My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
This is the time of year when many dioceses are celebrating their annual "Red Mass" for judges, lawyers, politicians and others who work in the legal profession.
The name "Red Mass" comes from the red vestments that are worn for Masses of the Holy Spirit, because the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is being implored to bless and guide the work of justice at the beginning of the new court term. Being one of the few bishops who has both a canon law and a civil law degree, I am often asked at this time of year to be a homilist for the Red Mass or speaker at gatherings of lawyers and judges around the country.
This year I was invited to preach at the Red Mass and/or speak at a meal after Mass in the Diocese of Green Bay (Sept. 20), the Archdiocese of Anchorage (Sept. 30), the Archdiocese of St. Louis (Oct. 7), and our own Diocese of Springfield in Illinois (Oct. 8). These occasions are wonderful opportunities to meet lawyers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from around our country, and share some reflections from the perspective of faith about important aspects of the practice of law or the work of our government. It is also a graced moment to spend some time with my brother bishops and offer my fraternal support for their episcopal ministry.
A fringe benefit for me is the chance to see parts of the country that I have not previously visited. That was the case this year with the Red Mass in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. It was my first time in Alaska, so I went a few days early to do some sightseeing.
This is also the time of year when my training is at its peak in preparation for my usual October marathon. So while I was in Anchorage I had a spectacular 20-mile training run along the coastal trail, lined with trees turning their various colors of autumn and a panoramic view of snow-capped mountains on the horizon across the water. Runners have a term for this: We call it a "rave run."
This year I am planning to run the St. Louis Marathon on Oct. 21. As in the past, I use my marathon running to raise money for various charitable causes. Here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois I am asking for donations to support our increasing number of vocations to the priesthood. So I am calling this my "Run for Vocations."
Since my installation as your bishop on June 22, 2010, I have spoken frequently in our parishes and on various other occasions about the need to pray for and promote increased vocations to the priesthood and religious life. God has so far answered our prayers with an increase from 11 seminarians in 2010 to our current number of 25.
While the growing number of candidates for the priesthood is most welcome and needed for the future of the diocese, it also comes with a cost. At the college level the diocese splits the costs of tuition, room and board with the seminarians and their families, giving loans, if needed, that the diocese assumes if the men are ordained priests. At the level of the major seminary, the diocese pays the full tuition, room and board of the seminarians, plus health insurance and a monthly stipend. If you have ever sent a son or daughter to college, you know how expensive higher education is. We are sending 25 of our diocese's sons to college and major seminaries, so you can see that training our future priests needs more than prayers, but some real revenue as well!
I'm not just talking about numbers here, but real people. To give an identity to these seminarians, these are their names and the seminaries that they are attending:
Mundelein Seminary – Deacon Hyland Smith, Steven Arisman, Samuel Bagyo, Seth Brown, Matthew Clarke, Michael Friedel, Robert Johnson, Aaron Kuhn, Adam Prichard, Jason Stone, Martin Smith, and Joseph Wagner;
St. Meinrad School of Theology – Deacon David Curtin, Craig Brummer, Braden Maher, and Mark Tracy;
Sacred Heart School of Theology – Paul Bonk and Derek Burns;
Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary – Michael Haley, William Jansen II, Michael Meinhart, Dominic Rankin, Cody Sandschafer, Wayne Stock, and Dominic Vahling.
Please consider donating a dollar or more per mile to support my 26.2 mile Run for Vocations. If you are able to "go the extra mile" and underwrite the full cost of one year's education for one of our seminarians, please contact me or our director of vocations, Father Christopher House, by telephone at (217) 698-8500 or by e-mail at .
I pray that God will give our seminarians and prospective seminarians the grace and strength to say "yes" to God's call and that generous benefactors will provide the financial support needed for their education and priestly formation, so that we will have enough good and holy priests to serve the people of God in our parishes for many years to come.
May God give us this grace. Amen.