Bishop Tylka’s one-month anniversary spent in Rock Island, Kewanee vicariates

"Who is Jesus to you?" asked Bishop Tylka during his homily at St. Pius X Church in Rock Island on Aug. 22. While we know Jesus as an historic figure and give him titles such as "Lord" and "Son of God," Bishop Tylka said Jesus wants a close, personal relationship with us as our brother and friend. Bishop Tylka celebrated Mass with representatives of parishes in the Rock Island Vicariate on Aug. 22 and with the faithful of the Kewanee Vicariate the following day. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

On the one-month anniversary of his ordination as Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria, Bishop Louis Tylka was on the road again — becoming more familiar with the people and places of his new diocese.

“I’m still learning to embrace this new role that the Lord has called me to,” Bishop Tylka said in Kewanee on Aug. 23 as he began to celebrate Mass with representatives of the 10 parishes of the Kewanee Vicariate at Saint John Paul II Church. “But certainly one of the great blessings is to be among the people of God in this wonderful diocese.”

Bishop Tylka blesses members of the Cardoso family, members of Saint John Paul II Parish in Kewanee, during a reception in Visitation Catholic School gym that followed the Kewanee Vicariate Mass on Aug. 23. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

In his first month as a bishop, then, Bishop Tylka has been greatly blessed. And so have the hundreds of faithful who have turned out on the initial six stops of his “Welcome Tour” to pray with and greet the Diocese of Peoria’s new coadjutor bishop in this summer of pandemic concerns.

“We are so happy and excited to have you here,” said Msgr. Mark Merdian, vicar of the Rock Island Vicariate, the previous day in welcoming Bishop Tylka to St. Pius X Church in Rock Island. The Saturday afternoon Mass drew more than 200 faithful from the vicariate’s 15 parishes — the largest assembly at St. Pius since the church reopened in early June, yet still allowing for adequate social distancing.

LAUGHTER, BLESSINGS, PHOTOS

At both locations, Bishop Tylka stayed long after Mass to individually greet the faithful at receptions. There was much shared laughter, stories of connections to Bishop Tylka’s roots in Chicago, and requests for blessings and photographs.

Among the first in line at McCarthy Hall at St. Pius X on Saturday were Deacon Bob and Pam DePauw of Port Byron, who shared that they are dairy farmers.

“(Bishop Tylka) said he doesn’t drink milk,” said Deacon DePauw, who serves faith communities in Rapids City, Hampton, and East Moline. “And I told him that I’m lactose intolerant — one of the few lactose intolerant dairy farmers.”

“I think he’s wonderful,” said Jeanne DeConinck, a member of Saint John Paul II Parish who served as lector for the Mass in Kewanee. In greeting Bishop Tylka during a reception in the Visitation Catholic School gym, DeConinck apologized for a momentary slip-of-the-tongue in welcoming remarks to the assembly in which she called first called him “Father Tylka” before quickly correcting with his new title.

“He said ‘I’ve been called worse,’” she recalled will a laugh.

DIVERSITY AND UNITY

The music for the Mass in Rock Island reflected the diversity of the Quad Cities Catholic community. In addition to the St. Pius X Choir, there were selections by the Burmese Choir of Sacred Heart, Rock Island; the Congolese Choir of Christ the King, Moline; the Hispanic Choir of St. Mary, Moline; and the African Choir of St. Mary, Rock Island. The “Lord, hear our prayer” response to the intercessions was sung in English, Latin, and Spanish.

Members of the African Choir from St. Mary Parish in Rock Island sing “Utazame” (Take a look, Mother Mary) as a meditation following Communion at the Aug. 22 Mass at St. Pius X Church in Rock Island celebrated by Bishop Tylka for parishes in the Rock Island Vicariate. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Outside the church, local artist Jill Rodts had filled the walkway with religious chalk art, including sketches of St. Pius X — whose feast was the previous day — and Bishop Tylka’s episcopal coat-of-arms.

In Kewanee, the Saint John Paul II Choir shared a musical prayer for Bishop Tylka following Communion. With impressive harmonies and a soaring seven-fold “Amen,” they sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

In his homily at both locations, Bishop Tylka reflected on the Gospel passages from St. Matthew in which Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

Bishop Tylka encouraged Catholics today to consider the same question. And while it is easy to respond with one of many titles of Jesus — such as “Lord,” “Messiah,” “Son of God,” etc. — Bishop Tylka said Jesus desires a more personal, intimate connection.

“Far beyond any name we can give is the fact that Jesus came to love us, and we are his brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Tylka. A relationship with Jesus should transform us as we experience his love and mercy calling us to “become the best version of ourselves.”

“Who is Jesus to you?” Bishop Tylka asked again. “When you answer the question, follow the Lord and be his disciple.”

He ended both Masses by pledging to return to the respective regions — “This is only my first visit, not my last” — and outlined an ambitious plan to visit each church in the diocese at least once during his first two years. It’s a challenging goal, he said, because “there’s one of me, and lots of you.”

But it’s worth the effort.

Joining Bishop Tylka around the altar for Sunday’s Mass at Saint John Paul II Church in Kewanee were, from left, Father Johndamaseni Zilimu, Father John Cyr, Deacon Martin Van Meltebeck, Father John Burns, and Phil Lee, master of ceremonies. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I think it’s important that we gather as a community of faith,” he said in Rock Island, adding in Kewanee that it’s been “great to begin to know the church that I look forward to serving for many, many years.”

Bishop Tylka said he has especially enjoyed the meals he has shared with the regions’ priests at each locations.

And while the church is “the people of God,” he has taken note of the beauty of the churches he has visited.

“It’s good have a place that we call home,” he said in Rock Island, telling the representatives of the various parishes that “I want to come and see your home.”

The Masses in Rock Island and Kewanee were livestreamed and may be viewed on the Facebook pages of St. Pius X and Saint John Paul II parishes.

NEXT STOPS: CHAMPAIGN AND DANVILLE SEPT. 19-20

Bishop Louis Tylka will continue his “Welcome Tour” with visits the weekend of Sept. 19-20 to Champaign and Danville.

The Mass for the parishes of the Champaign Vicariate will be hosted by St. Matthew Church, 1303 Lincolnshire Drive in Champaign. It begins at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19.

The Sunday Mass for parishes of the Danville Vicariate will begin at 10 a.m. at Holy Family Church, 444 E. Main St., Danville.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Twenty photos from the celebrations in Rock Island and Kewanee have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook. 

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