Bishop Jenky urges diocese's deacons to be 'truth tellers'
As the church faces “terribly serious” threats to religious freedom nationally and also confronts local challenges, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, on March 3 repeatedly called the permanent deacons of the Diocese of Peoria to be “truth tellers” at a daylong gathering of the diaconate community.
“I think deacons have an irreplaceable role in the life of the diocese,” said Bishop Jenky, who presided at the Deacon Convocation’s opening Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. He later addressed the community -- including the deacons' wives and members of the next class to be ordained in May -- for nearly an hour at the Spalding Pastoral Center.
Bishop Jenky called deacons “the hands of the bishop,” especially as they lovingly perform the corporal works of mercy. But he added that the times call for them to also “stand up for what we believe” when federal and state government actions seem bent on “driving the church out of the public forum.”
Speaking specifically on the “contraceptive mandate” for health insurance decreed by the Obama administration in January, Bishop Jenky asked the deacons to point out that the mandate also requires church cooperation in providing for sterilizations and abortions.
“We will not do it,” said the bishop. “We can never cooperate with intrinsic evil. Period.”
“I’m going to need the deacons to be truth tellers,” he continued. “This is about religious freedom. If we don’t stand up and fight about this, I’m afraid the church in the U.S. will be without public ministries.”
The gathering of deacons and their wives was an event-filled time, highlighted by:
-- The recognition of classes observing anniversary years in 2012, with members of the classes of 1992 and 2002 called forward at the end of Mass to receive appreciation certificates from Bishop Jenky;
-- A question-and-answer period with Bishop Jenky, whose 65th birthday was recognized with three cakes including one bearing a frosting replica of his coat-of-arms;
-- Presentations on parish efforts to support marriage by representatives of St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign and St. Vincent de Paul and St. Jude parishes in Peoria, and
-- An emotional tribute to Msgr. Charles Beebe, PA, episcopal vicar to the permanent diaconate, who is stepping down in May after two decades of leadership. (See related story.)
During the question-and-answer period, Bishop Jenky told of his recent “ad limina” visit to Rome, which included a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. He also reported on progress in the sainthood cause for diocesan native Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
“Till they canonize your wives,” Bishop Jenky predicted with a smile, “Archbishop Sheen will be the first saint of our diocese.”
Asked about the “Growing in Faith Together” process involving all diocesan parishes, the bishop asked the deacons to be “helpful” and “communicative” as their parishes study ways to better work together.
“”I’m hoping there will be a lot of renewal in our way of thinking about the church,” he told the deacons. The process “should be an opportunity for us to do some new things.”
PARISH MARRIAGE EFFORTS
Three parishes doing new things to help strengthen Catholic marriage were featured during the convocation.
-- Craig and Amy Dyke of St. Jude's Parish in Peoria told of the “Marriage on Tap” program, a monthly “date night” that also includes a presentation on an aspect of the Catholic faith. Dozens of couples regularly take part, and it is hoped many of the couples will then become active in peer marriage ministry.
-- Msgr. Mark Merdian, pastor, and Dr. Leanne Knobloch of St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign described the annual “Marriage Enrichment Day” hosted by their parish around Valentine’s Day. “The church needs to step up and help couples strengthen marriage,” said Msgr. Merdian.
-- Erik and Leah Olsen of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, leaders of that parish’s “Six Dates for Catholic Couples” program, called it “so simple anyone can do it.” “I’m an engineer, not a superhero of marriage preparation,” said Erik. “Six Dates” is based on the book “Happy Together: The Catholic Blueprint for a Loving Marriage” by John Bosio.
Deacon Nick Simon of St. Anthony’s Parish in Atkinson, coordinator of ordained deacons who served as master of ceremonies, noted the presence at the convocation of members of the diocese’s ninth class of permanent deacons and their wives. The class is scheduled to be ordained in May.
“We’re really glad to have you join our workforce,” said Deacon Simon, “because there is a lot to do.”