Colleagues from Chicago Archdiocese describe Coadjutor Bishop-elect Tylka

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Catholic Post invited several people who know and have served with Coadjutor Bishop-elect Louis Tylka to offer their insights about him with the people of the Diocese of Peoria. And they had a lot to say! The May 24 print edition of The Catholic Post published edited versions of some of their responses. We are happy to share the full messages of all who responded here. We are deeply grateful to all of the contributors for their time, insights and reactions.

CARDINAL BLASE J. CUPICH — Archbishop of Chicago

We welcome the appointment of Bishop-elect Tylka as Coadjutor of the Diocese of Peoria and are pleased he will join the bishops of Illinois in working cooperatively to serve the faithful in our state. He has proved himself to be a compassionate and inspiring pastor and a strong advocate for priests and the priesthood. We look forward to the contributions he will make to the Church in the coming years.

FATHER TON NGUYEN — Associate Pastor, St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park

Being a new priest and having been at St. Julie for almost a year under the mentorship of Bishop-elect Tylka, I think the Diocese of Peoria will be blessed to have him as their Coadjutor Bishop. Bishop-elect Tylka is very down to earth, well respected among the priests, well loved by parishioners, and hardworking. He is an attentive listener. For example, every week, I go to his office with a page of questions and new ideas. He patiently takes in the information, connects the dots guiding me to see a bigger picture of parish ministry, and opens up for conversation. Or when he makes a pastoral decision, he always thinks about the neighboring parish to either invite them joining or limit the duplicated-efforts in doing a similar thing.

Bishop-elect Tylka is man of family. He loves and cares for his family. This is a good quality to have since the Church is a community of collective domestic churches. He will tenderly take care of the community that is entrusted to his care as his family. I see this aspect in his care for his parishioners and even his care for me as his associate. He often takes time to ask how my family back home is doing or how I am doing transitioning from seminary to parish life. Even in little details his generosity and concern for others is revealed. It is a common occurrence that when I open the refrigerator in our shared space, I am surprised to find my favorite snacks bread or juice that he had supplied.

Bishop-Elect Tylka’s ministry is centered on discipleship. He has a heart for evangelization and in all he does with others he tries to lead everyone in a common direction. Talking to him, one can constantly hear the question “Are you Jesus’ disciple?” or the admonition, “be a disciple, then go and make disciples.”

Before he was appointed, he told me, “you will stick with me at St. Julie for a long time, so don’t think about going anywhere.” When the news about him being a bishop came out, I had mixed feelings of being excited, surprised, sad, and happy. It is bittersweet.   As many people have said we are happy to share a good pastor with a larger flock.

FATHER JASON MALAVE — Cardinal’s liason to “Renew My Church” movement, Archdiocese of Chicago

It has been a joy to know Bishop-elect Tylka since our days in the College Seminary. We entered Niles College of Loyola University the same year, 1989, he as a sophomore and I as a freshmen.  A memory from college that came back to me recently was that he hosted a convocation of college seminarians at Niles College, at the request of the Rector.  It was a great gathering of seminarians from the college seminaries around the country. Bishop-elect Tylka loved being the host of the conference and enjoyed making new friendships. It was the first of such gathering, and he passed over the reins of that leadership to me the next year. We both left the college seminary in the same year, 1992.

We really came to know each other when we lived on the same floor and wing together at Mundelein Seminary, Wing 1 South. The group of 12-13 of us came to pray together, live together and socialize together because of our assigned living location. Over the three years we lived together, we came to know and appreciate each other more deeply. One of the things I admired and learned about Bishop-elect Tylka was his ability to be serious when it was time to be serious, and laugh wholeheartedly when it was time to have fun.

Over the years, we grew closer and closer. He is among my closest priest friends. We have traveled together, enjoyed theater subscriptions together, and eaten out quarterly if not bi-monthly over the past 25 years of his priesthood, and 24 years of my priesthood. He is a good friend. One of his gifts is his attention to his priest friends. He actively reaches out to his priest friends always with an invitation to connect. I admire that, have profited from that, and have supported Bishop-elect Tylka in return.

Bishop-elect Tylka enjoys a very good reputation amongst the presbyterate. Even before he took on the Chair of the Presbyteral Council, he knew many of our brothers and is always cordial, checking in on everyone’s thoughts about the Blackhawks’ chances for the season.  That good natured, joyful spirit has endeared him to many. He will be deeply missed amongst our presbyterate.

Five years ago, when Cardinal Cupich called our Archdiocese to a time of renewal, in the movement called “Renew My Church”, I was invited to support that renewal full time. Because of his Chairmanship of the Presbyteral Council, Bishop-elect Tylka was a founding member of that Priest Steering Committee and followed and steered that renewal intimately. Bishop-elect Tylka knew that structural renewal was necessary, in that parishes needed to be united and some even closed, but it was the spiritual renewal that Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich were envisioning that really excited Bishop-elect Tylka. I remember seeing his face light up when the group talked about deepening our discipleship. He relished calling his parishioners to re-engage their relationship with Jesus and even piloted an Easter Campaign inviting people to reflect on how they know Jesus and share Jesus.  The spiritual renewal of Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich seemed to reinvigorate his priesthood and his pastoring, as it has my own priesthood.  He even accepted an invitation to go to London to see the good work of a process called Alpha. Bishop-elect Tylka saw firsthand how a Christ-centered process could help life-long Catholics, as well as those seeking faith, to deepen their journey with Jesus.  Supporting Missionary Discipleship has become a hallmark for Bishop-elect Tylka.

I was flabbergasted when he shared with me the good news of his appointment. As my friend for a long time, we know that the Church needs good leadership, but perhaps because of humility or the nature of the selection process, no one ever thinks it will be themselves.  Bishop-elect Tylka was shocked and flabbergasted but he also knows that he has worked very hard for the Church and cares very deeply about the Church and her people.  With this deep passion and love for the Church, my surprise has turned to acceptance and understanding that this appointment is a “no brainer.”

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MARGIE GUADAGNO — Liturgy Coordinator, St. Julia Billiart Parish, Tinley Park

Actually, my head is still swirling with the news of Father Tylka’s appointment!! My emotions have pretty much been on a rollercoaster ride — extremely happy for him but very, very sad that he will be leaving St. Julie. He will leave behind many people who love him and have been enriched by having him here as our pastor.

I was hired here at the parish in 2016 so my experience of Father Lou is brief compared to those who were here when he became pastor. However, from the very beginning I was excited to come onboard. He offered me a chance to become part of a vibrant loving community and to become part of a team that makes the mandate of making disciples the central part of our ministry.

His strength lies in his love of God and his deep belief in the mission of Christ. He has drawn all of us to examine — and renew — our own relationships with Jesus. Knowing that the Sunday Liturgical gathering of the community is central to our faith, he has led us all to be open and welcoming to each and every person that comes through our doors.

Over the past several years, the Chicago church has been dedicated to a process we call Renew My Church. While many people may understand it to be a way to restructure the physical church, Father Lou has always understood that the first focus is to renew the spiritual lives of the church’s people. He also knows that do that we must change the culture of life within the church before we can change the culture of life outside the church. In that he has been a true leader not only for the staff but for all the parishioners of St. Julie. This comes through every week when we gather for Sunday Mass. He is open and warm to everyone, greeting them as they come in the door, whether he is the celebrant or not. His homilies invite and sometimes challenge us to reflect on our relationship with Jesus. Personally, I always walk away wanting to be a better disciple because, as Fr. Lou has said on occasion, the only way to make disciples is to be disciples.

Father Lou has made such a difference in my own life and I am very glad for the people of Peoria to have the chance to get to know him. He is all the things that most people say about a beloved pastor — caring, generous, compassionate,  pastoral. But he also joyful, thoughtful, accessible, honest and open.

He is all those things I’ve shared with you (and more), but he is also a wonderful person who loves to laugh, takes his father to the “boats” whenever he asks him, avoids green vegetables like the plague, and will eat absolutely anything with white chocolate in it!!  He is a person who has a good heart and always — always — listens to both sides of an argument (to the point of madness to be honest!). And he is a man of prayer. He has to be to put up with his staff. We, unfortunately, are all too human!

PAT KMAK — Director of Faith Formation, St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park

I am indeed pleased, actually elated, and not at all surprised at his appointment to the episcopacy. With his wise and truly compassionate  leadership skills, he is more than well-respected by both his fellow clergy and the people he has served while in this Archdiocese.

Because of his open-mindedness, our parish has expanded its ministries and pursued new paths to “grow” disciples.

In the current pandemic situation, he has been especially comforting to the parish community by sharing his prayerful thoughts and support through his weekly “Midweek Moments” youtube videos.  Through his “Lend Me a Hand” project, he created a meaningful method for the people of the parish to share their prayers and concerns, to be uplifted as the church began to fill with hands of all sizes and colors, prayerfully posted by Father Lou himself.

May Bishop Tylka continue to “cheer the hearts of God’s People” in the wonderful Diocese of Peoria!

HOLLY HESSELSCHWARDT — Youth Minister, St. Julie Billiart and St. George parishes, Tinley Park

Obviously the news of Father Lou becoming bishop was quite a shock to me. That is not to say I don’t think he would be an amazing bishop, it’s just a crazy time for all of this to be happening.

Father Lou is a very good shepherd. He truly has a heart for the people of God and he really strives to help them to know Jesus.  I think his focus is on leading others to Jesus and helping them form a true genuine relationship with Him.

Father Lou is very welcoming and has a listening heart. He is easy to talk to and has a relaxed demeanor about him. He enjoys theatrical plays and hockey. He is very easy to just chat with. His homilies are often inspiring. He is open to change and willing to try new ideas even if they don’t always work.

I think he will be dearly missed at St. Julie’s.  He definitely has made an impact on so many of the people at our parish.

The people of Peoria will surely benefit from Bishop-elect Tylka’s presence

DEACON ED AND SHEILA PLUCHAR — St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park

(Deacon Ed is a permanent deacon serving the parish)

Bishop-elect Tylka is very personable, and extremely pastoral. He shows a great concern for his parishioners, especially those who are in need and hurting – either spiritually or physically.

You can tell the strong faith and the strong bonding in his family and that presents itself in his ministry as a priest. He promotes ideas, suggestions, and thoughts of how we can do this ministry better. He is open to listening and trying new things when appropriate, yet is very aligned with rules and guidelines from the archdiocese.

He is very supportive of the diaconate, and has always been supportive of my ministries and where I can best use my talents. He’s very open, anyone can approach him. He talks respectfully and spiritually with everybody. He’s a good man. We’re going to miss him.

(Sheila is the parish coordinator of human concerns)

Ed and I have been parishioners of St. Julie for 36 years. With Ed being a deacon, we have been privileged to know many priests over the years. Father Lou being called to Peoria as Bishop is not a surprise at all. Every priest has their own unique gifts and calling within their vocation. This is his.

Bishop-elect Tylka wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves his God, his faith and his family with everything that he has. The Chicago Blackhawks figure in there somewhere, too.

He thrives spiritually knowing that we are a missionary church and we are all called together to be disciples in the world. It gives him energy and likely causes a few sleepless nights.

St. Julie will miss him a great deal. The Diocese of Peoria will be a blessing to the new Bishop and he to the good people of the Diocese of Peoria

FATHER ROBERT REGAN — Pastor, St. Rene Goupil Parish, Chicago

Father Lou always had an open door for me as a newly ordained priest while at my first assignment (St. Julie Billiart). He always listened and took things into consideration. Although he had 20-plus years on me as a priest, he always treated me with respect and as a brother in Christ.

He will bring a pastoral heart to the people of the diocese of Peoria along with a realistic sense of the challenging times we are in as a Church and as a society. Father Lou knows this is all about our relationship with Christ and will invite folks to take a look inside their hearts. He’s got a great sense of humor and is a sensible sports fan.

When I heard the news, the surprise wasn’t that he was named a bishop. My hunch was he’d be an auxiliary in Chicago, but the surprise was that he has been named Bishop of Peoria. I immediately thought of Fulton Sheen, and the many great priests who serve the diocese. I told him he will always been in my prayers, and that he should make sure the miter never cuts off blood flow to the brain. In all seriousness, he will bring the love of Christ to central Illinois. I hope the people of the Diocese of Peoria welcome him with open arms and open hearts.

JOHN T. BENZ — candidate for ordination to the permanent diaconate, St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park

We are all so happy for “Lou,” and we all think that he will make a fine bishop. He has been pastor here for seven years and I have gotten to know him well during our monthly meetings as part of our formation program. Lou is a true pastor, and I have found him to be kind and a very good listener. Specifically, he has been helpful in allowing me to take things one step at a time as my wife and I have discerned and worked through the various aspects of the diaconate program. His leadership style is focused on enabling people to be successful. He is never overbearing or demanding.

I think that the people of your diocese will find that Lou is bright, personable, and welcoming of all of God’s people. He is a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, and is a fan of the Chicago White Sox as well. In the seminary, he had a special interest in liturgy. We will miss him very much at St. Julie.

MICHAEL RUBINO — Pastoral associate, St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park

Father Lou is an excellent homilist, his homilies are well thought out and insightful. I have enjoyed working with him in preparation of liturgies as he is detailed and respectful of Catholic traditions. His upbringing solidifies his strong sense of family, not only his immediate family but his congregation as HIS family. He prepares for each liturgy as if it were his most important liturgy.

He is very hands-off in his leadership style. He assigns a task and expects results. He is approachable, easy to talk to and is understanding to a difference of opinion.

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