Thank you, Archbishop Myers
The last two weeks have been a very busy news cycle in the Catholic press. Pope Francis addressed the United Nations and released both an encyclical and an apostolic letter. A high ranking cardinal resigned. A Catholic was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court. The President of the United States and many in his inner circle contracted the coronavirus just weeks prior to the election. Locally, Bishop Jenky released a strong statement defending the right to life, and Coadjutor Bishop Tylka concluded his “welcome tour” of the diocese’s 12 vicariates.
But for the Diocese of Peoria, there was no bigger news in early fall than the death of Archbishop John J. Myers. While he had been away from his native central Illinois for nearly two decades to serve as Archbishop of Newark, the impact of his priesthood and service here as bishop continues to resonate and will for years to come.
That’s why, with so much other news demanding attention and space, we devoted the first half of this special edition of The Catholic Post to reporting on the magnificent funeral for our seventh bishop, sharing the memories of just a few of those who knew him well, and reprinting a selection of his teachings and actions.
Other voices on these pages have recalled major events with Bishop Myers that this reporter will never forget — the visit of Mother Teresa, the Eucharistic Congress, the ordinations of so many priests, the regional Masses welcoming Jubilee Year 2000. These events and so many others led us . . . led me . . . deeper into the Catholic faith.
But perhaps my favorite moment with Bishop Myers was on a much smaller scale. In 1993, The Catholic Post hosted about 70 Catholic journalists from around the Midwest for a convention. Bishop Myers was our featured speaker. Because he was already making national news, the journalists were very interested in his thoughts. He thanked us for our service to the life of the church and called the Catholic press is “an essential arm of the communications effort of the church.” While acknowledging our pages must at times address controversy or dissent, he said a “diocesan newspaper must make it clear that it stands with the church.”
Those remarks were appreciated, but what was endearing was how he began his talk. Earlier that year, Bishop Myers had been in a minor traffic accident. His secretary, Edie Pearson, gave him a miter-shaped “Bishop’s Crash Helmet,” complete with his coat of arms. He brought the helmet to the talk, pulled it over his head, and joked that it was an important accessory because, as a bishop, “you need all the protection you can get.”
Whether you knew of Archbishop Myers or are just learning of him, we hope you spend time with this special issue. His clear teaching offered a needed spiritual protection for us all. We are grateful. And we are confident that, to quote the title of one of his pastoral letters, Archbishop Myers has reached “full knowledge of the truth” with the Lord he loved and served so well. –– Thomas J. Dermody