Priests compose blessing for hunters as deer season opens
MACOMB — While hunters across central Illinois are preparing for the opening of whitetail deer season Oct. 1, two priests of the Diocese of Peoria have declared open season on the souls of hunters by devising a special blessing for them.
The “Blessing of Hunters,” which has received approval from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was written by Father Kenneth Hummel, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, Raritan, and Father Thomas Holloway, administrator of St. Bernard’s Parish, Bushnell, and St. Augustine’s Parish, St. Augustine.
Father Hummel and Father Holloway also are the chaplain and assistant chaplain of St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center at Western Illinois University, Macomb.
Father Hummel will confer the Blessing of Hunters this Sunday at the conclusion of the 8 a.m. Mass in Raritan and the 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Newman Center.
According to Father Hummel, establishing a new hunters’ blessing was motivated by a desire to chase and catch new souls for Christ — to evangelize the hunting culture in west-central Illinois.
“This past summer, a group of us young clergy were having a dinner conversation with Bishop Jenky at the junior clergy workshops,” he recalled. “We were discussing ways to bring faith alive in our everyday lives. One suggestion was to institute a blessing of hunters,” Father Hummel told The Catholic Post.
Both avid hunters, Father Hummel and Father Holloway began to formulate an order of blessing for hunters and the hunting season.
In addition to the blessing at this Sunday’s Mass, the Newman community at WIU also plans a festival of thanksgiving for the hunt and the harvest on Saturday, Nov. 26, with a Mass at 6 p.m. followed by a meal. The festival will honor St. Hubert of Maastricht, patron saint of hunters, whose feast day is Nov. 3.
“I have found that there are many who hunt in this area, and in this part of the diocese, most aren’t Catholic,” said Father Hummel. “In fact, only about 20 percent attend any church at all.”
“If we could have a hunters’ blessing at the beginning of the season and a St. Hubert’s Mass during the first shotgun season, then we will be evangelizing this part of the culture,” he told The Post.