Streator parish expresses unity of faith on Corpus Christi feast
Photo Caption: Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and Father Philip Halfacre (carrying monstrance) lead a procession at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Streator on June 26.
By: By Jennifer Willems
STREATOR — New beginnings and age-old symbols of faith mixed for Streator Catholics on June 26 when they gathered to celebrate the installation of Father Philip Halfacre as the new pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish. Following Mass, they followed him outside for a Corpus Christi procession around the church.
Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, presided over both the installation and the procession during his first pastoral visit to the parish and then stayed on to greet parishioners over an ice cream social in the church hall.
Sponsored by the St. Michael the Archangel Altar and Rosary Society, the reception also served as a welcoming event for Father Halfacre and Father Dustin Schultz, the new parochial vicar.
St. Michael the Archangel Parish was formed one year ago by closing and merging Immaculate Conception Parish, St. Anthony of Padua Parish, St. Casimir Parish and St. Stephen Parish, all in Streator. Msgr. John J. Prendergast was the founding pastor of the new parish and Father Ronald E. Dodd served as parochial vicar.
Some parishioners appealed the decision to merge the parishes, but last month the Congregation of Clergy in Rome upheld Bishop Jenky’s decree establishing St. Michael the Archangel Parish.
In a letter inviting the Streator Catholic community to the Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the bishop said it was “an excellent opportunity to express our unity of faith and worship.”
“Furthermore, it affords us the opportunity to implore God’s blessing upon the one Catholic parish of Streator as you continue to build a single family of faith,” Bishop Jenky said.
JESUS REMAINS WITH US
Saying he was aware of their pastoral needs, Bishop Jenky started the Corpus Christi Mass by telling parishioners he was confident of Father Halfacre’s qualifications and commending him as their new pastor. The bishop’s words were greeted with applause and Father Halfacre moved to the altar to make a profession of faith and take an oath of fidelity.
Later in the Mass, Bishop Jenky led the new pastor in a renewal of his priestly promises. Among them were the vow to celebrate “the mysteries of Christ devoutly and faithfully” and to preach the Gospel and teach the Catholic faith. After expressing his resolve to bind himself “ever more closely to Christ,” Father Halfacre promised to consecrate himself to God for the salvation of the people he serves.
“May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment,” Bishop Jenky said.
During his homily, Father Halfacre told parishioners and guests that God is love and part of the mechanics of love is giving gifts. The most beautiful gift of all is the Eucharist, he said.
Also a teacher at Marquette Academy in Ottawa, Father Halfacre said he sometimes asks his students why God loves us.
“The most common answer they give is that God loves us because he made us. While the answer is correct, it is inadequate,” he said, noting that God also made his dog and all of creation.
“The reason God loves us is because we’re his, we’re his kids,” he explained. “He looks upon us and he loves us as a father loves his children.”
Father Halfacre added that Jesus called the disciples his friends and said they were God’s gift to him. People who love one another want to remain connected, even when they are separated, and the Eucharist is a profound expression of that union, he said.
“In the Eucharist Jesus remains with us — not just in our memories and not just in our feelings, like our departed loved ones are,” he said. “He really does remain here with us. Jesus really, truly, is substantially and enduringly present in the Eucharist.”
By celebrating Corpus Christi we give honor and thanksgiving to God, according to Father Halfacre, and renew our fervent devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist.