In message to priests, Bishop Jenky hopes for renewed diocese post-pandemic

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, addresses priests of the Diocese of Peoria in this image taken from his April 7 message posted on YouTube.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the transcription of a video message from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, to the priests of the Diocese of Peoria released April 7. Normally the priests renew their priestly promises when they gather with the bishop during Holy Week for the annual Chrism Mass. That liturgy was postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions and will be celebrated at a later date.

Besides the various messages and instructions that we’re all sending out to the flock of Christ here in central Illinois, I thought it would be a good idea for me, as your bishop, to say a personal word to you, the priests who serve here.

It is clear from the Holy Gospels that Jesus had friends. He had people he trusted and loved, and whose company he enjoyed. Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus would certainly be counted among these special friends. Their home in Bethany was in some ways the Lord’s home away from home.

“It is my hope that as we emerge from this time of contagion, we will come out like roaring lions ready in new ways to win central Illinois and indeed the whole world for Jesus Christ and his Holy Catholic Church. I hope the future will not see a diminished diocese, but a renewed diocese.” — Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC

There is that haunting Gospel account where Jesus comes to visit Martha and Mary. Martha is busy about many things, and gets irritated with her sister who simply sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his words. This story has always been an inspiration for the contemplative life, for those who are called by the Holy Spirit to simply live a life of unitive prayer and to be in communion with the Lord exclusively.

All of us, as diocesan priests, have been called to an active ministry, to use whatever gifts God gives us to build up the church, to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments. And yet, this rather fearful contagion that is now upon us has called all of us to make a kind of long retreat where our public activities are reduced almost to nothing. We have the opportunity now to simply, like Mary, sit at the Lord’s feet, to listen to his words, to savor his company, to renew the deep love we experience in him, and then to re-deepen our own love for him in response.

USE THIS UNIQUE TIME

This is the strangest time in my priesthood, and I imagine it is in your own. But let us take advantage of what God has sent us, according to his will. We can read those books we have been putting off. We can deepen our prayerfulness, our contemplation, in our Holy Hours. We can savor those words of love that are in the rosary.  We can intercede for the needs of our parishes, our families, and friends with renewed energy.

Time spent with Christ is never wasted. And it is my hope that as we emerge from this time of contagion, we will come out like roaring lions ready in new ways to win central Illinois and indeed the whole world for Jesus Christ and his Holy Catholic Church. I hope the future will not see a diminished diocese, but a renewed diocese.

Serving with you, which is the greatest privilege of my life, fills me with confidence. So dear brothers in Christ, my dear spiritual sons, let us not be afraid of anything, but let us use this time God has sent us for his glory and for the service of his people.

PROMISES MADE TO GOD

The Holy Father has given permission that the holy oils that are usually renewed during Holy Week, may be blessed and consecrated sometime in the future when this moment of fear is over. At that time, obviously, we all renew our vows to Christ and to the service of the church.

I would like to give you a moment of anticipation. This is not the renewal of your priestly vows, but it is a reminder to you and to me what promises we have made to God.

The first question always asked in the Chrism Mass is, “Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus, and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s church, which prompted by love for him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?”

The final part of that ceremony is when I ask for your prayers as your bishop. “And pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to me in my lowliness, and that in your midst, I may be made, day by day, a living and more perfect image of Christ the Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher, and the Servant of all.”

May almighty God bless all of you, hear your prayers, keep you in your priestly service. I pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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