Creating safe environments for schools, parishes
By ALI SMITH
Special to Catholic Times
As we wrap up April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s take a look at how the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is continuously educating and providing awareness to prevent the abuse of children.
The Springfield diocese has been implementing training and screening requirements for adults since 2002. These measures continue to promote a safe environment in the Catholic schools and churches of this diocese.
Adults in every family, school, community, and church are the protectors of the minors within. As leaders, adults should be educated to recognize signs of abuse. Before serving in diocesan parishes and schools, employees and volunteers must complete educational training which helps them to identify warning signs. Previously, the training used was called Protecting God’s Children.
As of July 1, 2022, the diocese has switched training programs and is now utilizing Catholic Mutual Group’s (CMG) Safe Haven training. The new training program is offered on a fully virtual platform which allows the user to take the course on his or her own time. The content is more engaging and relevant than previous trainings. CMG’s Safe Haven safe environment training is comprised of components to increase awareness for protecting children and to help adults recognize and report signs of abuse or neglect.
Along with being required to complete safe environment training, adults serving as employees and volunteers in the diocese are required to complete background checks. While screening requirements have been in place since 2002, the diocese began requiring all employees and volunteers to be background checked as of 2010. Previously, criminal history and DCFS background checks were done with hardcopy forms and were both required to be renewed every five years. Now, the criminal history background check is done electronically through the CMG training platform with the DCFS check instructions included in the process. The new criminal history searches are much more thorough and reliable, with routine automatic re-checks which removes the need for regular five-year renewals. While DCFS checks are still required every five years, the new criminal history screening method is quite an improvement from the previous process.
The diocesan Office for Safe Environment is dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse in the church. The goal of these changes is to keep the training and screenings programs as relevant and reliable as possible. For more information about the updated requirements, please contact your school or parish Safe Environment Coordinator or the Office for Safe Environment.
Ali Smith is director of the Office for Safe Environment for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
The subject of holiness and being holy has confused me for many years. I am specifically asking about Mary and the saints. In Eccl 7:20 it states the following: “… yet there is no one on earth so just as to do good and never sin.” I have often read and heard of the Virgin Mary and the saints being holy. I understand, based on the Bible, which is the true Word of God, that no human is or ever was holy. No one. Being holy would mean all the saints, the Virgin Mary, and the Triune God are all holy and that’s not true! Only the Triune God is holy! Would you explain this, based on what the Bible says? I’ve been conflicted about this for a long time.
Pat in St. Louis
Hey, Pat! Your question is a good one. As with any passage of Scripture, it’s important to start with context, lest we misinterpret the Scriptures or use them as proof texts for errant theologies.
The Book of Ecclesiastes (Eccl; sometimes called Qoheleth, and not to be confused with the Book of Sirach, whose other name is, rather confusingly, Ecclesiasticus) is one of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament. Its primary thesis is essentially that all of man’s striving cannot bring about true happiness; hence, the opening line of Ecclesiastes is: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”
In the subsequent chapters, the preacher speaks of his experiences seeking after happiness through various pursuits — knowledge and pleasure and riches and wisdom — but all of these fail to attain the true happiness for which we were created, which is a share in God’s own blessed life (see CCC 1).
Eccl 7:20 comes amidst the preacher’s discussion of wisdom. The Scriptures argue frequently that the truly wise man is the man who fears the Lord and therefore obeys the commandments of God. Except, per the verse you cited, “there is not a just man on earth who does [only] good and does not sin” (translation and emphasis my own). True wisdom (in the sense of “pure” wisdom) can’t be found, because none are perfectly just/righteous (the meaning of the Hebrew tsaddiq, which shouldn’t be translated “holy”). No one, at least up to the time of the preacher, had yet perfectly followed the commandments of God, and therefore, no one was “righteous” or “justified.”
St. Paul argues the same in his letter to the Romans, where in fact he references Eccl 7:20 (cf. Romans 3:10). Jew and Gentile alike, St. Paul says: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is why we needed a Savior!
Enter Jesus, and with Him the Good News! In comes the Christ, and as St. Paul tells it, the righteousness of God (i.e. His righteousness and our righteousness ordered to Him) is now manifested to us through faith in Jesus Christ (see Romans 3:21-22). This means that for those of us who believe, we can now be “justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Feel free to read Romans for a beautiful exposition on how this is the case! So now, true righteousness, and with it, holiness, are possible through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His will.
With Jesus Christ, we can now read Ecclesiastes in a different light. Although it’s still true that on our own all our efforts would be vain striving and there would seem to be no saints (because we cannot make ourselves holy), with the grace of Jesus Christ, the door to true righteousness, salvation, and therefore, holiness is now open to us!
The saints knew this well, that holiness was only afforded to them by sheer grace. It was not they who made themselves holy, but rather their cooperation with the grace of Christ Jesus. Holiness is properly, then, the work of God. In fact, it is God’s own life. But “[t]he Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’” (CCC 460, quoting 2 Peter 1:4). The entire purpose of Christ’s coming, according to the Church, was to make us holy — to let us share in the life of God. Holiness is not only possible, it’s the very purpose of our existence (cf. Matthew 5:48).
So, in sum, we can’t make ourselves holy, but through Christ, we are invited to participate in the life of grace. But importantly, the saints and Mary aren’t pseudo-gods; they are partakers in God’s nature because God has willed that they be, and they accepted His invitation through the grace of Jesus Christ our Savior. While the lives of the saints were not perfect, they did model for us the receptivity needed to live a grace-filled life (Mary, however, was perfect, but that too was a prevenient grace which was given to her through Jesus). Heaven, in fact, is only filled with saints, which comes from the same word as “holy,” although you could never tell that in English. So, think of it this way: If we want to spend eternity in heaven with God, our only option is to become holy by God’s grace or spend eternity in hell! Please Jesus, make us holy!
Father Michael A. Friedel is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Decatur, chaplain at Millikin University, and associate vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
You are invited to a historic event that will feed your soul and inspire your faith in a radical way
Eucharistic Congress at BOS Center set for Oct. 28 features four national Catholic speakers
By ANDREW HANSEN
Mark your calendar for Sat. Oct. 28 for an event unlike any other. National Catholic speakers, inspirational videos, sacraments, and Mass with 7,000 Catholics from across the diocese will be the essence of the Eucharistic Congress at the BOS Center in downtown Springfield, and you are invited. The experience will be the highlight of the diocesan Year of the Eucharist going on now, which is part of the nationwide Eucharistic Revival.
For the past several months, several diocesan priests and staff at the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois have been working to organize this historic event, and they are excited to formally announce what people can expect and how people can attend.
“In a world full of selfishness, violence, and uncertainty, the Eucharistic Congress will be an incredibly uplifting and powerful experience,” said Father Jeff Goeckner, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville and leader of the group spearheading the event. “No matter where you are in your faith journey, this day will re-energize your faith life, radically improve your relationship with Jesus, and inspire you to live as an authentic disciple of Christ. Whether it’s one of the four speakers, the videos, the Mass, or just being there with so many people of faith, the Eucharistic Congress will have something for everyone, most importantly, Jesus, present in holy Eucharist.”
Featured talks will be from nationally popular Catholic speakers Dr. Scott Hahn, Sister M. Karolyn Nunes, FSGM, Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, and Father Denis Robinson, OSB. The Eucharistic Congress will also include Catholic vendors, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, a Kid's Corner, a showing of the documentary God is Alive | Incredible stories of faith and miraculous events in Central Illinois, and a showing of The Chair, which highlights the beauty of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield and the history of the diocese. The day culminates with the very essence of the Year of the Eucharist going on now in our diocese, the Mass, with an arena full of Catholics eager to hear the Word of God and receive Jesus present in the holy Eucharist.
To attend, you must contact your parish office as each parish in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will be designated a specific number of available seats. You can inquire with your parish starting July 1. If your parish has all their available seats reserved when you inquire, the public release of any more seats will be Sept. 1, if they become available.
The schedule of the Eucharistic Congress on Oct. 28 is as follows:
Food will be available for purchase at concession stands, and you will be allowed to exit and return to the BOS Center throughout the day.
There will be no Masses at parishes on Sat. Oct. 28. For more information about the Eucharistic Congress including frequently asked questions, go to: www.dio.org/revival-bos.
We would love your help!
Are you interested in financially supporting this historic Eucharistic Congress? Please consider donating or becoming a sponsor. If you would like to make a financial gift to support the Eucharistic Congress, visit www.dio.org/give. If you are interested in event sponsorship, contact Rachel Langdon at or (217) 321-1113. Thank you!
Volunteers needed for Eucharistic Congress
Come join us as we put into practice the pillars of hospitality and service. Volunteers will receive a seat to the event, lunch, a T-shirt, and graces of the day! Sign up at www.dio.org/revival-bos by June 1. Any questions? Contact Teresa Gray at .
We asked people from across the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois what Catholic teacher in our schools is making a big difference in the classroom? What teacher goes above and beyond, someone whose impact is deep and personal? What teacher authentically lives out what it means to be Catholic and instills our faith into his or her students? What teacher embodies St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded Catholic schools in the United States?
The Office for Catholic Schools and Office for Communications for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, organizers of the award, received nearly 100 nominations from all across the diocese from principals, teachers, parents, priests, previous students, and current students this year. Nominations were reviewed by the Office for Catholic Education who then narrowed the list to five finalists, which Catholic Times presents in this edition along with quotes taken from nomination forms. Catholic Times will reveal the winner of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award in the May 28 edition. Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination and thank you to all our teachers for their hard work and dedication!
Ms. Raskie has gone over and beyond to show my children she cares about them, not just as a student, but as a person in this world. She smiles and says “hello” to all of my children whether at school or at Mass. She is always willing to give a hug and an encouraging word to anyone who asks. My two children she taught are on the autism spectrum and they attend ASA and social skills therapy four days a week. Andrea asked to spend an evening with them at their clinic to get a better understanding of what they do and gain knowledge to better assist them in her classroom. She has also gone out of her way to attend my children's ballet performances, while also bringing them a small gift of congratulations.
Most recently, Ms. Raskie volunteered to assist me with helping my daughter gain independence at home during her morning before-school routine. Ms. Raskie met with me to determine five specific tasks that my daughter must complete in order to earn a ticket. My daughter then brings those tickets to school and earns a chance to play a game where she receives a reward. Poof... just like that, my daughter gets dressed by herself without any help from mom or dad!
Andrea has given my husband and I the greatest sense of ease that our children are cared for and educated both spiritually and academically at a level that is far superior than most. We thank God she has taken the time to get to know our family, so she is better able to lead our children through first grade.
- Amy Zock, parent of student
I asked my children to tell me about Ms. Raskie with a focus on how they felt in her classroom. There was an overwhelming theme of safety, security, and love. My oldest Dylan, 14, shared, "I felt so welcomed in her classroom, and she still makes me feel that way. She is so outgoing and patient, and really knows how to handle all kinds of different kids." Stella, who is about to turn 13, responded by saying, "She is super gentle and kind to all her ‘littles.’ She always made me feel safe and special." My youngest, Harper, 8, couldn't stop telling stories of how she always took care of her. She told me how she is "really calm and nice." She said, "I always felt safe and happy, and she treated me like I was one of her own children."
Every day I'm in the building, I witness other children flourishing under her love and care. When I am in her classroom, I too, feel safe. She is approachable and compassionate, and I have never seen her turn away from anyone in need. She is the first to offer help and expertise. Whether it be with her students, colleagues, or families, Andrea is selfless with her time. She truly wants to help others be the best they can.
Andrea is an active participant in the life of the Church. She is devout in her practicing and is genuinely happy to see her students at Mass. She seeks to integrate Catholic values in all her teachings in the classroom as well. She recognizes the dignity and value in each and every one of her students and adapts her environment to help each one of them be successful. She understands diversity in learning and utilizes a range of teaching strategies, styles, and technologies to reach all her students. She recognizes them each as a unique child of God and is able to embrace them for both their strengths and weaknesses. She truly goes above and beyond to see the very best in each and every one of her students.
I met Mrs. Caveny almost 30 years ago when I was a student at St. Agnes. At the time, she was a recess monitor, and her son was in my class. I always remember she was very positive, energetic, kind, and always had a smile on her face. She and her family were always at Mass on Saturday or Sunday, and it was apparent that faith was a key aspect of her life. This dedication left a lasting impression on me. Her husband, Mike, was my basketball coach throughout grade school, and Mrs. Caveny was always present to support the team and her son who was also on the team. Years later, Mrs. Caveny became a resource teacher for my daughter Juliane (currently in fifth grade). I could not think of a better person to teach Juliane. Juliane is very smart, but sometimes lacks confidence and requires additional time and instruction to understand a concept. Mrs. Caveny took Juliane under her wing and has helped Juliane to excel socially and academically. Mrs. Caveny seems to have transferred her confidence and positivity to Juliane, and I cannot think of a better role model for my daughter. Mrs. Caveny has made a lasting impact on my life and that of my child. Her dedication to Catholicism and Catholic education is inspirational, and I believe that Mrs. Caveny is an exemplary example of focus and commitment to the Catholic mission.
Dawn Caveny has impacted my life and the lives of my students. She reads tests to my struggling readers or reads to those who need the quiet and safe atmosphere of her classroom. She will work to develop the students’ test-taking strategies, and I have seen firsthand how those students have grown in confidence and skill. She is flexible with her schedule to help and accommodate those students who need her. She pops into my classroom as well as other classrooms in the intermediate grades. She will notice students that may be struggling with the day’s lesson or need a gentle reminder to refocus. Sometimes her quiet voice is all it takes when she passes by a student.
The thing that is most amazing is the time she gives to students after school. She will work with students on her own time to see them succeed. After students have moved to the upper grades, she still likes to check in with them to see how they are doing. Dawn truly is outstanding to her commitment to the parish, the school, and our students.
If there is one person in my life who taught me the value and importance of a Catholic education, who believed in the sacrifices it required, and the benefits it bestowed on you, it was my mother, Debbie Adams. My mother has been a Catholic educator since her first year of teaching and is currently serving her 43rd year as a classroom teacher. In talking to her former students and parents of the kids she's taught over the last four decades, the impact she has made on our parish community and the larger Springfield community is undeniable.
My parents always encouraged their children to follow their dreams and to walk the path that God has laid out for them. I see this witness in my mom every day. Walking into her classroom, even as an adult, is like walking into the heart of who my mom is. It is the epitome of a place that is kind, welcoming, cheerful, colorful, and open to all who enter. There are books to read and art projects on display. She will pause everything if someone is in need. She has patience for a thousand questions from curious 4-year-olds every day of the school year. She will stay late to meet with parents and will come in early to lead staff prayer. She has welcomed the technological advances over the last 20 years in her classroom with an understanding of how the generations she is teaching will embrace the world around them.
Mrs. Adams is retiring at the end of this school year, knowing that the legacy that she leaves behind is one of students who love to learn and who love God. I am so lucky to have my life be as impacted as I have with her as my mother, and it has been a joy to share her love with the students that she has taught.
In Debbie’s 43 years of being a Catholic school educator, she has positively impacted more lives than we can count. As her colleague for four of those years, I witnessed Debbie’s never-ending passion for her students, her teaching, and her own learning. She was constantly looking for new and better ways to teach, materials to use, and ways to engage her students.
As a co-worker, Debbie was the first to volunteer for new activities, trials, and needs. After 29 years as a kindergarten teacher at our school, Debbie requested to move to PreK so that she could help our youngest students as they first entered school. It was a natural shift for her but still required new learning on her part, nonetheless. Then when the COVID shutdown occurred, Debbie did not miss a beat in figuring out ways to reach her students at home. She stretched herself to new limits by sending materials home, creating videos of herself, and reaching out to support parents in every way she could.
Debbie Adams demonstrates leadership among her colleagues and often mentors new teachers. She participates in many committees, volunteers for parish events, and has introduced new curriculum materials to her school. After attending conferences, she often shares her learning with colleagues and implements new ideas within her classroom. She also brings her faith into all aspects of her teaching, which becomes infectious to those around her. Debbie Adams nurtures her students, giving them the foundation for learning, socializing, and growing in their faith. Every individual student holds a special place in Debbie’s heart, and she works tirelessly for them. Debbie truly gets to know all those in her life and shares her love with them, so it is no wonder that former students bring their own children back to BSS to be in Mrs. Adams’ class.
My son had Mrs. Evans during the 2019-2020 school year. As a boy, he never spoke much about his teachers, but loved school and always enjoyed learning. Once he became a student in Mrs. Evans classroom, he began to come home and share what he had learned in her room daily. He claimed all year (and still to this day) that his best teacher was Mrs. Evans. He talked about her fun daily geography or religion questions and how they would get to pick a religion trinket out of her treasure box. Her personality, strong faith, and love for students shined through that entire year. Even when COVID struck, she kept a strong communication with her students and families. We all grew to be a part of her family.
Fast forward a few years later, and my daughter is now a student in her class. Mrs. Evans still possesses such a strong love for the Catholic faith, a desire to make her students want to learn, and that same family atmosphere that we had experienced before. My kids want to do well for her, and they cannot say enough good things about her teaching and her relationship with them individually. She attends student events outside of school and always has a kind thing to say about my children anytime I run into her. She is a true example of a Catholic and an excellent and influential educator.
Lisa Evans is without a doubt the kindest and most caring teacher I have ever come in contact with. Whether as a parent, colleague, or collaborator, I can say without fear of contradiction that Mrs. Evans is the very best in her profession! Our daughter is in her class this year, and Lisa has not only gone out of her way to ensure that Ellie has had a great year learning not only about religion but has had a great year learning about herself most importantly as a Christian, and as a person as well. Mrs. Evans makes sure that each of her students learn about God through her daily classroom activities, but most importantly for a diocesan teacher, Mrs. Evans ensures that each of her students experience God's love for them through her every action. She mirrors Christ's teachings in her work and in her life.
We always see both Mr. and Mrs. Evans at Mass on Sunday. She always stops to say “hello” and ask how we are, and she knows each of our children by name, even though our younger two sons have not attended fourth grade yet! This is extraordinary and a true indicator that Mrs. Evans does not feel that she has to be a teacher at Holy Ghost because she has no other option; instead, she clearly feels that she teaches because that is the best and only option, as her calling and vocation from God Himself! In doing so, and in doing so with such caring and love, she is personally shaping her fourth-grade students in their own journeys through faith and through life.
Mrs. Spillman goes above and beyond to bring her grade 6-8 students to an encounter with Jesus Christ. She brings her students to weekly adoration, which they have grown to love. She gives them time for Lectio Divina. She leads them in Bible study with the Word on Fire Gospels by Bishop Robert Barron. She is guiding them to study the meaning of signs and symbols in church architecture, by designing their own church building on paper. They completed saint projects on American saints, many of them recent martyrs of the Cristero War. She uses a good balance of textbook, technology, and great books. She is kind and loving. I have had multiple parents tell me what a difference Mrs. Spillman has made in their children's faith lives. One mom asked me questions at the parish office for an hour, wanting to learn for herself what her son had learned from Mrs. Spillman about senses of Scripture.
Though Lydia Spillman has only been teaching at St. Francis Solanus School for two years, she has made a tremendous impact on her sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade student’s Catholic faith formation. Lydia is a peaceful, quiet, loving, Christ-seeking, and devoted teacher. Her fellow teachers and her students enjoy working with her.
Lydia does many projects in religion classes that encourage tween and teens to learn more about their Catholic faith. Lydia coordinated with a language arts teacher, Rochelle Neuman, to have students research a saint, write a paper on that saint, and place three things that represent the saint in a brown paper sack. The students then give presentations on their saints, including telling about the objects in the sack so their classmates will learn more about many saints. Eucharistic adoration was added to the school day once a week. Lydia was quick to instruct her students about the importance and beauty of spending time with Jesus. They model this for the younger students at our school. She helps with various committees at school, especially ones that involve service and faith formation. Lydia is carefully planning the eighth-grade graduation Mass around a Bible verse with students’ help. She has helped her sixth-grade students develop a relationship with their partner class of first-graders. Lydia is open to new ideas in the school and classroom. She is willing to carry on the traditions of the school. She is an asset to our school.
Lydia's devotion to the Catholic faith goes beyond the school day. Lydia and her husband, David, lead the Liturgy of the Hours at church on Sunday evenings. Lydia and David help with the church youth group. Lydia is an extraordinary minister of the holy Eucharist. St. Francis Solanus School is blessed to have Lydia Spillman as a teacher on our staff.
Julie Radel, principal
Diocesan priests, Bishop Balke to celebrate special Jubilees
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
On Wednesday, May 3, priests from around the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will gather at Villa Maria Catholic Life Center on Lake Springfield for a day of celebration. That day they will hear from Bishop Mark Bartosic, an auxiliary bishop from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Additionally, they will take part in Evening Prayer, a social hour, and a dinner, after which Bishop Thomas John Paprocki and the priests will honor priests who are celebrating Jubilees this year. Those men include Bishop Victor Balke, Msgr. David Peters, and Father John Sohm, who are celebrating 65 years; Father Kevin Sullivan who is celebrating 60 years; and Father Tom Meyer, who is celebrating his silver jubilee this year.
Bishop Victor Balke is celebrating 65 years as a priest this spring. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois on May 24, 1958, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by Bishop William A. O’Connor.
A native of Meppen, then-Father Balke’s first assignment was associate pastor of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and chaplain of St. Joseph’s Home in Springfield. He was procurator of the diocesan seminary at Lake Springfield from 1964 to 1970, and then rector of the seminary from 1970 to 1976.
He was appointed sixth Bishop of Crookston on July 3, 1976, by Pope Paul VI and ordained and installed on Sept. 2, 1976. During his tenure, Bishop Balke specifically encouraged evangelization. He reorganized the central administration of the diocese, implemented the 1983 Code of Canon Law and codified diocesan policies, encouraged renovation and building improvements in parishes, established an improved retirement program for elderly clergy, and established a benefit program for all clergy and laity employed by the Church in the Crookston Diocese. His motto was: Bless the Lord my soul.
He has returned to the Springfield Diocese many times over the years to visit relatives and friends, attend Jubilee events, and to ordain priests after Bishop McNicholas died unexpectedly shortly before the ordination of priests, and again in 2009 when the Springfield Diocese was in-between bishops.
Bishop Balke, who has been forever thankful for the gift of the priesthood, retired in 2007 but continued to celebrate Masses as needed for many years. Now at age 91, he resides at Sacred Heart rectory in East Grand Forks, Minn. He said he won’t be able to travel to Springfield for the Jubilee celebration but hopes everyone who is there “has a wonderful time.”
“As a priest, I enjoyed my years in Springfield,” he said. “My years as a bishop were wonderful and I especially enjoyed the liturgies of the Church. I’ve been retired since 2007 and that has been good, too. From beginning to end I’ve my enjoyed my journey with the priesthood.”
Decatur native Msgr. David Peters will celebrate his 65 years as a priest on May 24, the same day he turns 91. He was ordained by Bishop William A. O’Connor in 1958 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. There were eight priests ordained that day and six of those men had graduated from St. Teresa High School. Four were in his class and one had graduated a few years ahead of him.
Then-Father Peters spent his first four years as a priest at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield. His years at Blessed Sacrament came at a time when there were five priests at the parish. “I remember one day when we had nine baptisms at one time,” he says.
He went on to be an assistant at St. Patrick Parish in Alton and then an assistant chaplain and chaplain at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. He was then co-administrator at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham for four years. As a pastor, he served at St. Michael Parish in Staunton, St. Bernard Parish in Wood River, and St. James Parish in St. Jacob before moving to St. Paul Parish in Highland in 1987. He spent 20 years as pastor at St. Paul and retired in 2007. “My first (period of) assignment was for six years, but then I stayed on. I felt at home in Highland,” he says. In retirement, he remained active, happily helping out at St. Paul, where he is pastor emeritus.
He came out of retirement for a short time in 2011 to act as parochial administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham and Annunciation Parish in Shumway. He also has served as a delegate for senior priests. He was given the papal honor Chaplain to His Holiness (Monsignor) on Dec. 18, 2015.
After living in Highland for more than half his priesthood, he recently moved to an independent living retirement home so that he could be closer to his family members who still reside in Decatur. He says he is now settling in a new community. He is grateful for his many decades in Highland and adds that he also considers his fellow priests his “priest family.”
Father John Sohm, another Decatur native, was also ordained on May 24, 1958, by Bishop William A. O’Connor at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Sohm’s first assignment was as an assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Granite City. He went on to serve as an assistant at several places: St. Agnes Parish, Springfield; St. Raymond Parish, Raymond; and St. Patrick Parish, Alton.
In 1970 Father Sohm was named parochial administrator and then pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Shelbyville and at St. Columcille Parish in Sullivan. He served at St. Columcille for over four decades, where he had his home right across the street from his church. He also served for decades in Shelbyville, and at St. Isidore Parish in Bethany for many years. For shorter periods of time, he was a pastor at Holy Family Parish in Mount Sterling and Sacred Heart Parish in Dalton City. He was well appreciated in those parishes where he gave so many years of priestly life to shepherd his people. Additionally, he was a chaplain at a state prison.
Father Sohm has enjoyed periodically getting together with his many classmates and as time went on, was mindful of those men who passed away. A few years back, he expressed that he has always given thanks for the Lord’s goodness. “His love is everlasting,” he said. “It is expressed in the people of the parishes, where we (priests) have served.”
At 91, Father Sohm lives in a retirement community in Sullivan and is pastor emeritus of St. Columcille Parish.
Father Kevin Sullivan grew up on a family farm and spent his formative years as an altar server and organist at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in New Berlin. There, his boyhood pastor, Father Charles Fanning, suggested that young Kevin should become a priest. “One morning, after Mass, I told him that I had been accepted at Notre Dame University,” he said. “To my surprise, he turned away and said, ‘Kevin, you belong in the seminary.’
“Some years later Mom and Dad told me that Father had come out to the farm to tell them, ‘Kevin needs to go to the seminary.’ My parents assured him that nothing would make them happier, but I was only 17. If God wanted me to be a priest, Notre Dame would be a good place to find out.”
Then, at Notre Dame, yet another person suggested the priesthood. “One day I walked across campus with Father Dan O’Neil, CSC, the Holy Cross vocation director. He asked, ‘Kevin, I know you love Notre Dame, but have you ever thought about the seminary?’ With God’s grace, I entered the seminary, assured that Notre Dame would welcome me back.”
He attended the diocesan Latin School in New Berlin and went on to St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. He was ordained May 25, 1963, by Bishop William A. O’Connor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. He served as assistant pastor at St. James Parish in Decatur, Sacred Heart Parish in Granite City, and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. While serving as the director of the Office for Religious Education, he served on the National Religious Education board, the Confraternity of Christine Doctrine, and the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. As director of the Office of the Missions, he was involved with the Holy Childhood Association and was appointed to the National Mission Board. He was also pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Decatur and later spent a year at St. Aloysius in Springfield. His final assignment was pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Bethalto.
Father Sullivan was moved to senior priest status in 2003 and resides in Phoenix, Ariz. “I serve as volunteer chaplain of the St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Shelter, and Hospice of the Valley calls me to bring sacraments of the sick to Catholic patients,” he said. He also entertains people by playing “piano oldies” and sometimes conducts funeral services. He enjoys playing bridge and golf, and spending time with his priest friends.
Father Sullivan thinks this Year of the Eucharist is “an apt time to renew our faith in the Risen Lord, alive and well, welcoming us to God’s table.”
“No priest could ever be more thankful to God and enjoy the priesthood more than myself,” he concluded. “Wherever the assignments, every parish is filled with faith-filled Catholics who love and want to support their priests.”
Father Thomas Meyer was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1998, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and is celebrating his Silver Jubilee as a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
A graduate of Quincy Notre Dame High School, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri at Rolla. It was while he was in college and attending Masses at St. Patrick Church in Rolla that he began to realize his vocation to the priesthood. He spoke with Father Mike Kuse, who was vocation director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and soon after college graduation entered Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
Father Meyer’s first assignments as a priest were as parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham from 1998 to 2002, and then at Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville from 2002 to 2004. He then served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Edwardsville from 2004 to 2010, before returning to Jacksonville for 10 years, as pastor of Our Saviour. While in Jacksonville he was chaplain at MacMurray and Illinois colleges as well as at the Jacksonville State Correctional Facility. He was dean of the Jacksonville Deanery from 2014 to 2020. In 2015 he was also named pastor of several smaller parishes: St. Alexius in Beardstown, St. Fidelis in Arenzville, and St. Luke in Virginia. Since 2020 he has been pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy.
Now that he’s been a priest for 25 years, Father Meyer said, “It is nice to be arriving at a new milestone.” He says his involvement in developing the newest Catholic high school in the diocese was one highlight of his priesthood. “I feel very privileged that I was one of the founding members of Father McGivney Catholic High School in Glen Carbon,” he said. “I am very proud of the work our board completed to bring that vision to fruition.”
Being a priest is at once extremely fulfilling and sometimes stressful, Father Meyer admits. “Throughout my 25 years, I have enjoyed a variety of different types of ministry, including Spanish ministry, ministry in a prison, and ministry at the colleges,” he said. “It can be life-giving, but also potentially exhausting if you do not take time for the other important needs in your life.”
He is most grateful that his current assignment in Quincy keeps him closer to his parents. “I am very blessed to have an assignment where I am able to watch over my parents, Joe and Marilyn Meyer,” he said. “They are able to attend Mass with me every Saturday night. This has been a wonderful blessing.”
Retired St. Paul Parish organist honored for five decades of service
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
HIGHLAND — After spending five decades as the organist for St. Paul Parish and choir in Highland, as well as 50 years working as service manager at the Wicks Pipe Organ Company, also in Highland, William “Bill” Bust finally retired when he was over 80 years old.
Although Bust stepped several aside years ago, the pandemic and all its repercussions — along with Bust’s health issues — caused a delay in his official retirement celebration, which took place earlier this year. The current St. Paul choir director, Andrea Henze, arranged a gathering at Bust’s home, where he was presented with a plaque in his honor and was also given one of his most prized possessions, his St. Paul choir robe.
It was about 1970 when Msgr. Lawrence Wiskirchen, who was pastor of St. Paul Parish, asked Bust to oversee the music ministry at the parish. Even though he had his doubts about taking over as organist for the parish and the choir while he was working full-time at Wicks Pipe Organ Company, Bust agreed. In the next decades, he went on to serve with several other pastors: Father Martin “Mitz” Mangan, Msgr. David Peters, Father Chuck Edwards, and his current pastor, Father Pat Jakel.
Because he had installed the organ at St. Paul Parish and also played it, Bust said he naturally became attached to it. “There were times when I had to tell myself, ‘This organ isn’t mine. It belongs to St. Paul’s.’” He adds that there are very few Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois that do not have a Wicks organ.
“I’m so lucky to have spent so much time at St. Paul’s,” says Bust, who was at one time a seminarian in Texas. “I have always had a great love for liturgy and we had a lot of glorious liturgies here. Not everybody is able to spend 50 years as a parish musician. Musicians are very important to the liturgy and the liturgy has always been important to me.”
Bust says he has great memories of his time at St. Paul’s, when he often played every Mass at the church, including the years he played five or six Masses on weekends and all funerals and weddings. “I look back and really don’t know how I did it,” he says. “And you know, because of all my work, I was never able to spend Christmas with my mother all those years.” He was also instrumental in playing for the St. Paul choir, led for more than five decades by his good friend, the late Sam Schwarztrauber.
“At one point we had about 40 members in the mixed choir, and we had some glorious liturgies,” Bust says. “One of our main concerns was the we were not up there to perform, but to assist the congregation to sing.” Of course, at times the choir did entertain at events for religious sisters and others.” He says Henze is doing a great job with the choir.
Henze notes that Bust went “above and beyond” in his 50 years of service. “I became director of the St. Paul choir in 2018 when Sam Schwarztrauber retired,” she says. “I had some big shoes to fill, and am so grateful for the guidance and encouragement that Bill continues to give.
“While Bill was organist at St. Paul, he took great care to make sure the music liturgy at our Masses was celebrated beautifully and properly,” Henze says. “His focus was always praising God and helping others to do the same. He continues to support the long tradition of excellence our St. Paul choir has demonstrated for more than 50 years.”
Bust concludes that now that he is in possession of his choir robe, he has definite plans for it, whenever God calls him home. “We had some very good times at St. Paul, but when I retired, all I really wanted was my choir robe,” he says. “I want to be buried in it. That’s right, I want to be laid out in my robe!”
I understand the Church recognizes Protestant's baptism, and I understand why they cannot participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, but I am absolutely dumbfounded as to why they can't participate in the sacrament of reconciliation/penance. Why? Doesn't God call us all to repentance? Surely, He does. But why would the Church withhold absolution? While we are on the subject, I'm also very sad that my Protestant friends do not have access to the anointing of the sick. This just breaks my heart because I've seen some radical miracles in people I personally know who have received pretty dramatic physical healing as a result of this sacrament. Please help me understand why Protestants are separated from these vital sacraments.
- Christi in our diocese
Thank you for these questions and your concern for the spiritual well-being of our Protestant brothers and sisters.
I would be remiss if I did not first point out that they can receive the sacraments of penance and of the anointing of the sick if they join the Church established by Christ Jesus and enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. We do not make this invitation to them often enough. The sacraments of the Catholic Church are for those who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, not for those who are outside of communion with us.
The sacrament of penance — oftentimes also called confession and reconciliation — not only reconciles the penitent with God, but also with the Church. This Church is not some vague spiritual notion as most Protestants imagine it, but the actual Church that Jesus founded on the rock of St. Peter, which is to say the Catholic Church.
In its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council taught that through the sacrament of penance the faithful “obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offense committed against him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion” (no. 11). Under normal circumstances, Protestants are not able to receive sacramental absolution because they cannot be reconciled with the Church if they are not in communion with the Church.
The same situation applies with the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, which also involves the forgiveness of sins (see James 5:14-15). Again, under normal circumstances, Protestants are not able to receive the sacrament of the sick because they cannot be reconciled to the Church if they are not in communion with the Church.
If a Protestant believes in the power of the sacraments of penance and the anointing of the sick, he or she should also recognize that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Jesus as the means of our salvation and should seek to enter into full communion with the Church. If they do this, they can receive these sacraments as often as they need them.
Father Daren Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S., is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland; parochial administrator of St. Alexius in Beardstown, St. Fidelis in Arenzville, and St. Luke in Virginia; and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
‘All I think about is wanting to live life to the fullest’
How prayer has kept a young girl and her family strong despite cancer, other hardships
By ANDREW HANSEN
DECATUR — Eleven-year-old Olivia Dunker of Decatur is a fighter. That courage was evident from the womb as her mom, Andrea, says.
“Olivia arrived in this world on her own time, seven weeks early, and only weighed three pounds, two ounces,” Andrea recalls. “She fought so hard the first couple weeks to be a strong baby, but she did it. They said she would do everything delayed, but she hit all her milestones. At six months, she started having seizures. She got a sleep study showing that she stopped breathing every hour of her sleep. They took her tonsils out and the next month, she had cancer.”
In 2014, the cancer was Rhabdomyosarcoma which impacts the soft tissue, connective tissue, and/or bones. In 2021, it was Osteosarcoma of the Right Mandible which also impacts bones.
Olivia’s hardships are plenty. She has had nearly all her teeth pulled from surgery and/or post radiation treatment; she has no permanent teeth underneath to grow; she has a limited range of motion due to scar tissues and bones fusing together wrongly after surgery; she will have a lifetime of surgeries on her jawbone to keep it stretched and continue her ability to eat and chew like normal; doctors used her right fibula bone to reconstruct her jawbone so that means her right ankle does not move in the same way, which could limit her ability to play certain sports or things that she might want to do; one of her chemotherapies made her hearing on her right side slightly deaf; and the family learned that Olivia has a genetic disorder that her body is prone to making cancer.
“She has plenty of scars emotionally and physically,” Andrea says about her daughter.
Despite those scars, there is hope and plenty of love that is getting the Dunker family through it all. First, the hope: As of right now, Olivia is cancer free. The love they’ve received has been profound. St. Patrick Grade School in Decatur where Olivia attends got T-shirts that were sold by the Dunker family to represent Olivia. The school had Friday dress down days to honor her and childhood cancer patients. The school and parish families had Olivia on their prayer list, and all her classmates prayed daily for her.
“We have so many people praying for her,” Andrea said. “I still run into people that say, ‘I prayed for you and Olivia and your family during the last year.’ Most of the time, I have no idea who they are, but I thank them because prayer is what got us through this last year. I pray daily that God lets me keep my child longer.
“It is so emotional, every time I think about strangers thinking of my child and my family,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed. It's truly amazing how kind people are.”
Today, Olivia has to be watched closely for any markers indicating that cancer is trying to grow. She has bloodwork and scans every three months at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis. St. Jude’s has since become their home away from home. The family has also turned to St. Jude to intercede for them. St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes.
“Olivia has always been a fighter — a true miracle, as she makes it all look so easy,” Andrea said. “Every day, every month is a blessing that we get to keep her down on earth.”
Olivia says to keep the prayers coming because they are working and getting her through each day.
“All I think about is being a kid and wanting to live life to the fullest while I am here,” she said. “I am thankful for all my friends and family and St. Patrick’s.”
Going to confession? The priest will say something a little differently now
By FATHER DAREN ZEHNLE
Special to Catholic Times
You may have noticed that your confessor spoke a slightly different formula for sacramental absolution over the last several weeks. Perhaps you wondered about the different wording he used.
Why is there a change to the formula of absolution?
In 1973, the then-Congregation for Divine Worship published the Rite of Penance under the authority of a special mandate from the Roman Pontiff. Originally published in Latin, this liturgical book was translated into English in 1974. The translators of the English text used a translation method known as dynamic equivalence. Rather than producing a literal translation of the Latin text, they preferred to translate ideas which did not always produce an accurate translation. This translation was approved by the Holy See.
In 2001, the then-Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam on the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy. This Instruction ordered the retranslation of the liturgical books according to a literal translation instead of the method of dynamic equivalence.
The retranslation of the Rite of Penance was completed 2022 and published this year as the Order of Penance.
What has changed in the formula of absolution?
There are two subtle changes in the formula of absolution, in addition to changes in formatting. You will find the former translation on the left and the new translation on the right, with the changes to the wording in bold:
God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
God, the Father of mercies,
through the Death and Resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
When does the change take place?
Confessors were allowed to begin using the revised translation this past Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22. The Order of Penance must be used beginning Divine Mercy Sunday, April 16.
What if my confessor continues to use the previous translation?
The essential words of absolution have not changed so if your confessor continues to use the old translation, the absolution will be valid. For a valid absolution, it is necessary for the priest to say, “I absolve you.” While it is recommended for a priest to say the entirety of the formula of absolution, it is not necessary for him to say the part that includes, “God, the Father of mercies … pardon and peace.
Father Daren Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S., is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland; parochial administrator of St. Alexius in Beardstown, St. Fidelis in Arenzville, and St. Luke in Virginia; and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.