St. John’s Catholic Newman Center visit concludes Bishop Tylka’s ‘Welcome Tour’

Father Robert Lampitt, center, head chaplain at St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, presents a gift to Bishop Tylka at the close of the Nov. 8 Mass as a "reminder of your time here and our affection for you." Holding the gift bag -- which included a Newman Hall sweatshirt, a book about the growth of the Newman Foundation on campus, and more -- is Ana Rodas, head sacristan. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

CHAMPAIGN – The three-month “Welcome Tour” for Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka officially ended with a visit to St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on the campus of the University of Illinois on Nov. 8. But that doesn’t mean his travels around the Diocese of Peoria are slowing.

“The calendar just gets busier and busier,” Bishop Tylka said in remarks at the end of a 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. John’s Catholic Chapel. In his homily, he challenged the university students to not procrastinate in their studies or their faith lives, urging them to “live this day as disciples of Jesus.”

Bishop Tylka speaks with Newman Hall residents Jasmine Marquez, a sophomore accounting major from St. Hyacinth Parish in LaSalle, and Grace McCoy, a freshman elementary education major from Naperville, after celebrating Mass on Nov. 8 at St. John’s Catholic Chapel in Champaign. At right is Father Robert Lampitt, head chaplain of the Newman Center on the campus of the University of Illinois. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

While the official “Welcome Tour” following his episcopal ordination on July 23 included Masses in all of the diocese’s 12 vicariates as well as tours of three university Newman Centers, Bishop Tylka said that confirmations, visits to Catholic schools, and other pastoral duties will continue to keep him on the road and learning about his new, geographically large diocese.

His remarks came after Father Robert Lampitt, head chaplain of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, presented Bishop Tylka with a gift basket to remind him “of your time here and our affection for you.” Among the basket’s contents were a Newman Hall sweatshirt and a copy of the book “A Campus Ministry” by Patrick J. Daly — a biography of the late Msgr. Edward J. Duncan, who was chaplain and director of the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois from 1943 to 1998 as it grew to be the largest Catholic outreach on a secular campus in the nation.

“I know this is the last of your visits,” Father Lampitt told Bishop Tylka. “Hopefully we’ve saved the best for last.”


Following the Mass, which was attended by about 125 socially distanced students and was concelebrated by Father Lampitt and Father Kyle Lucas, assistant chaplain, Bishop Tylka greeted the students outside St. John’s Chapel on a sunny, 70-degree November day.

He then shared a brunch with about 10 student leaders beneath a tent erected across 6th Street from the church. The students gave brief presentations on ministries and activities at the Newman Center ranging from residence hall life to liturgies to small group Bible studies to charitable outreaches.

Margaret Pluta, coordinator for the November Koinonia Retreat sponsored by St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, tells Bishop Tylka what the retreats offer to students at the University of Illinois in Champaign. The bishop shared a socially distanced brunch with Newman student leaders following Mass on Nov. 8. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I can see the church from my window and I get to go there whenever I want,” said Lizzy Krock in a presentation on Newman Hall. She called the residence hall, which can house 600 students in the heart of campus, a “haven” of “good people striving for truth and faith.”

Kavanaugh Kohls, an assistant resident director, said Newman Hall is noted for its “vibrant and inviting community.”

“We want to witness to Christ’s love to (the students) both in creating the community, adjusting to college life, and finding true friends here,” he told Bishop Tylka.

Ana Rodas, a third year graduate student who is head sacristan at St. John’s Chapel, said it has been a “beautiful experience to learn how to serve and love Jesus through the details of the liturgy.”

After she added that tending to those details “makes the priests’ lives easier,” Bishop Tylka drew laughter by quipping “you can always make Father Lucas’ life a little harder.” Father Lucas was seated next to him.

Bishop Tylka’s visit ended with a tour of the Newman Center complex, including the visitor center, cafeteria, Lewis Lounge, and the chapel.


In his homily, Bishop Tylka noted the Scripture readings are focusing on the end times and being prepared as the church nears the end of its liturgical year.

“We like to procrastinate,” he told the students, noting that approaching end of their semester. “We like to say, ‘Oh, we’ll get to that tomorrow. We’ve got plenty of time.’ Only to find out that we don’t.

St. John’s Catholic Chapel at the University of Illinois in Champaign is the backdrop as Bishop Tylka visits with members of the Newman Center community after celebrating Mass there on Nov. 8. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“It might be trying to get that last paper finished, it might be trying to cram for that final exam,” he continued, before challenging the students in a different area. “It might be in living our life for the Lord. ‘I’ll do that tomorrow,’ we say. ‘I’ll become your disciple later on when it’s more convenient for me.’”

He urged the students to “be prepared” and to “live this day as disciples of Jesus.”

Throughout the visit, there were reminders that this is a school year unlike any other because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Newman Center continues to adapt with a variety of safety measures in place. Tristan Pisarczyk, director of operations and finance, said that because of the state and region’s current spike in cases, dining at Newman Hall is now takeout only. All university students are tested for coronavirus twice weekly. The good news is that Newman Hall has been able to maintain 80-percent occupancy.

“I look forward hopefully soon when we get over this pandemic to be able to come and spend time and interact on a more personal level,” Bishop Tylka told the students.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from Bishop Tylka’s visit to St. John’s Catholic Newman Center have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook. 


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