‘Peaceful prayer gives people the courage to stand up’

“Standing in front of a clinic in a prayerful, peaceful way,” Mary Fleming says, “sends a message for women coming to the clinic and to those who work there.” Fleming recently shared her perspective about praying at abortion clinics as Respect Life Month begins in October. Fleming is the coordinator of Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Belleville and the leader of the Respect Life Committee at St. Clare Church in O’Fallon. In her role with the diocese and her parish, Fleming hopes by participating in peaceful prayer at these clinics that people understand they are there to help. “This is our way of reaching out to the community to let them know there is another side to this, and we care about your unborn child,” she says.

These Mater Dei seniors are playing a more active role in Eucharist

On Mondays at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese, the students in the various theology classes attend Mass, alternating each week by class period. At these Masses and the nine all-school Masses held throughout the year, the students might receive communion from their fellow students – students who have been trained as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Mater Dei students have been trained as extraordinary ministers for 30 years, since the fall of 1992.

New school buildings show commitment of sharing Gospels to future generations

“Catholic education is wonderful,” Michael Buscher says. Buscher is the new principal at St. Bruno in Pinckneyville. He was a retired public school principal and teacher and also spent eight years as associate director for education for the Diocese of Belleville. He came out of retirement to take the position at St. Bruno because they needed a principal. “We are putting faith together with what is taught in the classroom. Our parents think that is important. And it is,” he says.

Steubenville Youth Conference: ‘Jesus is the center of everything they do’

“It was an awesome weekend.” Uplifting. Powerful. Motivational. Inspiring. An amazing weekend. These adjectives and many more were shared by two faith formation leaders and several teenagers from the Diocese of Belleville who attended the Steubenville STL Mid-America Conferences. The Steubenville Youth Conferences are a series of 25 conferences across North America that help teens encounter the love of Christ. Steubenville STL Mid-America Conferences (also called SteubySTL) are two of the conferences that are held every year in July on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.

Diocese will begin new permanent deacon formation class in the fall of 2023

Do you already have the heart of a deacon? Do you have passion for Christ-like charity? Do you exhibit diaconal gifts in everyday life? Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The call to diaconal service is a gift of the Spirit to the Church.

Are you called to diaconal service? Father Steve Pautler, director of permanent deacon formation for the Diocese of Belleville, says most permanent deacons are called by their community because they have taken an active part in their local parish.

Thomas Lugge ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Belleville on June 4

A young man who grew up in the parish of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville was ordained to the sacred priesthood for the Diocese of Belleville. Bishop Michael McGovern conferred the sacrament of Holy Orders upon Father Thomas Lugge June 4 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville. Father Lugge had a calling to ordained ministry from an early age, first thinking about the priesthood in third grade. The idea stayed with him until junior year in high school when he began to seriously discern if God was calling him to be a priest. Father Lugge was appointed Parochial Vicar at St. Nicholas Parish in O’Fallon, effective July 1, 2022.

3 high school students recognized for exhibiting Catholic identity

Three recent high school graduates were chosen by the administration at their respective schools to receive the Bishop’s Discipleship Award. The award is given for exhibiting Catholic identity in knowledge, attitude and behavior both within school and in the wider community. The awards were presented by Bishop Michael McGovern at their combined Baccalaureate Mass, held May 3 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville.

Journey of faith led family to become Catholic at Easter Vigil

Each year on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil, thousands are baptized into the Catholic Church in the United States. Parishes welcome these new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is true for individuals and families from around the Diocese of Belleville, who made professions of faith to the Catholic church, receiving the sacraments of confirmation and communion, or were baptized. Sister Laura Reynolds, a Franciscan Sister of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is one of many coordinators of RCIA throughout the Diocese of Belleville. For 10 years, she has served in Franklin County, which includes three parishes and two chapels.

Theology Club a ‘great way to deepen, further religious education’

“As a Catholic going to a Catholic high school, I feel that participating in my school’s Theology Club is a great way to deepen and further my education in religion,” says Julia Nugent, 18, a senior from O’Fallon. “It exposes me to other people’s thoughts on religion and other theological ideas,” she says. Nugent attends Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and is co-president of the Theology Club.

Pietra Fitness is a Catholic way of enriching body, mind and soul

When Angie Leonelli found Pietra Fitness online, she fell in love with it. “It spoke to my heart in ways yoga never could,” she says. “I used to make up my own prayer workouts because I love prayer and fitness together. When I found Pietra Fitness, I thought, Wow!” Leonelli, a Pietra Fitness instructor and parishioner at St. Clare Church, O’Fallon, says this exercise option combines the love of fitness and Catholic faith.

Detainees are our fellow parishioners, Prison Ministry reminds us

“It’s Canon Law that surrounding parishes take care of those who are in the prisons near them. Those in custody at these prisons are members of the local parish,” says Louis Slapshack, associate coordinator for prison and reentry ministry for the Diocese of Belleville. Taking care of incarcerated parishioners’ needs—both spiritual and temporal—is the mission of the Prison and Reentry Ministry. The spiritual isolation brought on by COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on prisoners, Slapshak notes. Prior to COVID-19 mandates, priests, deacons and lay persons could enter the prisons and offer scripture studies or RCIA classes.

Seminarian Director: “Our seminarians are a spirited, faithful group of guys”

The Diocese of Belleville currently has seven seminarians. Some have only recently started the process of discernment, while one, Thomas Lugge, is a transitional deacon scheduled to be ordained a priest on June 4, 2022. Besides Deacon Lugge, three seminarians are studying Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. These are Levi James, Joshua Elmore …

Group provides gathering place for anyone on their own in life

As the population ages, members of diocesan parishes are aging. Not surprisingly, parish leaders are asking how they can reach these older parishioners? One example of this kind of outreach is the On Our Own group offered through partner parishes Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady Queen of Peace in Belleville. The group is open to anyone who is on their own in life.

Pregnancy Care Center volunteers are Walking with Moms in Need

The Pregnancy Care Center is committed to the respect and dignity for life and enhancing the quality of human life by providing crisis intervention, support, guidance and education to persons in need. “The founders attended a Right to Life Conference in Nebraska in 1982. A seed of an idea was planted, that there was a need for help for pregnant mothers in our area,” says Jill Lugge, president of Pregnancy Care Center and a volunteer at the center, and a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Belleville.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament returns to St. Teresa Parish

With the blessing of then Bishop Wilton Gregory, on Corpus Christi Sunday, June 6, 1999, the Diocese of Belleville began perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Belleville. For more than 20 years, the practice of perpetual adoration or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament took place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the St. Joseph Chapel at St. Teresa. Then in March of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was discontinued and the exposed Blessed Sacrament was moved to St. Teresa’s tabernacle.

First African-American parish here founded 100 years ago

Oct. 2, 2021, marked the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at St. Augustine Colored Mission in East St. Louis. This first African-American parish in southern Illinois was located at 14th and Broadway Ave. The school opened in 1922. Part of the heritage of the St. Augustine Mission is the involvement of a saint. Saint Katharine Drexel was an American heiress, philanthropist, religious sister and educator. She was the second person born in what is now the United States to be canonized as a saint and the first one born a U.S. citizen.

Diocesan schools promote centrality of music education

Every student at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis learns how to play the violin. Every student. Beginning in kindergarten. Third graders at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Belleville learn to play the recorder as part of an arrangement with the St. Louis Symphony. In turn, they are invited to perform with the Symphony. At Mater Dei High School in Breese, various band and vocal classes are offered, along with extracurricular activities, such as marching band. These are just three examples of music education opportunities available at the schools in the Diocese of Belleville.

Students undertake spiritual journey through the culinary arts

Picture a big bowl of tri-colored pasta salad with vegetables, brimming with multi-colors, tastes, shapes and textures. Now read this description: “As different as we are, we are ALL called to be disciples of God. We all have special gifts, talents and charisms that blend so beautifully with our neighbor and help build up the Kingdom of God. When you take a big bite of this pasta salad, be reminded of your calling, the value of your neighbor and mission of the Kingdom.”

Mass celebrated in southern Illinois prisons for first time in 18 months

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020, the Illinois Department of Corrections closed all prisons, jails and work camp access to clergy and lay volunteers who were providing Catholic service ministry to detainees and those incarcerated. On August 24, 2021, Father Nick Junker, pastor at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception in Mt. Vernon, enthusiastically posted on Facebook that he celebrated Mass at the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina. This was the first time in more than 18 months that the men at Big Muddy could receive the sacraments.

Hope for the Journey walks with those experiencing a loss

For Ken and Barb Kenney, the next chapter of their lives began in 2012. Barb had been married to Tom for 39 years before he died in 2005. They lived in Chesterfield, Mo. After his death, Barb moved to southern Illinois to be closer to family and started attending St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church in O’Fallon. Ken had been married to Jeanne for 43 years before her death in 2011.

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.


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. Of course, this isn’t just …

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.

Meeting Pope Francis

Dear Friends in Christ,
As many of you know, I spent the beginning of September in Rome for a seminar for 150 new bishops from around the world. It was a good conference, and I especially enjoyed meeting other bishops. Some of the bishops are in very challenging areas especially the five who came from Ukraine and about fifteen who are stationed in the Middle East. I was edified by all the bishops and their commitment to the Lord and the people.

On September 8, our group celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s basilica and prayed at the crypt we believe contains the bones of St. Peter the Apostle. We then proceeded to a meeting room in the Vatican where we were received by the successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis.

The Holy Father invited the bishops to ask questions and he addressed whatever topics were raised. I enjoyed the Holy Father’s words about how each bishop should be close to others and not be a distant figure. He encouraged us to be close to: God, other bishops, our priests and our people, the People of God.