In the Sacred Scriptures the Gospel tells us Jesus first commissioned the Apostles to “Go make disciples.” Then Jesus said, “Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” At one of our parishes on a recent weekend two children were baptized during Mass and began their journey of faith in the Catholic Church. They felt the blessed water claim them as a child of God, and they were anointed by the sacred oil (chrism) Bishop Thomas John Paprocki blessed at the chrism Mass in March. We lit their candle from the Christ candle and placed the white garment upon them. This is all about identity. They now are a son and daughter of God, our brother and sister in Christ, and made holy, clean and pure.
For me, the story of the Woman at the Well (John 4 4-42) is such a profound example of what author Sherry Weddell calls a “God moment” — where we are blessed to “encounter Christ.”
The woman may have come to the well for water, as she did every day, but she would leave with so much more. This day she came around the hour where she knew she would avoid being seen (as she had a past and a reputation) but Jesus was there to meet her. He came to meet her needs.
Continuing my sharing from my last column I want to help break down the walls some have built up in regard to each of our parishes and their relationship to the diocese. Our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield is our mother church for all 129 parishes. Together we make up what is called the “see” of Springfield in Illinois. First the Diocese of Quincy, then the Diocese of Alton, the see was transferred to become the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois in 1923.
Thirty-five years ago we would be reading the writings of Bishop Joseph A. McNicholas in the Time & Eternity diocesan newspaper. As we would get closer to spring and the “Cardinal/Cub” contest, folks all over the diocese wrote to Bishop McNicholas (a Cardinal fan) making their predictions for the upcoming year. It really was a great way for him to connect with the flock and fans over the 28 Illinois counties that make up our diocese.
Two weeks ago I was welcomed to the Charleston Catholic community to offer the weekend Masses and also offer an Advent mission. Charleston is blessed by having a wonderful parish family of St. Charles Borromeo as well as the Eastern Illinois University Catholic Newman Center community. Father Hyland Smith is their young and energetic pastor, and is loved and well-respected by those he serves. Roy Lanham has served the EIU Newman community for over 32 years, and has a great connection to the college students.
As I grew up I really enjoyed reading the Litchfield News Herald which kept me informed about all the important news of what was happening in both Montgomery County and my own Macoupin County in central Illinois. In my early years of priesthood I was assigned to St. Mary Parish (now Blessed Sacrament) in Quincy of Adams County, where I enjoyed keeping up with the area happenings by reading the Quincy Herald–Whig. Both these papers were excellent in my humble opinion.
As I mentioned last issue, some 65 “intentional disciples” from the Springfield diocese traveled to the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., for a three-day conference/mini retreat on “Discipleship as a Way of Life.”
In this issue, I asked another guest columnist, Carlos Tejeda, director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life in the Department for Vocational Services, to share his experiences of attending this great conference.
Recently 65 “intentional disciples” from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois traveled to the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., for a three-day conference/mini retreat on “Discipleship as a Way of Life.”
Our experience was truly amazing. Some of the Wichita diocese’s best and most committed “disciples” came to speak to us on stewardship and discipleship. Most of all we witnessed by their very presence how to live “Discipleship as a Way of Life.” You could see very clearly how the four pillars of hospitality, prayer, formation and service have become this way of life for these evangelizing disciples. It was great to see and encounter their witness of what it means to live as one of Christ’s disciples.
Calhoun County is an amazing area which is filled with many strong stewards in our Catholic diocese. I was presider at five liturgies there while preaching the Good News and offering the invitation to grow deeper in the Lord’s call for us to become true “intentional disciples.”
My first Mass was kind of unique. The Saturday 4 p.m. Mass at Kampsville was filled with many good folks, and so many came from many other parishes as this was the “earliest Mass option” in the area. A very nice man came to me and said, “Father, you probably won’t have servers. Do you want me to go up and light the candles?” I said that would be great. As he did this act of kindness, I asked the almost full church if there was a server in the crowd to help me with Mass. The nice man was right. No one responded. I tied into my homily (which I built in the call to “discipleship as a way of life”) the fact that I was surprised there were no servers. During the Creed after the homily, a man in his middle 50s got out of his pew and came up and stood with me in the sanctuary and simply said, “You are going to have to coach me.” I was impressed. The Holy Spirit at work — and the gift of courage this man showed — was an inspiration.
Anyone who knows me knows of my love for music and my love for singing, which I developed at an early age. I do not have the gift of playing any instrument, but have been given a gift to use my voice to sing. I know many of you who are reading this have this same gift.
As I write this article I have my mom close to my heart as today is the 15th anniversary of her death. One of my fondest memories was most every night around 5:30 our dinner was made and being warmed in the oven. We would await my dad’s nightly return from his work. The smells were wonderful. While waiting, my mom would be sitting in the darkened dining room at the piano, playing the soft, delicate yet moving songs she knew by heart. Both my parents could play the piano. My father had a beautiful tenor voice. They first taught me to love music.