Gratitude, recognition as Mass concludes school year in diocese
Before they closed the books on another year, principals and pastors from Catholic schools around the Diocese of Peoria came together in Peoria on June 2 to pray and celebrate all that has been accomplished.
“I see a lot of tired people,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, quipped at the beginning of Mass in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel at the Spalding Renewal Center.
“Remember that Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’ and all of us have a lot to be thankful for — the end of a successful school year, the summer months opening up, and our friendship together, the pastors and principals and all of you on the front lines,” he told them. “I am thankful . . . because of you.”
During his homily, Bishop Jenky said Catholic schools teach a lot of lessons, all of them important.
“But the heart of Catholic education has got to be giving young people the possibility of an experience of God’s love, realizing God truly loves them and then falling in love back with God,” he said. “We are better in all the other ways we love because we have tasted God’s love.”
Before Mass ended, he offered special words of thanks for Father Ric Schneider, OFM, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bloomington, as the Order of Friars Minor prepared to return pastoral care of the parish and school to the Diocese of Peoria after 135 years.
“Father Ric has not only been a powerful force for keeping the Catholic school he served open, he was a pillar of Central Catholic High School and a lot of other good things,” Bishop Jenky said. “I will be praying every day that God sends the Cincinnati Province many vocations so maybe the ninth or 10th bishop of Peoria can welcome (the Friars) back to any of our parishes you want.”
After Mass, the group gathered in the neighboring Spalding Pastoral Center for a luncheon and recognition ceremony, hosted by the Office of Catholic Schools.
“We honor our students, we honor our teachers, but it’s most important that we honor, as well, our leadership, including our principals, our assistant principals and our pastors,” said Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria.
The first three awards went to Father Steve Willard, pastor of St. Patrick School in Washington, Distinguished Pastor; Mark Csanda, principal of St. Mary School in Bloomington, Distinguished Principal; and Lynn VanDeHeede, guidance counselor at Alleman High School in Rock Island, Distinguished Teacher.
Weiss also called forth retiring principals to be honored. They include: Csanda; Steve Eisemann, Costa Catholic Academy, Galesburg; Joan Leonard, Jordan Catholic School, Rock Island; Barb Shrode, St. Paul School, Macomb; and Scott Turnipseed, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy, East Moline. Also retiring is Mary Pat Shepherd, assistant principal at Schlarman Academy, Danville.
The principals bid farewell to Ryan Bustle, principal of The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign, who has accepted a job as assistant principal at Pontiac Township High School, and Melissa Reder, principal of St. Thomas in Philo, who is moving to Georgia with her family.
More on these retiring and departing principals will appear in the July 3 issue of The Catholic Post.
The Office of Catholic Schools also honored the principals, assistant principals, pastors and parochial vicars for years of service in Catholic education, including Msgr. Paul Showalter, P.A., vicar general, who is celebrating 50 years of ordination this year, and Father Joseph Donton, pastor of St. Malachy in Rantoul, and Msgr. Philip Halfacre, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Streator, who are observing their 25th anniversaries of ordination.
In addition to presenting its top awards to Father Steve Willard, pastor of St. Patrick School, Washington, Distinguished Pastor; Mark Csanda, principal of St. Mary School, Bloomington, Distinguished Principal; and Lynn VanDeHeede, guidance counselor at Alleman High School, Rock Island, Distinguished Teacher; at the end-of-school luncheon on June 2, the Office of Catholic Schools recognized the following individuals for milestones in Catholic education or service to a parish with a Catholic school:
Ten years: Christine Ellis, principal of Holy Cross School, Champaign; Heather Francque, St. Malachy School, Geneseo; and Father Tom Szydlik, parochial vicar at Sts. Peter and Paul, Nauvoo.
Fifteen years: Father Patrick O’Neal, chaplain at Schlarman Academy, Danville, and pastor at St. Anthony, Hoopeston.
Twenty years: Msgr. Brian Brownsey, pastor at St. Mark Parish, Peoria.
Twenty-five years: Msgr. Philip Halfacre, pastor at St. Michael the Archangel, Streator; Michelle Mershon, principal at St. Bede Academy, Peru; and Doreen Shipman, principal at St. Patrick School, Washington.
Thirty-five years: Jane Barrett, principal at Seton Catholic School, Moline.
The Office of Catholic Schools also presented gifts to individuals who serve or have served in diocesan offices, or are celebrating significant years of service in their vocation. They include:
Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general, 50th anniversary of ordination; Father Joseph Donton, pastor of St. Malachy, Rantoul, 25th anniversary of ordination; and Msgr. James Kruse and Msgr. Stanley Deptula, vice chancellor and director of the Office of Divine Worship, 20th anniversary of ordination.
In addition, Msgr. Richard Pricco, pastor of St. Paul in Macomb, was recognized for 54 years of service as a school pastor in Macomb and at Holy Cross in Champaign. Principal Barb Shrode said he has “the happiest knees in the whole world, because his knees have been hugged more than anyone else’s knees have been hugged” by loving students.
Msgr. Charles Beebe, pastor at St. Joseph, Roanoke, and St. John, Benson, and Father Don Henderson, parochial vicar of the Heart of Peoria parishes, were honored as they retired.
Finally, the Order of Friars Minor of the St. John the Baptist Province, were thanked for 135 years of service at St. Mary Parish and School in Bloomington. Representing them was Father Ric Schneider, OFM, pastor.
“You walk into the school and it’s a place of joy,” said principal Mark Csanda. “Thank you, Father Ric, for inspiring us to be that place of joy. . . . Thank you for your vision. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be Franciscan. Thank you for teaching us to educate, motivate and celebrate.”
Before going their separate ways for the summer, the principals thanked Bishop Jenky for his support by presenting to him a written summary of their strategic plans.