Diocese’s jubilarian priests, new St. Bede abbot celebrated

By: By Jennifer Willems

There was more than one reason to celebrate when the priests of the diocese came together for the annual Jubilarian Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

Not only did they honor their brother priests who are marking ordination milestones in 2011, but they also welcomed Abbot Philip Davey, OSB, the new spiritual leader of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, with applause. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, the principal celebrant of the June 23 Mass, praised the monks of St. Bede “for building up the body of Christ for a century” in the Illinois Valley.

Noting that there were no adequate words to thank the 46 diocesan and religious order priests for their many years of service, Bishop Jenky said the best way he could think to show his gratitude to God was by celebrating Mass with them.

Msgr. Paul Showalter, P.A., vicar general and a 45-year jubilarian, didn’t let them leave without asking the honorees to stand and be recognized, however. He started with Msgr. Edward J. Duncan, who could not be present but is observing his 70th anniversary of ordination.

Also receiving a round of applause were: Father Marion Balsavich, OSB, Father Kevin Gorman, OSB, and Father Charles McCarthy, CSSp, 60 years; Msgr. Raymond J. Boyle, P.A., Msgr. Richard G. Fitzsimmons, Father Robert Hoffman and Father Thomas F. Kelly, 55 years; Msgr. Albert W. Hallin, P.A., who also served as homilist, Msgr. James J. Swaner, Father Thomas R. Brajkovich, Father Gabriel Bullock, OSB, Father Arthur Meyer, Father John Paninski, MS, and Father Gregg Petri, OFM, 50 years; Archbishop John J. Myers, Msgr. Ernest E. Pizzamiglio, Father Richard L. Barclift, Father John C. Horton, and Father Ted Pracz, 45 years; Father R. Michael Schaab, 40 years; and Msgr. John J. Prendergast and Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, 35 years.

In addition, Msgr. James K. Ramer and Msgr. J. Brian Rejsek are celebrating 25 years of ordination; Msgr. Michael C. Bliss, Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland, Father Dwight Campbell, Father Joseph P. Donton, Father Philip Halfacre, Father William Keebler Jr., Father Deo Gratias Kiwanuka, Father James C. Kretz, Father Benjamin Reese and Father Dominic Vitaliano, 20 years; Msgr. Stanley L. Deptula, Father Brian K. Brownsey, Father James E. Kruse, Father Gerald J. Meyer, Father Robert D. Spilman, Father John Thieryoung and Father Daniel J. Wilder, 15 years; and Father Kevin G. Creegan, Father Christopher Layden, Father Joseph Presley, IC, and Father Thomas W. Shaw, 10 years.

Religious order priests who are observing milestones of profession also were recognized.

After Mass, the clergy continued their celebration over dinner at the Spalding Pastoral Center.

In his homily, Msgr. Hallin talked about “The Special Priests in My Life,” a framed list that hangs on his office wall in the rectory at St. Boniface in Seymour. While all of them have had an impact on him, he singled out Msgr. John J. O’Sullivan, a professor from his seminary days.

“John modeled for me every aspect of the priesthood, from the way he celebrated holy Mass with such care and attention, the way he prayed and the way he treated people, both individually and in groups,” Msgr. Hallin said. “He taught me how to live and to be as a priest.”

He shared a few of his mentor’s most important lessons with his brother priests.

Noting that he has had the privilege of being a teacher, Msgr. Hallin said he once asked Msgr. O’Sullivan what his teaching objective was.

“He said, ‘In the classroom I teach so as to prevent having the ill-instructed youth becoming an ill-tempered agnostic, tired of the story he never really heard,'” Msgr. Hallin recalled, adding that Msgr. O’Sullivan believed in the power of the homily and the ability to instruct from the pulpit.

“He memorably stated often: ‘A pastor whose sermons and decisions do not reflect the challenge of the Gospel and do not sometimes make people uncomfortable and even angry is suspect in his proclamation of the hope of the Gospel,'” Msgr. Hallin said.

Perhaps the greatest lesson came when Msgr. O’Sullivan asked his students for the definition of a parish priest. After letting them discuss it for a time, he told them, “A parish priest is a sheep in shepherd’s clothing.”

“I came here today privileged to share some reflections on 50 years of priesthood among you,” Msgr. Hallin said. “My thanks for the privilege of sharing the priesthood with our bishops, with our present bishop, and with all of you.”

He expressed gratitude for all of his assignments — his years as a classroom teacher and a youth adviser, and “especially for being a parish priest, a sheep in shepherd’s clothing.”

“In the end, it is the joy of living the life in service in the parish that matters,” Msgr. Hallin explained. “The parish, for a parish priest, is where the real fun is.”

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