St. Julie Parish bids ‘Bishop Lou’ a loving farewell as he leaves for Peoria Diocese

"Papa Lou" Tylka shares a special moment with his son as he places a flower lei around his neck. The flowers represent a promise from the parishioners of St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park to Bishop-elect Louis Tylka that they will continue to plant seeds of faith in his honor after he leaves to become Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

TINLEY PARK — With love and gratitude, members of St. Julie Billiart Parish said goodbye to Bishop-elect Louis Tylka, promising to continue the good work they had begun together.

That affection was returned during the final Sunday Mass “Bishop Lou” celebrated there on June 28.

“It has been a distinct honor and privilege of my life to be pastor here,” he said. “Even though it is far too soon, you go with me in my heart and in my prayers daily.”

Due to COVID-19 precautions a farewell picnic was not possible, but that didn’t stop Rita Kuta from offering a card and good wishes to Bishop-elect Lou Tylka after his final Sunday Mass at St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park on June 28. The outdoor receiving line lasted more than two hours. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Bishop Lou acknowledged that the hardest part of being a priest is leaving a faith community you have learned to love and by whom you’ve been loved.

“It is just hard to say goodbye, but I do so knowing that it is the Lord who brought us together and it is the Lord who sustains us,” he said. “You will always be a part of my life.”

Due to COVID-19 precautions the size of the assembly at Mass was restricted to make social distancing possible and a hoped-for picnic was not possible. That didn’t stop parishioners and friends from forming a long receiving line outside the church after Mass to offer cards, gifts and best wishes to the man who has been pastor at St. Julie Billiart for six years and was due to continue for six more years before his appointment as coadjutor bishop for the Diocese of Peoria was announced.

Mixed with their sadness, however, was joy at what was ahead for him.

“YOU’RE GETTING A GIFT”

“We’ll certainly miss Bishop Lou, but we know he’s going to a better job for the Holy Spirit and he’ll be guided,” said longtime sacristan Cindy Minatto, who added that they’re not really losing him.

“We’re never lost. We’re all going with what God wants us to do,” she explained.

“We’ve always known that he’s been destined for much broader things. I’m sure he will just do a marvelous job for the Diocese of Peoria,” said Kay Kempke, a cantor and part of the music program at St. Julie Billiart who also serves on the finance committee.

Acknowledging that the hardest thing a priest has to do is say goodbye to a parish community he has learned to love, Bishop-elect Louis Tylka assures parishioners of St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park that “you go with me in my heart and in my prayers daily” as his final Sunday Mass there comes to a close June 28. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“What you’re getting is a wonderful disciple of God,” she told The Catholic Post. “He is just a very caring, very calming, spiritual man and meets you where you’re at.”

“You could be in a room with a hundred people with Bishop Lou and to him you’re the only one there,” said Anthony Herron, the parish’s photographer and videographer. “He focuses 100 percent. He gives you time.”

What Sheila Pluchar, coordinator of human concerns, appreciates about Bishop Lou is that he’s “open to all the possibilities.” That’s especially true when it comes to evangelization and planting the seeds of faith.

“He’s excited for his faith,” she said. “He’s excited to share it and to share it with everyone.”

Sheila and her husband, Deacon Ed Pluchar, described Bishop Lou as insightful, faith-filled and loving — of his family, God and people in general.

Sheila Pluchar added that he’s knowledgeable about a lot of things. “If he doesn’t know something, he learns about it.”

“You’re getting a gift,” said Cindy Devlin, administrative assistant at Cardinal Joseph Bernardin School in Orland Hills, which St. Julie Billiart supports.

“A HOME FOR EVERY HEART”

Parishioners were quick to point out Bishop Lou’s love for youth and the need to involve them in the life of the church. As part of the farewell speeches at the end of Mass, Avery and Ellen Hill spoke on behalf of all the parish children to thank him “for always being present to us in so many special ways.”

That includes visiting faith formation and school classes, sharing his vocation story with the fifth-graders, and accompanying the eighth-graders on their retreat. The girls also mentioned “assuring us of God’s love as we prepare to celebrate the sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Communion” and “teaching us to lend a hand and offer prayers of support to others during the pandemic.”

“Know that we will always be your family and sustain you with our love and prayers,” they said.

Bishop-elect Louis Tylka blesses Paul Isherwood, who is being treated for cancer, during a receiving line outside St. Julie Billiart Church in Tinley Park on June 28. Isherwood said he doesn’t usually wear his Chicago Blackhawks shirt outside hockey season, but made an excepton to wish “Bishop Lou,” another fan, well. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Perhaps the most emotional moment came when “Papa Lou” Tylka came forward to place a flower lei around his son’s neck. The flowers represented a promise from the parishioners that they will continue to plant seeds of faith in his honor.

Also present were Bishop Lou’s sisters, Tésa Dunning, Patty Arvia and Linda Tylka, who helped him pack and prepare for his move to Peoria, where he will be ordained to the episcopacy at St. Mary’s Cathedral at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 23.

For his part, Bishop Lou praised the parish community for its spirit of hospitality, making it “a home for every heart.”

It is important to continue to foster that sense of hospitality and welcome because it is “the way of the future of the church and of discipleship,” he said. “Hold on to the virtue of hospitality and it changes your life.”

Bishop Lou also encouraged them to put Jesus first, as he realized he was called to do when he learned he was being named a bishop.

“I trust in the Lord that the Lord will continue to call you to be faithful disciples. And when you respond to that calling by saying, ‘Jesus, is this what you want of me?’ then the Holy Spirit will give you the gifts that are necessary to say ‘yes’ willingly,” he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the Farewell Mass will be posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.

To view an archived video of the Farewell Mass on St. Julie Billiart Parish’s site on Facebook, click here.

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