Families! Looking to connect with God, have fun, and create memories?
Attend family day retreat in Quincy Oct. 22
By ANDREW HANSEN
QUINCY — Mike Young, a Blessed Sacrament parishioner in Quincy, has attended the Apostolate for Family Consecration's Holy Family Fest in Ohio the past several summers. The grace-filled and fun-filled experience his family enjoyed has led him, his wife, Mandy, and two other families in Quincy to bring a similar experience to Quincy. Quincy Holy Family Fest is a day retreat on Oct. 22 and is geared toward any families wishing to take a day out of the busyness of life to reconnect with God and have fun together.
“There is a daily rhythm to each day of the retreat in Ohio, and we have modeled our day after that rhythm,” Young said. “It's a rhythm of prayer, especially the sacraments, and family fun. Our family has attended the Holy Family Fest in Ohio the past four summers. Our kids have consistently said they would rather return there each year than go on a trip to Disney World! I believe the reason for that is that all kids, and adults for that matter, crave time with God and time with family and friends. As a dad, I know I get too busy and the craziness of everything life throws at me keeps me from reconnecting with God and with my family as much as I should. This forces me to set time aside from the craziness to intentionally do both of those things. And, it has been an incalculable blessing to our family and the families who have attended with us the past three years.”
The day in Quincy will consist of Mass together as families, and then programming/talks geared toward various age levels. After lunch, there will be a variety of activities and games available such as a bounce house, sand volleyball, board games, kickball, bags, and more. During the recreation time, confessions will also be available. The day will end with a family holy hour, including exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and a family rosary.
“We can look around and see the world is getting crazier and crazier,” Young said. “In particular, the family is really under attack. We need all that the Church has to offer to grow in strength to resist those forces and deepen our relationship with our Lord.”
Quincy Holy Family Fest takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sat., Oct 22 at the Quincy Knights of Columbus campus (700 S 36th St., Quincy). It’s $40 per household, which includes lunch and a T-shirt for each parent. To sign up, go to tinyurl.com/48hm5xuk. For questions, call (217) 257-0186 or email . The deadline to sign up is Oct. 9.
Photo by Aaron Kerkhoff
What’s in a church?
Objects you’ve seen before but didn’t know the name or rich history/symbolism behind them (part 2)
By RYAN KEHOE and GRANT WILSON
Special to Catholic Times
Photos by Andrew Hansen taken at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.
There are dozens of objects used during Mass, seen on the walls of our churches, and found in the sanctuary. Whether it is the name of the object, the history, the symbolism behind why it is used, or how it came about, Catholic Times presents to you interesting facts about objects found in our churches that may make you say, “I didn’t know that!”
Stained glass windows — These often depict scenes from the Bible, the lives of saints, or some other aspect of salvation history. Primarily, there are three reasons we use this glass in churches. The first reason is functional. Windows allowed the church to be well lit in the ages before lightbulbs. Secondly, stained glass is helpful in catechesis. Before reading was common, depictions were an easy way to provide catechesis. Finally, these windows are meant to be beautiful additions to the space we worship in. The Temple of Jerusalem from the Old Testament was filled with beauty, and it drew the people of God to Him in wonder and awe. Like the Temple, our churches are to be filled with beauty and, in this case, the beauty of stained-glass windows is meant to inspire us and draw us deeper into the divine mysteries.
Sanctuary lamp — The Church teaches and believes that Jesus Christ is truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. In Catholic churches, Jesus is therefore present to us in the tabernacle for our prayer and adoration. The sanctuary lamp points to his true presence in the tabernacle. Historically, lamps were used to give light to help people find their way or to convey information by signaling to another person. The sanctuary lamp does the same for us. It is meant to signal to us that Jesus is present in the tabernacle, and He is the light that will guide our path to Heaven. This lamp also has connections to the Old Testament (Exodus 27:20-21) when God prescribed that a lamp burn visibly in the Temple to signify His presence.
Bells — These bells found on some church walls are rung to signal to the congregation that Mass is starting. Bells have a long history in the Catholic Church. In monasteries and towns, large tower bells would be rung to announce the time for Mass. This was especially important since there were no watches or clocks to announce the time.
Baptismal font — Baptism is the first of three sacraments of initiation, through which men and women become incorporated into the mystical body of Christ. This sacrament comes directly from the commission of Jesus to the Apostles when He sent them out to the whole world to spread the good news of his saving love (see Mark 16:15-16, Acts 1:1-5, 8). Baptism is performed when water passes over the brow of a person’s head and the minister of the sacrament says the words “I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Once a person is baptized, he or she is a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), a child of God, and an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven (CCC 1213). From the earliest days of the Apostles, we hear that Christians were baptized by use of water (Acts 8:36, 1 Peter 3:20-21). Many fonts always have holy water in them which we use to bless ourselves by making the Sign of the Cross. When we do this, it should remind us that we are children of God and members of Christ’s Body who are called to become saints.
Ambo — During Mass, the readings from Sacred Scripture are done from the ambo. The word “ambo” comes from Greek meaning “high place.” At Mass, the readings, Psalms, and the Gospel are proclaimed from this small “mountain.” Matthew 5:1-2 tells us that Jesus went up the mountain and taught his Disciples from there. Likewise, Moses brought the Word of God to the people from Mount Sinai, and the priest then, like Jesus, teaches from the “mountain” through his homily.
Tabernacle —The word “tabernacle” comes from the Latin word tabernaculum meaning “tent.” This is in reference to the meeting tent of the Old Testament where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, where Moses would speak with God (Exodus 33:7-9). In Exodus, we read that the meeting tent was in another area, away from the rest of the camp. Anyone who wished to speak with God would go near it and pray. Similarly, the tabernacle is where Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and is kept for our prayer and adoration. This is why Catholics genuflect toward the tabernacle. The Blessed Sacrament is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ and by genuflecting toward Him, we are showing reverence. Although the use of a tabernacle goes farther back, it was the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 which required that the remaining Hosts from Mass be kept in a secure well fashioned receptacle.
Presider’s chair — The presider’s chair is located in the sanctuary. It is from there that the priest begins and concludes Mass. It is separated from the rest of the community to show that the priest is the leader at the Mass because he stands in persona Christi capitas, in the person of Christ. The chair for the main celebrant of the Mass should be distinct from any others in the sanctuary, but not ostentatious or throne-like.
Altar — The altar is where the main action of the Mass happens during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Catholic Church has used altars to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass since Apostolic times and their use demonstrates a continuity in our worship and in our understanding of sacrifice as stemming from worship in the temple.
Altars are to be consecrated since they are not normal tables but become the “Table of the Lord” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:21. Some altars contain the relics of saints. When the first Christians worshipped in secret, the altars they used were the stone tombs of the martyrs. To this day, many churches continue to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass on top of the relics of those who have offered their lives to God to imitate the early Christians.
Chasuble — The chasuble is one example of vestments that are worn by ministers at Mass and the celebration of the sacraments. Each vestment at one time had a practical societal use but are now adopted by the use of the Church and given symbolic meanings. The chasuble worn by a priest or bishop at Mass is the outermost garment worn and is symbolic of charity which is put on over all other things.
Thurible and incense boat — A thurible is a sturdy metal container on the end of a chain of which inside, are burning coals used to melt and burn the incense, creating smoke and a pleasant fragrance. The priest, deacon, or altar server will swing the thurible during certain parts of liturgies, such as before the reading of the Gospel or during the Consecration. The smoke symbolizes the prayers of the faithful being taken up into Heaven.
Incense adds an element of mystery to the Liturgy. For example, when the incense is burned, it fills the church with a smokey mist that hangs in the air. This is connected to the vision of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-4) in which he “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne” with angels in attendance filling the room with praise of Him and smoke. The whole scene described by the prophet is mysterious, and when incense is used in the Mass, we should recall this scene and the opening words of the priest at Mass where he calls the Mass “the Sacred Mysteries.”
Finally, incense has been used over the centuries as part of sacrifices and offerings. In Psalm 141:1-2, it says, “Lord, I call to you; hasten to me; listen to my plea when I call. Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening offering.”
As a Catholic, if I were to attend another church service that is not Catholic and they distribute communion, is it OK if I receive communion there? Can my Christian friends receive Communion at a Catholic Mass, for example, at a wedding?
Paul in Springfield
Whereas many Protestant denominations allow Christians who are not members of their denominations to receive communion in their services, the Catholic Church does not. Because many do not understand the reasoning behind this, some people feel offended by the Church’s insistence that only Catholics (and, in some instances, Orthodox Christians) receive the Eucharist.
The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is called by several different names, as considered in paragraphs 1328-1332 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. One of these names is holy Communion “because by this sacrament, we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body” (CCC, 1331). After all, the word communion itself means “union with.” The Catholic Church only allows those who are her members — those either baptized into the Catholic Church or those who have been received into her through the profession of faith — to receive the Eucharist. If she allowed those who are not united with or in the Church to receive the Eucharist, she would seem to acknowledge something that is not true.
As Catholics, we know that the Eucharist is the very Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity, of Jesus Christ. We know that the Real Presence of Christ effected in this sacrament does not cease once the celebration of the Mass is finished. This is why we worship the Eucharist, “genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord” (CCC, 1378). When a Catholic says, “Amen” to “The Body of Christ” and/or “The Blood of Christ,” he or she acknowledges the Eucharist to be the very Body and Blood of Christ — and not a mere symbol. At the same time, a Catholic acknowledges and accepts the teachings of the Church and maintains communion — unity — with the Church. This is something a non-Catholic cannot honestly say.
Most Protestants (even non-denominationals) do not believe that holy Communion is the very Body and Blood of the Savior. If one of them said, “Amen” to “The Body of Christ,” he or she would commit a lie. Even if a Protestant does believe that holy Communion is the very Body and Blood of Christ, he or she could still not honestly say, “Amen” to “The Body of Christ,” because he or she has no real intention of maintaining unity with the Catholic Church. If he or she did, one would either be taking part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or would already be Catholic. Because the Catholic Church respects the beliefs of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not share Communion with them because we want them to remain men and women of integrity.
The same discipline applies when a Catholic attends a non-Catholic service at which a communion ritual is celebrated. Just as non-Catholics cannot receive Communion in the Catholic Church, Catholics cannot receive communion in non-Catholic services (regardless of what the Protestant denomination teaches). The only exception to this is in the Orthodox Churches, who have maintained a valid priesthood, something no Protestant community has done. If a Catholic received communion in a Protestant service, the Catholic would be professing unity with that religious body, something that is not true.
It is because the Catholic Church loves and respects all people that we do not share Communion with those who are not in union with us. This discipline derives, in part, from the clear teaching of St. Paul, who says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord … . For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (I Corinthians 11:27-29).
If a non-Catholic does believe what the Church believes about the Eucharist, the Church would gladly share holy Communion with him or her. All such a person needs to do is enter into the full communion of the Church established by Christ the Lord.
- Father Daren J. Zehnle, JCL, KCHS, is pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Ashland, director of the Office for Divine Worship and the Catechumenate, and judge in the diocesan Tribunal.
Dominican nuns of the Monastery of Mary the Queen move into new home
Guests are welcome to visit monastery, attend Mass, walk the grounds, talk with the sisters
By ANDREW HANSEN
GIRARD —Tucked away in the silence of corn fields and beautiful woods in rural Macoupin County outside Girard, sits the new home for the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Mary the Queen. Years in the making, the nuns have been praying, waiting, and trusting to get to this joyful day. It’s the first Dominican monastery in Illinois.
“I am very grateful that the Lord chose this spot for us,” said Sister Anna Marie Pierre, OP, the prioress of the community. “It’s just quiet and calm, and the fact that it is so far away from the hustle and bustle, yet people can get to us.”
In July, the community hosted public tours of their new monastery and on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, they welcomed Bishop Thomas John Paprocki to celebrate Mass and to dedicate the church and altar.
“My dear Dominican Nuns, the Lord has given Himself to you in many ways, not least of which are the blessings of this glorious day,” Bishop Paprocki said in his homily. “Truly, this day is a gift to all of us from Our Lord! My simple reminder is that the greatest of all God’s gifts is when He gives Himself to us, and that every moment of His silence is a treasured occasion when He renews that gift. Never underestimate how much of a gift this is! Creation was brought into being with a thought of love. The Incarnation happened with a whispered ‘yes.’ Our redemption was accomplished when Christ bowed His head and laid down His life. The consecration at Mass occurs with the silent outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the bread and wine. Finally, God’s plan for all of us, to carry us body and soul into everlasting friendship with Him, was marvelously, but mutely, prefigured when He assumed His mother into eternal glory. God’s greatest works in our hearts will also happen in silence. The simple question that He asks us each day: ‘Will you let my silent Love dwell in your heart?’”
“What we want to do is encourage the faithful to take the daily demands of their lives and take time away from that and just come here,” Sister Anna Marie said. “We can create such a fellowship with them, even their kids. We can encourage the kids to learn the faith properly just by witnessing to them, the art of being silent, and probably engage with different schools to bring the kids to the parlor to teach them and bring them to the chapel with their teachers — have that kind of rapport where they come in contact with nuns again.”
The Dominican nuns have 16 sisters who now call this new monastery home, which was built by O’Shea Builders of Springfield. Sister Anna Marie says they are thankful to the Dominican Sisters of Springfield who have allowed them to live as guests at their motherhouse on Monroe Street over the past several years.
“With the Dominican Sisters, that bond that we created there with them, they have become such an integral part of our lives that we feel — we always talk about the Dominican family — we have created that,” Sister Anna Marie said.
While the new monastery will not offer directed retreats, guests are invited to the property daily to attend Mass, use the chapel for prayer, talk with the sisters about things going in their lives, and walk the grounds, which includes nearly 40 acres of woodlands and a lake, which you can fish.
The Dominican nun’s lives are structured around a rhythm of prayer, both liturgical and personal. Living a contemplative monastic life, their days also include study, penance, and witness. They also take time for recreation and learning new creative pursuits.
The words “sister” and “nun” are oftentimes used interchangeably by lay people, but there is a distinction. Sisters are more visible to the outside world. Examples include teaching in schools or taking care of patients as a nurse. Nuns, on the other hand, are cloistered and have limited contact with the outside world.
“Whenever we go out and meet people, they are so shocked that they say, ‘Oh my goodness, it has been so long since I have seen a nun. Are you for real?’” Sister Anna Marie said. “Now they can come here and realize that this was not a pipe dream. It took a long time, but this is a place for them. When they see us and come to a place like this, they can think of our life, reminding them that there is more to life than this. It’s about the Kingdom to come.”
The community is still figuring out when Mass will be offered and other schedules of their days, so make sure to check their website opnunsil.org for that information as they continue to get settled. You can also donate to their mission. The nuns also eventually plan a gift shop. You can visit the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Mary the Queen at 15635 Greenridge Road in Girard.
A yearlong sesquicentennial celebration of the founding of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield began Aug. 19 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki from Sacred Heart Convent Chapel at their motherhouse. Over the next year, the community will host multiple prayerful and celebratory events, culminating in a public eucharistic celebration on Aug. 19, 2023, to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Jacksonville of the pioneer sisters in 1873.
“Looking back over the span of our history is an exercise in gratitude, humility, and awe,” said Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, the prioress general of the congregation. “I am grateful to those six women who, with 48 hours’ notice, said ‘yes’ to a mission they could never had imagined. I am humbled by God’s continued fidelity. I stand in awe of the mission to which we are called for the life of the world.”
In the past, being in solidarity with the rostros concretos — as it is expressed in Spanish — meant building educational and healthcare institutions to serve a growing nation of immigrants. With the institution-building phase of the U.S. Catholic Church’s story now long past, an authentic response to the world’s needs looks different that it did in the 19th century.
In 2014, when he declared a year dedicated to consecrated life, Pope Francis told the Church’s religious women and men, sisters, brothers, and priests, to “Come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries.” He asked religious women and men to go to those who have lost all hope, feel abandoned, without purpose, and “thirsting for the divine.”
Since 1873, Dominican Sisters from the Springfield-based congregation have done just that at hundreds of ministry sites in 21 states and multiple locations in Peru.
“This time of prayerful contemplation on our history is as much about looking toward the future with hope as it is about reflecting back on a storied past,” Sister Rebecca Ann said. “As it was for our founding sisters 150 years ago, our mission of standing in solidarity with persons on the peripheries of our nation, church, and world is ongoing and responsive to the needs of the world today.”
Current ministries on the peripheries include education and advocacy for racial justice, immigration reform, accompaniment of Native Americans, and literacy education centers. Springfield Dominican Sisters are engaged in the support of asylum seekers, persons with mental illness, and children living in impoverishment. Though no longer sponsors of health care institutions, Dominican Sisters continue in healthcare ministry as hospital chaplains, home visitors, clinicians, lab technicians, and providers of nursing care.
In addition, the educational mission begun by the founding sisters continues on through three sponsored high schools, two literacy centers, a program of formation of associate candidates, and in multiple other ways of educating, forming, and supporting the faith journeys of individuals, families, and parish communities.
Since 1999, when the sisters took responsibility for Jubilee Farm on Springfield’s western border, the congregation has grown increasingly active in educating and advocating for personal and policy changes that will mitigate the climate crisis and support a healthier planet. The sisters and their associates are active participants in the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
In 2022 the sisters have been among several dozen communities of women religious to broaden the reach of the global synod of the Catholic Church, an ongoing process initiated by Pope Francis to transform the way the church approaches self-governance and its mission of evangelization.
“It would be impossible to try to enumerate the many places where the Dominican Sisters of Springfield have served over the years, but suffice it to say that thousands upon thousands of souls have been touched by your faithful witness to the Gospel, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ by word and deed,” Bishop Paprocki said during his homily. “In a diocese with significant tracts of farmland, the image of sowing seeds is one that it is fitting, for through your service, you have sowed seeds in the soil of many souls, especially young people, seeds which, with God’s grace, have grown and borne fruit in ways that you will not fully appreciate this side of Heaven. For that reason alone, you can look to the past with great gratitude and joy, knowing that the Lord has used you as His instruments in helping to build up the Body of Christ in this section of His vineyard.”
Visit springfieldop.org/150years for more about the Springfield Dominican Sisters’ response to God’s call, their history, and all the events planned for the anniversary celebration throughout the year.
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
As the 2022-2023 school years gets under way, one Catholic high school and 11 Catholic grade schools in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are relying on new principals to lead the way into the future. On Aug. 2, those individuals gathered at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Springfield to meet with Brandi Borries, superintendent of Catholic schools, as well as other diocesan representatives, to prepare for the upcoming school year and their new leadership roles.
Borries was happy to meet with the new principals and has this to say about them, “We are excited to welcome 12 new principals to leadership in our diocese. They bring a wealth of experience and connections to their schools. With much gratitude to our teachers, staff, and all of our administrators, who have been tireless in their efforts in recent years, we are looking forward to another fantastic year full of faith, fun, and academic excellence.”
Let’s visit with the new principals and see what they have to say about their lives and how they aspire to make a positive impact on their staff members and students.
Blessed Sacrament School
The new principal of Blessed Sacrament School in Quincy is Lisa Berhorst. She is excited to have just begun leading 20 staff members and 215 PreK-8 students.
Berhorst has a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting from Culver-Stockton College, an MBA degree from Mississippi State University, and a master’s degree in early childhood administration from National Louis University.
She has been the director at 10th Street Children’s Academy in Quincy as well as an adjunct professor at Culver-Stockton College.
Berhorst says she is looking forward to what her new job has to offer — and what she has to offer her staff and students. “This role will allow myself to grow our student’s faith in everyday life,” she said.
Berhorst and her family are members of Blessed Sacrament Parish. She and her husband B.J. have seven children — two at Quincy Notre Dame High School and five at Blessed Sacrament.
Holy Family School
Brooke Bjorkman is the new principal of Holy Family School in Granite City, where she is leading a staff of about 16 to 18 individuals and approximately 160 students in PreK to eighth grade. She has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Louis University and her master’s in educational leadership from SIUE.
Bjorkman began her career teaching second grade in Mehlville School District before moving to Arizona where she taught grades 1-3 for the Tempe School District. After four years of teaching in Arizona, she moved back to the St. Louis area where she was able to stay home with her children for 10 years, and attained her master’s degree. She then worked part-time as a reading specialist in the Collinsville School District before moving to Florida, where she taught children in grades K-5. “At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, I had the opportunity to move home,” she said. “At that time, I am honored to say I was hired as the new principal of Holy Family Catholic School.”
As a principal she feels passionate about guiding her school to be successful, both academically and spiritually. “This is an ever-changing and complex world we live in; it is important that our students are prepared through their faith to navigate the obstacles ahead of them,” she said. “I deeply believe in every individual in my care and am driven to keep Christ at the center of our academic days.”
Bjorkman says she is the proud mom of five vibrant kids — two that are freshman at SIUE, one that is a high school junior and two that are beginning their freshman year of high school.
Our Lady of Lourdes School
Jennifer Brummer has been hired as the new principal of Our Lady of Lourdes School in Decatur, where she is heading up a staff of about 25 individuals as well as 220 students in grades Pre-3 through eight. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Illinois College and a master’s degree in education administration from Grand Canyon University.
Brummer has been the assistant principal at St. Teresa High School in Decatur for the past three years. She was the junior high science teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes from 2010-2018. She has also taught science for the Pana School District, at Franklin Middle School in Springfield, and at Warrensburg-Latham Junior High.
A member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Brummer says through a variety of life experiences, God has been preparing her to be a Catholic school principal. “All my paths keep leading me back to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School,” she said. “I am equipped with the faith, passion, commitment, drive, grit, and history that it takes to be an effective leader. One of the many blessings of being in a Catholic school setting is feeling closer to God through interactions with others, enabling me to strengthen my own Catholic faith and identity and allowing me the opportunity to share my beliefs and witness with the students, families, and faculty in our Catholic school community.”
Brummer says one of her favorite quotes is, “God’s gift to you: potential. Your gift to God: developing it.” She said, “Being the principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School will help me continue my quest of getting the most out of the potential God has given me and I pray that my influence will help those around me to do the same.”
Brummer and her husband, Mark Brummer, have four children. Morgan is a 2021 graduate of St. Teresa; twins Matthew and Joseph are seniors at St. Teresa; and their youngest, Julianne, is a fifth-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes.
St. Norbert School
Gwen Burch has accepted the position as principal of St. Norbert School in Hardin, where she is leading five teachers and 56 students in grades K-8. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management and leadership from Blackburn College, and a master’s of business administration from Quincy University.
Burch says that leading St. Norbert reminds her that she has come full circle at the school. “I had the pleasure of attending St. Norbert School as a child, and the lessons learned, especially those relating to faith formation, I have carried throughout my life,” she said. “I have closely observed and been involved in operations of the school as a parent of two current students, in addition to having served for several years on the advisory board and support club.
“Having served in those roles, combined with my experience managing the operations of our parish office, I believe will allow for a smooth transition wherein I will be able to effectively administer the operation of our school. I am excited for this opportunity to lead St. Norbert School. I look forward to working with our wonderful faculty to provide quality Catholic education for the children of our community.”
Burch continues that she is prepared to do her personal best for the school. “I will do my best, along with the staff, to instill in our students the values of our Catholic faith, and to continue the legacy of our school whereby our students have gone forth from our halls to be shining examples of scholarship, leadership, and service.”
Burch and her husband, Charles, live outside of Kampsville, with their two daughters, Charlee who is in fifth grade, and Greta who is a third-grader. They are members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Hardin.
St. Patrick Catholic School
After teaching for over 10 years, Michael Carlson says he is looking forward to leading the 65 students in grades PreK-5 and 12 staff members at St. Patrick Catholic School in Springfield.
Carlson, who has his master’s in religion and literature from Yale Divinity School and a master’s in English from Eastern Illinois University, says his background in teaching humanities subjects in Catholic and private schools will help him to help others.
“The mission of Catholic education brings good news to the poor; in the case of St. Pat’s, the students are low-income and hungry for both academic and spiritual truth,” said Carlson, who is a member of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish. “We live that mission if we treat every St. Pat’s student as Christ in unfamiliar form, inspire their minds to see the ultimate truth, and guide every soul to faith in action. I want to lead St. Pat’s because I believe that this school truly brings good news to our students and their families.”
St. Mary School
Joanne Coady is proud that she is the principal of St. Mary School in Taylorville, the place where she attended when she was a girl. There she is leading 20 staff members and approximately 35 preschool students and 100 students in grades K-6.
“I am a graduate of St. Mary School as well as my children,” she said. “I am actively involved in the parish through singing in the choir, eucharistic minister, RCIA team member, and a PSR teacher, preparing students for sacraments.”
Coady has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in special education from Eastern Illinois University, as well as endorsements in general administration and special education supervision from that university.
Coady and her husband, Mark, are the parents of Danielle (deceased), Jennifer, Johnathan, Joshua, Matthew, and Elizabeth. They also have 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
She spent nine years with Mid-State Special Education, as a teacher of self-contained elementary special education for students in grades 3-5 for eight years, and resource and self-contained teacher for grades 7-12 for one year. Additionally, Coady spent 15 years as a teacher at Central A & M CUD #21, Kemmerer Village Residential Treatment Center for grades 6-12 and then 10 years as principal at that same place.
“My inspiration to become a teacher came from my first-grade teacher at St. Mary’s, so what better way to end my career in education than at the school where it all began. I love what I do and I want to be that same inspiration to my students,” she said. “My life has come full circle.”
Timothy J. Harmon
Marquette Catholic High School
Timothy Harmon was named principal of Marquette Catholic High School in Alton after spending part of the 2021-2022 school year as the interim principal. At the school he is leading 45 to 50 faculty members and 415 students. He has a bachelor’s degree in history with a secondary education teaching certificate, a master’s degree in history, and is working on his education specialist degree.
Harmon has been at Marquette since the 2012-2013 school year. “I have held several positions at Marquette, from dual credit teachers, to boys soccer coach, to girls soccer coach, to boys tennis coach, to National Honor Society faculty monitor, to assistant athletic director, to bus driver, to dean of students, to principal,” he said, adding that he always tries to lead by example.
“In particular, I believe it is important for me as principal to show that I am strong in my faith, support the Catholic Church, have a presence in the Church, both through attending Mass and through volunteering,” he said. “I think it is important to lead with compassion. I want to show students, parents, faculty, and staff that they have a leader who cares about them and wants the best for them.
“I want the students to know that I support them through everything they do, not just schoolwork, but friendships, their walk in faith, and their overall well-being. For parents, I want them to know that they have someone who supports their mission for their sons and/or daughters in a Catholic education,” he said. “As for the faculty and staff, I want them to know they are supported in doing their jobs how they need to be done and that I am here for them whatever they may need. I believe that leadership can truly make or break a school and I hope to be a great leader for Marquette Catholic, now and in the future.”
A member of St. Mary Parish in Fieldon, Harmon and his wife, Natasha, have one daughter, Ava, who attends St. Francis/Holy Ghost in Jerseyville.
St. John Neumann Catholic School
Russell Hart says he is ready for a good year at St. John Neumann School in Maryville, where he is now leading 31 staff members and 240 students in grades PreK-8. His personal education includes a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Ball State University, a master’s degree in school administration from University of North Texas, and a bachelor’s in nursing from Wright State University.
Hart was principal of St. Joseph Freeburg for three years, principal of Gibault Catholic High School for 15 years, and for the last three years, has been a teacher at Father McGivney Catholic High School in Glen Carbon.
“Catholic schools are special places because their values do not change, they bring structure and moral direction to all those in the building,” he said. “The opportunity to serve again later in life is a blessing I just could not pass up.”
Hart is a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia. He and his wife, Diana, have two sons, Brian and Brett.
St. Mary School
Elizabeth Hogg is the interim principal at St. Mary School in Alton. This year she is leading 25 teachers and over 15 additional staff members, along with 320 students in grades PreK-8.
She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and has spent the last 27 years at St. Mary. “This is my 28th year, with 23 years in the classroom and four years as dean of students,” she said.
“St. Mary’s has become a family to me,” she said. “We have a fantastic staff. I feel blessed to have this interim position.”
Hogg and her husband, Jim, live in Alton. They have a grown son who is a paramedic at Alton Memorial Hospital. She is a member of St. Mary Parish.
Holy Family School
Bryan Kenney is leading Holy Family School in Decatur, where he has not only attended, but has also taught in the past. There he is leading 25 staff members and approximately 250 students who are in PreK 3 through eighth grade.
Kenney has his associate’s degree in science from Richland Community College, his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Millikin University, his master’s in elementary education from Greenville University, and his master’s in educational leadership from the American College of Education.
He taught mathematics and was athletic director at Our Lady of Lourdes in Decatur for seven years, taught mathematics and PE at Holy Family for one year, and taught mathematics for two years at Johns Hill Magnet School.
“I have been involved in some way with the Catholic school system my whole life,” he said. “I am a proud Holy Family and St. Teresa graduate, as was my mother. It is my hope that my kids will also be Holy Family and St. Teresa graduates. I have seen firsthand how great a Catholic school can be in providing an excellent faith-based education. Being in a leadership position allows me to work with the excellent staff currently in place to ensure a successful school and future for Holy Family.”
Kenney is a lifelong member of Holy Family Parish. He and his wife, Holly, have two children, Howie, 3, and Rookey, 2.
St. Louis Catholic School
J’dah Koger spent the 2021-2022 school year as assistant principal of St. Louis Catholic School in Nokomis. This year she began her first year as principal of the school, which has 17 staff members and 65 students who are in PreK through eighth grade.
Koger has her bachelor’s degree in radio, TV, and digital media from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in education administration. She was formerly a teacher’s assistant and a student activities assistant.
Koger is a parishioner at St. Louis Parish and has three children, two who are students at St. Louis School.
St. Francis Solanus School
Julie Radel is the new principal at St. Francis Solanus School in Quincy, where she is leading 24 teachers and 256 students in grades PreK-8.
Radel has a bachelor’s degree in education from Illinois College and a master’s degree in elementary education with a specialization in early childhood education from Western Illinois University. Moreover, she has 33 credit hours beyond a master’s.
Although she has been teaching first and second grade at St. Francis over the past five years, Radel spent 25 years as a public school teacher, instructing younger students.
“St. Francis is a family,” she said. “Generations are committed to Catholic education. It is such a faith-filled community with a Franciscan tradition.”
Radel is a member of St. Peter Parish. She and her husband, Ted, have a son, Joseph, who is a sophomore at Quincy Notre Dame.
‘Why are you Catholic?’
How that one question from one special person made Sean Hussey, a record-breaking high school quarterback who played at the University of Illinois, fall in love with the faith, work for the Church, and now teach theology at St. Anthony High School in Effingham
By ANDREW HANSEN
One thing Sean Hussey is known for at Charleston High School is dominance. A 2013 graduate, Hussey spent many Friday nights tearing apart defenses as a star quarterback. A First Team All-State selection, he holds records for passing yards, touchdowns, and completions in a game, season, and career at the school. After graduation, he then made the University of Illinois football team as a walk-on quarterback before transferring to Eastern Illinois University.
While his mind as a teenager was focused on athletics, he was going through the motions of living our faith. That’s when one special person asked a very simple but profound question that led him on a journey he would never expect, including becoming a theology teacher at St. Anthony High School in Effingham this year.
Catholic Times editor Andrew Hansen interviewed Hussey to share his story of how falling in love with our faith changed everything.
Q. You grew up in a Catholic household and went to Mass every Sunday and would go to confession, but despite that, you have said during that time in your life, “Your heart was far from God. You had no relationship with Him.”
A. My parents are unbelievable people. “Saints” Kevin and Kathy. They taught me and my four older siblings to love God, and that was clearly the priority of their life. So, I had a really solid foundation of what should be the priority or what should be essential to my life. For whatever reason, especially in middle school and high school, during these high school football days, being Catholic to some degree was important to me. I would lead prayers before and after the game and that would become a tradition, so there was clearly something in me my parents fostered, but I was living this double life. Going through the motions, I didn’t really see, while important, how it (the Catholic faith) really applied to my life. So, on the one hand, professing to be a Christian, but I lived another way and became entrenched in a life of sin, a life of selfishness, and my life was fixed on “all about me.” I’ve heard the more entrenched we are in sin, the more rational it becomes, and that was where I was at in high school.
Q. It was your senior year in high school when a question was asked of you from someone you least expected. A classmate, Paige, who was a prayerful Protestant and one you were interested in, asked you, “Why are you Catholic?” Take us back to that moment, what you remember?
A. The more I thought (about that question), the more it hit me. For whatever reason, that was never a question that I ever considered. She loved Jesus, and she was pursuing a relationship with Him, and that was a really clear part about her life, and there was something about her life I was attracted to beyond just her physical beauty, and that was it — that she was different than my other classmates. She prayed every day, and she read Scripture every day, which are two things I never thought of doing.
From her perspective, (asking that question) didn’t come from a place of hostility necessarily. She just didn’t see how somebody could claim to follow Jesus and be a Catholic. So, she wanted to know why I was Catholic.
Do you remember what you said?
Nothing good. I think I said my family is Catholic, and I’m raised Catholic, but I don’t know, and beyond that, I’m not really sure why. As soon as I left (for college), this question was going through my mind, and I started to spend a lot of time thinking about it and diving more into that question.
Q. Tangibly, that simple question then started a whole new journey for you?
A. Because of the foundation I had, I never considered not going to Mass. So, I continued to do that. Meanwhile that summer, I had a real intellectual pursuit of that question, and the first place I did that was reading Scripture for the first time on my own, especially the New Testament. I was very moved by the New Testament and Jesus, the Apostles, and their writings. I was convinced I was seeing Catholicism everywhere. These things that I grew up being taught, things like the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the necessity of baptism, the necessity to confess our sins — all these things I was seeing reading the New Testament. Paige (who I was dating then) was reading the New Testament so I thought this is a great place to start, and we read through it together. As I was having this intellectual discovery, I was having this intellectual conversion. I became not only convinced of Catholicism, but the foundation of Catholicism, Jesus Christ.
I remember some Tuesday morning before workout, going to the chapel on campus, and having my first honest confession. If this is true, and I believe it is true, then my life needs to look different, and what I need first is mercy.
Q. After college, you worked for a parish in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and then for the diocese itself in ministry. Were you expecting to work for the Church?
A. Early on after that conversion, I never expected it. But there was a person I met who really made an impact on my desire to want to work for the Church, and his name is Norm. I met him actually at the University of Illinois. Norm is a Protestant Christian. Norm really discipled me. Norm was just a model for me on what it looked like to be a disciple. Norm taught me not only to know things about Jesus, he taught me how to follow Him. How to cultivate a daily prayer life, how to read Scripture every day, how to make Scripture an essential part of your life, how to hear God’s voice through Scripture, and how to witness your faith.
That kind of approach is what I became attracted to. I had the opportunity in college to do that with my peers, to meet with people one-on-one, to lead small groups and things like that, and throughout that time, I really felt like the Lord was calling me to that for a career.
Q. This year, you are teaching theology at St. Anthony High School in Effingham. Why did you choose to teach theology and come back to Central Illinois?
A. The Lord opened some doors to make that happen. I feel like the Lord is asking me to share the Gospel with my life and make sure I am doing that in the context of relationships and certainly what I was doing with the Archdiocese allowed me to do that. I wasn’t really looking to leave the position I was in actually, but at the same time, I got married to Paige, we have two little kids now, and we had been praying intentionally the past couple of years for an opportunity to move closer to Charleston. I didn’t know how that would work out but if God wanted us to come back, He would open up a door. Father Michael Berndt (parochial vicar at St. Anthony Parish), a friend of mine, called me and told me about this position. There were a lot of things that looked like this wouldn’t work out, but all the doors, the Lord opened those, and a great opportunity for us to continue to work for the Church and move closer to home.
Q. So many young adults and teens who are Catholic are not practicing our faith. How do you hope to bring them back as a theology teacher?
A. Pope Benedict XVI said that being a Christian is not the result of being an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but it’s an event, it’s an encounter with a person. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t have a relationship with theology. Jesus is who set me free. St. Paul says in Galatians, “It is for freedom (that) Christ has set us free.” More than anything, I hope to introduce students to the person and the work of Jesus Christ. Hopefully anything I say or the theology we study is just a means to an end, a means to encounter Jesus more fully in their life. Hopefully, I can model what it looks like.
Q. You are now married to Paige as you mentioned, who also converted to Catholicism. You have two children. In a culture that is seeing less people get married and so many broken marriages, you two are embracing the sacrament. What has made marriage special for you?
A. Paige is an amazing woman, and I love being married to her because she leads me closer to Jesus every day. That is what marriage is all about. It’s a vocation. It’s something we discern. I have discerned the call to the vocation of marriage. Being married to Paige, we have a responsibility, primarily, to lead each other closer to Christ. it was important for us to get married in the Church because it’s not about us but a unified pursuit of Christ, and together we can help in leading one another and our children to Heaven.
Q. You are also the host of a popular podcast called Cold Brews and Catholic Truths with more than 15,000 subscribers. Why did you start it, and what is it all about?
A. I felt like I was given certain gifts to teach, and I would love to share some of the things in my own conversion and make a few videos about those things. So, I made a few videos and put them on YouTube. I thought probably no one would see them but some friends and family would and that will lead to some good conversations, and that would be it. Then, COVID shut the world down and we were at home and my wife sat me down and she said that she thinks I have gifts to speak and to share the Gospel and talk about the truth of Catholicism, and I should take that YouTube Channel a little more seriously. Initially, I was not that interested because it sounded like a lot of work, which it is. Providentially, one of those videos I made six months (prior), caught some traction and started to take off on YouTube. It seemed like a clear sign to commit to doing one a week and see how this goes. It was out a desire to share the beauty and truth of Catholicism, and specifically some of the things I have found so convincing that have brought me so much joy to my life as a Catholic.
Q. What is your message to teens and young people today who seem to only care about becoming a celebrity and have become so disconnected from faith?
A. All of those things will pass away. St. Paul says that the things that are seen and are transient are passing. It’s the things that are unseen that are eternal. Our identity is being a child of God. That is the only thing that can never be taken away from us.
Blessed Chiara Badano (1971-1990) was a young teenager, a beautiful woman, was very popular, had a lot of friends, was an athlete, was good at tennis, and had a lot of going for her in the eyes of the world and a lot of these things we seek after. In the midst of all that, she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor/cancer. She started to lose all these things she could have defined herself by. She started to lose her physical appearance, she started losing her hair, she started to lose friends and popularity and relationships, and lost her athletic ability. Ultimately, she lost her life. But, in the midst of that tremendous suffering, she was somebody who knew that as good as any of those things are, all of those things can and will pass away, but my identity as a daughter of God cannot. She had this deep sense of joy, this deep sense of peace that no matter what things she lost in this world, she knew she would never lose her relationship with Christ. So, don’t seek after those things. Seek after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Q. So, when you think back to that question Paige asked you in high school, “Why are you Catholic?” what is your response today?
A. Because Catholicism is true. G.K. Chesterton said that there are 10,000 reasons why I am Catholic all amounting to one reason which is that Catholicism is true. I believe that Jesus is God, I believe that Jesus came in the flesh to redeem us from our sins, to reconcile man back to God. The good news is that God demonstrates His love for us and while we are sinners, Christ died for me. I am so grateful for the gift of salvation and the fullness of that gift is given to us in the Catholic Church, the Church Jesus Himself established. He gives His grace to us through the Church and through the sacraments. So, those are the reasons I am Catholic.
Answers taken and edited from Andrew Hansen’s interview with Sean Hussey on Dive Deep, the official podcast of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. To hear their full conversation, go to dio.org/podcast or search “Dive Deep” on all the major podcast platforms.
Objects you’ve seen before but didn’t know the name or rich history/symbolism behind them
(Part 1 of 2)
By RYAN KEHOE and GRANT WILSON
Special to Catholic Times
There are dozens of objects used during Mass, seen on the walls of our churches, and found in the sanctuary. Whether it is the name of the object, the history, the symbolism behind why it is used, or how it came about, Catholic Times presents to you interesting facts about objects found in our churches that may make you say, “I didn’t know that!”
(Photos by Andrew Hansen taken at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.)
Sanctus bells — These are struck once at the epiclesis when the priest celebrant calls down the Holy Spirit over the bread and wine. The bells are then traditionally rung three times each when the priest celebrant shows the sacred Host and when he shows the chalice following the consecration. This ringing has been a tradition in Catholic churches for 800 years. The ringing of these bells is optional, but it helps signal to the faithful that the liturgy has reached its high point.
Icon — Traditionally associated with Eastern Christianity, an icon is a sacred image used in religious devotion. This icon was commissioned for the sesquicentennial celebration of the diocese and is entitled The Mother of God, the Life-Giving Spring. Mary is depicted holding Jesus, surrounded by angels and various holy men and women. On her left is the title "Mother of God" and on her right is the title "Life-Giving Spring." Icons are filled with rich symbolism, some of it clearly seen and some hidden.
We call the candles in front of icons and statues "votive candles.” Catholics may make use of votive candles in prayer, asking Mary or a particular saint to pray for their needs. Just as we ask our friends and family to pray for our intentions, so we can also ask the saints to pray for our intentions, since the saints are with God in Heaven.
Paschal candle — This represents the risen Christ whose light has come into the world to scatter the darkness. Each parish purchases a new one each year, and a priest blesses it. It is used during the Easter season and other special occasions, like baptisms and funerals.
Each Paschal candle has a cross, the Greek letters “alpha” and “omega” to show that Jesus Christ is the beginning and end, the one who created everyone and everything; the current year, to show that God is with his people today; and five wax-covered incense grains that are inserted with nails into the candle to represent the five wounds of Jesus on the cross.
Statues —This is a statue of Mary and St. Ann, Mary’s mother. Catholics put statues of saints in churches, homes, and businesses because, just as we ask our friends and family to pray for us when we need help or support, we ask saints to pray for us. We use statues or images to remind us of their help and presence in our lives. Also, just as people display pictures of family and friends in their homes, Catholics display images of saints because they are our family and friends in Christ.
Stations of the Cross — This is a series of 14 images that depict scenes from the day of the Lord Jesus’ passion and death. Done especially during the season of Lent, but at any time of the year, Catholics pray and meditate on these events by processing or walking from image to image. This tradition originated in the Holy Land in the 1400s, where pilgrims followed a certain route and made stops at places where significant events in Jesus’ life happened all the while meditating and remembering his passion and death.
Confessional — Most churches have a small room or kneelers which are built to face each other but which are separated by a wall or other barrier called a “confessional.” This is where Catholics confess their sins to a priest, who acts in the person of Jesus Christ and forgives them. Catholics believe that Jesus delegated the authority to forgive sins to his Apostles, an event recorded in the Gospels of Matthew (16:18) and John (20:22). Jesus gave this authority to priests — to forgive the sins of those who come to confess.
The tradition of confessing sins is mentioned by early Christians, such as St. Irenaeus, who was taught by a disciple of St. John the Apostle; by Origen, a Christian writer from the 200s, and by St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, Italy from the 300s, who said that the right of hearing and forgiving sins “is given to priests only.”
Holy water font — These are usually found near the entrances to a church and have holy water in them which is blessed water by a priest or deacon. When Catholics enter church, they dip their finger in the holy water and make the Sign of the Cross to remind them of their own baptism. Holy water is called a sacramental, a sacred object or action which signifies spiritual effects and helps people to receive the sacraments.
Pew and kneeler — Kneelers were not used in early Christian churches. They are a modern development and have only been a part of the Catholic Mass since the 1500s. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church encouraged people to use them during Mass to emphasize each person’s humble position before God.
Papal flag — Pope Pius XI adopted the current Papal flag in 1929 when Vatican City became an independent state. It is modeled on the earlier flag used by the Papal States. The flag has the triple papal tiara, the pope’s crown, which symbolizes his authority. Below the crown, there are two keys, one silver and one gold. These represent the keys to the kingdom of Heaven which Jesus gave to Peter. The two different colored keys symbolize that Peter and his successors have both spiritual and worldly power. In many churches, the Papal flag and the national flag can be found.
Crucifix — The image of Jesus nailed to the cross is called the “crucifix.” Catholic churches have used this image for over 1,000 years. It is used as a witness to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and death and to honor what Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians: “We proclaim Christ crucified.” According to liturgical law, every church must have a crucifix on or near the altar.
Why, with already so many of the rubrics and language changes in the New Mass, would there be a good reason for omitting the Confiteor from being said at the Sacrifice of the Mass? (Editor’s note: The Confiteor is the prayer that begins with, “I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words … .”
Maxine in Collinsville/Maryville
In the Order of Mass, Mother Church provides three possible options for the Penitential Act (nos. 4-6). The Order of Mass does not indicate if one of the three options is to be preferred over another. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal also does not indicate if one of the options is to be preferred. Rather, it simply says, “the Priest calls upon the whole community to take part in the Penitential Act, which, after a brief pause for silence, it does by means of a general confession. The rite concludes with the Priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance” (no. 51).
Of these three options, the third form is likely the one with which most Catholics are familiar. The priest invites the congregation to call to mind their sins, after which the priest or the deacon says three invocations directed to Christ Jesus. After each of the invocations, the congregation responds with either “Lord, have mercy” or with “Christ have mercy” (no. 7). This third option does not involve the praying of the Confiteor (the beginning of which, in English, is, “I confess to Almighty God … .”).
The second option provided for the Penitential Act is, for whatever reason, rarely utilized. The priest invites the congregation to call to mind their sins, after which he says, “Have mercy on us, Lord,” to which the people reply, “For we have sinned against you.” The priest then says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,” to which the people say, “And grant us your salvation.” Then follows the non-sacramental absolution and “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” This second option also does not involve the Confiteor.
In the first option for the Penitential Act, the priest invites the congregation to remember their sins, after which all pray the Confiteor together. Then follows the non-sacramental absolution and “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”
Because the liturgical books do not provide a hierarch for these three options, the celebrant of the Mass is free to choose whichever option he prefers. It may be that a priest might choose the first option on more solemn occasions and use one of the other options other days. Regardless of which option a priest uses, we should remember that what the Church allows, the Church allows.
- Father Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Ashland and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry
Looking back at 25 years of healing and reconciliation in Vandalia
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
VANDALIA — It was 1997 when, with a bare bones budget, Debbie Pryor and Vanessa Keck founded Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry (OSMM) in Vandalia. What they did have was a fervent desire to provide a place of love and mercy that encouraged reconciliation with one another and with God. Today OSMM continues to flourish, and holds frequent retreats, priests talks, confession, Mass, and has active prayer teams.
Ann Stock, a devoted community member of Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry said, “Initially, their goal was to provide knowledge and evangelization to our immediate community and parish. Our pastor at the time, Father Stephen Sotiroff, was very supportive and saw this as what was needed for the parish and even the world to grow in their faith life.”
The ministry has always had the purpose of personal healing for people, she said. “As the years have passed, we have moved on to helping people grow in their interior lives, spiritual growth, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God and others.”
Father Peter Mary Rookey, OSM, was an internationally known healing priest who became a mentor to Pryor and Keck and was instrumental in encouraging them in the beginning of the ministry. Many other priests have provided advice and guidance over the years including Father John Titus, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Father Bill Casey, CPM, and all the various pastors at Mother of Dolors. Most recently, Father Chad Ripperger has been a mentor and spiritual father to OSMM.
Currently Father Seth Brown, pastor of Our Mother of Dolors Parish in Vandalia and St. Joseph Parish in Ramsey, is the chaplain and spiritual advisor to the ministry. “We are so grateful to have Father Seth here,” said Pryor. “He is a real gift of support and encouragement.”
Pryor adds that they have “been blessed with two holy bishops” who led them to the truth of the Church and have been close advisors. Bishop (now Archbishop) George Lucas led the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois for the first years and now, of course, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is the diocesan bishop. Bishop Paprocki initiated and carried out the designation of OSMM as a Private Association of the Faithful. He also named and blessed the 6,000-square-feet Sanctuary of the Sorrowful Mother, which was built in 2012.
“The Sanctuary came about because of our need for our own building,” Stock said. “For the first 15 years, we rented the local school buildings and the Mother of Dolors parish center for our retreats. Because of the growth of the ministry, it became apparent that we needed our own building to house all we needed to host those events. The number of books and sacramentals we had also grown, and we needed a place to display them.
“With much prayer, it was discerned that we would build our own place,” she said. “A number of community people confirmed this, but one in particular was in the position to put up the initial finances to get started. With the building well under way, this person became ill and was not able to complete the project. Through the generous support of donors, the building and the ministry in general is able to continue. It all God’s Providence.”
The Sanctuary, where Mass is said and retreats are held, holds about 100 people, and has a reception area, a gift shop, and several side rooms and chapels. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Stabat Mater Dolorosa chapel. There are several other buildings on the grounds including Bethany House, which is reserved for priests to stay during the retreats and also has a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved; House of Mary and Martha, which is used privately; and House of the Immaculate, which was recently purchased and will be a place where prayer teams meet.
Of course, Pryor and Keck are both still leading the ministry with the help of the OSMM community, a group of people who assist them in a variety of ways during retreats. The helpers are members of prayer teams, handle welcomes and registration, make announcements and introductions, work in the bookstore, provide meals for speakers and other community members, and complete other tasks that help to accommodate participants.
“I think an important thing for people to understand about OSMM is that it is Our Lord’s and Our Lady’s ministry,” Stock said. “We did not begin with a plan. We just took one step and hosted our first event. Then God showed us what was next through people who discerned God’s will or advice from trusted priests.”
Stock says even after a quarter of a century, OSMM is not well known. “Even though we have been doing this for 25 years, we often hear people from our own diocese say they had no idea that this ministry is in Vandalia. People would have to travel all over the country to hear the speakers we have hosted.
“When people visit OSMM, they can expect to meet people just like themselves. People who love the faith and the Church and want to share that with others,” Stock said. “It is a relaxed experience, where people can just come and listen to speakers, come and go as they please. More often, people come and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit here. They find themselves becoming more engaged and speak and visit with community members and often share their faith stories. We have many people who have been coming for years and we know them as friends. We are always welcoming new people and forming lasting relationships.”
OSMM is open only during retreats. “We do have people call and we will meet them there to show them around or shop at our store,” she said. “We have hosted small groups, also.”
Stock says OSMM’s future continues to be in God’s hands. “Whether it was to step out in faith and purchase a building knowing the funds would somehow be provided, or to take another direction with our retreats, it was all through Divine Providence,” she said. “Our response has been open to wherever we are led. Like Mary’s ‘Fiat,’ when God asks us to do something, we do it without question. It has been this way the entire 25 years. There is still no master plan we have for the ministry; we will continue until God tells us to stop.”
For more information about Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry, to see a list of their upcoming events/talks, and learn about their retreats, go to www.osmm.org.