1,100 ‘savor the moment’

Photo Caption: A 75-voice combined choir performs at “Catholic Connected: Beyond the Pew” at Krannert Hall in Urbana on June 3.

By: By Tom Dermody

URBANA — On a night when more than 1,000 Catholics from 19 faith communities made an historic regional “connection” through shared song and social time at the Krannert Center here, there was one person Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, wanted everyone to meet.

Jesus Christ.

“None of what we do as Catholics makes sense unless we know the Lord,” said Bishop Jenky, the featured speaker at “Catholic Connected: Beyond the Pew,” a collaborative project June 3 uniting parishes of the Champaign vicariate.

Beneath a backdrop of newly designed, colorful banners representing each faith community, Bishop Jenky stressed the need to spend time deepening our love for and knowledge of God through prayer.

“Be head over heels in love with God,” Bishop Jenky urged the gathering. Saying God is “wonderful, fascinating company,” the bishop gave advice on how to pray and told Catholics that when they do encounter Christ through the Holy Spirit they should be “ready for adventure.”

The evening featured music by a combined Vicariate Choir under the direction of Laura Theby, music director at St. Patrick’s Parish in Urbana, and Heath Morber, music director at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois. The 75-voice choir — dressed in matching white shirts with black pants or skirts and backed by piano, strings, and brass — performed works such as the African American spiritual “Plenty Good Room.” The choir also led congregational singing, including the aptly named “We Are Many Parts” by Marty Haugen.

“I kind of feel like we are one big, happy Catholic family right now,” said Jennifer Roscoe, news anchor at Champaign’s WCIA-TV, Channel 3. A member of St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign, Roscoe served as master of ceremonies.

Msgr. Albert Hallin, vicar of the Champaign vicariate, welcomed the crowd and said their presence made it a “a gold-letter day.” He called the collaborative effort “a very special moment in the history of the Champaign vicariate and of the Church of Peoria.”

As he looked around the performing arts center at Catholics from throughout Champaign and Piatt counties, Msgr. Hallin offered these words of advice:

“Carpe momento — savor the moment.”

Among the moments to especially savor were solo performances by vocalist Ricardo Herrera and violinist Rob Hopkins during the free will offering.

“I think this was something very, very needed,” said Herrera, a cantor at St. Patrick’s Parish, Urbana, who performed “The Call” from “Five Mystical Songs” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. “It brings us all together and gives us a chance to share our gifts.”

Those connecting during social time after the program included Rosemary Hardy of St. Philomena Parish, Monticello, and Betty Grothe of St. Malachy’s, Rantoul, who was accompanied by her daughter Marsha, also of St. Malachy’s.

“She talked me into going,” said Marsha of her mother. “She was being a little evangelist.”

“I hope it’s the first annual of many to come,” said Donna Matteson of St. Matthew’s, Champaign.

The event was planned by a 16-member team, including Father Joseph Hogan, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, Urbana. Father Hogan gave the opening prayer and asked the Holy Spirit to “inspire all to be of one mind and heart in loving God and one another.”

As participants settled into their seats, a slideshow featuring images from each parish was projected onto a large screen on stage. Later, lectors Judi Rafaloski, Rick Atterberry, and Julie Weishar read descriptions of and led prayers to the patron saints from the various parishes.

In his presentation, Bishop Jenky invited Catholics to ask themselves a series of questions to assess their prayer lives, including:

? Do I really make space for prayer in my life? He encouraged “a manageable, daily regiment of prayer.”

? Are there sins I love more than I love my Lord? What am I holding back from God?

? Would I rather just go through the motions of prayer than sit in silence before the Lord?, and

? Is my prayer self-centered?

While urging Catholics to a deeper experience of God, Bishop Jenky said it was OK and often helpful to keep prayer simple.

“You can pray just by making the sign of the cross,” he said, or by saying “God I give you this day,” or “I praise you, God.” He especially encouraged regular family prayer time, including the rosary, and said parents and grandparents should frequently “bless your children” by tracing the sign of the cross on them.

Noting the strong social justice and charitable efforts throughout the vicariate, Bishop Jenky said “true love of God is what sustains good works” and that prayer provides “the energy for service.”

“What’s the point of all of our work in our parishes, our schools, and in our diocese if these things don’t help us to really know the Lord?” he asked.

Prior to the event, Bishop Jenky celebrated a Mass at St. John’s Chapel for about 200 missionaries of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students holding their national training at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois. (Editor’s note — A story on that gathering will appear in a future issue of The Catholic Post.) Many of the FOCUS missionaries attended “Catholic Connected.”

In addition to Father Hogan, members of the “Catholic Connected” planning team included Angie Stanford, Katie Dorsey, Patrick O’Donnell, Jon Baker, Anne Hewing, Dan Hewing, Kathy Smith, Judi Rafaloski, Cindy Magsamen, Deacon Byung and Yangsoon Kim, Mary Hazen, Marc Cardaronella, David Hazen, and Mary Long.

The event, which received funding from the Sheen Endowment of the Diocese of Peoria’s Rooted in Faith capital campaign, expanded on a successful collaborative effort between area parishes last spring to bring a pre-screening of the film “The Human Experience” to the Virginia Theater in Champaign.

The goal of “Catholic Connected” is to sponsor “faith-filled, large-group events to increase faith, galvanize the community for evangelization, promote Catholic teaching or themes in the arts, and provide a venue for non-Catholics to experience the beauty and richness of Catholic thought.”

“It was a very unifying event for all of us,” said Mary Long, pastoral associate at St. Patrick’s, Urbana. The smaller parishes, she said, particularly appreciated the chance to be a part of such a major Catholic event.

In addition to new friends and the challenge to a deeper prayer life, participants went home with something else.

“All the parishes were looking forward to taking their banners and hanging them in their churches,” said Long.

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