Bishop fields questions from young adults in pub setting

Photo Caption: Shirley Plaag, director of religious education at Corpus Christi Parish in Galesburg, asks Bishop Jenky a question during a “Stump the Bishop” evening of Theology on Tap in Peoria on June 27.

By: By Tom Dermody

The evening with young Catholic adults in a crowded pub was called “Stump the Bishop,” but there was no hesitation from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, when the 14th question posed Wednesday night was: “How do we fight against the HHS mandate?”

“With every means and all our ability,” said Bishop Jenky to a Theology on Tap audience of 175 that filled Kelleher’s Irish Pub in Peoria on June 27. Dozens of attendees sat on the floor or on steps to a second level.

Because the bishop’s appearance came in the middle of the “Fortnight for Freedom” and on the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of health reform law, it was anticipated the topic of religious freedom would be raised. Bishop Jenky has been in the forefront of those decrying the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring most religious employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives to their employees free of charge.

He had strong words again Wednesday night. His rallying cries included “This diocese will never cooperate with the taking of innocent human life in the womb,” “No matter what the Supreme Court says tomorrow, we cannot let up,” and “I do believe there are lines in the sand and we’ve reached that.”

But the young people’s informal encounter with their shepherd also included frequent moments of tender teaching on the need to fall in love with Christ and share the Good News.

“I’m now 65 years old,” said the bishop in a playfully exaggerated elderly voice. “I’ve seen a lot of things in this world.” But he assured the young adults there is no job, no possession, no spouse or child, friend, or even religious community that will “perfectly satisfy you.”

“But God does satisfy us,” he said. “A God who loves us so much he shared our existence.”

Asked what gifts young people have to evangelize, Bishop Jenky reminded them that they “have a more privileged entry into people’s lives” than does a bishop.

“People expect me to talk about Jesus,” said Bishop Jenky. But young people have great influence when they “witness by what they say and especially by who you are” at sporting events, while at school, or with family or friends.

The church exists to announce the Good News, the bishop said in brief opening remarks that set a tone of evangelization for the evening.

“If one of you college kids finds a cure for the horrible scourge of cancer, but you never told anyone about it, that would be a sin,” said Bishop Jenky. “The church brings Christ to this world — the Lord of life, the forgiveness of sins. We cannot be silent about that.”

But “if you haven’t met Jesus Christ in your life, it’s impossible to announce him,” said the bishop, who encouraged the students to frequently “make space” for Christ to enter their lives, especially through the Eucharist.

“So if you turn off your cell phone, shut off your iPad, and say ‘Jesus, let me know you,’ it happens,” said Bishop Jenky.

The bishop fielded 18 questions in all, ranging from the death penalty to purgatory.

“We believe there is authority in our tradition that we are not free do deviate from,” said Bishop Jenky in response to a question on why the church doesn’t ordain women as priests. He said the genders have different, complementary roles, noting “the greatest disciple was Mary” and that Mary Magdalene was the first to encounter the Risen Lord.

Given the state of today’s culture and the challenges of life, “How do we live in hope and joy?” asked Shirley Plaag, director of religious education at Corpus Christi Parish in Galesburg.

“It has never been easy to be a disciple of Christ,” acknowledged Bishop Jenky, joking that Corinth during St. Paul’s time “made Las Vegas seem like a Carmelite monastery.”. But while challenges can weigh us down, “ultimately Christ is our victory.”

“If we keep our eyes on the Risen Lord in tough times, we’ll be braver,” he said. “We have an infinite hope in our hearts.”

Bishop Jenky was the final speaker in a four-week series of Theology on Tap in Peoria. Craig Dyke, director of diocesan Office of Evangelization — which sponsors Theology on Tap series in several communities — thanked the bishop for “being a voice of truth in our culture” and encouraged all to read Bishop Jenky’s “awesome, timely, and prophetic” 2012 festival letter on Secularism released in January.

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