Obedience Necessary for Diocesan Unity

I recently received a thank you letter from the Franciscans in the Holy Land for the collection taken for the Holy Land on Good Friday. This collection offers critical support for Christians in the Holy Land through pastoral care, schools, housing, employment, and services for vulnerable young, elderly, and refugees. The collection also supports the sacred shrines so dear to us as Catholics. The Franciscans of the Holy Land have been caring for these sacred spaces for over 800 years and our contribution, $55,820.13, highlights the generosity of the people of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Thank you.


On page six of the most recent edition of Our Sunday Visitor you will find a book review for “Educating For Eternity,” by Brett Salkeld. Our Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Deacon Rob Huff, gave a copy to every principal at our recent “Clergy-Principal” gathering in Mountain View. Part I, “What Are People For?,” explains one of the basic principles that justifies Catholic education: “Education is never neutral. It is always oriented toward a goal or a set of goals”
(p. 18 ). Certainly education is not neutral in a Catholic school. We are called to be fully and unapologetically Catholic. We promote our faith, we promote our Christian anthropology, our belief in the body and soul and our ultimate goal of union with God. We believe that the body serves the soul in order to fulfill worship of God alone. We are made by God, we are made for God and so it is the obligation of a Christian to put God first above all other things. Our belief in the body and soul, the vision of the human person, is at the heart of Catholic education. There is no neutral! For some, education is just to perfect some life skills, get a paycheck, and buy things. Catholic education has a more noble purpose.

Part II, “Catholic Academic Integration,” expresses the fundamental Christian perspective that in a Catholic school, there is no separation between the time for learning and the time for formation. Formation occurs in every classroom, whether it be literature and language arts, history, math, science, civics and social studies, health, school sports and physical education, and art. It is more than just having Catholic content in any particular class but in the very approach of the particular discipline. “We need to teach not merely Catholic content but teach from within a Catholic context for making sense of all life and learning” (pg. 89). Everything is formation. This fall, as we begin another year of faith and education, I thank our principals, support staff, teachers, and all who give of themselves in Catholic education. As I say every year, I pray that this year will be the best year ever!


At the Aug. 30 Dean’s Meeting, held at St. John Vianney Parish, Mountain View, it was suggested by one of the Deans that I read the letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians. Saint Ignatius was a disciple of St. John the Apostle and arrested during the persecution of the early Christians. He was martyred around the year 108 AD. As a prisoner, being transported to Rome for execution, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote letters to Christians in seven cities along the way. We studied some of the writings of St. Ignatius while in seminary, and priests easily recall the classic line from his Letter to the Romans read on his Feast Day. Oct. 17. Realizing he would probably be thrown to the lions, he wrote, “Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread.”

To the Christians in the Greek city of Magnesia he wrote a letter highlighting two of the priests who respect the authority of the Bishop as if respecting the authority of God the Father. He highlights the fact that they have not taken advantage of his apparent youthfulness (not an issue with me) and in their deference to him. I quote from his letter, “Now, it is not right to presume on the youthfulness of your Bishop. You ought to respect him as fully as you respect the authority of God the Father. Your holy presbyters (priests), I know, have not taken unfair advantage of his apparent youthfulness, but in their godly wisdom have deferred to him-nay, rather, not so much to him as to the Father of Jesus Christ, who is everybody’s Bishop. For this honor, then, of him who loved us, we ought to obey without any dissembling, since the real issue is not that a man misleads a Bishop whom he can see, but that he defrauds the one who is invisible. In such a case he must reckon, not with the human being, but with God who knows his secrets.” Saint Ignatius addresses a deacon as well, Zotian, “I am delighted with him, because he submits to the Bishop as to God’s grace, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ.” As I have mentioned before, the unity of any diocese is fragile and must be protected. It requires obedience from the bishop to the Holy Father, from the priests to their bishop, and then from the people to the Church. Let us pray for unity, that we may indeed be “One Church, East to West.”

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.”


Published in the September 15, 2023 issue of The Mirror.
Diocesan Deans—A Diocesan Deans meeting was held Aug. 30 with Bishop Edward M. Rice in St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Mountain View. Pictured were (front) The Very Rev. William Hodgson, Dean of Deanery 2; The Most Rev. Edward M. Rice; The Very Rev. Shoby M. Chettiyath, V.G., diocesan Vicar General; (back) The Very Rev. Leo Arockiasamy, HGN, Dean of Deanery 5; The Very Rev. Daniel Robles, Dean of Deanery 7; The Very Rev. Joseph Weidenbenner, Dean of Deanery 1; and The Very Rev. Allan Sanders, Dean of Deanery 6 of the Diocese. Not pictured: The Very Rev. Scott Sunnenberg, Dean of Deanery 3; and The Very Rev. Patrick Nwokoye, Dean of Deanery 4 of the Diocese. (The Mirror)