Peoria’s incoming bishop ends welcome tour in Oglesby
Anyone hoping to meet the Peoria Diocese's incoming bishop – the pandemic forced the diocese to close the ordination to the public – should know he plans to barnstorm the region over the next two years.
Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka celebrated Sunday Mass at Oglesby’s Holy Family Church, marking the end of a 12-stop “welcome” tour of as many vicariates within Peoria Diocese. But Tylka, who will take over for Bishop Daniel Jenky upon retirement in early 2022, said he’s not ready to shelve his walking shoes yet. He pledged to visit every parish in the 26-county diocese, even if it takes him two or three years.
“There’s 160 parishes and there’s one of me,” Tylka told Oglesby’s assembly, begging for patience as he meets his new flock.
About 100 members of the Oglesby parish came for a peek at the shepherd of a diocese that stretches from the Quad Cities to Champaign-Urbana. Jenky, 73 and battling mobility issues, had asked the Vatican to choose his successor now to ensure a seamless transition when he retires at 75. The Vatican obliged and Tylka has spent the past two months meeting the largest flock he’s ever shepherded.
Holy Family parishioners received him warmly. Willis and Jillian McCoy of Oglesby brought their children to meet their spiritual father and were favorably impressed.
“It was the first time ever meeting a bishop for me, so it was really exciting,” Willis McCoy said. “He seems really strong in the Lord and eager to work with the rest of the fathers in the area.”
Paul and Shelly Breidenbach watched Tylka’s July 23 episcopal ordination via livestream, but were eager to meet him in the flesh and enjoyed speaking with him Sunday in a receiving line after Mass.
“We love the fact he’s going to try to make it to all 160 parishes,” Shelly Breidenbach said. “I think it’s wonderful.”
Tylka said he’s been delighted with his reception to date and said the most-asked question has been how he likes living south of Interstate 80. In response, he’s quipped this isn’t his first time south of I-80, as he grew up in Hazel Crest, which is bisected by the freeway.
“People are concerned that I like it (here) and that I’m comfortable and feel welcome and I have been overwhelmingly welcomed with a lot of kindness and a lot of care,” he said. “I’m loving Central Illinois.”
A 50-year-old fan of the Chicago Blackhawks and the “Star Wars” films, Tylka was was the youngest of six children (five older sisters, one recently deceased) born to Louis and the late Norma Tylka. His home parish was St. Joseph’s in Homewood and he graduated in 1992 from Niles College Seminary of Loyola University, where he transferred from Purdue University.
Tylka was ordained a priest on May 18, 1996, by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and served multiple assignments in the Archdiocese of Chicago before the Vatican notified him he’d been named a bishop on May 11, 2020. His episcopal ordination was held July 23 in Peoria, with limited attendees all wearing masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic is ongoing, Tylka did launch, on Aug. 1, a tour of the diocesan vicariates to meet not only with parishioners but also to better know some 400 priests and deacons who’ll answer directly to him in 18 months. Next up are stops of three Newman Centers, ending Nov. 8 in Champaign.
Asked to name his objectives, Tylka named only his desire to spread the Gospel – he adopted “Go Make Disciples” as his episcopal motto – and said he has no other set goals.
“I don’t have a further agenda because I have to learn the [diocese]. I didn’t get assigned to Diocese of Peoria to bring in some great plan. It’s to learn about the church in this piece of the world and then to figure out what we together need to do to advance together.”
Tylka will travel well beyond the diocese in the next 12 months. He was supposed to have been Rome last month for episcopal training – “Baby Bishop School,” he quipped – but COVID-19 has postponed his training at the Vatican until September 2021. He hopes to meet Pope Francis (No. 1 on the list of those he wants to meet) when he next flies to Italy.