It was a joyous occasion at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception June 19 as Bishop Thomas John Paprocki ordained six men priests. The six were part of a class of eight, representing the largest class of new priests in our diocese since 1964. The priests will begin their first assignments July 1 in parishes across the diocese. Catholic Times asked each of the newly ordained why they chose the priesthood.
When members of the Class of 2020 began the school year last August, they never could have foreseen how their high school days would end. However, with the resilience of youth, the devotion of their teachers and principals, and a lot of faith, they made it through the tough time that was COVID-19, spending the last quarter of high school, not sitting in a classroom, but learning from home.
For the most part, teachers had only a few days to get ready to teach online. It could not have been easy, but Alaina Cribbett of Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, says she felt teachers were up for the challenge. “Most of the teachers had something set up beforehand, so we pretty much immediately went right into it,” she said. “For classes we did almost all Google Classroom, but the meetings were on Zoom.”
The Springfield Diocesan Council of Catholic Woman (SDCCW) recently announced the names of four young women from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois who each were awarded a $500 scholarship.
“What a wonderful group of young women we have in our diocese,” said Myrna McKee, chair of the SDCCW scholarship committee. “In all, 71 young women applied for the scholarships and they were all winners: scholars, musicians, artists, talented athlete, active in church, schools and community, loving daughters and sisters. They are the future of the Catholic Church and are already disciples of Jesus. We offer congratulations to the four winners who joyfully represent our holy, Catholic youth.”
Before 8 a.m. Sunday Mass even began at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Chatham on June 7, a mother sat with her husband and children in one of the open pews, silently wiping away tears of emotion. A few minutes later, Father John Nolan greeted the people with a genuine, welcoming smile, telling parishioners he was reminded of the old rhyme: Here’s the church, and there’s the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people! “It is so good to see all of you, the people,” he said.
Kira Scherschel came to Mass at St. Joseph the Worker with her husband Paul and children Jonah and Josie. “Oh, it’s good to be back!” she said. “This is so much better than watching Mass on TV.”
Patty Lang, a member of the St. Joseph the Worker choir who also takes care of the church environment said she was thrilled to be back singing with parishioners in the pews. “We’ve been providing the music all along, and worked on the (liturgical) seasonal environment, but it was so weird not to have people there at Mass,” she said. “It’s so nice to be getting back to normal.”
Mass may have looked different, but Catholics across the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois say it feels great to be back home — receiving our Lord in the Eucharist at Mass and worshiping alongside their family and friends again. The public celebration of the Mass returned to parishes across the diocese the weekend of June 6 and 7.
“Returning to church for Mass filled me with joy and gratitude,” said Shauna Albert, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham. “Being able to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection with my parish family, receiving the Body of Christ, and genuflecting and kneeling in the presence of Jesus was truly a beautiful experience.”
“Going to Mass via TV with four young kids in our home has been a challenge,” said Katie Ohmes, parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Pana. “Heck, going to church to celebrate Mass with four young energetic boys in church is almost always a challenge! With all the negativity and distractions in our world, it felt amazingly peaceful to focus and reconnect with God from within the four walls of the church I was raised in. The music, the people, and even the times of silence. I am grateful for the spiritual refill I experienced on our first Sunday back to church!”
“It was wonderful to be physically together with my church family at Mass,” said Jan Wetzel, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon. “I pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and guide us in these troubled times and that we may be faithful Christian witnesses in the world today.”
To help curb the spread of the coronavirus, no public Masses had occurred in the diocese since mid-March, but on May 28, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki announced that he granted permission for public Masses to be celebrated in the diocese starting June 6 with attendance limited to 25 percent of the capacity of the worship space, while also maintaining appropriate safe distancing. Diocesan staff had already been preparing a training and certification process to prepare parishes to open public Masses with proper precautions, including detailed cleaning protocols and communication plans to parishioners, and limited attendance. Before being allowed to open, parishes were required to have a Parish Response Team, who attended a mandatory training webinar and submitted a readiness checklist for certification prior to being able to celebrate public Masses.
The dispensation from attending Mass and holy days of obligation remains in effect and some parishes across the diocese are also continuing to offer online services to the faithful.
“Let us continue our prayers for an end to the coronavirus, from those who have suffered both directly and indirectly during this pandemic, and for our health care workers, and government leaders who continue to bear responsibility for responding to this crisis,” Bishop Paprocki said.
After Mass in Chatham, Father Nolan met with those leaving the church, having conversations with some parishioners he had not seen in person since mid-March. The pastor’s joy remained evident. “I am so very happy to back with the people,” he said. “It has been a long absence.”
On April 20, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Thomas John Paprocki to be the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Then, on June 22, 2010, Bishop Paprocki was installed as bishop of our diocese during Mass by Cardinal Francis George, Metropolitan Archbishop of Chicago, at a packed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.
Catholic Times asked the people of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to submit questions for Bishop Thomas John Paprocki to answer for his 10th anniversary of being named bishop of our diocese. Here are those questions with Bishop Paprocki’s answers:
CHARLESTON — In 1939, Father Thomas Connolly and Dorothee Coleman had the vision to gather 13 students in her living room to form and shape a community that has grown and changed over these past 80 years. One constant amidst all these changes: inviting students, faculty, and staff into transforming relationships with Christ and one another. Milestone years like this one are an excellent occasion to pause and ask ourselves what kind of church and what kind of community do we want to be on the campus of Eastern Illinois University (EIU)? We catch a glimpse of this from a note left by an EIU student on a white board at the center:
The killing of George Floyd has caused upheaval across the nation. Racism and discrimination have been tolerated for too long and have infected all areas of American society. Grappling with these injustices is a difficult, necessary process. Peaceful demonstrations are rightfully drawing attention to these issues. However, some interlopers are exploiting protests by instigating havoc, which distracts attention away from the important issues at hand.
These protests are different; they have cut across all segments of society. More white people are protesting side-by-side with their black brothers and sisters than before. People of all generations are speaking out in a united voice, exposing the racism and discrimination infecting our country. Nations across the world have joined in solidarity, protesting these injustices. People are more open and vocal than ever regarding their views and support for the black community than in the past. This is refreshing and needed.
The discriminatory treatment that people of color experience can no longer be denied. Technology has brought to the surface the disparaging treatment of blacks. The world now sees, and our country is finally acknowledging the disparate treatment and frequent violent acts against people of color. Although this may be an uncomfortable realization, we must recognize and confront racism rather than sweep it under the rug until the next unjust action.
The sacredness of life is the upmost priority of the Catholic Church. The Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have condemned the killing of George Floyd and call us to stand up to work to reform structures that extinguish the equal dignity of all people. We cannot profess respect for life while ignoring the pervasiveness of racism. We have a responsibility to respond and speak out against actions that are antithetical to the Gospel of Life.
We can begin our efforts by praying, learning, and taking action. Pray for peace, justice, and an end to racism. Learn about racism. Read Open Wide Our Hearts, a pastoral letter written by the USCCB. Discuss it with others. Come together with those of differing backgrounds and seek an understanding of one another. Join organizations that support people of color. Exercise faithful citizenship by voting. Be the agent against hatred and division. This is how we bring about change.
Prayers are offered for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and to his family, as well as to all affected by the current events. May there be peace.
This article was collaboratively written by members of the diocesan Black Catholic Commission: Gale Borders, Frida Fokum, Donna Moore, Renee Saunches, Lorna Simon, and Carmen White.
This year, an aunt and her niece will observe the anniversary of their profession of vows as members of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Sister Leola Brown, OSF, will observe 80 years of profession while Sister Ritamary Brown, OSF, her niece, will observe 60 years of profession.
“Sister Leola, my aunt, and I are the products of faith-filled Irish Catholics,” Sister Ritamary said. “Throughout our lives, we were melded by strong traditions: May altars, family rosary during Lent, prayers before meals and bed time, and intercessory prayers for people in need. Having shared family experiences has given us deep pillars for our faith and strengthened our journey.”
Join the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as we celebrate and promote our religious liberties. Religious Freedom Week is June 22-June 29, and the diocese will host speakers on its online platforms to discuss religious freedom, what issues will be coming to the forefront, and what you can do to fight back.
When our schools began last fall, no one could have anticipated how they would end this spring. In spite of the unexpected circumstances we found ourselves in due to the COVID-19 virus, the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois were still able to provide over 10,000 students with an exceptional faith-based education. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our administrators, teachers and school staff, our students and their families were able to stay connected and not miss a beat in the learning process. We are so grateful for their endless dedication to our students and their ability to go above and beyond in so many cases for the sake of our students.
Forty-foot shipping containers, containing crucial medical supplies to help doctors and nurses, are on their way to Fiji, Liberia, Ghana, Pakistan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Bolivia, Uganda, Tanzania, Jamaica and Ethiopia, thanks to Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach. Founded in 2002 by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Springfield — Mission Outreach packages and delivers medical supplies and equipment around the world, mostly to poorer countries. Since the pandemic broke out, activity has increased dramatically.
PLEASANT PLAINS — Bill Mowder, a parishioner at St. Augustine Parish in Ashland, has found a significant calling in his retirement. As coordinator of Helping Hands Food Pantry in Pleasant Plains, he and other volunteers make sure that about 60 families a month get the food they need to survive and thrive.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought stress to new levels for many families as parents try to balance working from home, completing schoolwork and countless Zoom meetings, keeping the children occupied all day, and staying on top of all the new government guidelines. Throw in the fact that even before the pandemic, raising children in a world full of secular temptations, was already a daunting task.
EFFINGHAM — Father Mark Tracy, parochial vicar at St. Anthony Parish in Effingham and St. Mary Parish in Shumway, has already been preparing his body and mind before he heads off to complete basic training with the Illinois National Guard June 3 through Sept. 3. Over the past several months, he has been working out and running, even competing against students in a sit-up contest at St. Anthony Grade School during Catholic Schools Week.
Catholics in and around the Springfield area are now more easily able to listen to Catholic radio programming provided by Covenant Network. On May 18, the St. Louis based Catholic radio network launched a full power FM station, 88.9 FM - WTTT, which will give listeners a stronger signal around the greater Springfield area.
Student demand for Illinois’ tax credit scholarship is at all-time high. This past school year, 377 students in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois received scholarships valued at $1,073,290.31 thanks to generous donations to Illinois’ tax credit scholarship program. When you learn, however, that 1,326 students in our diocese applied, it’s clear the demand is far exceeding the supply.
EFFINGHAM — If you were to make the drive between San Juan del Rio, in the State of Querétaro, in Mexico to Effingham, your journey would encompass 1,787 miles and it would take you 28 hours — without stopping. That’s how far away 29-year-old Regina Villafuerte is from where she was born. Villafuerte’s amazing journey from Mexico to Effingham can only be described as providential. Villafuerte has been the director of music at St. Anthony of Padua for about a year now (she is currently working on her R-1 Visa: religious worker — she can only work for St. Anthony Parish). Since her arrival, her charm, commitment to the Catholic faith, and musical talents are bringing a whole new dynamic to St. Anthony Parish.
Before being ordained priests, Deacons Pawel Luczak and Piotr Kosk prostrate themselves before the altar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield May 2 as a sign of humility and submission to God. Later in the Mass, the two were ordained priests by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.
“I believe that I am really chosen by God to be a priest,” Father Kosk said. “As a young man, I felt that this is the way I should follow. I know how important the work of priests is and how badly people need the sacraments and the maternal protection of the church.”
“For me, becoming a priest is about building a personal relationship with Christ. I want to be close to him — as close as possible — and I want to share and lead others to that relationship,” Father Luczak said.
Father Kosk’s first assignment is St. Paul Parish in Highland. Father Luczak’s first assignment is St. Peter Parish in Quincy. Those assignments begin July 1.
On June 19, Bishop Paprocki will ordain six other men to the priesthood for our diocese.
Catherine A. “Cathy” Furkin, a longtime employee of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, died on April 27 at St. John’s Hospital. She retired in 2019 after 25 years of service. Over the years, she was secretary for the Office for Stewardship and Development and an executive assistant for the Office of the Chancellor and Pastoral Planning, the Office for Communications and Catholic Times.
Emma* came to Catholic Charities eight-and-a-half months pregnant and with her 2-year-old daughter, desperate for help with food, diapers, rent, and utilities. The coronavirus closed her husband’s work, and he could no longer provide financially for his family.
A friend intervened and helped them, but another month passed, and it seemed there was no hope in sight — until she found Catholic Charities.
Eight men, representing a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds, who come from different parts of the diocese and the globe, will make history in the coming weeks. That’s when they will be ordained priests at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, making them the largest class of new priests in the diocese since 1964.
Over the past decade, the diocese has averaged about three men every ordination class, so eight this year is a huge jump. So what is happening in our diocese that is positively impacting men and opening their eyes to the priesthood? Vocations Director Father Brian Alford says a big part of it is the seminarians themselves.
On June 19, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is set to ordain Chris Trummer, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Neoga, to the transitional diaconate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. He is the son John and Margaret “Bitsy” Trummer, has an older brother Johnathon “Jonny” and two younger siblings, twins Katrina and Deacon Michael Trummer. This summer, he looks forward to becoming an uncle to twins — his sister’s children.
It’s a common question: Why is my parish priest being reassigned to another parish? This question especially comes up when the priest is beloved by parishioners and then, quite naturally, there is angst about what the future of the parish will look like.
The first thing to remember is that diocesan priests don’t “belong” to a parish, but in fact, belong to the universal church. Diocesan priests, through their ordination by their local bishop, therefore, serve the people of their diocese.
As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the nation, the scandal of human suffering is constantly before us. The nightly news brings us stories of people dying alone, of healthcare workers laboring through fear, and of long lines of struggling families at make-shift food pantries. Amid this unfolding drama, we hear from public health officials seeking to understand how the virus works and what can be done to mitigate its spread — and from politicians wrestling with how to stabilize the economy and what can be done to help struggling families and business. Meanwhile, beneath this swirl of “hows” and “whats” simmers a question that science and civics cannot answer: Why? Where science and civics fail us, Scripture gives an answer which, even if not easy to digest, offers meaning and purpose in place of anxiety and despair.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has launched a new community service called the “Catholic Charities COPE Line” for people who are experiencing situational stress and anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak. The service is free of charge and available to the public for people living in the 28-county service area of the Springfield diocese.
Every spring Catholic Times recognizes priests who have served in and are living in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and are observing important jubilees sometime in the calendar year. Celebrating a silver jubilee in 2020 are Father Mariadas Chatla and Father Jeffrey Goeckner. The golden jubilarians are Father Don Blaeser, OFM, Father Michael Grawe, OFM, and Father Dennis Koopman, OFM. Celebrating 70 years are Father Peter Donohoe and Father Carl Schmidt. Congratulations to these seven fine priests!
It’s a new routine for the Manns family in Bethalto. Every day at 9 a.m., the five children (ages 9, 8, 6 and 3 years, and 6 months) join their parents for breakfast, and then they turn on their television to participate in Mass through a Facebook Live stream from their home parish, St. Mary in Alton.
EFFINGHAM — Donna Bergbower, Father of Father Dan Bergbower, passed away on March 25 at Lakeland Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Effingham. She was 85.
Donna was born on June 26, 1934, in Scottsbluff, Neb., daughter of the late Leo and Gertrude (Pieper) Lager. She married Don Bergbower on Nov. 25, 1955 in San Diego.