Ars crescendi in Dei gratia

COA approved colorYesterday our bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, released his second pastoral letter “On Building a Culture of Growth in the Church”:

The art of growing in God’s grace is the key to growth in the Church. Building a culture of growth in the Church starts with inviting people to experience the love of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of St. Matthew concludes with the Risen Lord commissioning his disciples with these words: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This growth looks not only to build up the number of followers of Jesus Christ, but also – and more importantly – for Christ’s followers to grow in the depth of their relationship with Jesus Christ and in their commitment to observe all that he has commanded us to do.

“Grace is a participation in the life of God.” It introduces us into the love of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the grace of Christ is a gift freely given by God that is “infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification,” that is, growth in holiness. Growing in God’s grace is not a science but an art, because each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation. As Pope Francis explains, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” These individual masterpieces of God’s creation do not exist in isolation, but are intended by God to be built up into a flourishing community that thrives and grows.

You can read the entire letter, which includes discussion questions, on our dicoesan web site.

Q&A with Bishop Paprocki and Catholic High Schools

Yesterday I had the pleasure of moderating a Catholic Schools Week Q&A webcast with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki and the students of the seven Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois:

I was very impressed with the questions the students came up with (a nice mixture of light and serious) and very pleased that, for our first attempt at this type of webcast, the technology didn’t fall apart on us! Our hope is to make this an annual event and to develop a similar experience for the other Catholic schools in our diocese.

Bishop Paprocki’s Homily for the Opening of the Year of Faith

Our bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, gave a wonderful homily on October 14 marking the opening of the Year of Faith. In it, he laid out his plan for how Catholics in our diocese can live the Year fully:

To our sorrow, today there seems to be fewer and fewer people willing to apprentice themselves to Christ, to learn from him the will of the Father and the ways in which we may live in his love. You have heard the statistic, no doubt, that the second-largest religious group in the United States is non-practicing Catholics. I am sure that many of us know personally the people and stories behind these numbers. They are our sisters and brothers, our nieces and nephews, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and co-workers.

What can we say to reignite in them the fire of faith? What is Christ inspiring us to do to proclaim the faith anew to these lost sheep? These questions lie at the heart of the Year of Faith. Of this task, the Holy Father wrote: “To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived, and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year” (Porta Fidei, 9). To this end, I would like to propose to a three-fold plan to make the most of this Year of Faith.

First, we must be grateful for the faith we have received, for our encounter with the Lord. Families should strive to make their homes places where the family prays together, reads the Scriptures together, and is nourished together at Sunday Mass. Families should strive to allow their faith to influence everything they do, rather than reserving their faith only for an hour or so on Sunday.

Second, we must endeavor to understand all the more clearly the faith we profess. If a friend, family member or co-worker asks us a question about Catholicism, can we provide an adequate “ and correct “ answer? We ought to be able to do so.

Third, we must share our faith, not only with our family and friends, but with our co-workers and everyone we meet. As the Holy Father reminds us, “Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment “(Porta Fidei, 10).

This three-fold plan is the way of discipleship and through it we learn to apprentice ourselves to Jesus Christ.

The entire homily can be read on our diocesan web site; I heartily recommend it to you.

Video: Fortnight for Freedom Prayer Rally – Springfield, IL

Yesterday our diocesan bishop, the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, hosted a prayer rally outside the Illinois State Capitol as part of our observance of the Fortnight for Freedom. I was particularly impressed with this rally’s focus on prayer as the primary strength of the Church. Bishop Paprocki was one of the architects of the Fortnight for Freedom and his consistant message has been that the Fortnight should be an event centered on prayer and education — not partisan posturing.

The rally was recorded; I offer it here, the day before we celebrate our Independence Day,  as one example of how the Church participates in the public life of our nation in a spirit of affirmative orthodoxy.

(Any complaints about the shaky camera work can be directed to your humble servant, who forgot the tripod.)

The New Evangelization – Press Release Edition

Last week the mayor of our town committed suicide. Implicated in tax evasion and apparently unable to account for thousands of dollars from an estate he administered years ago, he was found at his home after failing to appear for a court hearing.

This post is not about any of that.

Following the news our new ordinary, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, issued a press release expressing his condolences and offering prayers for the mayor and his family. Three days later he issued a press release explaining why, even though the mayor had committed suicide, he was still to be given a Christian burial.

At first I was bothered by these press releases. Why was the bishop inserting himself into the story, especially when the releases did not seem to come from any media inquiry? Lots of politicians who had worked with the mayor were releasing statements, but our bishop was just installed this summer and had no real working relationship with him. Was this just a case of a nosy prelate wanting to get his name in the papers?

While I don’t yet know my new boss real well, that doesn’t seem to be his modus operandi, so I thought a little harder about it. Finally, it dawned on me: he’s acting exactly as bishops and religious leaders have acted through the ages, explaining the faith and offering words of prayer and counsel in difficult times. In that light, the releases shouldn’t be that troubling — they are just a more modern way of “spreading the word.”

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the bishop’s press releases are a form of the New Evangelization, reminding a culture that has turned its back on the faith that the Church has a place in the public square and a message that can’t be found in any secular venue. Seeing the bishop’s words of condolence in a newspaper article is another reminder that the faith continues to have a place in the lives of citizens and a prophetic role in play in the culture.

Press releases as culture renewal. Who woulda guessed?

Habemus Episcopum!

It is with great joy that I forward the news that the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has a new bishop:

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Archdiocese of Chicago to be the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. He succeeds Archbishop George J. Lucas, who was named archbishop of Omaha last June.

The appointment was announced at 5 a.m. April 20 in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

“We are grateful to God, to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to Francis Cardinal George for choosing such a gifted and dedicated priest and bishop to serve us,” said Msgr. Carl Kemme, diocesan administrator, who introduced Bishop-designate Paprocki to the community during a news conference later that morning at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

“We are most grateful to Bishop Paprocki for accepting this appointment. Together, we pledge our prayers, support and loving cooperation to him in the ongoing work of proclaiming the Gospel,” Msgr. Kemme said.

Although he has been an occasional visitor to Springfield, Bishop-designate Paprocki said he sees his new ministry as bishop of the diocese and a “blessing” and looks forward to learning more about the Catholic community of central Illinois.

“I am deeply grateful for the confidence shown by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in appointing me to serve as the ninth Bishop of Springfield in Illinois,” Bishop Paprocki said. “I look forward to working with the priests, deacons, men and women religious, the lay Christian faithful and all people of good will here in our State Capital to carry out the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel. I pledge to do my best with the help of God’s grace to build on the fundamental blessings established through the dedicated ministry of the previous bishops of Springfield, especially my immediate predecessor, the Most Reverend George Lucas, now Archbishop of Omaha.”

Bishop-designate Paprocki is a native of Chicago, born Aug. 5, 1952. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 10, 1978 in Chicago. He is a canon lawyer, with a doctoral degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (1991), and is also a graduate of DePaul University College of Law in Chicago (1981).

In addition to his parish assignments, he served the Archdiocese of Chicago as vice-chancellor (1985-2000) and chancellor (1992-2000). He was ordained auxiliary bishop for the Chicago Archdiocese on March 19, 2003. He serves Chicago Cardinal Francis George as vicar for Vicariate IV; the cardinal’s liaison to Polonia (the Chicago Polish community); the cardinal’s liaison for Health and Hospital Affairs.

An installation liturgy and Mass of Welcome will be held Tuesday, June 22, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. More information on the installation and related events will be announced later.

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois comprises approximately 146,000 Catholics in 131 parishes in central Illinois. The diocese includes the following counties: Adams, Bond, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jasper, Jersey, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Scott and Shelby.

More at www.dio.org/bishop.

A press conference will be held today at 10a at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; plans are to stream the press conference live at the diocesan web site. Bishop Papricki’s installation will be June 22 at that same cathedral.

In the meantime, please keep Bishop Paprocki in your prayers!

Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus to shepherd your
people and the Holy Spirit to make your people one.

Send your Holy Spirit to anoint our new
Bishop-designate Thomas Paprocki, that he may continue
the work of renewal in the Church and unite our
parishes, priests and people in love, truth and wisdom.

Give him a true shepherd’s heart like that of Jesus,
that he may give strength to the weak, heal the
broken-hearted, console the lonely, bring back the
wandering and be a power against the evil of our day.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.