years later I was blessed with my daughter.”

One year into her conversion to the Catholic faith and Meinhart says she loves every bit of it, most especially the Mass.

“I love being able to arrive at church early and get the Breaking Bread Missal out and being able to read to over the Scripture before church starts so that I can take it all in during Mass,” Meinhart said. “I mostly love being able to sit in church on the weekends with my whole family and having those bonding moments.”

Monday, 13 February 2023 09:09

Lenten Regulations/Lenten calendar

Lent, a holy time of preparation, begins Feb. 22
Managing Editor 

Lent is the 40-day penitential season of preparation for the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter, which falls this year on April 9.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday with the beginning of the paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday — April 6-8). 

Pope Francis has said, “Lent is a path: it leads us to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.” 

Lent is a time to read Scripture, attend daily Mass, and practice self-control by giving alms, fasting, or doing an act of charity. Moreover, Lent is not totally about abstaining from certain foods and luxuries, but is about seeking a true inner conversion of heart. 

Here, therefore, are the Lenten regulations: 

All the Christian faithful are urged to develop and maintain a voluntary program of self-denial (in addition to the Lenten regulations that follow), serious prayer, and performing deeds of charity and mercy, including the giving of alms. 

Abstinence — Everyone 14 years of age and over is bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) and all Fridays of Lent. 

Fasting — Everyone 18 years of age and under 59 is required to fast on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) and on Good Friday (April 7).  On these two days of fast and abstinence, only one full meatless meal is permitted. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each person’s needs, but together these should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids (including milk and fruit juices) are allowed.

Remember, to disregard completely the law of fast and abstinence is seriously sinful.  

2023 Lenten calendar - Please support the Rice Bowl and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)



What does a priest feel during Mass?
Anonymous in Jerseyville

Humility is what priests surely feel most when presiding at Mass — their sense of unworthiness to fill this role in The Lamb’s Supper. We, who often preach about God’s unfathomable mercy, rely on this mercy ourselves as we stand at His holy altar. There, we echo His consecration words: “This is my Body … . This is my Blood … .” Nothing captures what a privilege this is — so yes, humility is key. 

Humility is also involved as a priest homiletically sheds light on Sacred Scripture and preaches on unspeakably beloved figures such as our Blessed Mother. The insights shared can lift hearts to Heaven and potentially carry eternal ramifications for some souls in the pews.  What a responsibility! What a gift!

“Say each Mass like it is your first Mass, and your last Mass.” This advice came from my first rector in seminary, Msgr. Ross Shecterle, who repeatedly emphasized focus, and not getting distracted.

Yet distractions happen. Babies move from sweet cooing and gentle laughter, to outright screaming. Cell phones go off. A pillar-light over the ambo flickers. An organist forgets a musical cue. A server rings the consecration bell too early, or too late. End-of-Mass announcements prematurely pop into the head.  In other words, among a presider-priest’s thoughts is the need to stay focused! This is often, also, where gratitude enters, for God’s patience, and for His guiding Spirit, and for the wealth of supportive prayer coming the priest’s way. 

Gratitude, then, like humility, is central to what a presider feels. We know Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” which carries a strong component of joy. A priest celebrating Mass should always convey gratitude and joy! Indeed, his bearing and manner contribute considerably to the celebration and are noticed by his flock. 

I know this in part after decades of Mass participation from the pews before entering seminary with a second-career vocation. I had witnessed hundreds of priests celebrate Mass and noticed how some conveyed joy and appreciated reverence more than others. These observations even now sometime enter my thoughts as I prepare for, and preside at, liturgy.

Finally, as goes what a priest feels during Mass, he stays aware of his in persona Christi role. Although a humble and distracted sinner, the priest is called to represent — or at least to strive to represent — Jesus.  The priest can succeed in the striving, but never adequately in the representation — hence, more humility. Always humility!

Father David Beagles is pastor of St. Elizabeth in Robinson and Our Lady of Lourdes in Oblong.

Does one complete the Sunday Mass and holy day obligation by attending by watching via TV or computer? I am handicapped. I walk with a cane and have partial use of my right leg and arm due to a stroke. There is always the fear of falling. I cannot drive. The Masses have a Spiritual Communion Prayer, and my wife brings holy Communion to me on occasion.
- Mike in Troy

The Code of Canon Law states, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (canon 1247). The faithful are those who “are incorporated into Christ through baptism” (canon 204 §1). Consequently, baptized Catholics are required to attend Mass on every Sunday and every holy day of obligation.

This obligation to attend Mass “is satisfied by one who assists at Mass” — that is, by one who attends Mass — “wherever it is celebrated in a Catholic rite, either on the holy day itself or on the evening of the previous day” (canon 1248 §1). This is a grave obligation and purposefully failing to honor it is mortally sinful (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181).

Because humans are a union of body and soul, the Lord Jesus established the sacraments as composed of both words and material things. While watching the Mass on television or via the internet may bring some comfort, it does not technically fulfill the obligation to attend Mass, which must be fulfilled in person.  

While it is important to remember the gravity of this obligation, it is also important to keep in mind the fact that the Church does not oblige us to do what is physically or morally impossible, which is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the obligation binds “unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor” (no. 2181). 

Consequently, those who legitimately cannot attend the Holy Mass — whether because of a lack of transportation, a serious illness, immobility, etc. — are excused by the Church from the obligation to attend Mass. If there is a question about whether an individual member of the faithful is excused, he or she should speak with his or her pastor who can best judge the particular situation.

Those who cannot attend Mass for a serious reason should make a Spiritual Communion and even request the Blessed Sacrament be brought to them. Therefore, it is good, Mike, that you are still watching the Mass on television and still receiving the Eucharist, and when you are unable to receive the Eucharist, you are making an Act of Spiritual Communion

Father Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland; parochial administrator of St. Alexius in Beardstown, St. Fidelis in Arenzville, and St. Luke in Virginia; and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. 

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