Archbishop Myers’ impact evident in diocese decade later

Ten years ago on Oct. 9, Bishop John J. Myers — the seventh Bishop of Peoria, a native of Earlville, and a longtime priest of this diocese — was installed as the new Archbishop of Newark, N.J. While a decade has passed since Archbishop left his home diocese, the impact his strong leadership had on our local church remains clearly evident.

It can be seen in the maturing vocations of the more than 75 priests he ordained during his 11 years as diocesan bishop. Most of the men Archbishop Myers ordained are now pastors or hold leadership positions in diocesan institutions and administration.

The fruits of his leadership are found in the 350 faces of students enrolled at The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign. Members of this year’s freshman class were only 3 years old when the school was founded in the Year 2000 following years of steady push and encouragement from Archbishop Myers.

It is tangible, too, in the soup dished out to the needy near St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria by the Missionaries of Charity and their supporters. The order founded by Blessed Mother Teresa has maintained a presence here since being invited by Archbishop Myers in 1991, and is one of several communities of religious men and women to relocate to the diocese during his decade-plus as diocesan bishop.

Archbishop Myers’ lasting influence is witnessed around-the-clock at any of a dozen perpetual adoration chapels in the Diocese of Peoria where praise and petitions to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are lifted 24 hours a day. Many of these chapels opened after his 1990 pastoral letter on the Eucharist, and all bear spiritual fruit from the historic Eucharistic Congress he initiated that drew 6,500 faithful to the Peoria Civic Center on June 21, 1992.

In January of 2000, when Archbishop Myers was about to celebrate 10 years as Bishop of Peoria, he cited growth in Eucharistic devotion as one of his greatest joys. Now that he is marking 10 years in Newark, it should bring Archbishop Myers further joy to know that those seeds of faith — and the many others that he planted in homes and churches across the prairies of central Illinois — have taken root and grown under the watchful and loving care of his successor, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

One of Archbishop Myers’ favorite sayings while in Peoria was that he hoped to take Catholics of the diocese not to the partisan, politicized directions of left or right, but rather deeper — always deeper — into the mystery of Christ and the church.

We in his home diocese are grateful, and deeply so, for the lifetime witness of this native son who will always be remembered here as a prayerful, faithful, persuasive leader who pulled no punches when proclaiming truth as he lovingly shepherded us into the new millennium. As we congratulate Archbishop Myers on 10 years of leadership to the church in Newark — and wish him happiness and blessings in the years ahead — all of the Diocese of Peoria shares in the celebration. For he will always remain “ours,” in our hearts, with his lasting legacy plainly in our sight. — Thomas J. Dermody

Editor’s note: Congratulatory cards and notes may be sent to Archbishop Myers in care of the Archdiocesan Center, 171 Clifton Ave., PO Box 9500, Newark, N.J. 07104-9500.

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