Scripture scholar challenges senior priests of the diocese

HENRY — Pope Benedict XVI will bring together 250 bishops from around the world in October to discuss “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” but the senior priests of the Diocese of Peoria had him beat by nearly two months.

When they gathered at King’s House of Retreats for their annual assembly days in August, the 26 priests spent one full day focusing on Scripture with the assistance of Father Roger Karban, a Scripture scholar from the Diocese of Belleville.

A longtime teacher of adult Scripture courses, Father Karban has taught at Southwestern Illinois College, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, the University of Notre Dame and St. Louis University. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome and did his doctoral work in Scripture at St. Louis University.

Since 1976, he has written a weekly Scripture reflection for The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville. He also breaks open the Scriptures each week as the administrator of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Renault, where he has served for 20 years.

During his presentations to the senior priests, Father Karban challenged them to consider how their relationship with the word of God had changed during their long years of ministry, to understand the context in which that word was written, and to appreciate even the books of the Bible they might have the most difficulty with.

Father John Dietzen, the vicar for senior priests of the Diocese of Peoria, said there are about 60 retired diocesan priests. Since 13 or 14 of them live outside of central Illinois, the annual gathering at King’s House gives them an opportunity to catch up with old friends and enrich their ministry and their spiritual lives through presentations like Father Karban’s.

“We had 26 priests registered for this and that represents over a thousand years of service. We all remain active in some way,” Father Dietzen told The Catholic Post. “Practically all of the priests here have made a habit of continuing their education through courses or sabbaticals.”

Relying on recommendations from the senior priests, Father Dietzen said he looks for speakers who will give them something to think about and challenge them in some way. In previous years those speakers have included Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba of Milwaukee.

In addition to their study day, the priests also received updates on diocesan offices, agencies and commissions from Father Gerald Ward, pastor of St. Patrick Church of Merna, and Msgr. Douglas Hennessy, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, both in Bloomington.

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