Holy Hour recalls Benedict as “the shepherd and father we needed”

Photo Caption: Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and those in a nearly filled St. Mary’s Cathedral pray before the Blessed Sacrament on Feb. 28 just hours after the end of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

By: By Tom Dermody, The Catholic Post

(EDITOR’S NOTE: For daily updates from Catholic News Service on the papal transition, click on the “National & World” tab in the News Briefs box at right.)

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was prayerfully recalled as “the shepherd and father that we needed at the time” during a Holy Hour at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria just hours after his nearly 8-year papacy came to an end.

“We have many reasons to give thanks to God for giving us Pope Benedict,” said Msgr. Philip D. Halfacre, who offered a reflection on the pope emeritus during the evening of prayer that drew about 500 participants from around the Diocese of Peoria.

Msgr. Halfacre — pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Streator and St. Patrick’s Parish in Seneca — lauded the warmth, humility, kindness and sensitivity of Pope Emeritus Benedict, who he said was both “a world-class intellect” and “an authentic man of God.”

“To the very end of his papacy,” said Msgr. Halfacre, “he remained the man that he described himself as being on the day he was elected: ‘A simple, humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.'”

For the full text of Msgr. Halfacre’s reflections, click here. For a related story from another of the many prayerful events in the diocese on Thursday regarding the papal transition — this one at Visitation School, Kewanee — click here.

In welcoming remarks to those in the nearly filled cathedral, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, said he shared the “ambiguous feelings” of many around the diocese and around the world as he watched the pope Thursday leave the Vatican in a helicopter and his papacy end with the closing of the doors at Castel Gandolfo.

“It’s a good night to be together in prayer, united in Christ,” said the bishop.

Msgr. Halfacre called it a “somber day” but expressed confidence that “in God’s providential care for us, He will give us a worthy successor.”

The Holy Hour featured prayers to the Holy Spirit for the election of a new pope and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Among those present were about 40 students from the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center at Illinois State University in Normal. One of the students, Lindsey Wheeler, explained the center usually hosts Bible Study on Thursday, but participants took the opportunity to pray with Bishop Jenky and others around the diocese at the cathedral.

“We know it is all in God’s hands,” said Wheeler of the papal transition. “It’s a good day for a reality check for trust in God.”

Ray and Kelly Ramirez of St. Monica’s Parish in East Peoria brought three of their five daughters to the holy hour.

“Who the new pope will be has a big impact on all of us,” said Kelly.

In looking at different periods of history, we often think “it would have been interesting to live in those times,” added Ray. “This is one of those times. It’s been 700 years since (a papal resignation) happened.” Both he and Kelly said the humility shown by the pope emeritus is “an example for us all.”

There were dozens of clergy and religious women present, including Father Bob Cook, OFM Conv., parochial vicar at Holy Family Parish, Peoria. Father Bob credited Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Emeritus Benedict — with helping inspire his vocation to the priesthood.

“He was a driving force behind the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” said Father Bob. “When the catechism came out, I really dug into the faith.”

Father Bob noted Pope Emeritus Benedict’s “profound gentleness” and that his spirituality was influenced by devotion to church fathers, including Franciscans — especially St. Bonaventure.

“It was kind of like having a Franciscan pope,” said Father Bob.

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