My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
The current issue of the Catholic Times and our diocesan website contain the list of official clergy assignments that will take effect on July 1. I will not recount the specifics here, but wish to provide some background information about some of these assignments and the implications in general when clergy are reassigned.
An extraordinary feature of this year's clergy assignments is that three of our young and talented priests are receiving assignments outside of the diocese. Father Peter Harman, pastor of the Cathedral Parish of the Immaculate Conception, will become the director of Pastoral Formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Father Christopher House, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Auburn, Sacred Heart Parish in Virden, and St. Patrick Parish in Girard, will become a member of the formation faculty at Mundelein Seminary. In addition, Father Daren Zehnle, currently my priest secretary, master of ceremonies, and associate director of the Office for Vocations, will be going to do graduate studies in canon law in Rome.
It will not be easy for the diocese or for me personally not to have close at hand the services of these gifted priests on whom I depend so much. The very definition of our Catholic identity, however, calls for us to be concerned for the mission and needs of the universal church beyond any particular parish or even beyond the diocese. The fact that Father Harman's and Father House's services were requested for seminary work is a tribute to their own abilities as well as a recognition that our presbyterate has a valuable role to play in the formation of future priests, not only for our own diocese, but also for other dioceses throughout the United States. Moreover, these experiences outside of our diocese will broaden their understanding of the universal church and will be beneficial in their future ministry here when they eventually return to our diocese in a few years.
In the meantime, modern technology makes the world smaller and allows for some continued involvement in diocesan matters even from afar. Thus, Father Harman will retain part-time duties as research theologian to the bishop, allowing me to continue to tap his theological expertise, particularly in bioethics, since such consultation is only an e-mail away.
Father House will continue to serve as our director of the Office for Vocations. A large part of the vocation director's responsibility is not only helping to recruit prospective candidates, but also working with our current seminarians. Since the largest number of our seminarians are in fact studying at Mundelein Seminary, it will be advantageous for Father House to be in close proximity with them.
The assignment of Father Brian Alford as my priest secretary, master of ceremonies, and associate director of the Office for Vocations will also facilitate our vocations work here in the diocese. From the very beginning of my ministry as bishop here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, it has been my practice very intentionally to combine the ministry of my master of ceremonies with vocation work. Thus, for example, when we go to parishes for confirmation, my master of ceremonies and I always make it a point to speak to the confirmation candidates about vocations prior to the ceremony. Father Alford will also have the responsibility of running the day-to-day work of the vocations office here at our Catholic Pastoral Center.
Another noteworthy change is with the reconfiguration of our Office for the Diaconate. This was due in part because Father House will be replaced as associate director for Spiritual Formation by Father Barry Harmon. Another factor, however, was the need for greater attention to the ongoing formation and ministry of our permanent deacons. When the permanent diaconate program was instituted by Archbishop George Lucas a few years ago, the immediate need was to develop a program for the education and formation of candidates to be ordained as deacons. Now that we have a significant number of men who have already been ordained, we need to provide the institutional support they need to carry out their diaconal ministry while we continue to train our future deacons. Thus, Deacon James Ghiglione will shift his focus from associate director for Pastoral Formation in the Office for the Diaconate to a new role as associate director for Ongoing Formation and Ministry. Deacon David G. Sorrell will become the associate director for Pastoral Formation. Msgr. David Lantz will continue as director of the Office for the Diaconate, while also becoming pastor of St. Aloysius Parish and continuing as pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Sherman.
There are also some important shifts that will be taking place in our Catholic campus ministry. Deacon Ghiglione will also take up part-time duties as director of Campus Ministry at the University of Illinois at Springfield, while continuing his pastoral duties at the parishes in Mt. Zion and Bethany. He will work with Father Steve Janoski at UIS, who will continue his work as director of Campus Ministry and chaplain of Benedictine University at Springfield. Father Janoski also will become the new pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Springfield, which is right across the street from Benedictine University at Springfield. This arrangement is intended to strengthen the campus ministry at Benedictine University as well as to solidify the focus for the future of St. Joseph Parish. The fact is that Benedictine University has been collaborating with St. Joseph Parish for several years now in a variety of ways. In time Benedictine and St. Joseph Parish may have a shared RCIA, Bible study and other catechetical formation programs. The hope is that people connected with Benedictine will feel welcome at St. Joseph Church, take part in parish life and even become members of the parish if they are not already affiliated.
Throughout the diocese I know it will be hard for people to say goodbye to priests who are being transferred. But I am sure that they will help to make their new priests feel welcome. I am looking forward to working and living with the new pastor of the Cathedral Parish, Father John Nolan, who also serves as the dean of the Springfield Deanery. It will also be a great joy for me to ordain Deacon Hyland Smith to the priesthood on May 25. As a newly ordained priest, he will be parochial vicar at Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville, where I am confident he will be warmly received.
On a personal note, for the past year and a half I have been participating in the Executive MBA program of the University of Notre Dame. I have now completed that degree and am hopeful that what I have learned in the Master of Business Administration program will be beneficial in my ministry.
Please pray for our clergy and all those in transition to new assignments.
May God give us this grace. Amen.