Symbolism of Bishop Tylka’s coat of arms explained; motto is ‘Go Make Disciples’

Bishop Tylka's coat of arms and episcopal motto, "Go Make Disciples"

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each bishop has his own coat of arms bearing his episcopal motto — usually a quote from Scripture — and symbols that have some personal significance. These coats of arms are used on documents and letterhead and other items pertaining to that bishop. Bishop Tylka’s coat of arms was designed by Father Guy Selvester, a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, who provided the following explanation.

The personal coat of arms assumed by Bishop Tylka combines symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his spiritual life and priestly ministry. At present he bears his personal arms alone on the shield. When the time comes that he succeeds Bishop Jenky as the 9th Bishop of Peoria he will then impale (combine side-by-side on one shield) his personal arms with those of the diocese.

Coadjutor Bishop-elect Louis Tylka

The field is red which is a color associated with the Holy Spirit. The life of any priest and bishop is placed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The two silver (white) “waves,” at the bottom of the shield symbolize Lake Michigan (the shores of the Archdiocese of Chicago where Bishop Tylka served prior to becoming a bishop) and Lake St. Mary (at the seminary which the bishop attended). Together the waves hearken to our Baptism which initiates into the life of Christ and also alludes to John the Baptist.

The main charge — a mystical rose — is composed of several elements that are layered as each aspect of our faith builds upon the various encounters we have with the Lord, the Church and others. Together, they create a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a slight reference to the parish of Mater Christi where the bishop served for ten years as pastor. In addition, the rose also alludes to the need to grow in our faith which blossoms as it grows. The larger petals of the rose consist of heart-shapes surmounted by small tongues of fire resembling the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This represents His sacrificial love for us. The flames above each heart also remind us of the Holy Spirit. Coincidentally, the Sacred Heart was a particular devotion of St. Julie Billiart, the patroness of the parish in which the bishop has served as pastor for the last six years.

BLAZON:  Gules, above, in base, two barrulets wavy Argent a Mystical Rose composed of five heart-shaped petals Argent each surmounted by a tongue of fire Or surrounding an inner circle of petals Or; seeded with a plate charged with a Greek cross Sable and barbed with fleurs-de-lis Or. The shield is ensigned with an episcopal cross Or behind the shield and a bishop’s galero Vert cords and twelve tassels disposed in three rows of one, two and three all Vert. On a scroll below the shield the motto: “ Go Make Disciples”.

At the center of the rose are five gold (yellow) petals surrounding a silver (white) roundel on which there is a cross. This represents the Sacred Host in the monstrance and it is placed at the center of the whole image as a way of expressing the Eucharist being at the center of the life of faith. Traditionally a heraldic rose is depicted with thorns which, in this instance, have been shaped like the fleur-de-lis. This has multiple meanings as it alludes to St. Joseph and to the bishop’s home parish of St. Joseph, St. Louis the King (the bishop’s baptismal patron) and the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Peoria (from whose coats of arms they were borrowed).

The motto below the shield is, “Go Make Disciples” from Matthew 28:19.

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often mistakenly thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions which is not entirely correct. In former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as bishop. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

The armorial bearings of Bishop Tylka were designed, blazoned and rendered by the Rev. Guy Selvester, a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.


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