Diocese’s priests hear from cardinal, bishop at assembly

By: Photo and stories by Tom Dermody

Editor’s note: When priests from throughout the Diocese of Peoria gathered Oct. 28-29 at the Spalding Pastoral Center they heard from two major guest speakers: Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke (pictured above), prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican, and Bishop Edward M. Rice, auxiliary bishop of St. Louis. Here are Catholic Post stories on both of those presentations.


As a boy growing up in rural southwest Wisconsin, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke knew that Jesus was a part of his family. All he had to do was look at the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus enthroned prominently in their home.

“The Sacred Heart of Jesus has never ceased to attract me,” Cardinal Burke told priests from throughout the Diocese of Peoria who gathered at the Spalding Pastoral Center for Priests’ Assembly Days on Oct. 28-29. “It helped me to recognize my priestly vocation, to embrace it, and grow.”

Cardinal Burke, who went on to become Bishop of La Crosse and later Archbishop of St. Louis, now serves at the Vatican as the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — the highest ecclesiastical court in the Catholic Church. A close friend of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, the cardinal addressed the diocese’s priests on the first day of their gathering.

He encouraged them to a deeper personal devotion to the Sacred Heart in their spiritual lives.

“One of the great crises in the priesthood in our time is a tendency to view the priesthood as a function, as a job. That is lethal,” he said.

The priesthood, said Cardinal Burke, is an identity, a “way of being in Christ” at the service of the mystery of faith. And devotion to the Sacred Heart helps make a priest’s heart “like Christ’s own heart,” which was pierced as a sign of “the immeasurable love of God who pours out his every last energy for the sake of our eternal salvation.”

“The key to understanding the priesthood is the pastoral charity of Christ,” said Cardinal Burke, who earlier had celebrated Mass with Bishop Jenky and the priests of the diocese at St. Mary’s Cathedral. (See related story.) Devotions to the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and most importantly Eucharistic devotion help keep the lives of Catholics centered on Christ and the life of the church.

While central to the ordained priesthood, such ardent devotion also must be fostered in families, said Cardinal Burke, especially in our secular and materialistic culture. He encouraged enthronement of an image of the Sacred Heart in homes, schools, and places of work. Seeing the image makes us pause to speak to the Lord and listen to him. It is also a reminder that Christ’s eyes look upon us.

He recommended adorning the area around the Sacred Heart image with Scripture, a candle, pictures of family members and others for whom we are praying.

“Those who enter the home meet not only the family members, but most importantly they meet Christ. Those who go out will not fail to take Christ with them,” said Cardinal Burke.

His talks were filled with references to the devotional lives and teachings of Blessed John Paul II and Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

“If we are to be heralds and instruments of a new evangelization, then Jesus must be the center of our lives,” said Cardinal Burke. In a time marked by indifference to religious faith, Cardinal Burke reinforced traditional family practices such as the rosary, the reading of Scripture, grace before and after meals, and the observance of popular devotions to show the link between the “tabernacles of the altar and the home.”



“Are you in love?”

Bishop Edward M. Rice admitted it was a “squirmy” question to ask a room filled with diocesan priests, but he was serious.

“The last thing we need are priests who aren’t in love,” Bishop Rice continued in a presentation to clergy from throughout the Diocese of Peoria gathered at the Spalding Pastoral Center on Oct. 29 for the second day of Priests’ Assembly Days.

So he asked again.

“Are you in love . . . with Christ?”

Because that love is “the only love that will sustain you in the priesthood,” Bishop Rice added that “I hope the answer is ‘yes.'”

In two passionate talks, Bishop Rice — a St. Louis native and an auxiliary bishop of the St. Louis archdiocese since 2011 — challenged priests of the diocese to a “spiritual fatherhood” rooted in a personal experience of God’s love and lived in a life of prayer and sacrificial service to the people of God.

A priest’s love must be so evident for his people that “the children know their shepherd would lay down his life for them,” said Bishop Rice.

A former director of the office of vocations in St. Louis who now is bishop-in-residence at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Bishop Rice said God does not call priests to a “loveless life,” but to love to “the fullest possible extent in the priesthood” by imitating the love of Christ that “knows no bounds, no limits, no conditions.”

Like physical fatherhood, spiritual fatherhood requires self-sacrifice and the keeping of commitments. First among commitments is to be a man of prayer, said Bishop Rice.

“We’re busy people,” he told the group, noting that priests are administrators and pastors who are called to make hospital visits, help couples prepare for marriages, do counseling, attend committee meetings, and more.

“None of that is prayer, guys,” reminded Bishop Rice, especially urging them to be accountable for praying the Divine Office daily. When their love for God, the church, and prayer are not greater than their love of self, a priest’s “spiritual fatherhood” becomes sterile and “you become a grumpy priest.”

Priests must live by the highest ideals in union with Christ, the high priest.

“We’ve been beaten and bruised,” Bishop Rice said of the priesthood. “That’s OK. That’s part of the cross. It’s all about love.”

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, thanked Bishop Rice for his “eloquence and passion,” adding “you remind us of things we can never forget, starting with me.”

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