Trip to Rome was especially meaningful for Bishop Jenky

By: By Jennifer Willems

When the Holy Cross “family” gathered in Rome to celebrate the canonization of one of their own, St. Andre Bessette, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was there and it was a special moment for him not just as a Holy Cross priest but as spiritual leader of the Diocese of Peoria.

“I did very consciously pray for all the sick members of our diocese. I was thinking of some of our priests who are facing serious illnesses,” he told The Catholic Post.

Bishop Jenky said he often gets prayer requests for those who are ill when he’s at confirmations or other diocesan events and “I could think of no better way to remember them than at a papal Mass for the canonization of the ‘Miracle Man of Montreal,'” he said.

St. Andre Bessette worked as a doorman at Notre Dame College, sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal, for 40 years and is the founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal there. He was one of six people canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17.

In addition to the Mass in St. Peter’s Square, highlights of Bishop Jenky’s trip included a brief meeting with Pope Benedict at the general audience on Oct. 20, a visit with Dr. Miguel Humberto Diaz, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a former Holy Cross seminarian, and dinner with Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, “who I’ve known — as I always tease him — since we were both happy priests.”

Bishop Jenky also had a chance to host a gathering in the Sheen Suite at the Pontifical North American College, where he stays while he’s in Rome, and had dinner with other Rome pilgrims, including Brother William Dygert, CSC, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria, and Dr. Vincent McClean, director of the diocesan Office of Catechetics.

Bishop Jenky remembers learning about “Frere Andre” while he was a child in Chicago. His parents sometimes went to an old French church on the city’s South Side that was dedicated to St. Joseph and St. Anne and he has memories of seeing the fleur de lis and crutches there.

“Then as a CSC we would pray for his — in those years — beatification and for the beatification of our founder,” the bishop said, referring to Blessed Father Basile-Antoine Marie Moreau, who was beatified in 2007.

His closest connection with the new saint, however, came as a Holy Cross seminarian. For two summers, Bishop Jenky was sent to Montreal to assist the English pilgrims to St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal.

“We had Stations of the Cross in English three times a week,” he recalled. “All day long we would lead pilgrimages from English Canada or America — giving the tour from the primitive chapel to the crypt church to the big basilica. We would read in English at the French Masses and sometimes give exhortations in English after the French Masses. It was a great experience.”

He also credits St. Bessette with saving his vocation.

“I remember especially the summer of 1968. I went up there not sure I was going to renew my vows. Those were crazy days,” Bishop Jenky said of the post-Vatican II years. “But it really renewed my faith, including my faith in the community.”

He returned to Montreal to pray after his ordination and has always had holy cards for St. Bessette in his prayer books, he told The Post.

“So the day they announced that he was going to be canonized meant a great deal to my religious family in general and to me in particular,” Bishop Jenky said.

His meeting with Pope Benedict XVI after the general audience lasted just long enough to tell the Holy Father his name and where he was from — “‘Peoria, that’s south of Chicago.’ I didn’t even wait for him to ask,”
Bishop Jenky said with a chuckle. “Then, if you’re polite, you move on so the next bishop can have his turn.”

He was able to catch up with the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican during a gathering with a small group of Holy Cross friends. Bishop Jenky said that he had been Diaz’s spiritual director when Diaz was a Holy Cross seminarian and later worked with him and his wife, Marian, when they served as assistant rectors of the graduate residences at the University of Notre Dame.

The ambassador holds a master’s degree and doctorate in theology from Notre Dame.

Bishop Jenky also arranged to visit with U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey, prefect of the papal household, to thank him for assisting pilgrims from the Diocese of Peoria with tickets to papal audiences and other papal events.

Msgr. Stanley Deptula, director of diocesan Office of Divine Worship and one of the bishop’s traveling companions, said while they were there, they were able to present copies of the locally produced documentary, “Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All,” to Archbishop Harvey for the Holy Father.

“Archbishop Harvey seemed to indicate that the pope knew who Fulton Sheen was and might actually see our movie,” Msgr. Deptula said.

On their final night in Rome, the pilgrims from central Illinois were to have dinner with Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature and former leader of the St. Louis archdiocese.
On that very day, however, he was named a cardinal by the pope.

“I said, ‘Call the secretary and see if His Eminence might have other things to do,'” Bishop Jenky said. “The secretary who called back said, ‘There’s no one that His Eminence would rather be with than a group of folks from the Midwest.’ We had the most delightful time.”

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