‘Moment of grace’ — Bishop Louis Tylka is ordained as Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria
(UPDATED July 24, 2020, including links to the full texts of remarks by Cardinal Cupich and Bishop Tylka)
There was social distance between those present, yet every space inside St. Mary’s Cathedral was repeatedly filled with sounds of joyful praise, gratitude, and boisterous applause July 23 at the episcopal ordination of Bishop Louis Tylka, the new Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria.
“Admittedly, our gathering is smaller than normal circumstances allow, but I know many others are joining us virtually,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who served as principal celebrant, consecrator and homilist. He was joined by about 20 other bishops — including Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio — and more than 100 priests from both the Diocese of Peoria and the bishop-elect’s native Archdiocese of Chicago. The total assembly was about 250 people, the maximum allowed in the 1,000-capacity cathedral under the state’s present coronavirus guidelines.
All were wearing cloth face coverings, with Cardinal Cupich and Bishop Tylka adding plastic shields during some of the ordination rites or while distributing Communion.
Noting that “you are called to serve as a bishop in some very challenging times for society and the church,” including a global pandemic, Cardinal Cupich urged Bishop Tylka to “remain undaunted” and to frequently return to his early and transformative encounter with Jesus as he strives to “Go Make Disciples,” his chosen episcopal motto. The full text of Cardinal Cupich’s homily is found here.
“I am filled with great joy and tremendous gratitude today,” Bishop Tylka said in remarks at the close of the Mass. “The great joy comes from knowing that the Holy Spirit continues to work in the Church, gathering us all together to participate in this moment of grace for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and in my own life.”
BISHOP JENKY IN SELF-QUARANTINE
That joy was tempered this day by the absence of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who has guided the Diocese of Peoria for 18 years and who Bishop Tylka will assist and eventually succeed. After the opening procession, it was announced that Bishop Jenky, 73, had been “unknowingly exposed to the coronavirus on several recent occasions in the course of his episcopal ministry.”
“Upon the advice of our health care partners, (Bishop Jenky) is under self-quarantine,” Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, told the assembly. “He is of course greatly saddened to be unable to be present at this important and historic event. In his name, I welcome all of you and I thank you for your presence here today.”
Bishop Jenky was remembered throughout the liturgy. Cardinal Cupich said “we will be keeping Bishop Jenky in our prayer,” while Archbishop Pierre praised Bishop Jenky’s “humility and courage” in asking for the help of a coadjutor bishop as he has encountered physical struggles in recent years.
“He has placed the love of his flock and the evangelizing mission of the Church before his own interests, offering us a model of pastoral charity,” said Archbishop Pierre. Telling Bishop Jenky “I know you are following us” via the livestreamed telecast, Archbishop Pierre led the assembly in grateful applause for “his wonderful ministry.”
Archbishop Pierre said Bishops Jenky and Tylka “will be stronger together as you bring the joy of the Gospel to this diocese and its people under the protection of Mary Immaculate.”
Bishop Tylka thanked Bishop Jenky for “his warm and gracious welcome to me, his dedication to this local church which he loves so deeply, and the reassurance he has offered me in this transition.”
SOLEMN RITES, LIGHTHEARTED MOMENTS
The nearly two-hour liturgy included ancient rites, songs and readings in both English and Spanish, and a few lighthearted moments.
In reading the papal bull, or official letter of appointment from Pope Francis, Archbishop Pierre — a native of France — paused when he came to Bishop Tylka’s first name.
“I notice that you write Louis like in French ‘Louis,’” said the papal nuncio, pronouncing the first to sound as “Lewis” and the second as “Louie.” “That’s interesting,” he continued. “Louie Tylka. From now on we will call you like that,” said Archbishop Pierre, emphasizing the French pronunciation. Laughter followed, including from Bishop Tylka’s family seated in the front pews with his father, also named Louis.
While a priest for 24 years in the Archdiocese of Chicago — including the last six as pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park — Bishop Tylka liked to be called “Father Lou.” He is now happy to be greeted as “Bishop Lou.”
Solemn ceremonies followed, including:
- Archbishop Pierre presenting Bishop Tylka with the papal bull, which the bishop-elect then held up for all present, drawing more applause;
- The bishop-elect making a series of promises to Cardinal Cupich before prostrating himself on the sanctuary floor while the assembly invoked the prayers of the saints;
- the laying on of hands by Cardinal Cupich, co-consecrators Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, and all bishops present, including Bishop Michael McGovern of Belleville, consecrated the previous day, and
- the presentation to Bishop Tylka of his episcopal ring, miter, and crosier.
During the prayer of consecration, two deacons — Deacon Edward Pluchar of St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park, and Deacon Jim Heatwole of St. Mark Parish, Peoria — held a Book of the Gospels over Bishop Tylka’s head.
PAST HONORED, FUTURE ANTICIPATED
Among the items of historic significance used in the liturgy was a Book of the Gospels that once belonged to Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the media pioneer and sainthood candidate from the Diocese of Peoria, and a chalice that belonged to Archbishop John Lancaster Spalding, the first Bishop of Peoria.
Specially remembered during the Mass were Bishop Tylka’s mother, Norma, who died just as her son was entering the seminary, and his sister Mary Lou, who passed away just last month.
“I know in my heart that today Mom and Mary Lou are smiling down upon as they are very much with us today,” said Bishop Tylka. He called his family, which includes five sisters, “the greatest gift God has blessed me with.” As he has said in beginning each of his priestly assignments, Bishop Tylka told his new diocese “You’re not getting just me, you’re getting my family as well.”
Speaking briefly in Spanish, Bishop Tylka shared his joy and gratitude and asked for the help of the diocese’s Spanish-speaking population in teaching him to speak the language more fluently.
He thanked all who worked to make the celebration happen and had a special message for the priests of the Diocese of Peoria.
“From the moment I first received word of my appointment you have all been in my prayers and in my heart,” he said. “Your warm welcome and the love and support you have already shown to me and my family, especially in the difficulty of my sister’s cancer battle and going home to God, has proven the goodness of God which I see in you.”
Speaking to all present, he concluded:
Together, walking the road of faith, recognizing the grace of Jesus walking with us, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, following the example of the Blessed Mother, let us take up anew our own mission the Lord has given us. Let us ‘Go Make Disciples!”
Bishop Tylka will soon become familiar with the roads of his new diocese. In the coming weeks, he will celebrate a series of regional weekend Masses in the various vicariates, with receptions planned so he can meet the people as much as current conditions permit.
MORE TO COME
EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional photos from the ordination Mass have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.