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.
In this Advent season we hear often of how John the Baptist was called and chosen to be the “herald” of the Good News of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. In our wonderful Christmas hymn we hear, “Hark the herald angels sing … Glory to the newborn King… .” This call offered to John, and who the angel sang about, is likewise a part of our baptismal call to become missionary disciples. We are called and we are sent, like our present day missionaries, to go out and be a herald like John.
Today as I read newspapers, too often we are being bombarded by sad news, frustrating news, terrible news, frightening news all which do not give hope, do not give joy and do not inspire.
Our world needs hope — our world, our churches, our people need to be inspired by the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether in “word” or in holy lives called to be intentional disciples as we live Discipleship as a Way of Life.
John the Baptist, though he was not a well-known figure in the fashion world of his time, nor a well-known poster child for any Food Channel network, became a true herald of the Good News. His was a voice crying out in the desert telling his listeners, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Father Dan Willenborg, pastor of St. Agnes in Hillsboro and Holy Family in Litchfield, has made a commitment in his priestly ministry to be a missionary herald as he goes to so many of our prisons in the diocese. He has a deep conviction to live out the Gospel and “visit those imprisoned” and be a herald to give them the hope of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the mercy of Jesus and to be a reflection of the person of Jesus. His ministry is a great jewel in the life of our diocesan church.
Roy Lanham, from Charleston, who is director of campus ministry, has been a herald of the Good News reaching out to thousands of college students at Eastern Illinois University and elsewhere for over 30 years. Many parents worry so much about their sons and daughters continuing to live their faith as they go off to college. However, they have a rich blessing in Lanham. In his life, ministry and dedicated choice, like John the Baptist, Lanham is a herald of the Good News. He ministers with a Christ-like love. He “talks the talk” and “walks the walk.”
I was speaking to Connie Wegman, Sally Wall and Ruth Einhorn, of Effingham, who lead a prayer group who pray together and also make rosaries to share in the message to promote devotion to the sacred mysteries of the life of Jesus and Mary. Laurie Todt has been doing this ministry for 30 years, giving this special gift to all the first Communicants of St. Paul Parish in Highland each year. She does this all with love from her own personal relationship with Christ, and with his mother, Mary. All of these women have chosen to be heralds of Good News, living as intentional disciples who take the Good News and share it.
Ralph and Barb Peters of Quincy — who have made many trips to one of the poorest countries, Haiti — have traveled thousands of miles to be heralds of compassion, heralds of generosity, and heralds of care and concern.
Billy Luitjohan, who works with his youth group in Pierron, continues every year to travel and give a week serving at a Catholic HEART Workcamp. They offer their Good News of care and concern for the elderly and for the poor and needy. Their presence and outreach bring the love and presence of the living Christ who helps them to bring restored hope for those who feel alienated and unloved.
Moreover, thousands of youth from our Springfield diocese over the past 27 years have taken part in a Catholic HEART Workcamp — traveling all over the United States to be heralds of the Good News. They talk the talk of being a herald, and they walk the walk like the first Disciples who loved the Lord and who came to serve and not be served.
Like the newspapers who call themselves a Herald, we are called to be heralds to everywhere we are being sent. There is truly a great need for us to be heralds of the Good News. With all of our communities being affected by all the bad news of the happenings and events that plague our society with their negative influence, we need the Good News.
With your talents and gifts, in what ways can you be a herald, a voice and become a beacon of hope and light to shine and lead others to a deeper love for God and one another?
I was assigned in Effingham 30 years ago. This week I will move back to offer ministry to the parishes of St. Anthony in Effingham and Annunciation in Shumway. These are wonderful communities. Catholicism there is strong, and deeply rooted in the Gospel call to serve the Lord in gladness. With the Holy Spirit’s lead and inspiration through grace, I have no doubt we can do great things along with the great parishes of this area of our diocese.
So what is our Advent invitation? Follow John the Baptist’s lead: Herald the Good News.