Diocesan priests recall seminary days with Bishop McGovern

Parishioners and pastors from the Diocese of Belleville say they are excited to welcome The Most Reverend Michael McGovern as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Belleville this summer. While the coronavirus pandemic meant a customary celebration could not take place for the installation and ordination of the new bishop on July 22, Bishop McGovern is planning a series of parish visits to meet the Catholics of southern Illinois – while following public health precautions and protocols, of course.

Who is the Jesus you want people to discover?

For the past five weeks, I have been packing my belongings in order to bring them with me to my new home in Belleville. In addition to my clothes, family photo albums, and personal papers, I have been sorting and packing many, many books that I own. I have hundreds of books; some were given to me, and others I purchased over the years. I enjoy books and many of the ones in my library have influenced my thoughts, my faith and my prayer life.

Catholic high schools honoring graduates in special ways

Mater Dei High School Principal Dennis Litteken wanted to honor the 107 seniors graduating this year in a special way—so he had yard signs made and delivered them to each student’s home in April. Litteken and Maria Zurliene, director of enrollment, split the list up and trekked not only across Clinton County, where a majority of students reside, but also to Belleville, O’Fallon, Lebanon, Mt. Vernon and north of Greenville­—wherever a senior called home. They managed it in two trips.

St. Francis Xavier pastor working to free detainees during pandemic

Father Bob Flannery likes to recall to the message of love of Jesus Christ as he works to protect the lives of immigrant detainees in one southern Illinois detention center. Father Bob, pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Carbondale, is a founding member of Detained Immigrant Spiritual Care, an organization started in 2018 by members of Carbondale’s Interfaith Council and trained volunteers of a variety of faiths and languages.

Diocesan teachers, students adapting well to long-distance learning

By LYNN VENHAUS Contributing Writer As a global pandemic has changed American life in a matter of weeks, the three high schools and 26 elementary schools in the Belleville Diocese have had to quickly adapt. Several local administrators and teachers say they see positive outcomes in an unprecedented challenging time. Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all …

Students give grocery bags new life as made-with-love mats for the homeless

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Olney have done that one better. When the world gives you plastic grocery bags, make sleeping mats for the homeless. As part of their study of homelessness and the affordable housing crisis, students in the sixth and eighth grades have been turning thousands of used plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats.

Daystar is a ‘Godsend’ for disabled McClure woman

Donna Humphrey is not too proud to accept help. “I’ve been the one who helps people my whole life,” the 67-year-old McClure resident says. “I’ve always been independent. But I am not afraid to ask for a hand up.” Helping people is what got Donna in her latest predicament. While trying to stop a co-worker from falling, Donna fell and broke her femur.

A life devoted to prayer

Katlin O’Connor is ready to devote her life to prayer and penance as a Carmelite nun. O’Connor says she is confident about her divine calling, as her leap of faith came after she returned to the Catholic church amid much soul-searching. “It doesn’t seem like a big change for me,” she said. “It will be comforting to go back to the basics, to do the simple work of daily life and focus on prayer.”

Bishop dedicates new altar at Mary Help of Christians, Chester

Parishioners of Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church, Chester, participated in a rare experience in their parish on Sunday, Nov. 24. The dedication of a new altar. The dedication comes after the parish completely restored the interior (and some of the exterior) of their church, a project which took seven months.
Parishioners were all smiles (with the exception of a few tears of joy) on Sunday as their new altar was dedicated by Bishop Edward K. Braxton.

Research of Jesuit slaveholding may provide links to modern-day descendants in Illinois

The early history of the Jesuits in the United States is entwined with the institution of slavery. Records show that in about 1670, French Jesuit missionary Father Jacques Marquette received the gift of an American Indian slave from the Illinois tribe he ministered to. Years later, at the Kaskaskia settlement Father Marquette helped found on the Mississippi River in southern Illinois, both Indian and African people were held in bondage.

‘Discernment pilgrimage’ hopes to inspire young men to consider priestly life

St. Junípero Serra described the string of missions he established along the coast of California as a “heavenly ladder” to bring people closer to God. Now, Father Nick Junker is inviting young men in the diocese to climb Serra’s ladder, to help them decide whether they’re willing to devote their lives to God as priests.

Cathedral man sets out on pilgrimage of faith to visit every parish in diocese

For three years, Pete Joergensen has been attending Mass at churches throughout the diocese. His goal is to celebrate the Eucharist in every parish in the Diocese of Belleville. He says his pilgrimage has helped him fill the hole in his life caused by the death of his wife Virginia, while giving him a new appreciation for the Catholic community in which he lives.

Cathedral organist, music director retires after nearly 6 decades

This summer marked the end of an era at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville, as Dennis York stepped down from a 59-year career as organist and music director. For decades, his musicianship and his leadership of the church choirs created a sacred setting for Masses and other important events in the life of the Cathedral parish and the Diocese of Belleville.

Once a recipient of help, Vienna parish now ‘paying it forward’

More than 30 years ago, St. Paul Parish in Vienna, Ill., was able to take a big step forward with the help of Catholic Extension. The parish was ready to expand from a small wooden structure in order to accommodate its growing congregation. Among the groups that contributed money to the project was what was then known as the Catholic Church Extension Society, an organization devoted to building and strengthening isolated faith communities.

Seminary-bound Mater Dei senior tells teens, ‘You’ll know when God’s calling’

For Dennis Trickey, God’s call came in stillness. Trickey, then a rising junior at Mater Dei Catholic High School, was attending a summer retreat aimed at vocations. As an altar server, Eucharistic minister and lector at his home parish in Pierron, he’d often been told by parishioners and priests that he’d make a good priest, but he hadn’t thought much about it.

Schools make Catholic social teaching key part of curriculum

For Southern Illinois’ Catholic schools, service and values education are more than just “doing the right thing” – they’re an essential part of imbuing education with Catholic social teaching. The Church has developed seven themes of this teaching, aimed at building a just society and living lives of holiness: The life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.

Improv class brings the power of ‘saying yes’ to Gibault students

The central principle of improvisational theater, or improv, is “saying yes” – following the spontaneous suggestion of your acting partner in a performance, no matter how outlandish it is or where it may lead. That element makes it a great fit with Catholic high school students, says MaryBeth Babcock, who has been teaching improv classes at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo for about six years.

Labrador puppy in training brings pet therapy to students, adults at Mater Dei High School

The latest and littlest Mater Dei Knight spends her days winning hearts and soothing stressed souls. CoCo, a 12-week-old chocolate Labrador retriever, comes to the Catholic high school daily with her human, Mater Dei’s counselor Tammy Carroll. There, CoCo socializes with the kids and adults, providing pet therapy to anyone who needs it.

Herrin Chamber honors Msgr. Ken Schaefer for contributions to community

Every year, the Herrin Chamber of Commerce honors an individual, chosen by the group’s president, for his or her contributions to the community. As she prepared for her final awards as chamber president, Kelly Green was having some difficulty figuring out who to choose for the 2019 President’s Award. Turns out, all she had to do was look up from her keyboard.

Two parishes suppressed in Hamilton County as part of restructuring plan

Two southern Illinois parishes in Hamilton County have been suppressed as part of the ongoing diocesan Pastoral Plan for Parish Renewal and Restructuring. St. Clement of Rome Parish in McLeansboro, and St. John Nepomucene Parish in Dahlgren will now be designated as chapels of the “Mother church,” St. John the Baptist Parish in Piopolis. The three rural communities are located about 80 to 90 miles southeast of Belleville.

Bishop to deliver Martin Luther King, Jr. keynote address in Philadelphia

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Black Catholics will sponsor a keynote address by Bishop Edward K. Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville. The presentation is the second in a three-part series developed by the Office for Black Catholics in response to the U.S. bishops’ pastoral initiative against racism, “Open …

Catholic Charities’ inmate literacy program has been highly successful

By SUZANNE KOZIATEK Staff writer An innovative program to provide peer-to-peer literacy help in Illinois’ prisons has been phenomenally successful: results show 97 percent of inmates who were tutored by other inmates have advanced their reading skills, making them more employable after release and less likely to end up back in prison. Now, the agency …

Retired priests, sisters continue to make their mark on local parishes

For many retired priests and women religious, retirement doesn’t lead to a gold watch and a condo in Florida – it’s the first step to a continuing calling to help others. They serve in individual parishes and schools, in diocesan roles and in private prayer, serving as a spiritual force multiplier to accomplish greater goals than might be possible otherwise. The Diocese of Belleville will support their work through a special collection at Masses on Dec. 8-9 to benefit elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests.

Bishop Braxton’s Statement on the Holy See’s Request to Delay Voting on Abuse

As you know, I am in Baltimore for the autumn meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. On Sunday, I participated in the meeting of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People during which we discussed a number of issues critical to the current crisis. The Bishops spent yesterday primarily in prayer and listening to lay women and men expressing their concerns for those who have been abused by members of the clergy and their dissatisfaction with the way some Bishops have responded to this abuse.

Carbondale holds inter-faith vigil for synagogue shooting victims

Within hours of the Oct. 27 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, religious leaders in Carbondale were making plans to come together in solidarity and healing. The next day, more than 150 people crowded into Congregation Beth Jacob in Carbondale offering prayers for the victims of the shooting, as well as everyone affected by the violent attack.

Father Federico Higuera remembered for helping parishioners in need

Father Federico Higuera, 77, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Anna, died Sept. 4 in Carbondale. He had been in failing health for some time. He was assigned to the pastorate of St. Mary Parish in Anna in 2009 and continued as the pastor of the Union County parish until his death. He was the face and presence of Hispanic ministry in the Cobden-Anna-Carbondale area for 35 years.

Local man takes the Gold at U.S. Transplant Games

John Reed just made a triumphant return to the Metro East, bearing a gold medal he won in the 2018 Transplant Games of America in Salt Lake City. The road to that victory – and to the life-changing kidney transplant he received four years ago – ran through Holy Family Catholic Church in Cahokia. That’s where his parents, John and Dee, are members and where their fellow parishioner, Kathy Carron, learned about his need for a kidney donor.