Adventures continue for ‘Bishop Lou’ as he celebrates 25 years of priesthood

Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka celebrates Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on May 8, the brithday of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. Bishop Tylka was ordained to the priesthood on May 18, 1996, but Cardinal Joseph Bernardin at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

So many of the things Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka has done in the last year were not things he learned in the seminary. Among them is how to minister to people during a pandemic — or how to be a bishop.

Some things have remained very much the same, however.

“It’s never about yourself,” he said. “God is going to use you in ways that you would never imagine or feel capable of. The more you’re dependent upon the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, the more successful you’ll be.”

As he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his priesthood ordination, Bishop Tylka continues to look for ways to reach out to people, bring the sacraments to them, and discern what God is asking of him each day.

Bishop Tylka was ordained May 18, 1996, by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. He remembers standing in the cathedral sacristy with his five classmates and saying, “Everything we thought priesthood was going to be is going to be an adventure that we are only going to discover.”

“And it has been quite an adventure,” he told The Catholic Post. “I am still discovering all the surprises that God has in store for us.”

“HUMBLING, TENDER MOMENTS”

After ordination, Bishop Tylka served as pastoral associate at St. Michael Parish in Orland Park for seven years, and at Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity Parish in Winnetka for one year. In 2004 he was named pastor at Mater Christi Parish and the Shrine of Mary, Mother of Mothers, in North Riverside, and in 2014 he was assigned to be pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park.

In addition to his parish ministry, Bishop Tylka held a variety of roles on the archdiocesan level. One of them was as chair of the Presbyteral Council from 2015 to 2020.

He was named Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria on May 11, 2020, and his episcopal ordination was July 23, 2020, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. As the coadjutor bishop, he is an assistant to Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and will succeed Bishop Jenky when he retires.

Since then, Bishop Tylka, known informally as Bishop Lou, has crisscrossed the Diocese of Peoria for a series of Masses in each of the 12 vicariates and at Catholic Newman Centers, as well as a number of informal visits for weekend liturgies. One example of how quickly his calendar is filling is that he had 25 confirmations scheduled between Easter and June 1.

But he doesn’t consider numbers an indication of success.

“In so much of my life as a priest, success has certainly not been measured in the ways of the world, but in God’s ways,” Bishop Tylka said. “Some of the smallest acts have the biggest impact. Often you don’t know that.”

He also spoke of “those humbling, tender moments where I, as a priest, have gotten to witness someone else’s faith.” One of those moments comes with the commemoration of the passion on Good Friday.

“When you know the people of the parish and you know what crosses they’ve borne, to see them come to venerate the cross — I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through Good Friday when I haven’t cried,” Bishop Tylka said.

“I could sit there and look out and see that this one was battling cancer or that family has a marriage that’s breaking up or a kid who has just had a traumatic experience of sorts. Or the tenderness of seeing Mom and Dad bring up a 4-year-old,” he said. “That’s a unique perspective that as a priest, again, I’ve had the blessing to encounter.”

LESSONS LEARNED

Talking about lessons learned during the pandemic, Bishop Tylka said it emphasized how much people feel the need to be connected.

“I think we would take for granted that we’re connected because we can always pick up the phone and, more than making a phone call, send a text, send an email,” he explained. “But the human need to be with somebody, to be in the presence of somebody, I think there’s a greater appreciation for that.”

He said the pandemic has also taught us that we must continue to be creative, especially when it comes to reaching out and expressing our faith.

“We tend to sacrifice the good because we’re waiting for the perfect,” Bishop Tylka told The Post. “It may not be the best way to do Mass, but the fact that we can livestream Mass is a good thing.”

He said he has been impressed with the creativity and commitment of the pastors, priests and parish staffs who have reached out to people who never had any idea of what Facebook and livestreaming was. He also commended parishioners for offering support and taking care of one another.

In addition, Bishop Tylka praised the teachers for being able, on a dime, to switch to remote learning, and the principals and administrators for trying to keep their school communities moving forward.

There have also been lessons about being a bishop.

“I’m growing in my appreciation and understanding of my role as a bishop,” he said. “It is still — and I hope it always will be — overwhelming to think that I now bear the title ‘successor to the apostles.’”

Bishop Tylka stays grounded by remembering, “I’m still who I am. I’m still a baby brother to sisters and I’m still a friend to friends.”

The son of Louis M. and the late Norma Tylka, his sisters are Linda Tylka, Brenda Landau, Tésa Dunning and Patty Arvia. The youngest of the girls was Mary Lou Bryant, who died of cancer on June 13, 2020.

CELEBRATION PLANS

The gatherings for Bishop Tylka’s anniversary have already begun.

On May 18 he celebrated Mass for members of the diocesan staff. Bishop Jenky hosted a lunch afterward at the Spalding Pastoral Center.

Bishop Tylka is planning a private Mass and dinner for family and friends this Saturday, May 22, and will celebrate the 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, May 23.

Mail for Bishop Tylka may be sent to the Spalding Pastoral Center, 419 N.E. Madison Ave., Peoria, IL 61603.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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