Bishop fields questions from students at Marquette Academy

CAPTION: Freshmen and sophomores from Marquette Academy in Ottawa and their principal, Brooke Rick (far left), crowd around Father Jacob Rose, chaplain, and Bishop Jenky for a selfie during the bishop’s pastoal visit on Sept. 10. The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems


OTTAWA — As a member of a teaching community of priests, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is used to asking questions in a school setting. The tables were turned during a recent visit to Marquette Academy, however, when he was the one providing answers for the high school students.

At informal sessions over lunch, the bishop fielded questions about his vocation, what he would do if he were pope, what kind of a student he had been, and his activities as a high school student in the Chicago area. His answers were filled with humor as well as faith during the visit, which included Mass for the entire student body at nearby St. Columba Church.

He also blessed images of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, which were to be placed in the elementary and high school buildings of Marquette Academy.

Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Peoria, said Bishop Jenky had asked each high school that doesn’t already have one to choose a patron saint. He is scheduled to bless icons and images of these holy men and women when he makes pastoral visits this school year.

On Sept. 17 he went to Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, which has selected St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as its patron saint, and will travel to Peoria Notre Dame High School (Our Lady of the Rosary) on Oct. 8 and St. Bede Academy in Peru on March 11, 2015.

The date for his visit to Alleman High School in Rock Island, which will be entrusted to St. Albert the Great, has not been finalized yet. He went to The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign and Schlarman Academy (St. Joseph) in Danville last year.

Before he blessed the images of St. Josemaria Escriva, Bishop Jenky said Catholic schools do many good things, such as providing a sense of community, an opportunity to be involved in sports, and a topnotch education.

“We now know that every single Catholic school in this diocese outscores every other school, private or public, in everything,” he said. “I’m really proud of you for that.”

But there’s something even more important that Catholic schools do, he reminded them.

“Our schools essentially exist to make you into saints. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked that we all be evangelists — not just priests and nuns, but every single baptized believer witness in their daily life,” Bishop Jenky explained. “St. Josemaria taught that and witnessed that every day of his life.

“I hope we’ll imitate his example and bring everyone we know to faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.

“St. Josemaria spent and devoted his whole life to teaching people that we can meet God in everyday circumstances, that no matter what we’re doing in life — whether we’re a student or a truck driver or a stay-at-home mom or we have an office job — everywhere, all the time is an opportunity for a meeting with the living and loving God,” said Father Jacob Rose, chaplain at Marquette Academy. “That’s where we find holiness.”

St. Josemaria is no stranger to LaSalle County, he added. Father Hilary Mahaney, a priest from the prelature of Opus Dei in Chicago, comes often to meet priests in the area, offer spiritual direction and give conferences.

Father Hilary was one of the concelebrants for the Mass at St. Columba on Sept. 10.

After Mass, Bishop Jenky visited with representatives of the junior and senior classes in the library of the high school building while they had lunch. During the next period he would meet with the freshmen and sophomores. Both asked why he had become a priest.

It was something many boys from his Southwest Side Chicago neighborhood thought about, he said.

“A vocation for anything, really, you have to test it,” Bishop Jenky told them. “People think when they go into the seminary they’re taking final vows. They aren’t. They’re just seeing if the seminary likes them and they like the seminary.”

He compared it to swimming: “You can stand at the edge of the swimming pool forever and wonder what the water’s like. Instead, dive in and if you don’t like it, it’s too cold, you can climb out.”

He demurred when asked what he would do if he were pope, saying, “God is very wise and very good, so that would never happen! We’ve had one great pope after another. It’s been extraordinary. I can’t think of a string of stronger, holier, wiser, more zealous men.”

A self-professed “math moron,” Bishop Jenky said that even so he had studied hard and he credited the Christian Brothers at St. Laurence High School in Burbank for giving him a good foundation.

While he didn’t play sports, he shared that he had played the trumpet in the marching band and French horn in the concert band.

When sophomore Ryan Mann asked if the diocese would ever be able to continue the cause for canonization of Archbishop Sheen, Bishop Jenky said he didn’t know.

“It’s in God’s hands,” he said. “Sometimes you have to let go and let God and I’ve reached that point. Prayer has been known to work miracles.”
Before returning to class the students received a blessing from Bishop Jenky. Then he did something he had never done in high school — posed for a selfie with the students and their chaplain.

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