A retrospective: 20 years of diocesan leadership by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, receives applause as he is seated for the first time in the Bishop's Chair at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria during his Mass of Installation on April 10, 2002. (For The Catholic Post/Patrick Murphy-Racey)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following retrospective was published in a special issue of The Catholic Post dated Feb. 13, 2022. The full edition may be viewed here:

As we begin our look back at some of the highlights of Bishop Jenky’s two decades of leadership in the Diocese of Peoria, we acknowledge that this review is far from comprehensive. You will not find every ordination, appointment, blessing of a church or school, and certainly not every decision he prayerfully made. We have pulled out samples of his actions and teachings to offer an idea of the scope of his episcopacy and a hint of his teaching.

2002: Joyful welcomes, difficult decisions, Sheen cause opens

FEBRUARY

Appointed by Pope John Paul II as the eighth Bishop of Peoria and the first Peoria bishop who is a member of a religious community (the Congregation of Holy Cross). A native of Chicago’s south side with long service at the University of Notre Dame, Bishop Jenky was an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend at the time of his appointment to Peoria.

At a press conference in Peoria on the day of his appointment, promises “to do my very best to preach the Gospel, celebrate the sacraments, and shepherd the Church.” His day included a welcome from hundreds of Catholic school and Newman Center students; a lunch meeting with priest leaders of the diocese; Mass with the Missionaries of Charity; and a visit to St. Joseph Home in West Peoria. At day’s end, he expressed gratitude for the warm welcome, adding “Now I’m a Peoria man from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.”

MARCH

In a lengthy interview with The Catholic Post, expresses “great anticipation” about the approaching installation ceremonies, which he hopes will be a “celebration for the diocese.” Saying his top priority is to announce the Gospel, adds “I would hope our patch of the Kingdom would be to its core evangelical, reaching out and bringing more people to the faith and bringing back people who have drifted away.”

APRIL

Installed as the Diocese of Peoria’s eighth shepherd during two days of celebration April 9-10. Concelebrants at the installation Mass included Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the United States; Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago; and Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, who Bishop Jenky succeeded as Bishop of Peoria. In his homily to an overflow crowd of more than 1,000, says that “Jesus Christ is the true bishop and head of the whole church and the true shepherd of this diocese.”

At his first press conference, calls sexual abuse within the church an “unspeakable horror,” apologizes to past victims and announces 10 “enhancements” of existing diocesan policies on the protection of children.

MAY

Announces St. Mary School in Streator would close at the end of the year.

In his first ordination ceremony in the diocese, ordains 29 “good and faithful servants” to the permanent diaconate. A week later, calling the occasion a “moment of renewal” for clergy and laity alike, presides at the priestly ordination of Father John F. Cyr.

Establishes a Diocesan Review Commission to investigate and review sexual abuse allegations made against lay and clerical employees of the Peoria diocese.

JUNE

Asks seven priests of the diocese to step down from public ministry following allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors. An eighth priest was removed from public ministry two weeks later. “I believe it is important to also state publicly that the overwhelming majority of priests, religious, and laity that serve this diocese have been faithful to their vocations in the Church,” he adds.

Takes part in historic gathering of U.S. bishops in Dallas, at which the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” was approved.

JULY

In an interview after his first 100 days as bishop, says his goal for the diocese is “to put evangelism at the very top of our agenda — to win back everyone who was baptized Catholic and who has drifted away from the faith.”

AUGUST

Presides at the dedication of the Believers Together Community Center at Christ the King Parish, Moline, to serve the Cursillo and Teens Encounter Christ communities. The following week, takes part in groundbreaking ceremonies for a new Central Catholic High School in Bloomington. “It is truly the Lord who is the builder of this school, working through you,” he said.

SEPTEMBER

Announces that the Diocese of Peoria has petitioned the Vatican to open the sainthood cause of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a native of El Paso who became a legendary orator, writer and television personality and a “spectacular” witness for Christ. “The church canonizes saints to help us grow in holiness by their example,” he said. “When I read Archbishop Sheen’s works, I hope I could have even a drop of his zeal.”

Welcomes 800 students from around the diocese to St. Mary’s Cathedral for a new tradition: an all-schools Mass at the beginning of the school year.

OCTOBER

Blesses the $4.5 million new St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Peoria Heights, calling it “an outward sign of your inward commitment to try to drink more deeply of the Lord’s life-giving words.”

NOVEMBER

Announces plans for the diocese to implement a national sexual abuse prevention program called “Protecting God’s Children.” Thirty-two volunteers were trained and brought the program to more than 1,500 Catholics by month’s end.

TEACHING

“The awesome mystery of God’s love should always be the heart and soul of everything the church is and everything the church does. That alone is the reason for our being, to know God’s love and to be in love with God and to share that love with everyone we meet.”

From Installation Mass homily — April 10, 2002

2003: A war begins, a homily inspires, a campaign opens

JANUARY

Establishes the annual practice of issuing a “Festival Letter” to the diocese at the start of each year on the Feast of the Epiphany. The letters are teaching documents announcing the dates for various feasts and setting the tone for the coming diocesan year. The theme of the 2003 letter was “A Reflection on Prayer.”

MARCH

As the U.S.-led war in Iraq began, seeks prayers for justice, peace, an end to terrorism, for those serving in the armed forces as well as the safety and protection of all civilians. Presides at a Mass in Time of War at St. Mary’s Cathedral, calling the war the latest of many reminders that life on earth is fragile and impermanent.

APRIL

Designates 15 churches as Marian pilgrimage destinations during the month of May as part of the Year of the Rosary proclaimed by Pope John Paul II. Encourages all in the diocese to recommit themselves “to our Mother who constantly intercedes for her children.”

MAY

Ordains the largest class of new priests, eight, during his episcopacy. “The Holy Spirit continues to bless us with bright, enthusiastic priests dedicated to serving God and the Catholic Church,” he said.

Announces the purchase of a former government building near the cathedral to house diocesan offices. It would be re-named for Bishop John B. Franz, the fifth Bishop of Peoria.

AUGUST

Calls the Diocese of Peoria’s first Mass for the Widowed, Divorced, or Separated “an expression of the love the Diocese of Peoria, its bishop and priests, and the entire Catholic community have for all of you who have experienced suffering and loss in your lives.”

Delivers one of his most passionate and oft-quoted homilies at a Mass at an Irish festival in downtown Peoria. Urges Catholic faithful to “rise up and stand with our God” in the midst of a culture that “is basically at war with Jesus Christ.” The homily inspires a grassroots movement among Catholic men and leads to an annual “Call to Catholic Men of Faith” march and Mass.

OCTOBER

Presides at a diocesan Rosary Congress that draws 1,200 to the cathedral to close the Year of the Rosary.

Blesses the new Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, and says Jesus is “the reason for all Catholic education, and for this wonderful new facility.”

Bestows the Diocese of Peoria’s Spalding Medal on Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago in a ceremony that also recognized 98 persons with Pere Marquette Awards for service to the diocese, and 10 priests who received new monsignor titles.

NOVEMBER

Issues a 6,000-word pastoral letter on the liturgy on the theme, “One Body, One Spirit in Christ.” Urges “greater reverence for the mysteries we celebrate” and asks parishes to keep the tabernacle in a prominent and readily visible place in their churches.

DECEMBER

Announces the largest capital campaign in diocesan history, the $32 million “Rooted in Faith” campaign challenging “this generation of Catholics” to keep the Catholic school system alive and accessible to all. The drive was conducted throughout 2005 and proved to be incredibly successful, leading to three major endowments supporting Catholic schools, religious education, and Newman ministries.

TEACHING

“Each day we should read at least a little portion of the Bible. Every syllable of the Scriptures is from God. In a world full of lies and confusion, we should read the Scriptures the way someone desperate and starving might eat and drink.”

From 2003 Festival Letter, “A Reflection on Prayer”

2004: A lay chancellor, a call to Catholic men

JANUARY

Reflects on Christian service in his second “Festival Letter” to the diocese. Citing the “fundamental connection between the love of God and the love of neighbor,” the bishop calls on Catholics to accept “their baptismal commission to win the world for Jesus Christ” through Christian service.

FEBRUARY

Approves the parish-level decision to close St. Bernard School in Peoria for financial reasons.

At the first diocesan Marriage Mass, shares enthusiasm for the couples who “embody God” through their shared love.

MARCH

Designates newly renovated St. Mark Church in Peoria a diocesan shrine to Blessed Fra Angelico, an Italian monk and painter whose works have been extensively reproduced in the church.

MAY

Tells 900 at the first “Call to Catholic Men of Faith” march and Mass that we live “in a largely pagan culture, where it is not always clear how a man should act, or how a man should live,” and asks them to look to the example of St. Joseph, “who never went back on his promises and never withdrew from his commitments.”

Names Patricia Gibson as the first lay chancellor in diocesan history, and Msgr. Paul Showalter as a vicar general.

JUNE

Meets Pope John Paul II during an “ad limina” visit to Rome.

JULY

Offers a Mass for workers in Galesburg shortly after 800 jobs were eliminated at that community’s Maytag plant. Says the community “will need perhaps more than ever before, to trust in that most basic relationship, that relationship with God.”

OCTOBER

Names 20 parishes in the diocese to serve as special sites for pilgrimage and eucharistic devotion during the approaching “Year of the Eucharist” declared by Pope John Paul II. Presides at a Rosary Congress at the cathedral to open the year of devotion.

NOVEMBER

Saying they had “built up the faith of your bishop” at the first diocesan Evangelization Congress at Illinois State University in Normal, tells the crowd of 1,200 to “now go out and build up the faith of the church!”

After an announcement that St. Joseph’s Home in West Peoria would close, commends the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception for serving Christ by “giving gentle, hands-on, and loving care to the sick and elderly” there for more than a century.

Calling them “friends of God,” bestows the diocese’s Spalding Medal on The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.

DECEMBER

Rededicates all parishes, schools, apostolates, institutions and people of the diocese to the care and protection of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the dogma.

TEACHING

“No Christian can honestly claim to love God unless that love is expressed in our love for one another.”

From 2004 Festival Letter, “Christian Service”

2005: Papal transition, Catholic education focus

JANUARY

Third “Festival Letter” explores the priorities and expectations of Catholic education in the Diocese of Peoria. Writes that “Jesus Christ should always be publicly acknowledged as The Teacher in our schools and the Lord of everything we undertake in religious education or college-age ministries.”

Approves the creation of two new grade schools from mergers: Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline and Trinity Catholic Academy in LaSalle.

Grants permission for Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, vicar general and administrator of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Peoria, to accept an appointment as rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

FEBRUARY

Announces the “incredible success” of the Rooted in Faith Capital Campaign, which exceeded its $32 million goal by more than $5 million. “The personal sacrifices that members of our diocese have made to ensure the success of this diocese-wide campaign will allow us to keep our children and our faith rooted into future generations of our church,” he said.

Names Brother William Dygert, CSC, to serve as the next superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Peoria, succeeding Patricia Kawczynski.

APRIL

Hosts nine days of mourning in the diocese following the death of Pope John Paul II. “Everywhere he went there was adulation and acclaim, but he always pointed all that acclamation to the place it belongs — to God, to Jesus Christ, our Savior,” Bishop Jenky said in a memorial Mass homily, adding that in his final months the late pope “gave us an example of how to get ready for heaven.”

Welcomed the election of Pope Benedict XVI “with gratitude and thanks to Almighty God and enormous happiness.” He called the new pope “the pastor and shepherd we need” and noted he is “a great scholar, a linguist, but most of all he is a humble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

JUNE

In a “hard decision” prompted by structural damage to St. Joseph Church in Rock Island, announces the suspension of Masses at the 130-year-old downtown parish.

OCTOBER

Approves the naming of six “regional directors of religious education” to be based throughout the diocese.

Closes the “Year of the Eucharist” by presiding over a 40 Hours of Eucharistic Devotion at the cathedral that included the celebration of a Byzantine Catholic liturgy. “The Blessed Sacrament is the Church’s greatest treasure,” he said. “It is an endless fountain of sanctifying grace.”

NOVEMBER

Saying “our honoree embodies the great Dominican tradition of holiness and learning,” presents diocese’s Spalding Award to Father Andrew Fabian, OP, a seminary instructor who has educated many of the diocese’s current priests.

TEACHING

“We do not sponsor a private schools system; we support a Catholic schools system. Our approach to religious education and moral instruction should never be ‘Catholic light,’ but always Catholic intensive.”

From 2005 Festival Letter, “Christ the Teacher”

2006: Sunday Mass importance, major building plans

JANUARY

Calls for “very explicit and extended teaching” throughout 2006 on the moral necessity of participating at Sunday Mass. His annual Festival Letter is a strongly worded outline of Catholic teaching on the importance of weekly Mass attendance.

FEBRUARY

In an address in Rome, challenges Catholic universities to be the “yeast in the loaf in higher education,” setting themselves apart from other institutions by turning students into saints as well as scholars. “Our schools should never look, think and act just like every other school, politically correct, unquestioning and totally submissive to all the cultural dogmas of the moment.”

With “excitement and enthusiasm” as well as a call for prayer, announces plans for a new pastoral center to serve the Diocese of Peoria and unite ministries now scattered in several aging buildings. The complex will be built on property surrounding the former Spalding Institute between downtown Peoria and St. Mary’s Cathedral.

MARCH

Confirms the decision reached by parish leaders that St. Stephen School in Streator, founded 116 years ago, would close at the end of the school year.

MAY

Names Father Gregory Ketcham to succeed Msgr. Stuart Swetland as director and head chaplain of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois.

NOVEMBER

Charges a revamped Parish and Institutions Committee with the task of planning for expected growth in the diocese over the next 50 years. Saying the diocese has a “promising future,” the bishop added that “I worry as much about making right decisions about areas of growth as I do for those experiencing decline.”

Presides at the rededication of Sacred Heart Church in Peoria and the dedication of the new St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington.

Announces a “monumental” expansion project at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, including a 316-bed residence hall and the extensive renovation of existing Newman Hall.

Noting that the college years are “critical faith forming years,” bestows the diocese’s Spalding Award for service to Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

TEACHING

“Many of the same folks who today insist that their children receive all the prescribed inoculations against disease, brush and floss their teeth, do their homework, practice musical instruments, and prepare for their SATs, apparently wimp out when it comes to the obligation to worship Almighty God.”

From 2006 Festival Letter, “Eucharist and Sunday”

2007: Honoring the past, looking to the future

JANUARY

Declares 2007 as a year of remembrance for the Diocese of Peoria’s founding bishop, John Lancaster Spalding, who arrived 130 years ago. His fifth Festival Letter to the diocese also establishes “Rejoice in God Our Savior” as the theme for the anniversary year, and calls for a renewal of love and devotion to the Blessed Mother utilizing her image as Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Enthrones an icon of Mary as Our Mother of Perpetual Help at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, then travels more than 400 miles over two days distributing copies of the icon to representatives of all Catholic schools at a series of four regional Masses to open Catholic Schools Week. “The greatest knowledge you will ever learn is having Jesus as the Lord of your life and finding in Him the meaning of your life,” he told the students and faculty in attendance.

MARCH

Calls Catholic schools “an irreplaceable good” at a statewide Summit for Catholic School Education that drew five bishops and hundreds of school representatives to Bloomington. Not only do the schools educate and shape minds, but they “can and they should change the world.”

APRIL

Blesses OSF Holy Family Medical Center in Monmouth after OSF HealthCare acquired the former Community Medical Center of Western Illinois.

MAY

In moves to ensure a stronger future for the faith in the heavily Catholic region, announces the suspension of all services at Resurrection Parish, LaSalle, and Sacred Heart Mission, Dimmick; and the suspension of all Sunday services at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish, LaSalle. Holy Rosary was designated as a diocesan shrine for veterans.

JUNE

Names Msgr. William Watson as the first president of Peoria Notre Dame High School as it becomes the first Catholic school in the diocese to implement a “president/principal” model of administration.

SEPTEMBER

Travels to France to attend the beatification of Father Basile-Antoine Marie Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Compares Catholic school teachers to a “Marine Corps” for the church as he commissions 1,100 at the opening Mass of the Diocesan Teacher Institute.

OCTOBER

Rejoices at the birth of a new religious family in the diocese in accepting final vows of 10 members of the Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Peoria Heights.

NOVEMBER

Tells 1,600 at a “You Are Called” conference at the Peoria Civic Center that “the Lord is speaking to our hearts and asking us to change. I pray that all of us, starting with your bishop, give the right answer.”

Presides at an Honors Mass and Dinner in which 47 religious communities were recognized with the Spalding Award for their service to Catholic schools throughout diocesan history. During the evening, monsignor titles were bestowed on five priests, eight individuals received other papal honors, the first Schlarman Awards for longtime service to the diocese and its parishes were bestowed, and 27 people received the Pere Marquette Award.

TEACHING

“No Catholic community should ever think of itself as if it were merely a private neighborhood club. We are never just a member of our own parish or a particular religious organization or apostolate. We are also members of a diocese, which is our local church, and we always are essentially a part of the Universal Church.”

From 2007 Festival Letter, “Anniversaries”

2008: Newman expansion, a new pastoral center

JANUARY

Blesses $4.1 million parish hall and gymnasium for St. Mary Parish and School in Pontiac as the community reels from a major flood of the Vermilion River affecting hundreds of homes.

Emphasizes the strength that comes from unity as he celebrates regional Catholic Schools Week Masses in Ottawa, East Moline, Champaign, and Peoria. “It’s important to know whose team we’re on in our schools, in our church, in our diocese and in our lives — that we be guided by the teaching of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit,” he told 2,200 students, teachers and administrators.

FEBRUARY

Presides at historic ceremonies at St. Mary’s Cathedral closing the diocesan phase of the sainthood cause for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. During the Mass, which was televised globally by EWTN, the bishop sealed boxes containing five years of research into the life and virtues of the famous native of El Paso in the Diocese of Peoria.

APRIL

Calls Catholic education “one of the most important ministries of our diocese” in helping to announce that St. Jude Parish in Peoria is planning to open the first new Catholic elementary school to be established within the diocese in more than four decades.

MAY

Ordains six priests for the Diocese of Peoria, including Father Douglas Grandon, the first priest to be ordained for this diocese in accord with a pastoral provision permitting married former Episcopal (Anglican) priests to be admitted to the Catholic priesthood in the United States.

Directs that priests formerly known as assistant pastors at parishes now be referred to as “parochial vicars,” the term used in the church’s Code of Canon Law.

JUNE

Promulgates newly revised curriculum guidelines for parish religious education and CCD programs. Within the guidelines are directives for catechists on what should be taught at each grade level, as well as in their First Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation classes.

JULY

Announces the suspension of regularly scheduled Masses at St. Patrick Parish in Ransom. The church would remain open for funerals, weddings, and baptisms.

AUGUST

Asks that all in the diocese begin discussing ways to make the rosary a more essential part of their lives in preparation for a “Year of the Most Holy Rosary” to be observed in the diocese beginning in August 2009.

SEPTEMBER

Calls St. John’s Catholic Newman Center a “beacon of hope” on the University of Illinois campus during a celebration dedicating and blessing the center’s $38 million major expansion and renovation project, including a new North Hall that houses about 300 additional residents. The original Newman buildings were dedicated in honor of Msgr. Edward Duncan, who guided the center for 54 years.

OCTOBER

Welcomes a new religious community to the diocese, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who were establishing their first house outside of the Archdiocese of Miami and will take over the operation of King’s House of Retreats, the diocesan retreat center located in rural Henry.

NOVEMBER

Moves in, along with other chancery officials and the staff of two dozen diocesan departments, to the newly completed Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. The four-story brick structure, located two blocks north of St. Mary’s Cathedral, was built using funds from the sale of land and required no other fundraising.

TEACHING

“Both our hope in the resurrection and our love for one another should oblige us to pray constantly for all those who have died and gone before us. The Church faithfully honors the memory of the dead and offers ceaseless prayers for their eternal rest, above all in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.”

From 2008 Festival Letter, “Prayers for the Dead”

2009: Year of the Rosary, study of schools

JANUARY

Saying that “perhaps we now need the rosary in our arsenal of prayers more than ever,” begins 2009 by calling for a renewal of love for the Blessed Mother and a greater appreciation of the rosary as a tool for spiritual growth and evangelization. His annual Festival Letter announces a “Year of the Most Holy Rosary” would begin in August.

Joins contingent from the Diocese of Peoria at annual March for Life activities in Washington, D.C. Says the size and enthusiasm of the Peoria pilgrim group — including hundreds of students from Catholic high schools and Newman Centers in the diocese as well as their chaplains, chaperones, and other priests and seminarians — “shows we are a 100 percent pro-life diocese.”

FEBRUARY

Receives the Bronze Pelican Award for his support for Catholic Scouting in a surprise presentation at the end of the annual Diocesan Scout Mass.

Announces papal honors for seven priests of the diocese, including the elevation of Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general, to the highest level of monsignor.

MARCH

Takes part with other Illinois bishops in a “Catholics at the Capitol” rally in Springfield attended by 4,000, including 900 Catholic school students from the Diocese of Peoria. Calls the event an opportunity for Catholics to shake off their passivity in order to safeguard their institutions.

MAY

Pending further study of the needs of Catholics in the Illinois Valley and Quad Cities areas, announces the suspension of Masses at St. Mary, East Moline; St. Benedict, Ladd; St. Thomas More, Dalzell; Sts. Peter and Paul, Spring Valley; and St. Gertrude, Seatonville.

JUNE

Joins more than 1,000 Catholics from 19 faith communities in the Champaign vicariate for the first “Catholic Connected: Beyond the Pew” event at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center. “Be head over heels in love with God” and “ready for adventure,” he urged the assembly.

Tells Catholics from 21 faith communities taking part in a eucharistic procession at St. Hyacinth’s Church in LaSalle that only God’s love can fully and permanently satisfy us.

AUGUST

Following two years of study, releases a long-range planning initiative for Catholic school education called “Renewing Our Mission: Planning for Our Future.” Later in the year major changes in Catholic education were announced in Ottawa and Danville, which began restructuring plans leading to the formation of Marquette Academy and Schlarman Academy.

SEPTEMBER

Renames the diocesan retreat center in Henry, formerly known as King’s House of Retreats, as “Nazareth House” during ceremonies attended by the entire religious community of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Says the new name reflects the center’s mission to be “a home and school of the life of the Holy Family and of the life of the church, the family of Jesus.”

NOVEMBER

Calls members of the Serra Club of the Champaign-Urbana Vicariate and the Peoria Area Religious Vocations Support Group “true heroes of our diocese” as he presents the Pere Marquette Award to the groups for their efforts to grow a culture of vocations.

TEACHING

“In the midst of culture wars, the deconstruction of marriage, a moral meltdown, the mass media’s intense hatred for the Catholic Church, the economic crisis, foreign wars, and a culture of death, perhaps we now need the Rosary in our arsenal of prayers more than ever.” — From 2009 Festival Letter, “Hail, Full of Grace”

2010: Changes in Streator, a new Newman name

JANUARY

In a Festival Letter on the theme of vocations, writes that “the most important thing for any believer to discover is the will of God.”

Requests a special collection be received throughout the diocese to show solidarity with the people of Haiti devastated by an earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. The collection raised more than $520,000. Catholics of the Diocese of Peoria have long had close ties with the poor Caribbean nation and several groups sent mission teams to assist.

FEBRUARY

Confirms the decision of the leadership of St. Mary Parish in Westville to close the parish school at the end of the school year.

MARCH

Composes Stations of the Cross meditations utilized during Lenten devotions at St. Mary’s Cathedral and printed in The Catholic Post using images of Stations from churches around the diocese. A Catholic Post-produced video of the meditations utilizing images from churches across the diocese has been viewed more than 50,000 times.

APRIL

Saying that placing the Blessed Sacrament at the physical center of the church puts Christ at the center of our spiritual lives as well, issues directive asking that tabernacles be located “in the direct center at the back of the sanctuary” in all churches and chapels in the diocese.

In a video documentary on the life of Archbishop Sheen produced by the Sheen Foundation, calls the Catholic media pioneer and diocesan native “one of the most important evangelizers in the history of the United States.”

JUNE

Produces 11-minute DVD “Message for the Divorced” in conjunction with the Widowed and Divorced Advisory Board.

Invites First Communicants from around the diocese to St. Mary’s Cathedral for closing ceremonies of the Year of the Rosary.

JULY

Takes part in blessing and dedication ceremonies for the new Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, a $280 million, eight-level expansion that Bishop Jenky said will make Christ’s love present for generations to come, especially “for all the little ones.”

In order to “establish a strong, vibrant Catholic presence in Streator for the 21st and 22nd centuries,” formally establishes a new parish named for St. Michael the Archangel. All four previously existing parishes — Immaculate Conception, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Stephen, and St. Casimir — were to close in September with the new faith community worshipping together at St. Stephen’s until future building decisions are made.

SEPTEMBER

Urges 150 student leaders from seven Catholic high schools at the diocese’s first Catholic High School Leadership Day to “use your tremendous gifts in ways that glorify God and serve one another.”

OCTOBER

Attends the canonization of St. Andre Bessette, a member of his religious congregation who founded St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal.

NOVEMBER

During dedication ceremonies at the new Chapel of St. Robert Bellarmine, announces that the expanded Newman Center serving Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan universities and Heartland College in Bloomington-Normal would be renamed the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center.

TEACHING

“Each one of us will only begin to know ourselves and to discover personal peace if we choose to do whatever God asks.” — From 2010 Festival Letter, “Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me”

2011: Mass changes, and a threat to Catholic Charities

JANUARY

Saying that “the liturgy is something near and dear to the heart of every Catholic,” uses the pages of his ninth Festival Letter to outline the ways the Diocese of Peoria will prepare for implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal on the First Sunday of Advent 2011.

Joins the bishops of Illinois in urging Gov. Pat Quinn to sign legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois. “We are incapable, I think, of justly imposing what is the extreme punishment. We are unable to do it in a just and equitable way,” said Bishop Jenky, who had also been involved in the issue while an auxiliary bishop in Indiana. The governor signed the bill in March.

Welcomes the news that the late Pope John Paul II will be beatified in Rome in May. “I agree with all the people who call him John Paul the Great,” he said. “He was clearly a pope who changed history.”

FEBRUARY

Collaborates to help create a unique new leadership team for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria, headed by Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, as president and director of mission and ministry.

MARCH

Appoints Father James Kruse as a second vicar general to serve with Msgr. Paul Showalter, PA, as a primary adviser in all administrative aspects of the diocese.

MAY

Personally presents the official documentation outlining why the Catholic Church should recognize Archbishop Fulton Sheen as a saint to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. A delegation from the diocese also gave the pope an album with more than 100 letters from cardinals and bishops worldwide supporting Archbishop Sheen’s cause.

JUNE

With “enormous concern,” warns of an “imminent risk” to the mission of Catholic Charities. The diocese joins other dioceses in Illinois in a lawsuit addressing questions raised by the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which took effect June 1 and threatens Catholic Charities’ longstanding position that prospective adoptive and foster parents who are cohabiting — regardless of sexual orientation — be referred to other agencies or the Department of Children and Family Services.

JULY

Calls on all parishes and missions in the diocese to begin a yearlong process of planning for the future. The major new initiative — called “Growing in Faith Together” — asks parishes to form “clusters” with neighboring parishes and suggest ways to work together to better serve the people of God.

AUGUST

Is sworn in to a tribunal investigating the alleged miraculous healing of a Goodfield boy, James Fulton Engstrom, credited to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. James was without a pulse for the first 61 minutes of his life and doctors at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center were ready to call the boy’s time of death when his heart began beating.

Laments a Sangamon County circuit judge’s ruling that the state may refuse to renew its foster care and adoption contracts with Catholic Charities.

SEPTEMBER

Prays that God would “protect our nation and give his lasting peace to the world” during a “Vigil for Peace” marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The evening at St. Mary’s Cathedral included the premiere of “In Memoriam,” a choral work commissioned by the Diocese of Peoria and composed by Dr. John Orfe.

Names Tim Roder director of a reorganized Office of Family Life and Craig Dyke director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization.

Confers the abbatial blessing on Abbot Philip Davey, OSB, the eighth spiritual leader of St. Bede Abbey in Peru.

OCTOBER

Citing increasing clashes between Illinois law and church teaching, announces that Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria is withdrawing from all state-funded social service contracts. A newly forming nonprofit entity with no connection to the diocese or Catholic Charities called The Center for Youth and Family Services will form to prevent disruption to the 1,000 foster care children and families served by Catholic Charities.

NOVEMBER

Shares his joy as the new translation of the Mass texts is implemented. In a video, “Encounter: Our New and Ancient Mass,” played at all Masses, and in a Thanksgiving message to the diocese says the new translation of the Roman Missal “gives us an opportunity for deeper renewal and a chance to again give thanks for the gift of the Mass.”

DECEMBER

Presides at a Mass marking the 1,000th Cursillo weekend of spiritual renewal in the diocese. “From the bottom of my heart, I give thanks to God for the thousand Cursillos that you folks represent,” he told those attending the joyful celebration.

TEACHING

“The liturgy is the principle means by which we encounter God and God encounters us.” — From 2011 Festival Letter, “Credo! I Believe! A Reflection on the Sacred Liturgy”

2012: Defends religious freedom, Catholic Charities reborn

JANUARY

Warns that increasing steps toward “radical secularization” taking place in Illinois are posing growing threats to religious freedom. In his 10th annual Festival Letter, “Secularism,” he calls on Catholics to “more assertive action in defense of our religion and those public ministries which we hold to be the work of Christ.”

Calling it a “bigoted and blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of every Catholic believer,” urges vigorous opposition to new Obama administration regulations requiring Catholic institutions to cooperate with insurance programs in providing abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptive services.

FEBRUARY

Makes “ad limina” visit to Rome with bishops from Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The bishop as well as several accompanying diocesan leaders heard enthusiasm for the Sheen sainthood cause, including from Pope Benedict XVI himself.

MARCH

In an hour-long address to the diocese’s permanent deacons, says they have an “irreplaceable role in the life of the diocese” and are the “hands of the bishop,” especially as they lovingly perform the corporal works of mercy.

To the cheers of hundreds at a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally, says “we will not cooperate” in the government’s “contraceptive mandate” and will resist it “by every strength we have and that God will give us,” he said.

APRIL

As the 10th anniversary of his installation as Bishop of Peoria neared, says “from the moment I got here, I have loved this diocese.”

A homily mention of President Obama at a Mass during the annual “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” made headlines around the United States. Touching on current threats to religious liberty, he observed that the president “seems intent on following a similar path” to historical figures and governments that “have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches.” His bold stand inspired wristbands bearing the twin phrases “I support Bishop Jenky” and “Freedom of Religion.”

MAY

In three liturgies over eight days, ordains 29 permanent deacons, four seminarians to the transitional diaconate, and four new priests.

JUNE

Hosts a “Bishop’s Gala” to raise funds for the “re-founding of Catholic Charities and the re-energizing of collective support for the corporal works of mercy. The agency is being reorganized to operate without any funding from the state.

Calling it a “great day for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and the Catholic Church in America,” announces that Pope Benedict XVI approved the heroic virtues of Archbishop Sheen and granted him the title of “venerable,” clearing the way for the advancement of his sainthood cause. A Mass of Thanksgiving three months later at St. Mary’s Cathedral draws an overflow crowd.

JULY

Dons a shovel to help break ground for the new Family Resources Center, to be located across the street from the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. “The work we are beginning today should enliven our faith and strengthen us in spreading the Gospel of Life.”

In a summer of worrisome drought, establishes a diocesan Council of Farmers and meets with them on a sweltering day at the rural Danvers farm of Marie Denzer-Farley.

AUGUST

Seeking protection of the “most fundamental of American rights,” the Diocese of Peoria files a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration challenging the “unprecedented” HHS mandate. (See above.) “I have an obligation to protect the church’s ability to freely practice our religion,” he says.

SEPTEMBER

Calling it a “privilege and great personal joy,” warmly welcomes his predecessor, Archbishop John J. Myers, back to his native diocese for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Earlville native’s ordination as Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria.

Following an extensive, diocese-wide consultation process, “enthusiastically endorses” recommendations of the yearlong “Growing in Faith Together” study impacting every parish. Most parishes will be “linked” or “partnered” with neighboring parishes, while plans for a series of mergers were also announced.

NOVEMBER

Bestows papal and diocesan honors on 56 local Catholics for outstanding service and example of faith-inspired lives. The Honors Mass came at the start of a Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict and served as the closing event for a jubilee year celebrated by Bishop Jenky.

DECEMBER

Blesses the newly constructed OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home in Peoria and prays that “those who are preparing for eternity will be lifted up in spirit.”

TEACHING

“Today, loyal believers are called upon not only to defend the Faith, but even to defend the very concept of faith in the face of aggressive secularism and increasingly intolerant atheism. Practicing Catholics need to recognize that the choices we make and the witness we either offer or withhold will have both temporal and eternal consequences for each one of us.” — From 2012 Festival Letter, “Secularism”

2013: Defends marriage, welcomes new pope

JANUARY

In a Festival Letter titled “Faith,” calls on Catholics to “deepen the intensity of our faith and so inspire greater fervor in our worship of God and greater energy in the service of neighbor.”

Signs an interfaith appeal letter calling on Illinois lawmakers to reject attempts to redefine marriage in civil law. “Marriage is the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman, and the natural basis of the family,” the letter began.

FEBRUARY

Says he was “completely surprised” at the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s planned resignation and calls upon Catholics to pray for the Holy Father’s health and the guidance of the Holy Spirit as a new pope is elected.

MARCH

After the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th pope, pledges the respect, obedience, and love of the diocese to the first pope from the Western Hemisphere. “Like all of you, I am hearing from the media that Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, holiness and charity,” he said in encouraging prayers for the new pontiff.

APRIL

Podcasts of Bishop Jenky’s homilies begin to be carried on the diocesan website.

MAY

Announces the creation of two new parishes, The Nativity of Our Lord in Spring Valley (resulting from the merger of three parishes) and St. Andrew in Fairbury (resulting from the merger of faith communities in Fairbury, Strawn, Chatsworth, and Forrest).

JUNE

Calls U.S. Supreme Court rulings striking down federal legislation defining marriage as between one man and one woman “another step of deconstruction for our culture” that further “distances us from biblical faith as a nation.” Adds that “heroic Christianity” will be needed as those who stand up for church teaching face being labeled as “bigots” by some for not affirming marriage for same-sex couples.

AUGUST

With a joyful “Praise be to God,” cuts the ribbon at blessing and dedication ceremonies for the Women’s Care Center, a pro-life outreach next to the abortion facility in northern Peoria.

OCTOBER

Presides at two blessing ceremonies in Peoria. Says the construction of the new St. Jude Catholic School demonstrates parishioners’ “love for the faith and the education and formation of young people.” Prays that the new Family Resources Center, built across the street from the Spalding Pastoral Center, would be “a house of blessing and a center of love, where all people may experience the transformative power of the Gospel of Life.”

NOVEMBER

Recalled the intensity of prayer, intellect, and courage of Blessed Pope John Paul II during a visit to the diocese of the late pope’s relics, including a vial of blood. Noting canonization ceremonies anticipated the following year, draws ringing applause from a packed cathedral by proclaiming “he certainly should also be called St. John Paul the Great.”

After tornadoes heavily damaged the communities of Washington and Gifford, calls for a second collection for victims at all Masses in the diocese. Opens the former SHARE Food warehouse in Peoria to help store and distribute donated relief items, placing the project under the direction of Catholic Charities.

TEACHING

“The message of the Gospel is so consoling and compelling that believers should not be able to contain their enthusiasm for sharing it with others.” — From 2013 Festival Letter, “Faith”

2014: A pause in the cause, and a focus on the Bible

JANUARY

Strongly urges Catholics to both own and read the Bible in order to “guide their lives, encourage their service, and inspire their prayer.” In his 2014 Festival Letter, “The Holy Bible,” says to “let the Holy Spirit illuminate your mind and enkindle your heart as you read God’s Word. God is such good company.”

Recommends the annual celebration of Rogation Days, five days connected to the agricultural roots of the church and the growing season.

Meets Pope Francis for the first time as part of a delegation to the Vatican from the University of Notre Dame. “He clearly has a common touch with the people,” said Bishop Jenky of the pope. “He gave us a lot of time. Everyone was quite thrilled, including me.”

MARCH

Calls the findings by a team of medical experts convoked by the Vatican that there was no natural explanation for the survival of James Fulton Engstrom, whose heart did not start beating until 61 minutes after his birth, “a significant step” in the beatification and canonization cause of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. James Fulton’s parents credit his survival to a miracle by God through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. Three months later, a theological commission concurs.

APRIL

On the day St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II were canonized, issues decrees naming two merged or merging parishes after the two former popes — Saint John Paul II Parish in Kewanee and St. John XXIII Parish in Henry, to be formed in July with the merger of St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes. At a Mass in Peoria celebrating the canonizations, gives thanks for the example of “these two holy, great popes” and urges all to “accept our vocation to be saints of God.”

JUNE

Joins members of the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi from around the world to celebrate the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph Nursing Home in Lacon. “In serving the sick and the elderly the congregation and the entire staff lovingly serves Jesus,” he tells them.

AUGUST

Tells members of the Peoria Notre Dame football team that, just as they are a “band of brothers” on the football field, so too “we collectively are the Body of Christ. We all have a role to play and we’re essentially connected to one another.”

SEPTEMBER

“With immense sadness,” announces the cause for Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s beatification and canonization is being suspended “for the foreseeable future” because the Archdiocese of New York denied a previously agreed to request to move the sainthood candidate’s body to Peoria. Urges continued prayers for the cause “that God’s will be made manifest.”

Rejoices with Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago at the news that Archbishop Blase Cupich of Spokane would succeed Cardinal Francis E. George as archbishop of Chicago. Calls Archbishop Cupich “a zealous disciple of Jesus Christ” who “has always been a good shepherd to those entrusted to his pastoral care.”

At a Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cursillo in the Diocese of Peoria, praises how the program has brought people closer to Christ and challenges Cursillistas to “energetically and intentionally form the next generation of leaders and teachers.”

OCTOBER

Tells a conference of Catholic health care providers that “in these complicated days, the means and style will change” but their “mission should stay the same . . . bringing the greatest Healer whoever is or was or will be, the Lord Jesus Christ, to your ministry in union and communion with the church.”

NOVEMBER

Opens a “Year of Consecrated Life” by welcoming representatives of 20 religious communities ministering in the diocese to the cathedral for a celebration that included processions of the United Nations International Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.  Praises men and women religious for doing “so much to build up the church.”

DECEMBER

Visits The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign to offer his congratulations for the school being designated a National Blue Ribbon School. Urges the students, in addition to excelling in other areas of study, to learn “the wisdom of Christianity” including “the lessons of love, mercy, forgiveness, noticing the pain of your neighbor, reaching out and helping if you can help.”

TEACHING

“Sadly, it may be true that more Christians own a Bible rather than read a Bible. I strongly urge you to do both. For the sake of your family, your parish, your community, your Church and yourself, I hope you will read the Bible and then not be afraid.” –– From 2014 Festival Letter, “The Holy Bible”

2015: Year of Consecrated Life, Divine Mercy

JANUARY

Cites the “irreplaceable role” men and women religious have played in the Diocese of Peoria throughout its history and calls for a deepening of understanding and appreciation for the work and witness of those serving the local church in his 2015 Festival Letter, “Consecrated Life.”

MARCH

Takes part in the funeral Mass for Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, the longest serving president of the University of Notre Dame. The two had many interactions prior to Bishop Jenky’s episcopacy when he had seerved at the university and in the religious community, including 20 years as rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus, site of the funeral Mass.

APRIL

Upon the death of Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, recalls him as a “deeply holy man, a man of intense prayer” and “a real intellectual who articulated the truths of our faith fearlessly.”

AUGUST

Tells nearly 120 coaches from around the diocese who gathered to set priorities before the start of the Catholic school year that their witness can play a larger role in the faith of a young person than that of priests or bishops. “It’s important to take the opportunity to witness to your faith,” he tells them, “to be somebody who regularly worships almighty God. The young people will see, imitate, and believe.”

SEPTEMBER

Blesses a $2.1 million addition to Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg, praying that students “will search for the wisdom that guides the Christian life and strive wholeheartedly to stand by Christ as their teacher.”

Saying “there is a lot of sweat equity in this glorious church,” blesses the new Immaculate Conception Church in Manito. “I am so in awe of what this parish has achieved,” he adds.

NOVEMBER

Concerned by the number of Catholic families who are not having funeral Masses for loved ones, especially of older generations, reissues his 2008 Festival Letter, “Prayers for the Dead.” The teaching emphasizes that “except in the most extraordinary circumstances,” every Catholic should have a Mass of Christian Burial offered on their behalf after death.

Tells those attending a Diocesan Health Care Day that the people who interact with those needing medical care “have a gifted place to make Christ present by treating human beings as human beings, by intuitively knowing they are hurting and scared.”

DECEMBER

Designates six churches and chapels as Holy Door pilgrimage sites in a 2016 Festival Letter released early to open a Holy Year of Mercy throughout the diocese. The churches included Sacred Heart in Peoria, St. Pius X in Rock Island, the Shrine of the Holy Rosary in LaSalle, St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel in Normal, and St. John’s Catholic Chapel in Champaign. Encourages all the faithful, and especially those who may have fallen away from the practice of the faith, to “approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation and know that they will be warmly welcomed home.”

Rededicates the newly expanded and renovated St. Patrick Church in Urbana. Calling the church “a magnificent temple of the living God,” he reminds those in the assembly that they are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit. “Let Christ’s love and grace and mercy and goodness flow through you.”

TEACHING

“From the earliest days of Christianity, some men and women among the disciples were called by Christ to leave all things for the sake of the Kingdom and to embody in their manner of living the absolute priority of God’s astonishing love.” — From 2015 Festival Letter, “Consecrated Life”

2016: Cathedral restored, Holy Year closes

MARCH

As the presidential primaries move to Illinois, tells a gathering of permanent deacons that Catholics must stay involved in the political process even though “the choices look like they’re not going to be ideal.” Responding to a question on how best to pray and work this election year, says “I think there is a cultural desire to have the church withdraw from the public forum. But we can’t surrender.”

Saying “Jesus is the unshakable cornerstone of your kingdom,” blesses ground for a new parish center at St. Philomena Church in Peoria. In the following weeks, he would also bless the new Hettinger Hall and school expansion at St. Jude Parish, also in Peoria, and the new McCarthy Hall at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.

JUNE

Is “immensely grateful” to the family of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen for petitioning the Supreme Court of the State of New York to allow the transfer of the sainthood candidate’s remains from New York City to Peoria.

AUGUST

Tells all involved in a three-year restoration and redesign of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria “Good work and well done!” as he presides at a Founder’s Day Mass celebrated on the 100th anniversary of the death of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, who guided the diocese through its first three decades and oversaw the construction of the cathedral in the late 1880s. The Mass included an extended sprinkling rite recognizing the completion of the restoration and a eucharistic procession throughout the cathedral ending with the repose of the Blessed Sacrament in the new tabernacle.

SEPTEMBER

In a celebration that drew Missionaries of Charity from throughout the Midwest, gives thanks for the canonization of their foundress, St. Teresa of Kolkata, and leads applause for the community that continues her service to the poor. “This diocese is so blessed with the army of religious who serve here,” he said.

NOVEMBER

Closes the Holy Year of Mercy in the diocese with the ritual sealings of Holy Doors at St. Mary’s Cathedral and six other pilgrimage churches. “Although the Holy Door is closed, the gates of God’s mercy remain open until the consummation of all things,” he says, expressing hopes that the special year lead to a lifetime of mercy and continuing conversion “so that at last we may know everlasting salvation amid the bliss of heaven.”

Issues a Festival Letter, titled “Choice,” reflecting on the just-concluded Year of Mercy. Writes that the “greatest possible expression of Christian mercy” the Catholic Church can offer a contemporary culture that celebrates unrestrained personal choice is to “boldly preach the truth, in season and out of season.”

TEACHING

“As Christians we know God’s mercy, and so all our lives we must continue to learn how to be more merciful to others.” — From 2016 Festival Letter, “Divine Mercy”

2017: Personal milestones, health concerns

JANUARY

Blesses the newly restored and reopened St. Edward School in Chillicothe and salutes the sacrifice shown by the parish after a costly roof repair threatened to close the school. The community rallied to raise $400,000 in a matter of days. “This small parish, this small school, this small town pulled together,” said the bishop.

MARCH

His 70th birthday is the first in a series of personal milestones in 2017. Later he would mark 15 years since his installation as Bishop of Peoria, 50 years since his first profession with the Congregation of Holy Cross, and the 20th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.

APRIL

Calling it “spectacular” and “beautiful,” blesses the newly completed, $4 million St. Philomena Parish Center in Peoria.

MAY

As the Rosminian Fathers, also known as the Institute of Charity, end 140 years of presence in the Diocese of Peoria, says the religious community left “an indelible mark on our diocese,” especially in the Galesburg area. “They have helped countless people grow in the faith especially by offering spiritual direction, retreats, parish care, and guidance to our priests.”

Calling it “a profound moment of renewal in the life of our local church,” ordains 24 permanent and two transitional deacons one weekend and then Father Lee Brokaw to the priesthood the following weekend.

JUNE

“How can we rest when so many still do not know the Lord,” he asks in an impassioned homily at the Diocesan Summer Institute. “How can we be passive when even many Catholics have fallen away from the True Faith? How can we be inactive when so many folks are hungry, homeless, poor, sick, and burdened by addictions and illness?”

AUGUST

Blesses a $1.6 million new junior high wing at Corpus Christi School in Bloomington with the prayer that the expansion “leads to a deepening of faith in our young people.”

OCTOBER

In a letter to Catholics of the diocese titled “Your Bishop’s Health,” addresses concerns over mobility issues brought on by arthritis in his hips and knees, spinal stenosis, and plantar fasciitis in his feet. “Getting weaker as one grows older is a normal part of the human experience,” he writes, adding that he plans to continue serving as bishop until his 75th birthday in 2022. “Many others in this Diocese, including some of our most wonderful priests, suffer physically much more than me.”

At a Mass and march culminating the diocese’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, says “Mary always conforms, unites, and consecrates us to her son, Jesus Christ. And so it may be that we need the prophetic message of Fatima more than ever before.”

Welcomes President Trump’s executive order exempting religious groups from the Health and Human Services “contraceptive mandate” that would have required Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for certain procedures, including abortion, that “our faith holds to be intrinsically evil.” Asks parishes and schools to continue to pray the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer at Mass “for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America and throughout the world.”

NOVEMBER

In ceremonies celebrating Central Catholic High School’s recognition as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School, reminds students that the greatest teacher they’ll ever have is Jesus and that the “school of Christ doesn’t end when you graduate from high school or university. It’s a lifelong vocation.”

The example of St. Joseph “should be an inspiration to men living in our own challenging era,” he writes in his 16th Festival Letter. Titled “St. Joseph,” it is a meditation on the importance of St. Joseph in the lives of men, families, and parishes.

TEACHING

“The greatest possible expression of Christian mercy in a world where relativism has become almost unassailable would be for the Church to boldly preach the truth in season and out of season because only the truth will set you free.” — From 2017 Festival Letter, “Choice”

2018: Messages to youth, support for seminarians

JANUARY

With local hospitals reporting Central Illinois in the midst of a serious flu crisis, asks for temporary changes to liturgical practice including — according to the judgment of the pastor — suspension of the “Kiss of Peace” and the distribution of the Precious Blood.

Tells college students at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center in Normal that “meeting the Lord” is the first step in finding their vocation. “Find what God has put you on Earth to do, and you will find yourself in that,” he said.

APRIL

Surprises students at Peoria Notre Dame High School awaiting the “Priests Pedaling for Prayers” by entering the gym with the bicycling priests riding in a pedal-powered four-wheeler. The priests’ ride across the diocese was to raise vocations awareness and inspire prayers, and Bishop Jenky told the students that God, “who knows you inside and out and loves you, has a plan for your life. To find out what that plan is,” he said, “is the most important task you’ll have on this earth.”

MAY

Grants four priests senior status, including Msgr. Paul Showalter, P.A., who served as vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria for 14 years.

JUNE

As the two chapters of the Christ Child Society in the Diocese of Peoria observed a decade of service in the diocese, praises their efforts for putting “substance behind our pro-life Gospel — taking care of God’s little ones.” Bishop Jenky was instrumental in bringing the Christ Child Society to the diocese.

Rededicates St. Mary Church in Canton and consecrates its new altar of sacrifice. The 114-year-old church underwent a complete restoration and renovation after it sustained damage in a natural gas explosion that rocked the city’s downtown in late 2016.

AUGUST

On a weekend that Pope Francis was in Ireland addressing wounds of the church caused by scandal, tells those gathered for an Irish festival in Peoria that the church will “arise with the strength of the Holy Trinity” and the prayers of the saints. In a statement concerning reports of the failure of some bishops to address the crisis of the sexual abuse of minors, offers support to those who have suffered from “these horrible offenses.”

At a Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” encyclical on human sexuality — as well as the late pope’s approaching canonization — says that “with every passing year the prophetic witness of Pope Paul VI becomes more apparent.”

OCTOBER

Along with 100 priests of the diocese, signs a letter of support expressing solidarity with seminarians “during these challenging times for the Catholic Church in our country.” Bishop Jenky’s personal note reads: “You are God’s men and my men. I pray for you every day and am so proud of you.”

DECEMBER

Holds a contest, coordinated by the Office of Catholic Schools, to design his 2018 Christmas card. The winner was Isabella Schmillen, a fifth-grader at St. Mark School, whose cover artwork featured a Nativity scene under a sky filled with gold stars, while on the back she wrote her own sentiment: “Never forget to always love God.”

TEACHING

“As your bishop, I continue to find in St. Joseph enormous inspiration and great reassurance. I encourage all of you, my fellow believers, to confidently turn to St. Joseph in all your needs.” –– From 2018 Festival Letter, “St. Joseph”

2019: Welcomes Sheen ‘home,’ beatification postponed

JANUARY

Releases his 17th Festival Letter, “Fear of the Lord,” emphasizing that a holy fear of the Lord is necessary for all Christian believers, “especially in these godless, secular days.” To rightly fear the Lord, he writes, “is to entirely surrender our existence to His limitless power and ravishing love.”

FEBRUARY

Celebrates a Mass at Peoria Notre Dame High School the day after principal Randy Simmons died unexpectedly. “He was always cheering you guys on,” the bishop told the students in offering words of comfort to a grieving school community. “He wanted you to be your best academically, in sports and in your faith. And that is a gift you will carry with you the rest of your lives.”

MARCH

Announces “with great joy” that the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled 5-0 that the remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen should be transferred from New York to Peoria.

APRIL

Joins a rare joint press conference in Springfield with bishops from throughout Illinois — as well as representatives from Illinois Catholic hospitals and Catholic Charities — to oppose extreme abortion legislation being considered by the Illinois General Assembly. Tells The Catholic Post the impact on Catholic hospitals and those who staff them would be “devastating” and asks Catholics to keep up with the issue and to express their convictions.

JUNE

Says that the Illinois General Assembly, by passing the Reproductive Health Act declaring abortion to be a fundamental right, showed a disregard for the value of human life and the beliefs of the majority of people in the state. “They describe a human baby as a thing, as an object, something that is disposable, and this is an appalling step in the wrong direction,” he laments.

Is “overjoyed and elated” by the news that the New York Court of Appeals rejected a final appeal from the Archdiocese of New York clearing the way for the mortal remains of Archbishop Sheen to be transferred to his native Diocese of Peoria. Thanks all who have worked and prayed for the success of the legal efforts, including Joan Sheen Cunningham, Archbishop Sheen’s niece and closest living relative.

As Archbishop Sheen’s mortal remains arrive in Peoria and are interred in a newly established marble monument at St. Mary’s Cathedral, announces that the sainthood cause for the famed preacher, media pioneer, author and missionary is being resumed after being suspended for five years during the legal process. Invites everyone to visit Archbishop Sheen’s tomb.

JULY

Greets with “overwhelming joy” the approval by Pope Francis of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. Announces the Diocese of Peoria can now begin planning for a beatification ceremony in Peoria. “This is a moment of grace,” he says. “It means a great blessing not only for our diocese, but for the universal church.”

AUGUST

Accepts 21 candidates from 16 parishes for the diocese’s 11th class of permanent deacons.

SEPTEMBER

Blesses a vehicle to be used in a new diocese-wide outreach of Catholic Charities, the “St. Nicholas Mobile Pantry,” to be coordinated by the newly appointed director of Catholic Charities, Sister Michelle Fernandez, SCTJM.

Responding to an alarming Pew Research Center study showing that a majority of Catholics in the United States do not believe that the bread and wine used at Mass become the body and blood of Christ, issues a teaching document titled “The Real Presence.” The bishop’s annual Festival Letter was released more than three months earlier than usual “in the hope that it may at least in some ways assist a renewed witness regarding the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament,” a belief that is “clearly foundational for Catholic Christianity.”

OCTOBER

Appoints Msgr. Philip Halfacre to succeed Msgr. James Kruse as vicar general. Expresses deep gratitude for Msgr. Kruse’s eight years of service as one of the primary assistants and advisers in administrative aspects of the diocese.

NOVEMBER

Announces that Pope Francis has called for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen on Dec. 21, the Saturday before Christmas. Tells The Catholic Post that when he learned the date is only five weeks away, “I simply said ‘yes’ and we’re going to make it happen.” St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria was selected as the site for the beatification ceremony.

DECEMBER

“With deep regret” and sadness, announces that the planned beatification of Archbishop Sheen has been postponed by the Holy See at the request of a few members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Remains firmly convinced of Archbishop Sheen’s holiness and confident he eventually will be beatified. Calls the faithful to prayer, and leads a nine-day novena on YouTube asking God to “remove all obstacles” for the beatification. The novena draws worldwide participation.

2020: A devastating pandemic, a coadjutor welcomed

JANUARY

Never tire of being pro-life, he told those attending a Mass for the Unborn at St. Mary’s Cathedral, even when the mainstream media and legislators make the case for taking innocent life in the womb. “All our science, all our facts point in the other direction of what our culture bangs away at. For us, for people of faith, that child was created in the image and likeness of God.”

Blesses the new Trost Learning Center and Gymnasium at St. Thomas School in Philo, praying that it become a place where students and teachers would learn to know God as the source of all truth.

FEBRUARY

Takes part in a question-and-answer hour with 20 junior class leaders at Peoria Notre Dame. Asked something he’d say to all the young people in the church, answers: “The heart of our faith is to fall in love with God. He’s in love with you. . . . At some point you have to meet Jesus. He’s the full revelation of who God is and what God is about. And you have to know him. And this is the amazing thing: “he’s knowable.”

MARCH

With concerns growing about spread of the coronavirus that began in China, adds to liturgical modifications issued for flu season. Strongly suggests that, until the health crisis passes, the faithful receive the Sacred Host on the hand rather than on the tongue. “We should not panic but we should take some care,” he writes in early March. “May God bless and protect us in the face of all illness, and may Our Lady Help of the Sick pray with us and for us.”

Two weeks later, “with great sadness,” suspends all public worship as a coronavirus precaution, saying it will continue in the Diocese of Peoria at least through Easter Sunday. “During this difficult and painful moment, we pray for the peace that only God can give.”

In the first of a series of videos during the time of shutdowns, calls it “an unprecedented moment” in the church “where illness has changed the whole way our local church lives and relates to one another. We shouldn’t be afraid. We should be careful.”

Directs that all Catholic schools in the diocese remain closed through April 13, and that e-learning (online instruction) commence.

As the diocese and parishes begin livestreaming Masses, acknowledges “it won’t be the same as being together in person, but it enables us to be united in ways that the current times make possible.” Praises priests for how they are “ministering in unusual circumstances.”

APRIL

In a video message for a Holy Week without public worship, tells the faithful that “when we face challenge, when we face even the possibility of great illness or death, that’s the time to remember Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.”

Takes to the air via an OSF Life Flight helicopter on Good Friday to bless the Diocese of Peoria in all directions and to pray for those suffering from COVID-19 and those caring for them. “This is one of the holiest days of the year, at a time when we’re living through something like we’ve never lived through,” he said. “I was happy to do something that may give some comfort to people who are scared about their relatives in the hospital.”

MAY

Renews the consecration of the Diocese of Peoria to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Addresses the Class of 2020 via a video message, sharing the pride he felt in their “willingness to learn in an environment that is very different from what you have experienced throughout your high school years. Urges graduates to keep their Catholic faith alive and well and reminds them that “having Jesus as your best friend is the center of any happy life.”

Gives “heartfelt thanks to Almighty God and to our Holy Father Pope Francis” for the appointment of Father Louis Tylka, a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago, as Coadjutor Bishop-elect of Peoria. “Upon my retirement, I will be happy to know that he will become the 9th Bishop of Peoria,” said Bishop Jenky, noting that for several months he has experienced increasing mobility problems due to arthritis and spinal issues.

Shares a multi-phase reopening plan for resuming public worship developed by the bishops of Illinois in consultation with state and local public health officials and civil authorities. In Phase I, parishes may reopen for baptisms, reconciliation, weddings and funerals with a limit of 10 persons in attendance.

Announces public Masses may resume June 6 with limited attendance. “I fully comprehend the enormous suffering that the recent “fasting” from the Eucharist has caused for so many believers,” he wrote as the church began emerging from quarantine.

JUNE

In the first public Sunday liturgy at St. Mary’s Cathedral since mid-March, ordains seminarians Austin Bosse and Nicolas Wilson to the transitional diaconate.

Acknowledging racial tensions across the nation, condemns racial injustice of any kind, deplores violence and disorder, and ask prayers for the safety of police and other first responders. “May the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, help Central Illinois and all of America to better live up to the highest ideals of our founding.”

JULY

Misses the ordination of Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka after being unknowingly exposed to the coronavirus on several occasions in previous days. In printed welcoming remarks, calls Bishop Tylka “obviously talented, friendly, and very enthusiastic about living here in Central Illinois and serving this Local Church.”

SEPTEMBER

Lowers the 2020 Annual Diocesan Appeal goal by 11 percent to reflect the “extraordinary time” of the pandemic.

With “great sadness” and yet with confidence in the power of Christ’s resurrection, announces the death of Archbishop John J. Myers, his predecessor as Bishop of Peoria. Presides at Archbishop Myers’ funeral at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Calling him “a brilliant canon lawyer” who also had great humor, Bishop Jenky said “I was very fortunate to follow him here.”

OCTOBER

Celebrates a Chrism Mass delayed for six months because of the pandemic. “Our hope has not been shaken and our love, our love, my dear priests and people of the holy Church of Peoria, is challenged to grow stronger than ever before,” he said.

TEACHING

“While every doctrine of our Faith is important, faith in the Eucharist is clearly foundational for Catholic Christianity.” — From 2020 Festival Letter, “The Real Presence”

2021: Final Festival Letter, a new retreat center

JANUARY

In his 19th and what is expected to be his final Festival Letter, titled simply “Jesus,” encourages all to renew their faith in Jesus and then “boldly share this faith with everyone you meet.” Urges countering “these days of COVID, confusion, quarantine, and fear” by drawing nearer to the Risen Christ, who is “alive, present, and available to us in our world today.”

FEBRUARY

As Madison Street in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral is renamed “Honorary Bishop Fulton Sheen Avenue,” cites the sainthood candidate’s zeal for evangelization and says Archbishop Sheen “is the inspiration we need today in this time of fear and isolation.”

MARCH

Joined bishops from around the state in urging Catholics to help stop the repeal of Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act that requires a parent or guardian be notified when a minor girl seeks to have an abortion.

MAY

Accepts personal items from the life of Archbishop Sheen — including the Emmy Award he received in 1952 — from Joan Sheen Cunningham, Archbishop Sheen’s closest living relative, for use in promoting his legacy, especially in the area of evangelization.

AUGUST

Presides and preaches as the Diocese of Peoria’s new Sacre-Coeur Retreat Center is opened and its Chapel of the Sacred Heart dedicated. “My hope is this magnificent building — better than I ever expected, more than I ever dreamed of — will be an inspiration for us,” he said in thanking all who had a role in making the new facility a reality.

SEPTEMBER

Uses video promoting the 2021 Annual Diocesan Appeal to offer a heartfelt message of gratitude as he nears retirement. “I have honestly loved serving as the diocesan bishop here in Peoria. Your support, your good will, your humor, have helped me in everything I’ve done.”

OCTOBER

Receives a standing ovation from priests of the diocese after addressing them at the end of Priest Assembly Days. “There’s a blessing in every stage of life,” he told them, “and letting go and just being able to join you at times is a blessing for me.” He called the priests “a great group of guys” who are beloved by the people they serve.

TEACHING

“In Jesus, God loved us first, and we are called to love God in return with our whole heart, mind, strength and soul, and then in gratitude to love our neighbor as our self. This is the redemptive circle of love that is at the very heart of Christianity.” — From 2021 Festival Letter, “Jesus”

 

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
© Copyright 2022 - The Catholic Post || 2 || All Rights Reserved || Design by TBare.com