Cardinal George addresses priests of the Diocese of Peoria

In this Year for Priests, the priests of the Diocese of Peoria last week received encouragement and challenge from a cardinal, a bishop, a seminary professor, and from one another during a two-day gathering in Peoria Nov. 4-5.

“I feel nothing but grateful to God I’m here in this diocese and you are in this diocese,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, told more than 125 priests at the Spalding Pastoral Center during remarks on Wednesday, Nov. 4. “I will love you guys all my life.”

That night, Bishop Jenky and the priests welcomed Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, at a reception and dinner. Cardinal George addressed the priests the following day. While his remarks were closed to the press, he told The Catholic Post that he spoke about “the Gospel call to conversion not only for individuals but whole societies . . . . and the kind of priests we need to do that.”

CARDINAL George was principal celebrant of a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday morning.

“Thank you, Cardinal, for being here,” said Bishop Jenky in welcoming remarks at the start of Mass that were greeted with enthusiastic applause from the nearly 100 priests present. Bishop Jenky noted the cardinal’s busy schedule as Archbishop of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and author of a newly published book. In addition, while in Peoria the cardinal was also actively engaged by phone int he health care debate in Washington, D.C. (See related story.)

Still, “the cardinal knows this area well” and “we hope to see a lot more of him in the coming years,” said Bishop Jenky.

The bishop told the clergy that the Year for Priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI is “a great moment for us to reflect on our priesthood, a great time to teach on it, and to invite people to consider a vocation.”

IN HIS comments to The Catholic Post, Cardinal George invited Catholics to take an active part in the special year by praying for their priests and supporting them in their ministry. “Go out of your way to show appreciation for the sacrifices priests make,” he said.

The priests of the Peoria diocese, he added, have a reputation for “their devotion to the church and the people they care for,” said Cardinal George, adding he found a “very good spirit” among those he encountered at Assembly Days.

On the first day of their gathering, the priests were challenged to visit the sick frequently and support others who do by Father J. Daniel Mindling, OFM Cap., a professor of moral theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

He called visiting the sick “old evangeliztion, tried and true,” and said that when priests and their parish representatives do it frequently, the community will notice.

Moderating the two-day meeting was Father Robert Rayson, pastor of St. Hyacinth’s and St. Patrick’s parishes in LaSalle and president of the Presbyteral Council.

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