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.

Book Studies for Catechists

I’m a big believer in reading as a vital component of personal and professional development. This is especially true for catechists and catechetical leaders — reading, sharing, and discussing good books is a great way to form ourselves as disciples and disciple-makers.

Recently my office compiled a list of books that would be appropriate for group study by catechists and Catholic school teachers:

(We also correlated the books to our diocesan Catechist Formation Process.)

My hope is that our parishes and schools will organize book studies for their catechists as a path for continued formation.

Have you ever participated in a catechetical book study? Are there any books you would add to our list?

What our Students Should Know: Religion Curriculum Standards in our Diocese

This week my office is rolling out our diocese’s first set of PreK-8th grade religion curriculum standards:

These standards were developed over nearly five years with a committee composed of both parish and Catholic school representatives. We used as our basis standards from the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Orlando, as well as materials from the USCCB.

Of course, a set of standards is only effective if they are implemented — and I am keenly aware that this is no small task! I’m anticipating a five-year implementation period for these standards, beginning with a study and review period for teachers, catechists, and catechetical leaders; an alignment review to document how the standards line up with the catechetical textbooks in use in our diocese; and lots of encouraging, reassuring, and question-answering on the part of our office!

We will also need to review the standards with an eye for how parish formation programs will implement them, given the disparity in contact hours between Catholic schools and parish programs. We will try to make good recommendations for what standards parishes should focus on each year.

Please pray for this process — for our office as we seek to set these standards into motion, and for our catechists as they adopt these standards in their parishes and schools.

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.

Free Webinar: The Pastoral Project of Evangelii Gaudium

Next Tuesday, November 11, two members of my department will host a webinar in which they discuss their trip to Rome to participate in an international conference on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:

In September 2014 Carlos Tejeda (director for marriage and family life) and Kyle Holtgrave (associate director for youth and young adult ministry) traveled to Rome to participate in the International Meeting on the Pastoral Project of Evangelii Gaudium.

In this free webinar Kyle and Carlos will share what they heard and saw during the meeting and how the “Joy of the Gospel” can impact your parishes and ministries in our diocese.

Sponsored by the Department for Catechetical Services of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and funded by generous contributions to the Annual Catholic Services Appeal and the Harvest of Thanks, Springtime of Hope Campaign.

We invite anyone who is interested to join us for this webinar; registration is free at

A Journey Concluded

pathThis past Saturday our diocesan Department for Catechetical Services completed a one-year pilot project. Entitled “Journey of Discipleship,” we partnered with Ss. James and Patrick parish in Decatur, Illinois, and offered monthly adult formation sessions on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The project began in the summer of 2012 when, in the course of a discussion at one of our department meetings, one of my colleagues wondered aloud what it would be like if the members of our various offices took over a parish for one year, bringing to bear our knowledge, skills, and expertise in a concerted way across our various responsibilities.

That eventually lead us to the determination to partner with a parish for one year and help them to better understand how to grow in holiness and as disciples. Following a “Come and See” event last December, each month we offered a five-hour session on a different aspect of holiness:

  • The Four Pillars of the Christian Life
  • Regular Appointments with God
  • Full, Conscious and Active Participation in the Liturgy
  • Active Participation in Ongoing Faith Formation
  • A Missionary Mindset
  • A Simple and Sacrificial Lifestyle
  • Building Common Ground
  • Chaste Living
  • Commitment to Life, Charity and Justice
  • Following the Precepts of the Church
  • Discerning the Movement of the Holy Spirit

It has been a wonderful, Spirit-inspired journey with the people of Ss. James and Patrick. It is rare for diocesan staff to have the opportunity to forge such relationships with a parish and we are already looking for ways in which to replicate the success of this program with other parishes in our diocese.

The handouts, slides, and select videos of the sessions are available online at

If You’re In the Central Illinois Area…

microphone - greenmmonster - flickrCC

…come join us for one of our office’s five regional workshops on catechesis and evangelization:

Nourished by Jesus, Called to Evangelize

Disciples must be rooted in Jesus Christ, who loves and saves and feeds us. This encounter with Jesus then leads us to introduce him to others – to pass on the faith we have received as a gift.

In this regional workshop we will spend time reflecting on the beauty and grace of the Eucharist, both as sacrament and as liturgical expression. You will come away with new insights to enrich your understanding and experience of the Mass. We will also explore how to form our children to appreciate liturgy as a powerful and intimate encounter with Jesus and the Body of Christ. Finally, we will discuss practical tips for becoming more effective in our call to proclaim Christ Jesus.

  • Monday, September 30; 6p-9p (St. Peter, Quincy, IL)
  • Tuesday, October 1; 6p-9p (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Springfield, IL)
  • Wednesday, October 2; 6p-9p (St. Mary, Edwardsville, IL)
  • Monday, October 7; 6p-9p (Sacred Heart, Effingham, IL)
  • Tuesday. October 8; 6p-9p (Holy Family, Decatur, IL)

The 2013 Regionals will be led by Tom Quinlan, director of religious education for the Diocese of Joliet. Tom received his Masters of Divinity from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and has 20 years of experience as a parish and diocesan catechetical leader. He is active at the national level and has presented in many dioceses. Tom got his start as a catechist and a high school religion teacher.

We’ll also be offering three sessions in Spanish:

Evangelización en las Familias Hispanas

El llamado a la evangelización desafía a cada cristiano a reconocer y respetar las riquezas que las familias hispanas traen a la iglesia. Estas familias hispanas necesitan tener un espacio para reunirse, para compartir sus historias, sus tradiciones religiosas, y su riqueza cultural para fortalecer su compromiso activo con la llamada bautismal a la misión y llamado de Jesucristo. Vamos a explorar cómo a través de las tradiciones, el idioma, las relaciones, la comida y la música, y las expresiones religiosas las familias hispanas se relacionan y responden a Dios y a expresar la fe desde su cultura y dentro de su cultura hispana.

  • Lunes el 7 de octubre a las 6pm (La iglesia Sagrado Corazon, Effingham, IL)
  • Mares el 8 de octubre a las 6pm (La iglesia St. Alexius, Beardstown, IL)
  • Miercoles el 9 de octubre a las 6pm (La iglesia St. Boniface, Edwardsville, IL)

Presentación de Sori Govin
Sori Govin es representante bilingüe de ventas en la editorial de religión RCL Benziger. Ella trabajó en la Arquidiócesis de Atlanta, como Directora Asociada del Ministerio de Catequesis y ha sido Directora de Educación Religiosa, la iniciación cristina de los niños y también trabajó con las comunidades hispanas en la parroquia de San Patricio. Sori es completamente bilingüe en inglés y español y posee una experiencia de más de 18 años de servicio y evangelización en una comunidad multi-cultural. Ella es de nacionalidad Cubana, estudio el bachillerato en Miami Florida y vive con su familia en Atlanta Georgia.

All sessions are $10 per person. Pay at the door or contact the Office for Catechesis for details.

Social Media Training Sessions – Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Next month my office, in conjunction with our diocesan  Office for Information Technology, will be offering training on social media for ministry at locations around our diocese.

The training is designed for:

  • Pastors
  • DREs/CREs
  • Principals
  • Youth Ministers
  • and anyone interested in using social media on behalf of the  Church’s ministries.

The training will include information on the new diocesan social media policy as well as   œbest practices  for using social media.

Sessions will be held at these dates and places:

  • June 4, 6p-8p “ Catholic Pastoral Center (Springfield)
  • June 5, 6p-8p “ St. Anthony School (Effingham)
  • June 12, 6p-8p “ St. Ambrose (Godfrey)
  • June 14, 6p-8p “ St. Peter School (Quincy)
  • June 21, 6p-8p “ Immaculate Conception (Mattoon)

No registration is necessary for these sessions.

Online training will be available on June 7; to register,  use the URL following the training time:

Roman Missal Workshops: Unexpected Success?

Our diocese had our fourth day of regional workshops on the Roman Missal, third edition yesterday. We offer an afternoon and an evening session, each 3-hours long, covering some basics of good liturgy, the reasons for and some examples of the changes we’ll see on the Firth Sunday of Advent, and a packet of resources for implementing the changes.

Our last two workshop are next Tuesday, and after they’re done I really want to sit and analyze what we did right with this workshop. The afternoon session is for Catholic school teachers — usually a very tough audience. But so far, with some minor exceptions, this is the most engaged I’ve seen the teachers on a catechetical topic.

I’m not sure why that’s so; part of it may be that we’re giving them materials they can take back and use in the classroom (something they’ve been asking for for years), but I think the fact that we’ve divided up the workshop into smaller subsections — none longer than 30 minutes, some as short as 5 minutes — helps to make the presentations feel snappier. We’ve also added a variety of short video clips (from ICEL’s Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ DVD, a great resource), multiple presenters (participants hear from 5 different people), and we purchased a portable PA system so that we don’t have to rely on spotty systems in gyms and parish halls.

I suspect that it’s a combination of all these factors that have made the workshops a success. Of course, the real proof will be how parishes use the materials and prepare people for the new language of the Mass we’ll be using in two months!

Adult Confirmation Preparatory Session

This Pentecost, at our cathedral church, our diocese will celebrate the Rite of Confirmation with adult Catholics who, for whatever reason, missed receiving the sacrament before.

My office has put together a sample 5-hour preparatory session for parishes to use with their adult confirmandi; the feedback we have recieved has been positive, so I thought I would share it with anyone who is interested.

The session makes use of  Together in the Spirit: Celebrating and Living the Sacrament of Confirmation (Ave Maria Press, 2010), by  Bishop Robert F. Morneau and Deacon Mike Grzeca, a book I recommend for anyone preparing adults or  adolescents  to  receive  Confirmation.