Diocesan Summer Institute returns June 4 as free gift with Year of Mercy theme

The Diocesan Summer Institute is back.

“Into the Depths of Mercy” is the theme for the gathering, which will be held Saturday, June 4, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Peoria Civic Center. It is being relaunched at the request of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who is offering it as a gift to the people of the Diocese of Peoria.

The Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, the Office of Catholic Schools, and the Office of Priestly Vocations have collaborated to plan the day. Additional help has been given by the Office of Divine Worship.

“It’s not going to be too advanced for anybody. But at the same time, if someone says, ‘I pray daily,’ I think this is going to give them something to go deeper. . . . No matter where you’re at, spiritually you’re going to get something out of this.” — Father Timothy Hepner

While previous Diocesan Summer Institutes have been built around workshops, this year’s event focuses on prayer and developing the interior life.

“We know that at the heart of our ministry, whether we’re teachers or live in our parish and minister to those around us — however we’re involved in spreading the love of God — we know that that flows from our own hearts,” said Shirley Plaag, coordinator of the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation. “It flows from our own spiritual journey.”

Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools, and Father Timothy Hepner, vocation director of recruitment, echoed those sentiments.

“A big thing for me as vocation director is, overall, to help people grow in the spiritual life, because if everybody grows in the spiritual life, vocations are going to come out of that,” Father Hepner told The Catholic Post.

Faith formation also has been the focus for teachers and principals at schools around the diocese this year, according to Weiss, who is requiring them to attend the Summer Institute.

“As educators we give, give, give of ourselves because we’re in a nurturing profession. We need to take time to be quiet,” she said. “We need to take time to get ourselves back to that first love and remember why it is we do what we do and how we love Christ.”


Helping participants to do that will be keynote speakers Dan Burke and Dr. Peter Howard.


        Dan Burke

Burke is president of the Avila Foundation and executive director of and writer for the National Catholic Register. In addition to presentations at the beginning and end of the day, he will offer a special lunch session for the clergy.

Howard is an adjunct professor at the Avila Foundation and is founder and president of The Fulton Sheen Society. His theological expertise is Mariology, especially that of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

There will also be breakout sessions with Sister M. Benedicta Bourke, FSGM, who teaches science and is involved in campus ministry at Alleman High School in Rock Island; Father Adam Cesarek, parochial vicar at St. Mary in Pontiac, St. Paul in Odell, St. Joseph in Flanagan, and St. John in Cullom; and Howard.

A Mass celebrated by Bishop Jenky is just one way people will be able to pray.

Dr. Peter Howard

     Dr. Peter Howard

“It’s important we give you some information and teach you some things — draw you into that knowledge — but then give you an opportunity to pray,” Plaag said. “That’s why the Holy Hour we have planned is so crucial to the day . . . and to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass together. All of these things are an active living out of what we’re going to be learning.”

“It’s not going to be too advanced for anybody,” Father Hepner said. “But at the same time, if someone says, ‘I pray daily,’ I think this is going to give them something to go deeper. . . . No matter where you’re at, spiritually you’re going to get something out of this.”

Weiss added that because the Summer Institute is returning during the Year of Mercy, it was important to the planners to make the sacrament of reconciliation available, as well as adoration.

While there is no charge to attend the Diocesan Summer Institute, registration is required by May 27. There will be no registration at the door.

Teachers and principals are signing up through the Office of Catholic Schools. Everyone else must register online by visiting cdop.org. For more information, call (309) 671-1550.

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