‘Pray hard, play hard’: Visits help seminarians, Bishop Tylka get acquainted
Father Patrick Henehan, vocation director of formation for the Diocese of Peoria, had company when he made his fall visits to seminarians at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Minnesota and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka took the opportunity to go along and learn more about the seminaries and his future priests during the October trips.
“I think Bishop Lou has made it known that he wants to get to know as much as he can and part of that emphasis is definitely our seminarians,” Father Henehan told The Catholic Post. It has been tradition for Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, to visit the seminaries and Bishop John J. Myers did it before him.
“In terms of our guys, I think he saw what we all know, which is they really enjoy being together and they really enjoy their focus on the Lord,” Father Henehan said. “We pray hard and we play hard. The joy that comes from that, the fraternity of our men, shines and I think he got to see that.”
That brotherhood is something that Father Henehan wants them to have for their priesthood.
A PASTOR’S HEART
Part of that “play hard” mentality came in the form of a baseball game at Mount St. Mary’s that pitted the seminarians from the Diocese of Peoria against the seminarians from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, where Bishop Jenky served as auxiliary bishop for five years before coming to central Illinois. The First Annual Bishop Jenky Classic was touted as the “first bout between the best of the Midwest.”
Bishop Tylka threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Msgr. Andrew Baker, seminary rector.
“I’ll be honest with you — we were not the favorites,” said Father Henehan, who played second base. “When I talked to Bishop Jenky I was worried. But fear not. Our seminarians saved the day.”
“We’re proud to say we won the game 15-1,” said Jack Swoik of Pekin, who is in his first year of theology studies at Mount St. Mary’s. “We were certainly the underdogs, but we came out very much victorious. . . . We shut them down.”
He said he appreciated Bishop Tylka’s openness with the seminarians and his desire to talk with them as brothers in Christ. He was especially impressed when Bishop Tylka asked them, “What can I do for you?”
“For me, that shows the true pastor’s heart that he has,” Swoik said. “I think he really wants to know, ‘What can I do for you to make your experience better so you’ll be a good, holy priest?’”
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
The schools and institutions of the Diocese of Peoria aren’t the only ones keeping a close eye on COVID-19. The seminarians will all come home to central Illinois for their Thanksgiving break and won’t return to the Minnesota and Maryland seminaries until January.
Father Henehan said the plan is to bring them together at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign for two weeks in early December so they will be able to maintain their prayer life and formation. He’s hoping to include some practical things, too, such as cooking for the diocesan priest, basic parish finances, or diocesan history.
“Sometimes when we go home we slip into home habits, and we want to make sure their seminary stays solidly within them,” Father Henehan said.
Pandemic realities could make it necessary to change what is planned, but for now, “We’re excited,” he told The Post.