Diocesan Administrator Account

Jesus giving himselfFrom the very beginning, the Church has believed and celebrated according to the teaching of Jesus Himself: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:54-56). It is not “ordinary bread and ordinary drink” that we receive in the Eucharist, but the flesh and blood of Christ, who came to nourish and transform us, to restore our relationship to God and to one another.

In the Eucharist, with the eyes of faith we see before us Jesus Christ, who, in the Incarnation became flesh (Jn 1:14) and who in the Paschal Mystery gave Himself for us (Ti 2:14), accepting even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). St. John Chrysostom preached that when you see the Body of Christ “set before you [on the altar], say to yourself: ‘Because of this Body I am no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free: because of this I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal life, the portion of angels, [and closeness] with Christ.’”

How can Jesus Christ be truly present in what still appears to be bread and wine? In the liturgical act known as the epiclesis, the bishop or priest, speaking in the person of Jesus Christ, calls upon the Father to send down his Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and this change occurs through the institution narrative, by the power of the words of Christ pronounced by the celebrant.

The reality that, in the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ without ceasing to appear as bread and wine to our five senses is one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith. This faith is a doorway through which we, like the saints and mystics before us, may enter into a deeper perception of the mercy and love manifested in and through Christ’s sacramental presence in our midst. While one thing is seen with our bodily eyes, another reality is perceived through the eyes of faith. The real, true, and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the most profound reality of the sacrament. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. 

Though Christ is present to us in many ways in the liturgy, including in the assembly gathered, the presiding minister, and the word proclaimed, the Church also clearly affirms that “the mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique.” As St. Paul VI wrote, “This presence is called ‘real’ not to exclude the idea that the others are ‘real’ too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man.” In the sacramental re-presentation of His sacrifice, Christ holds back nothing, offering Himself, whole and entire. The use of the word “substantial” to mark the unique presence of Christ in the Eucharist is intended to convey the totality of the gift He offers to us.

When the Eucharist is distributed and the minister says, “the Body of Christ,” we are to look not simply at what is visible before our eyes, but at what it has become by the words of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit — the Body of Christ. The communicant’s response of “Amen” is a profession of faith in the Real Presence of Christ and reflects the intimate personal encounter with him, with His gift of self, that comes through reception of holy Communion.

Taken from The Mystery of Eucharist in the Life of the Church, produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2021

Argentina eucharistic miracle bloody hostResults from miracle are match to another eucharistic miracle hundreds of years earlier


After Mass on Aug. 15, 1996 at a parish in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a woman approached the priest saying that she found a consecrated Host in the church. The priest — following proper procedures in such a case — placed the Host into a glass of water so it would dissolve and put the Host into the tabernacle. Days later, to the priest’s amazement, the Host appeared bloody and had a flesh-like appearance.

11 15 2020 Pope Francis vat approved portraitThen-Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, who was Archbishop of the area at the time, was notified and had the host photographed, which clearly showed bloodied flesh that had somehow grown larger than the original Host. It was then placed back in the tabernacle and after several years, with no sign of decay, Cardinal Bergoglio officially opened an investigation. A sample of the blood was sent to scientists and doctors in the United States.  

The experts, without knowing where the sample came from, issued their results that it was human flesh and blood. Moreover, cardiologist and forensic pathologist, Dr. Frederic Zugibe said that it was “a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves.” In addition, it was concluded that “the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”

Perhaps most fascinating about the findings, Dr. Zugibe said, “The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism.”

It’s important to note that after blood is drawn from a person, the white blood cells disintegrate after 15 minutes. Therefore, it’s scientifically unexplainable that in 2005, white blood cells were found in a blood sample from 1996. 

Lanciano miracleThose results were then compared to another Eucharistic miracle that occurred in Italy in the eighth century, when a consecrated Host physically changed into flesh and the wine physically changed to blood before the eyes of a priest who had doubted the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Those present at Mass also witnessed this. Today, despite no form of preservative, that host, which changed physically into flesh and blood is still present at a church in Lanciano, Italy and can be viewed. 

When comparing a sample from the eucharistic miracle in Argentina to the one in Italy, it was concluded by scientists that both revealed “AB” blood type, both indicate it came from a man from the Middle East, and the DNA in both were identical.

What do these eucharistic miracles have to do with us today?

In 2019, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey and found with self-identified Catholics that 69 percent do not believe that during the consecration at Mass, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. On the other hand, only 31 percent of Catholics believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, something the Church joyfully teaches, and has taught from day one. The Church also says that the “Eucharist is the source and summit ecclesial life.” It’s worth noting the survey found that most Catholics who believe the bread and wine are only symbols don’t know that the Church teaches they are transformed into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the power of His own words. 

“While the survey results are troubling, they are not all that surprising,” said Father Daren Zehnle, director of the Office for Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. “Even some of Jesus’ first followers questioned His credibility when He spoke about the necessity of eating and drinking His Body and Blood. He did not lessen the strength of His words but doubled down. The difference between some people today and those early followers of Christ, is that the early ones who did not believe Him had the integrity to stop following Him. They knew they had to follow Him on His terms, or not at all. Some people today, however, try to follow Jesus on their own terms and ignore what He says.” 

Consider the evidence of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist:

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:53-56). 

At the Last Supper, Jesus was also quite clear: 

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28).

Notice, Jesus said that this is my body. This is my blood. He didn’t say that this is a symbol of His body or blood. He also told his Apostles to “do this” in remembrance of Him. 

“From the beginning of the Church, Christians have taken Jesus’ words at face value,” Father Zehnle said. “If we look at the writings of the Church Fathers, we find people like St. Ignatius of Antioch speaking bluntly about the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of the Savior. People who disagreed with them, they knew to be outside the communion of the Church.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is helpful in breaking this teaching down, saying, “The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, that is, of the work of salvation accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, a work made present by the liturgical action. It is Christ himself, the eternal high priest of the New Covenant who, acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. And it is the same Christ, really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice” (CCC 1409-1410).

If what Jesus said 2,000 years ago doesn’t get the attention of non-believers, perhaps that’s why God allows these Eucharistic miracles to occur — a “wake up” call to the Gift in front of them.

“The challenge for all of us is to believe what Jesus says because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life who cannot deceive us,” Father Zehnle said.

eucharist first timeCatholics in our diocese who converted to the faith shared with Catholic Times what it was like receiving the Eucharist for the first time. Their responses will inspire you. 

“I remember thinking, ‘This is it! This is it! And, you’re home. No matter what happens now, the most important thing in your life is now open to you and the rest in God’s hands.’”

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

“The first time I went to Mass with my spouse who is Catholic, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My husband said to fold my arms and the priest would say some kind words giving me a bit of grace to carry on through the week. After I became Catholic, I thought, ‘Finally!’ I can fully participate in Mass. I was overwhelmed with the spirit of Christ and felt I had pleased Him with the direction I had chosen for my life. I was incorrect in thinking this was the end of my journey in coming to Christ. Each time I partake of the Eucharist, I know it draws me closer to God and gives me focus to continue His work in serving those in most need.”

  • Deegee Kienstra, St. Mary Parish in Edwardsville 

“It was …  April 2019, at the Easter Vigil that I joined the Catholic faith and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was finally able to take part in what Christ requested, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ I became more and more aware throughout RCIA what it really meant to be part of such a union with other Catholics throughout the world. I was so excited and deeply aware of what it meant to take part in what was truly one bread and one body — Christ’s body. I was finally able to physically, mentally, and spiritually receive with each Communion a renewal, as well as a reminder the deep love Christ has for all who take part.” 

  • Rebecca McIntire, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham

“Incredible. Receiving the Eucharist for the first time—knowing that I was truly receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ—those feelings and emotions are just impossible to describe. What I experienced that day is something that will stay with me forever.”

  • Gerald Broadwater, St. Elizabeth Parish in Granite City

“It was a very personal experience. At that time, I felt like the world was at peace, and I truly felt united with Christ. Being baptized and receiving the Eucharist on the same day was an overwhelming experience filled with love, joy, and happiness for me. “

  • Makenzie Miles, St. Francis Solanus Parish in Quincy

“It was a point of letting my guard down and accepting that I didn’t have it all figured out and that God and I were going to get to know each other better.” 

  • Nathan Grider, St. Agnes Parish in Springfield     

“I was very nervous at the 2001 Easter Vigil when receiving the holy Sacraments as a convert, but I remember feeling peace come over me as I exclaimed what my pastor taught me to increase my faith in the holy Eucharist, ‘My Lord, and my God.’"

  • Alex Foster, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Jerseyville

“As a born southern Baptist, Christianity never made any sense to me. I could never figure out what the big deal was. After learning about the Eucharist, things slowly began to make more and more sense, and when I actually received the Eucharist for the first time, I had this feeling of clarity. I almost felt as if my brain had been rewired. I don’t know that it was miraculous but, in my mind, suddenly life and more importantly the Scriptures made sense.”

  • Calvin Bell, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield   

“When I received the Eucharist for the first time, two things came to mind: First, was an overwhelming sense of peace. I felt closer to Christ than I ever had before. The other feeling or thought I had was that I was finally home. I had waited a long time to be a part of Christ's church and I was so grateful to now be His own. I prayed for the feeling to never subside. I remember the song they played, 'How Beautiful,’ and that I cried.”

  • Bret Ware, St. Elizabeth Parish in Granite City

“As I approached Father Joe (Ring) to receive my first Communion, I felt completely humbled and most reverent of the great sacrifices Jesus Christ made for me. After receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus, I was overwhelmed, emotionally and physically, with the love of the Holy Spirit. So, in total gratitude, I knelt down to pray that I would be a vessel for His light to shine through me.”

  • Pamma Kaufmann, Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville 

“I entered the Catholic Church in a humbling manner. I never thought that I would have a conversion. I had been raised in the Baptist church and my entire family was of Protestant faith. I had taken communion throughout my life as a ‘symbolic gesture.’ As I attended the Catholic church with my future husband, many times I would be moved to tears. Watching the faithful partake in Communion, there was something special about this, something that I had never experienced. At the Easter Vigil when I received my first Communion it was a feeling of gratitude and renewal. I knew that Jesus was in the Eucharist. I am so appreciative of the Eucharist and what it means to my life, and I look forward to growing in my Catholic faith.”

  • Lynda Wrigley, Blessed Trinity Parish in Brussels  

“Coming from a Protestant background, receiving the holy Eucharist for the first time felt like stepping into a world I had never encountered before. I feel as though I have truly joined the marriage Supper of the Lamb and received the fullness of the faith.”

  • Joseph Smith, St. Francis Solanus Parish in Quincy
  1. 5Because Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle, commonly behind the altar, Catholics should genuflect when entering and exiting their pew to show reference to God, who is truly present. 
  2. Likewise, one should also kneel (if physically able) during and after the Consecration. 
  3. Catholics must pray and deeply prepare to receive the holy Eucharist. 
  4. Catholics must reverently receive the Eucharist. This includes, first, bowing your head before receiving. You should receive the Eucharist, not take the Body or Blood of Christ (no grabbing, pinching, or biting). 
  5. Say “Amen” after receiving, which means “It is so” or “I believe.” 
  6. One must never receive the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin.
  7. One must go to confession if one has purposely skipped attending Mass (breaking the Third Commandment) before one can receive the Eucharist again.
  8. Catholics must also consume the Eucharist immediately after receiving it. If you ever see someone not consume the Eucharist, confront him or her at once and alert the priest. Some people who do this are intentionally stealing the Host for desecration. If a Catholic knowingly desecrates a consecrated Host, they are committing grave sin and face immediate excommunication from the Church. 
  9. After receiving Jesus, Catholics should spend time in a prayer of thanksgiving for this incredible gift from God. 
  10. Catholics should remain until after the dismissal from Mass.

“Because we are human beings, a union of body and soul, what we do with our bodies affects our hearts and minds,” said Father Daren Zehnle, director of the Office for Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. “If we approach the Eucharist in a sloppy or hurried manner, we run the risk of forgetting who it is we are receiving and of setting a bad example for those whose faith might be weak. Rather, if we approach the Eucharist with a reverent demeanor, it can help strengthen the faith of others and offers the respect to God that He deserves. 

“If a Catholic has intentionally not participated in Mass every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, he or she may not receive the Eucharist without first being reconciled to God and the Church through the sacrament of confession. We should remember that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is not the same as receiving holy Communion. If we are not prepared to receive the Eucharist, we should not do so.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life in order to save another man’s life during his imprisonment in Auschwitz during the Holocaust in World War II, said, “If the angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” That’s a great reminder we have the most holy and pure gift available to us every Mass, Jesus, truly present in the holy Eucharist.

FrMarkMy answer to better prepare for Mass would be prayer, study, and live. If possible, I would arrive a few minutes early before Mass. Use the time to pray and quiet yourself. Most of us live very rushed and busy lives these days, so that time of silence allows us to focus our attention on God and offering worship to the Lord. Also, I would suggest praying over the readings before Mass on Sunday. By praying over the readings ahead of time, you will be more familiar to them and ready to let the Lord our God speak to you through them.

The second suggestion I would offer would be to study the Mass. Today as Catholics, we have so much Catholic media at our hands to learn more about our Catholic Faith. We have Dynamic Catholic, Catholic Answers, EWTN, or Word on Fire, to name just a few, literally at our fingertips. Studying the Mass can really open our eyes to the amazing meaning behind the symbols and gestures that are used at Mass. One excellent series on the Mass that I recently watched was Bishop Barron’s The Mass. It is a short series that goes through the different parts of the Mass and explains the rich meanings.

Finally, my third suggestion would be to live the Mass. The Mass is meant to form how we live because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. At every Mass, the Lord Jesus speaks to us and pours out his grace to heal and nourish us. One way we live the Mass is to bring an intention to every Mass. We all know someone or something to pray for at every Mass. Offer that intention up during the Prayers of the Faithful in your heart. 

Also, we can live the Mass by offering up and uniting our sacrifices up to the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. We see and hear this at every Mass when the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” We are all invited here to offer our sacrifices from our lives that we do for God like our work life, family life, and prayer life represented by the gifts of bread, wine, and money. So, to better prepare for Mass, think of your sacrifices that you want to offer to God before Mass and offer them up during the Eucharistic Prayer. Then look in awe as your sacrifices and mine are lifted up literally by the priest to God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we receive the ultimate gift back, the sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood. 

 Father Mark Tracy is pastor of Holy Family in Decatur and Catholic chaplain for the Illinois Army National Guard 

IMG 8159We believe as Catholics that in the holy Eucharist the Lord is truly and substantially present. If we believe this, we also believe that we are unworthy to receive the most holy of gifts offered by Christ, the gift of Himself — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  

This response at Mass comes after the priest, elevating the Body of Christ in the sacred Host and the chalice of the Blood of Christ says, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to receive the supper of the Lamb” (the reference to John the Baptist's words when he observes the coming of Jesus). When we respond, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed," we are using the words of the centurion from St. Matthew's Gospel when he asked Jesus to heal his servant who was paralyzed. 

In the Gospel passage I just referenced, Matthew 8:8, the centurion refers to the word of Jesus as enough to heal his servant and not his soul as we respond. The responses we make at the liturgical celebration of the Mass refers to our individual response in faith to the power of Jesus and so “soul” was inserted in place of “servant.” 

This does not change the words of sacred Scripture but strengthens it, because we are servants of Christ and therefore called to serve in mastery over sin and embracing the spiritual nourishment of our souls. 

The Body and Blood of Jesus can heal our souls. Our worthiness to receive the holy Eucharist is found in our disposition to receive what we believe and reflects our dependence upon Christ to help change our hearts to receive what is sacred and holy as nourishment for our souls. To receive the holy Eucharist in an unworthy manner is taken up by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) when he says, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." 

To acknowledge our unworthiness to receive the Eucharist is to embrace humility before the Blessed Sacrament and to prepare ourselves to be united more intimately to Christ in His passion and death and as a member of His body. Our mind, our heart, and our soul must be prepared to receive what the Church says about the Eucharist in the document Sacrosanctum Concilium from the Second Vatican Council, that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian faith.

Father Stephen Thompson is pastor of Holy Family Parish  in Granite City and St. Mary and St. Mark Parish in Madison

Lisa Rexroat adoration photoThe power of eucharistic adoration

Special to Catholic Times

Eucharistic adoration. What does it mean to me? Wow, I could never explain this fully in words. I will do my best to express the pure joy and the bursting of my feelings that I get and the feeling of not wanting to leave! Eucharistic adoration is a place where I feel happy, joyful, secure, and safe.

I usually attend eucharistic adoration at our church on every Tuesday when we have perpetual adoration that day. I attend at our hospital chapel on other days if I feel the need for extra help on a different day. It is hard on me if I have to miss my hour, as it has become a habit, a habit which I am so happy to embrace. 

While at adoration, I like to kneel as close to the Blessed Sacrament as possible. Sometimes I walk and do the Stations of the Cross. Sometimes I pray the rosary. I usually always lay my special needs up on the altar (not physically). Before I begin, I usually sing all the verses of Amazing Grace. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you a couple times I have caught myself dozing off or getting distracted. But, we are all human, we all have free will, and Jesus loves us right where we are right now!  

Through adoration, I have realized He has given us all the gifts we need. We just need to be with Him in silence and ask specifically for things that we feel we need at a particular moment. We need to adore Him and thank Him. Remember, He came to earth in the flesh and suffered and died on the cross because He loves us so much. So, over the many years that I have been going to adoration, I have realized that I need to take that time and sit in silence with Him, away from the hustle and bustle.  

We must believe that He can heal and answer our prayers, but we must also realize the healing may be eternally in Heaven and not here on Earth. I have had many situations that I took to prayer at adoration — for family members, friends, or myself who were sick or even a young girl that was needing to find beautiful parents to adopt her that she could trust. Those prayers were answered. So many times, I go in with an anxious heart and come out with peace and forgiveness in my heart. 

Each of us has our own gift. A gift that God has given me is after each Tuesday night after adoration, He gives me a spiritual reflection, and I share that with others on my Facebook page, through text, and in our local paper. I know I have to take that quiet time and peace to hear what He reveals to me. 

Some days I will cry while praying because I feel remorse — or just know He is there with me, and I get super excited. Other times, I feel a sense of peace. 

I highly recommend putting adoration on your schedule. I had to do every week, otherwise I wouldn't attend because it just wouldn't get done. That is my nature. Now, I feel an emptiness when I am unable to go. If your church does not have eucharistic adoration, talk to your priest about starting it. If you have one already about your parish, set a schedule and/or bring a friend literally to Christ. We need these graces He gives freely to us. You will have no regrets. God will give you everything you need. All you need to do is ask and adore Him right there in the Blessed Sacrament.

Lisa Rexroat is a parishioner at St. Isidore Parish in Dieterich.

Alton Ss Peter PaulIn 1857, what was then the Diocese of Quincy, became the Diocese of Alton, making Ss. Peter and Paul church the Cathedral of the diocese - at that time, the southern half of Illinois. Below the main altar are the tombs of the first two bishops of the Diocese of Alton, Bishop Henry Damian Juncker and Bishop Peter Joseph Baltes. The third bishop of the Diocese of Alton, Bishop James Ryan, is buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery.During the Year of the Eucharist in our diocese, Catholic Times and the social media channels for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will also get you ready for the 100th anniversary of the transfer of the diocesan See city from Alton to Springfield (October of 2023). This includes articles and photos about the rich history of our diocese, videos from the Office for the Archives and Records Management showcasing fascinating documents and objects from our history, and 100 trivia questions, so stay tuned! 

In this edition of Catholic Times, we present to you a brief history of our diocese up to the See transfer and the pioneers that made our region flourish in faith. 

Office for the Archives and Records Management
Special to the Catholic Times

Even though Springfield has been the See city of our diocese for just under 100 years, the story of our diocese spans over 300 years. The land that our diocese occupies was once the home to Illini Nations and the migration path of the Peoria, Kickapoo, and Kaskaskia tribes of Indigenous People. 

In 1789, the newly formed Diocese of Baltimore included the territory that is now the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. At that time, only a small population of Catholics lived in this area, practicing their faith in the settlement established by Father Jacques Marquette, who had arrived in the areas in 1673 with a group of French explorers. Since then, this area has passed under the administration of the Diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky (1808), St. Louis, Missouri (1826), and Vincennes, Indiana (1834). In 1843, the entire state of Illinois was formed into a single diocese with the See city in Chicago. 

Bishop Griffin returns from RomeOn October 26, 1923 Pope Pius XI transferred of the see of the diocese from Alton to Springfield. Just 12 days earlier, the pope had named James Griffin (pictured) as the first bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Griffin was consecrated at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, on February 25, 1924.In 1852, American bishops and archbishops met in Baltimore for their first Plenary Council.  There, they discussed creating more dioceses in the United States. They recommended that Illinois be divided, and on July 29, 1853, Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Quincy, which was comprised of the current Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and Diocese of Belleville. A bishop of Quincy was appointed but declined the honor. On Jan. 9, 1857, Pope Pius IX moved the vacant see to Alton and appointed Henry Damian Juncker, a priest from Ohio as the first bishop of Alton. 

Bishop Juncker traveled to Europe and recruited priests and seminarians to commit to serve in the new diocese. Bishop Juncker built a solid spiritual foundation that made it possible for our diocese to flourish. He died on Oct. 2, 1868, having overseen the dedication and erection of over 50 local parish churches and missions. 

The second bishop of our diocese was Peter J. Baltes. He was consecrated at St. Peter Church in Belleville on Jan. 23, 1870. Bishop Baltes actively recruited women religious for the Diocese of Alton and three communities established motherhouses. He stabilized the administration of the diocese and oversaw continued growth. 

In 1887, upon the death of Bishop Baltes, Pope Leo XIII split the diocese in two, establishing the Diocese of Belleville from the southern portion of the diocese. Father James Ryan from the Diocese of Peoria was appointed as the third bishop of Alton.

Bishop Ryan had the longest tenure of any bishop of our diocese, serving a little over 35 years.  His episcopacy saw a massive rise in immigration to the area. Thousands of immigrants settled in Central Illinois and Bishop Ryan had to contend with providing religious services to more than a dozen ethnic groups. He steered the diocese through a period of growth and change and is best known for his role in expanding the Alton orphanage. Bishop Ryan died on July 2, 1923. 

Springfield cathedral 1928Bishop Griffin's first task was to move the chancery from Alton to Springfield and to establish a new cathedral. St. Mary's Church in downtown Springfield became the pro-cathedral, but the building, which was built in 1859, was showing its age. In 1927, Griffin launched the Cathedral Campaign to raise money for the new building and within a month, the campaign had reached its goal of $750,000 and shortly thereafter, it topped the million-dollar mark. Griffin had timed the construction of the cathedral so that it would be completed in time for the celebration of the diocese's Diamond Jubilee. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated on October 14, 1928 as the highlight of the four-day jubilee festivities. This photo of the cathedral was taken in 1928.On Oct. 26, 1923, Pope Pius XI translated the diocesan see from Alton to Springfield. Just 12 days earlier, the pope had named Father James Griffin of Chicago as the first bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Bishop Griffin's first task was to move the chancery from Alton to Springfield and to establish a new cathedral. 

St. Mary Church in downtown Springfield became the pro-cathedral of the newly-formed diocese, but the building, which was built in 1859, was showing its age. In 1927, Bishop Griffin launched the Cathedral Campaign to raise money for the new building and within a month, the campaign had reached its goal of $750,000 and shortly thereafter, it topped the million-dollar mark. Bishop Griffin had timed the construction of the cathedral so that it would be completed in time for the celebration of the diocese's Diamond Jubilee. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1928, as the highlight of the four-day festivities.

Bishop Griffin worked to centralize the administration of the diocese by creating several new offices. The creation of Catholic Social Services (now Catholic Charities) in 1925 exemplified his new management style. During the Great Depression, Catholic Social Services, in cooperation with St. John's Hospital, initiated a systematic program to feed the hungry. St. John's Breadline operated directly from the kitchen of the hospital at first, but eventually became a freestanding operation. 

The death of Bishop Griffin on Aug. 5, 1948 marked a turning point in our diocese. He ushered the diocese into the modern era, but he could not have imagined the challenges that would face the Church in the coming decades.  

Our diocese continues to thrive as we celebrate the centennial of the translation of the See from Alton to Springfield, and we look forward to both the centennial of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the 175th Anniversary of our diocese in 2028. 

Katie Oubre, MLIS, CA, CRM is the director of the Archives and Record Management for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. P.J. Oubre, MA, CA, is the assistant archivist for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. 


Managing Editor

Berni Ely and Bev Hoffman, both parishioners at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Springfield, agree that by helping people deal with loss, they have found their special niche in life. 

The two women co-facilitate a program that helps believers of all faiths paddle through the waves of grief. That program, GriefShare, is now under way on Tuesdays, from 1-2:30 p.m. in the Cathedral School library. It’s a 13-week program (the current one began Nov. 1) that allows people to join in at any time — and Cathedral runs two sessions a year. 

GriefShare has existed for over 25 years and is made available in over 19,000 churches in the United States and several other countries. It is a Christ-centered video-based support group that equips lay volunteers to encourage and comfort people going through bereavement. 

At Cathedral GriefShare meetings — usually attended by between five and 15 people — each person is welcomed by name. The leaders explain the agenda, offer refreshments, and welcome any new members. When everyone is settled, they say an opening prayer. The leaders inquire about the last week, to see if anyone wants to share any special concern or incident, then discuss the workbook session that has followed the previous week’s topic. The invitation to share is open, but not required. After that discussion, the group views a video, followed by a brief discussion. Guests look over the workbook pages for the upcoming week and then the session is closed with another prayer. 

Because they are all feature the same GriefShare videos and share a nation-wide support team, most of the sessions are similar, no matter where they take place. For example, at the urging of her friends, Eli attended her GriefShare program at Athens Christian Church. She later approached Vicki Compton, coordinator of Faith Formation and Mission at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and asked if the parish be able to offer the program.

 “I wasn’t sure if the parish could offer it — because it was Christian but not specifically Catholic in origin — but Vicki listened to me and looked into it,” Ely said. “She was very helpful. Our pastor at the time approved it and then we got started.” 

“Berni said it was the best thing she could do after her husband’s death. GriefShare is what finally helped her move forward after Jack’s death. She encouraged us to start GriefShare and been part of the team since the beginning (in 2019),” Compton said.

Hoffman says, like Ely, she is pleased to be part of the GriefShare team. “I witnessed the depth of grief my sister and husband experienced following the loss of their 18-year-old son in a car accident, as well as my mother’s grief following my dad’s death. While I could not change the situation, I wanted so much to ease their pain.

“I am a long-time Cathedral parishioner. I have regretted for a long time that Catholic churches have not offered the supportive programs that some other denominations offer,” said Hoffman. “After early retirement from my career in state government, I wanted to do something that made a difference — and that was a position at a local funeral home. For many years, I referred families served by the funeral home to GriefShare programs offered by other churches. I was delighted when it could be offered by Cathedral and wanted to support and be a part of it. It is important to remember that we are not counselors, but presenting information in a compassionate manner and facilitating healing discussion. ” 

“We’ve found that our guests find so much solace in good video and print resources, but mostly from the deep and sincere listening of the other participants. We have seen people change over the 13 weeks,” Compton said. “At the beginning they could only cry, but by the end were finding some moments of happiness and sharing stories and supporting others. It is really beautiful to see.”

“After several sessions, individuals feel safer about sharing their grief and tears as they recognize that they are not alone in their grief and others in the group understand,” Hoffman said. “It is easier to share the grief, though the grief doesn’t get ‘easier’ for some time.” 

Most people who experience loss have people around them to help immediately after a death. But GriefShare is designed to extend a grieving ministry that follows in the months or even years after a loss, when people around the griever have returned to their busy lives. 

“Some guests come as soon as few weeks after the death of a loved one, some years after the death,” Compton said. “All seem to find some healing and hope. Several participants, especially those who come soon after their loss, return to repeat the course. When grief is fresh it is difficult to take in any of the content, but being with others who know how they feel, is a comfort in itself. The second time thru is like a completely new experience for them.”

The materials point to Christ as the ultimate healer, something that Ely thinks is most important. “I don’t know how you can grieve without God,” she said. “I had been to other grief programs, but GriefShare really helped me more than anything. I felt like it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I just want to help people. I understand now that my husband had to die for me to get to this point, but I feel like this is my calling. ”

To find out more about beginning a GriefShare program in your parish, go the website, Or, you can contact Vicki Compton at (217) 522-3342 or email

11 13 2022 krug ordination7Deacon Krug and his mother, Mary Jane, hug after Deacon Krug is ordained to the permanent diaconate.By ANDREW HANSEN

Husband, father, and now, a deacon for the Catholic Church. Deacon Andrew Krug was ordained to the permanent diaconate Oct. 28 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. Family, friends, priests, and deacons of the diocese were all in attendance.

“The Church has always been a major part of my life,” Deacon Krug said. “My mom instilled that in my siblings and myself. So, that thought of serving has always been present. One day, Deacon David Sorrell (director for the Office for the Diaconate) brought the idea of the diaconate to me. I spoke to my family, and it made sense as a move in the right direction. God has blessed me, and I want to serve and help others see God's graces in their lives.”

Those blessings include his marriage to Deanne and daughter, Ally, and now a granddaughter, Aviana Marie.

11 13 2022 krug ordination1“I can truthfully say that I can relate with others fears, joys, doubts, and hopes,” Deacon Krug said. “I hope to think of those experiences will help others see that, yes, I can understand and serve by that, walk/talk with them on their journeys of faith. Life can be challenging. It helps to have a friend along the way.”

Deacon Krug will primarily be ministering at St. John Vianney Parish in Sherman and occasionally at Resurrection Parish in Illiopolis. In addition to his work in the Church, he’ll continue as a marketing specialist for Levi, Ray, & Shoup, Inc. When asked what he’s looking forward to the most as a deacon, his response was one of positivity. 

“At each level of my journey as a Catholic, be it student, adult, husband, parent and now deacon, the new adventures, challenges, and joys that come with each new level, I witnessed others in that office and watched them help others and themselves in their faith journey, and I hope with enthusiasm for the new experiences,” Deacon Krug said.

Learn more about the permanent diaconate on page XX of this issue. 

Page 5 of 21