Sister Barbara Hudock: planting seeds in the hope that something grows

“Sometimes we plant seeds, literally and figuratively. We establish connections and hope that something grows from that.” These words were shared by Sister Barbara Hudock, ASC, who is celebrating her 50th jubilee as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ this year. Sister Barbara said this when talking about the “Be a Blessing Garden” project located at the Adorers’ Ruma Center in Ruma, bwut the heart of these words could apply to her 50 years as a woman religious. At age 70, Sister Barbara is not working full time. She recently completed 12 years in leadership positions for the Adorers – as an ASC councilor for the United States Region (2006-2012) and ASC regional leader (2012-2018). From 1973 to 2006, she served in education.

Bishops: Getting COVID-19 vaccine is ‘act of charity,’ supports the common good

The “gravity” of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and “the lack of availability of alternative vaccines,” are “sufficiently serious” reasons to accept the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine and pro-life committees said Dec. 14. “Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community,” they said. “In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”

Pope Francis appoints Father John Iffert of the Diocese of Belleville as Bishop-elect of Covington

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Roger J. Foys, 75, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Covington and has appointed Father John Iffert, a priest of the Diocese of Belleville as Bishop-elect of Covington. Bishop-elect Iffert currently serves as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville. The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on July 13, 2021, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Parishioners invited to return to in-person Mass once again

In his June 4 video message, Bishop Michael McGovern extended an invitation to parishioners of the Diocese of Belleville to attend Mass in person once again. “Phase 5 allows us more leeway on how we gather together and assemble in order to worship the Lord at Sunday Mass,” Bishop McGovern said. The Phase 5 Updated Mass and Liturgy Guidelines, published by the diocese, recognizes the past 15 months have been an extremely challenging time for everyone – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The new guidelines also contain the news everyone has been waiting a year to hear: churches can go back to100 percent capacity, and registration is no longer required.

New seminarian’s vocation journey began on trip to Holy Land

For Ben Baker, it started in 2019 during a spring break trip to the Holy Land with students from the University of Illinois. Baker, whose home parish is St. Joseph in Olney, graduated from the University of Illinois in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. At that time, he contacted the Diocese of Belleville asking to be accepted into the seminary. There currently are six seminarians in the diocese.

Bishop to ordain one man to transitional diaconate May 22

When Thomas Lugge is ordained by Bishop Michael McGovern as a transitional deacon May 22, he will begin the final year of formation before ordination to the priesthood. The transitional diaconate will be Lugge’s entry into the clerical state, which means he will become a member of the clergy. Bishop Michael McGovern called Lugge “a wonderful young man” and said he looks forward to ordaining him to the sacred priesthood next year.

Sister Elaine Freund created a place where it was ‘cool to be smart’

“Some make their mark on the soccer field. Some make history on the basketball court. I was never that sort,” says Jill Haberl Steffens, 1995 graduate of Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo. “Sister Elaine Freund gave me, and many like me, another place to compete.” Steffens was a member of the Gibault Scholastic Bowl team, coached by Sister Elaine Freund, ASC, from 1992-1995.

Mike Kish, principal who lives the gospel everyday, to retire

When Mike Kish first entered the doors of Immaculate Conception School (ICS) in Columbia, he was a young student starting first grade. The year was 1955. In 1971, he entered the doors of ICS as an eighth-grade teacher. Four years later, he became the school’s principal. On July 1, 2021, after 50 years serving the Catholic Diocese of Belleville and the students, families and staff, Mike Kish will retire as principal of Immaculate Conception School. “I wanted to create a school I would want to attend. Actually, a school where Joseph and Mary would want to send Jesus,” Kish says, reflecting on his long career at ICS.

Parishes will celebrate Year of St. Joseph in many ways

With the Apostolic Letter, Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of St. Joseph” from December 8, 2020, to December 8, 2021. The pope wrote Patris corde, according to an article from Vatican News, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, he says, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.

A Dangerous Hour for the United States

Prayer and a greater effort to listen to God’s voice must be the Catholic response to “the completely unthinkable events that have overshadowed the end of one presidency and challenged the beginning of another,” retired Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, said at a Jan. 17 Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Belleville. Calling the present moment in the United States a “dangerous hour,” Bishop Braxton said God may be “urging us to think more and learn more about the causes of the political turmoil swirling around us.” “Could it be that, if we listen, God is calling us to be more responsible citizens by opening our minds to learn more about the many different and opposing factions that are causing such divisions in our country?” he asked.

Bishop McGovern reflects on his first six months as Bishop of Belleville

Bishop Michael McGovern celebrated six months as Bishop of Belleville on Jan. 22. The Messenger recently asked Bishop McGovern to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments during those six months. You were installed as the ninth bishop of Belleville on July 22, 2020, during a global pandemic. As a new bishop, I suppose leading a …

Through the spirit of Juan Diego, Mater Dei reaches out to Hispanics

Alejandro Avalos and his wife, Gabriela De La Cruz, both immigrated from Mexico as young adults. They met in the United States. After they were married, they settled in Albers, where they live with their two children, Ana, a freshman at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese, and Alejandra, a 5th grade student at Albers Elementary School. “When Ana was younger, it was a dream to send her to Mater Dei,” Avalos says. “With the help of scholarships, Ana has the opportunity to attend Mater Dei and learn the Catholic values my wife and I want her to grow up with.

Retirement short-lived for ‘retiring’­ Vicar General McEvilly

Msgr. John Wallace McEvilly, 81, was fairly certain he wouldn’t be taking up golf upon his retirement. A priest for 56 years, Msgr. McEvilly retired last fall as Vicar General after 15 years. Father John Iffert assumed those duties on Oct. 1. Retirement was short-lived, however, for soon after, Bishop Michael McGovern tapped him to be his special assistant, and then he was assigned pastoral duties at St. Bernard Parish in Albers and St. Damian Parish in Damiansville at month’s end.

On All Souls Day, Joe Hubbard reflects on Catholic duty to bury the dead

All Souls’ Day is a time when Joe Hubbard reflects on the Catholic duty to bury the dead. Hubbard, who is director of four Catholic cemeteries in the Diocese of Belleville (Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Belleville, Holy Cross Cemetery in Fairview Heights, St. Philip Cemetery in East St. Louis and Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Centreville) …

An outpouring of support for first African American cardinal-designate for U.S.

They came in tweets, news releases and Instagram posts from old friends, women religious and brother bishops in various languages congratulating Washington’s Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. The news of the country’s first African American prelate to be elevated to the rank of cardinal Nov. 28 sparked joy, as well as commentary that it was something that should have happened long ago.

COVID-19 pandemic cannot stop true love, weddings

After their engagement last December, Amy Krebs and Grant Camillo started planning their wedding for July 11 at St. Dominic’s Church in Breese. Then a global pandemic in March changed everyone’s plans. After a period of closure, the Diocese of Belleville released new public health rules for marriage preparation and the sacrament of Matrimony. With those guidelines in hand, the wedding took place. However, getting there meant resorting to an ever-changing playbook.

Stillpoint

Last Saturday a moving truck drove down from Lake County bearing most of my possessions. A terrific team of a dozen Knights of Columbus were at the bishop’s residence in Belleville, and when the truck arrived, emptied the contents of the truck and brought everything into the house, placing everything on the living room floor. I am most grateful to the K of C members for their generous service.

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.