Bishop Hicks’ Monthly Column

January 2023
Peace be with you
Recently, while visiting a parish, I noticed a “peace pole” on the property, surrounded by beautiful landscaping and benches. The pole had four sides, with each side displaying an inscription about peace. The expressions of peace moved from the general to the specific:
                Peace on Earth
                Peace for our Nation
                Peace within our Church
                Peace in our Hearts
As I contemplated that simple yet beautiful peace pole, I realized that peace is something we all long for, and yet can seem so unattainable. St. Augustine captured the unreachable nature of peace when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” Even though peace may be elusive, we know the source of true peace. It is therefore with great faith and hope that we as a Church never stop seeking it through Mary, the Queen of Peace, and her son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
As we begin 2023, we remember that St. Paul VI in 1967 established the World Day of Peace to be celebrated on January 1, which is also the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  In 1972, Pope Paul VI coined his famous phrase, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
Popes since then have carried on this tradition of issuing messages of peace on this day, with their communications usually associated with the social doctrine of the Church. Hence, popes have made declarations on January 1 regarding the United Nations, human rights, the right to life, economic development, international diplomacy, wars, peace in the Holy Land, globalization, terrorism, etc.
For 2023, Pope Francis writes about our current global condition, as we cope with the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine. He stresses the need for an all-inclusive approach to peace: “We can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests; instead, we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community, and opening our minds and hearts to universal human fraternity. We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather, the time has come for all of us to endeavour to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.”
Peace is not just something that we should all work for; it is also something we should constantly be praying for. The next time you are at Mass, I invite you to listen to just how many times the word “peace” is used. Specifically in the Communion rite, immediately after the “Our Father,” the priest prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world as we extend a sign of peace to those around us.  These prayers explicitly follow Jesus’ message throughout the Gospels, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  (John 14: 27)
As we begin this new year, I urge you to pray for peace every Sunday when you attend Mass, and to also try to do so daily.  If we get into the habit of praying for peace each day, it becomes even more important to disconnect from the noise and busyness of our world and intentionally to find a “peaceful” place to reflect and contemplate.
During this initial year of the National Eucharistic Revival, I encourage you to take some time before the eucharistic Lord in adoration. It is a beautiful and powerful way to connect our minds, hearts and souls to the peace of Christ. Another possibility is to find a consistent, quiet spot in your home or a sacred space to sit, be still and pray. It is in these serene moments that the Holy Spirit may gently whisper into our ears the ways that God may want us to be an instrument of peace.
As a people of peace, let’s begin this new year by praying for and working for peace on Earth, peace for our nation, peace within our Church, peace in our hearts and wherever it is needed most. For ultimately, at the very end of every Catholic Mass throughout the world, we are mandated to “go in peace.”  And to that, we boldly affirm by responding, “Thanks be to God!”
enero de 2023
La paz esté con ustedes
Recientemente, mientras visitaba una parroquia, noté un “poste de la paz” en la propiedad, rodeado de hermosos jardines y bancos. El poste tenía cuatro lados, cada uno de ellos con una inscripción sobre la paz. Las expresiones de paz pasaban de lo general a lo específico:
                Paz en la Tierra
                Paz para nuestra Nación
                Paz dentro de nuestra Iglesia
                Paz en nuestros corazones
Al contemplar ese sencillo, pero hermoso poste de la paz, me di cuenta de que la paz es algo que todos anhelamos y que, sin embargo, puede parecer tan inalcanzable. San Agustín capturó la naturaleza inalcanzable de la paz cuando dijo: “Nuestros corazones están inquietos hasta que descansan en ti, oh, Señor”. Aunque la paz puede ser elusiva, conocemos la fuente de la verdadera paz. Por eso, con gran fe y esperanza, nosotros, como Iglesia, no cesamos de buscarla por medio de María, la Reina de la Paz, y de su hijo, Jesús, el Príncipe de la Paz.
Al comenzar el 2023, recordamos que san Pablo VI estableció en 1967 la Jornada Mundial de la Paz, que se celebrará el 1 de enero, que es también la solemnidad de la Santísima Virgen María, Madre de Dios.  En 1972, el Papa Pablo VI acuñó su famosa frase: “Si quieres la paz, trabaja por la justicia”.
Desde entonces, los papas han continuado esta tradición de emitir mensajes de paz en este día, y sus comunicaciones suelen estar asociadas a la doctrina social de la Iglesia. Por lo tanto, los papas han hecho declaraciones el 1 de enero sobre las Naciones Unidas, los derechos humanos, el derecho a la vida, el desarrollo económico, la diplomacia internacional, las guerras, la paz en Tierra Santa, la globalización, el terrorismo, etc.
Para 2023, el Papa Francisco escribe sobre nuestra condición global actual, mientras afrontamos los efectos a largo plazo de la pandemia del coronavirus y el impacto de la guerra en Ucrania. Insiste en la necesidad de un enfoque global de la paz: “Ya no podemos pensar sólo en preservar el espacio de nuestros intereses personales o nacionales, sino que debemos concebirnos a la luz del bien común, con un sentido comunitario, es decir, como un ‘nosotros’ abierto a la fraternidad universal. No podemos buscar sólo protegernos a nosotros mismos; es hora de que todos nos comprometamos con la sanación de nuestra sociedad y nuestro planeta, creando las bases para un mundo más justo y pacífico, que se involucre con seriedad en la búsqueda de un bien que sea verdaderamente común”.
La paz no es algo por lo que todos debamos trabajar; también es algo por lo que debemos orar constantemente. La próxima vez que estén en Misa, te invito a escuchar cuántas veces se usa la palabra “paz”. Específicamente en el rito de la Comunión, inmediatamente después del “Padre Nuestro”, el sacerdote reza para que la paz de Cristo llene nuestros corazones, nuestras familias, nuestra Iglesia, nuestras comunidades y nuestro mundo mientras extendemos un signo de paz a los que nos rodean.  Estas oraciones siguen explícitamente el mensaje de Jesús a lo largo de los Evangelios: “La paz les dejo, les doy mi paz, y no como la da el mundo. No se inquieten ni se acobarden” (Juan 14,  27).
Al comenzar este nuevo año, los animo a rezar por la paz todos los domingos, cuando asistan a Misa, y a intentar hacerlo también a diario.  Si adquirimos el hábito de rezar por la paz cada día, resulta aún más importante desconectar del ruido y el ajetreo de nuestro mundo y encontrar intencionadamente un lugar “tranquilo” para reflexionar y contemplar.
Durante este año inicial del Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional, los animo a tomarse un tiempo ante el Señor eucarístico en adoración. Es una forma hermosa y poderosa de conectar nuestras mentes, corazones y almas con la paz de Cristo. Otra posibilidad es encontrar un lugar constante y tranquilo en sus casas o un espacio sagrado para sentarse, estar quietos y orar. Es en estos momentos de serenidad cuando el Espíritu Santo puede susurrar suavemente a nuestros oídos las formas en que Dios puede querer que seamos un instrumento de paz.
Como pueblo de paz, comencemos este nuevo año orando y trabajando por la paz en la Tierra, la paz para nuestra nación, la paz dentro de nuestra Iglesia, la paz en nuestros corazones y allí donde más se necesite. Porque en última instancia, al final de cada Misa católica en todo el mundo, tenemos el mandato de “ir en paz”.  Y a eso, afirmamos con valentía respondiendo: “¡Demos gracias a Dios!”.
December 2022

‘All are welcome in this place’
I love Jesus! And it is always a source of joy and honor to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass whenever and wherever I am asked to do so. So when I received a request to celebrate a diocesan-wide Mass for individuals with special needs or disabilities and their families and friends, without hesitation, I responded, “Yes!”
On September 18, we gathered as a family of God with our brothers and sisters living with Down syndrome, deafness, amputations and other challenges. The Mass was beautiful. After being nourished by word and sacrament, I enjoyed a post-Mass gathering with attendees, posing for photographs and engaging in conversation. During these delightful interactions, just about everyone expressed gratitude for the Mass and the fellowship. However, I was also struck by a common theme of their not feeling welcomed – not only in many parts of our society, but also in some of our churches. Participants shared experiences of not being acknowledged or recognized, and even feelings of invisibility.
I was surprised, and probably more accurately, shocked by their comments. Honestly, my heart broke and sank as I reflected on some of their experiences of rejection and isolation. As I drove away from our time together, I wondered, “How is it possible that people with disabilities have experienced exclusion in our Catholic churches, where for decades we have sung an entrance hymn with the lyrics, “All are welcome in this place.”
Hopefully, it goes without saying that the Church should be a community in which all people experience an unconditional love that reflects God’s love. I am sure that most of us never intentionally intend to be noninclusive. Yet during this month when we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let me take this opportunity to challenge all of us to reflect on some of our unintentional attitudes and actions, and look for ways to see, welcome and include all of our sisters and brothers with disabilities or special needs. For we should always strive to be a church that lives the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians 3:26-28: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
As baptized Christians, we are all constantly called to a personal conversion that reflects the love of Christ. But it does not end with our own individual attitudes and actions. As an institution, we as the Church also need to embrace persons with disabilities or special needs concretely with our ministries, policies and programs. I am proud to highlight that in the Diocese of Joliet, Renata Cichowicz is providing the lead for pastoral outreach for such ministries through the Department of Catechesis and Evangelization. The diocese also acts as an affiliate of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. Additionally, St. Raphael Catholic Church in Naperville and several other parishes intentionally serve these communities with programs like REACH:  Religious Education Apostolate for Christian Handicapped. REACH provides simplified religious education lessons at a slower pace using a smaller student-to-catechist ratio. This program also prepares students for the sacraments of reconciliation, the Eucharist and confirmation.
I look forward to whenever I have the opportunity to celebrate Mass and gather with our beautiful community of individuals living with deafness, disabilities or special needs. Until then, I enthusiastically echo our Holy Father’s words from his 2021 message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: “I would like to speak to all of you who live with any condition of disability, to tell you the Church loves you and needs each of you for the fulfillment of her mission.”
Prayer to Foster Belonging
Creator God, we are your people. We look to the future with optimism and with faith in You, as we pursue our call to provide justice and fullness of life for all people with disabilities.
We pray that every man, woman and child may develop their potential and meet You in themselves and in one another.
May we enjoy a totally welcoming community, with You as our center, joined hand in hand with our sisters and brothers. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
From the National Catholic Partnership on Disability and based on the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities.