There are big doings around St. John’s church in Galva this week. Bishop Daniel Robert Jenky, the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, is coming to town. The reason? Confirmation for 12 Galva students, plus eight more from St. John’s in Woodhull. The Diocese of Peoria serves 26 Illinois counties and nearly 200 Catholic Churches, with almost a quarter of a million parishioners in the central part of the state, so it’s a pretty big deal when the Bishop comes to Galva, with the last time being around 1996, I think.
I’m probably understating things when I say that this visit has set off a few alarm bells around St. John’s. A number of people have been busy, busy, busy cleaning, organizing and rehearsing for the big event, which, actually, took place last night. I’m writing this column, as always, on Tuesday, so you have the advantage over me as to how it went. But, I want to go on record right now as saying that if it didn’t go well, it was probably my fault. There have been moments in the process leading up to Wednesday night when I’ve had an inkling of how those early Christians felt just before they were fed to the lions, because, dear friends, I seem to find myself right smack-dab in the middle of this Sacrament of Confirmation, an important step in an individual’s life in the Church.
First off, my wife (who has specifically and firmly asked not to be mentioned by name in my columns from now on) and I are the teachers for St. John’s Confirmation class, which is made up of eighth and ninth grade students. She, as a trained teacher, devoted reader of scripture and responsible adult, has done much to prepare our students for this day over the past two years. I, on the other hand, have specialized in more esoteric faith-based matters, such as how to pick out a really cool-sounding Patron Saint name and how to wangle the last marshmallow at a church picnic. So, if our students tell the Bishop that Jesus had an apostle named Ringo, it’s on me.
Next, I’m responsible for the music for the Confirmation Mass. Now, I’m not unaccustomed to playing music at church. For awhile, I was even a part of the Bishop’s own pontifical choir at St. Mary’s Cathedral, until I was dismissed for singing the Latin parts with a Swedish accent. Even now, all the religious education students at St. John’s join me on a monthly basis to lead the congregation in song. But this is an important occasion. And the Bishop will be listening. My fear is that, in my nervousness, I’ll revert to the one song that I can generally remember all the words to, no matter what.
Frankly, I’m not sure “The Hokey-Pokey” is a good fit for such a solemn event.
I’m also charged with taking pictures of the Bishop and the newly confirmed students. As my colleagues at the Star Courier can tell you, my picture-taking skills can range from bad to worst. Oh, I’m not too bad at catching a point guard in mid-air on his way to the basket, but give me a group picture to take and I show an amazing talent for catching every eye closed and every mouth open.
But the task that truly keeps me tossing and turning at night is that of “Master of Ceremonies” for the events leading up to the actual Mass. I’ve been asked to be the guy who keeps the Bishop moving once he hits town. That means I’ll need to show him around the church and rectory, and keep track of time as he poses for pictures, greets parishioners, interviews the students and shares a meal with some of the clergy who will assist him with the ceremony.
I’m reminded of Rowdy Yates, the trail drive ramrod played by Clint Eastwood on the old “Rawhide” TV series. It was Rowdy’s job to keep things moving, too, but I’m also reminded of a line often used on that show:
“Don’t spook ‘em boys, they’re apt to stampede.”
Really, now, do I seem like the kind of guy who can tell a Bishop to “get a move on?” Will I have the will to tell the Bishop, a man who has a direct historical lineage dating back to the original twelve apostles, that he doesn’t have time for dessert?
But hey, by the time you--and I--read this, it will all be over. The young people will be confirmed, and that’s all that really matters. And who knows, Bishop Jenky and I may hit it off. He might even be Pope some day and decide he needs a bossy, guitar-playing photographer in Rome with him. What’s-her-name and I could live in the Vatican, eat pasta and learn to speak Italian.
Or maybe he’ll just decide to do the right thing, and turn me over to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of lost causes.