Priests observing milestone years invited to ‘return to roots’ at Jubilarian Mass
It was not possible to hold the Jubilarian Mass to honor priests observing milestone anniversaries last year due to COVID-19, so this year’s liturgy on June 22 offered twice the reason to celebrate.
Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka presided at the Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria and said it was good to be able to honor those “who have dedicated their life to the Lord and served our church so well,” and “to show our support for one another and to encourage us all to continue in our path of discipleship.”
Priests observing 60, 50 and 25 years since ordination were profiled in a special section of The Catholic Post’s edition dated May 23.
While masks were optional, social distancing was still observed in the cathedral. The priests were vested and seated before the Mass began, with a procession that included Bishop Tylka, who is observing the silver jubilee of his priesthood ordination; Father R. Michael Schaab, golden jubilarian, as homilist; Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, and Msgr. Paul Showalter, retired vicar general; and the seminarians.
Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, attended the Mass “in choro” and was seated in the sanctuary, near the cathedra. Msgr. Halfacre and Msgr. Showalter joined him after reverencing the altar.
In addition to recognizing the jubilarians, the Mass offered an opportunity for all the priests to welcome newly ordained Father Austin Bosse and Father Nicolas Wilson.
Representing those around the diocese who were not able to attend were a few members of area religious communities and diocesan staff, and laity.
After Mass, the priests continued the celebration with a dinner and conversation at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center.
RETURNING TO ROOTS
“Jubilees invite us to return to our roots,” Father Schaab said in his homily. As he did that, he shared how his call to priestly ministry had included both attractions and rejections.
Among those who made an impression were the missionaries who would visit his parish, St. Patrick in Peoria, when he was growing up.
“But I wasn’t attracted to them because I didn’t want to leave my home and my family,” he said. “That was one thing I rejected.”
Twelve years later as student at Spalding Institute in Peoria and a member of the Vocation Club, he would decline an invitation to join the Clerics of St. Viator who taught there.
“I was sure I’d never be a teacher. Something else I rejected,” Father Schaab said.
And yet, 30 years ago he was in Zambia, on the faculty of St. Augustine Major Seminary, working for the Zambian Episcopal Conference.
“I’m a missionary and I’m teaching full time, and it dawns on me: Everything I rejected — going where I didn’t want to go and doing what I refused to do — was my life and that was what it was all about,” he said.
“How did it happen that what I rejected had become the cornerstone of my ministry?” Father Schaab said. He noted that St. Paul provides the answer.
“We know all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” Father Schaab said.
Now he is watching as “God’s purpose” has called priests from Africa to serve the church as missionaries in Illinois.
“My African brothers, I thank God for your vocations and for your coming to the Peoria Diocese,” Father Schaab said.
He concluded by offering words of encouragement to those in the cathedral, including Bishop Jenky, “on those days when you wonder if the words of Peter were meant for you, ‘Someone else will fasten your belt and take you where you do not wish to go’”; Bishop Tylka “when you, like Moses, have those moments when you feel like praying, ‘Oh, my Lord, send someone else’”; the priests “when an additional parish is assigned to you and the ADA goal seems impossible to attain”; and “all of us priestly people, when you face the big and small challenges of human life, when things get tough.”
“Remember this eucharistic celebration and the message of these Scriptures, which is expressed in that rhetorical question St. Paul sets before each one of us, for it will give us the same courage that Moses and Simon Peter discovered in their vocations,” Father Schaab said. “My dear friends, if God is for us, who can be against us?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Jubilarian Mass was livestreamed. To watch the video and hear Father Schaab’s homily in its entirety, click here.