Bishop Tylka asks for prayers at his first public Mass as the ninth Bishop of Peoria

With his coat of arms newly hung on the cathedra, or Bishop's Chair, Bishop Tylka bestows a blessing Sunday at the close of his first public Mass as the ninth Bishop of Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

In his first public Mass as Diocesan Bishop on March 6, Bishop Louis Tylka thanked his predecessor and asked for prayers “as we begin a new chapter in the life of our diocese.”

Moments after introducing Bishop Tylka as the ninth Bishop of Peoria at the start of his first public Mass as Diocesan Bishop on March 6, Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general, hands him the crosier, or shepherd’s staff, symbolizing his authority as bishop. (Photo courtesy Lynn Kavelman)

Bishop Tylka was the principal celebrant and homilist at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. A video of the Mass is archived here.

Three days earlier, he had become the ninth Bishop of Peoria when it was announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation for retirement of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC. Bishop Tylka celebrated a Mass with members of the Diocesan Curia hours after the announcement on March 3, but last Sunday’s Mass at the cathedral gave Catholic faithful from across the diocese — and beyond — the opportunity to join him for Mass.

The liturgy began with two symbolic actions linked to the transition of pastoral governance of the diocese.

First, Bishop Tylka was handed his crosier, or shepherd’s staff, by Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general, who welcomed the assembly to “this historic occasion” and formally introduced Bishop Tylka as the ninth Bishop of Peoria. Sustained applause rang throughout the cathedral, including from Bishop Tylka’s family seated in the front pews.

Next, Bishop Tylka’s coat of arms — now blended with the diocesan coat of arms — was hung on the cathedra, or Bishop’s Chair. Both the crosier and the coat of arms are symbols of a bishop’s authority, explained Msgr. Halfacre.

Bishop Tylka noted that the crosier was a gift presented to him by Bishop Jenky on his episcopal ordination.

“I take the baton,” said Bishop Tylka, expressing gratitude to Bishop Jenky “for his life and ministry in our diocese” for the past 20 years.

He repeated that gratitude in his homily.

Bishop Tylka’s sisters bring forward the offertory gifts during his first public Mass as Diocesan Bishop on March 6 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. From left, they are Brenda Landau, Patty Arvia, Tésa Dunning, and Linda Tylka. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I thank (Bishop Jenky) for the warm, generous and supportive welcome he has shown me over the last 19 months during which I served as Coadjutor Bishop,” said Bishop Tylka. “May God grant him good health and happiness as he enjoys his retirement.”

Prior to the final blessing, Bishop Tylka said he is happy to drop the term “coadjutor.”

“It has been 19 months of enduring people trying to figure out what that meant or how to say it,” he said, drawing laughter.

In his homily, Bishop Tylka noted that the transition of bishops in the diocese took place one day after Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, a season he described as “the church’s springtime, a time of beginnings” and renewal.

“This reality — the assuming of my role as Diocesan Bishop — has obviously been greatly on my mind and heart,” he said. “I ask for your prayers as we together ‘begin’ a new chapter in the life of the diocese.”

Reflecting on the Gospel that described Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert, Bishop Tylka said he expects “a new layer of ‘testing’” in his own life now that he is Diocesan Bishop, making prayer even more necessary.

“I accept these challenges because I trust in Jesus,” he said. “My daily time for prayer empowers me to give my best for the Lord and for the Church.”

Damian Espana presents Bishop Tylka with flowers as his parents Jorge and Elvira look on outside St. Mary’s Cathedral on March 6 following the bishop’s first public Mass as Diocesan Bishop. The Espanas are members of St. Ann Parish in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Just as Jesus’ identity as God’s beloved son became known at his baptism, we must “claim our identity as children of God” and follow Jesus’ example to “win our battles advancing towards our one goal of Heaven.” Among the weapons are the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, which Bishop Tylka said “are not just for a 40-day workout” but rather “the hallmarks of Christian living with the Lord.”

In his concluding remarks, Bishop Tylka said he is bolstered by the prayers of the faithful of the diocese and feels the power of prayer in his life “in a new and powerful way that I haven’t felt before.”

“I could not do this work that the Lord has entrusted to me without the great assistance of our wonderful priests, religious, and deacons, and with all of you, the faithful,” he said. “I ask that you continue to pray for me, that the Spirit may truly guide all of my efforts to serve you and to build up the Church as we go and make disciples.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from Sunday’s Mass have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook. 

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