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One-on-one with Bishop-Elect Fr. Lou Tylka

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Rev. Louis Tylka

PEORIA (HOI) - The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced they have a successor to Bishop Daniel Jenky.

Pope Francis appointed Fr. Lou Tylka, a pastor from the Archdiocese of Chicago, as Coadjutor Bishop until Jenky retires. What that means, is Tylka will assist Jenky in serving as bishop until his ultimate retirement.

Catholic bishops must retire at age 75; Jenky does not turn 75 until March 2022.

Tylka, 49, currently serves as the Pastor of St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Tylka told us Jenky requested a Coadjutor Bishop from the Church, citing some health concerns.

Heart of Illinois ABC spoke with Tylka in Chicago via Zoom this week to learn more about him. Here are the topics we talked about:

COVID-19 & The Church

COVID-19 is not only having impacts on church services, but also Tylka's timeline for coming to Central Illinois. He said he might not be able to come down to Peoria possibly until the end of the summer.

As far as returning to celebrating the Sacraments in person, Tylka said that is a conversation Illinois bishops are having.

"They have been working and in discussions about how to reopen the church that is prudent," said Tylka, "the priority is the safety and well-being of all."

Tylka said he has not been privy to those conversations, so he could not speak to how soon Catholics could return to mass.

The Peoria Diocese started asking those over 60 not to come to mass since early March, and later canceled in-person mass indefinitely.

Priest Sex Abuse

The Peoria Diocese, along with dioceses across the country, have struggled with past accusations of priest sex abuse.

In Peoria last spring, The Illinois Attorney General’s Office reported more than 500 priests and clergy members identified by former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as the targets of sexual abuse allegations statewide.

In addition, the firm Jeff Anderson and Associates out of Chicago found 395 priests and lay people publicly accused of sexual abuse in Illinois. Of those, 39 names were associated with the Peoria Diocese. The Diocese has acknowledged 26 of those as being “credibly accused.”

No one from the Diocese, including Bishop Jenky, has ever done an interview with us following the release of that report, or in response to the Illinois Attorney General’s report.

However, Tylka did not shy away from the subject. We asked what his philosophies are for handling accusations like this.

"I think that we should try to be as transparent as possible that's respectful of all parties involved," said Tylka.

He said sexual abuse accusations should be investigated, adding he understands people want answers right away, but these investigations take time.

"If there is a credible accusation it needs to be turned over to the civil authorities to do their investigation, right? And if there's a crime committed that crime has to be accounted for."

For Catholics struggling with this topic, this is Tylka's message to them, "I would hope and pray that despite past failures, and bad acts by some clergy and religious and others, that that should not take away or distract us from our relationship with Jesus Christ," he said, "no institution is perfect." Tylka said sometimes as humans we have to "confront our failures," and urged Catholics to stay focused on their faith in Jesus.

He said sexual abuse is wrong and sinful, but it's an issue they will have to continue to deal with and eradicate.

He also said accusers should receive compassion, and appropriate care.

"Justice demands that we also hear out the case and find out the truth."

Overall, Tylka said justice within the law and The Church should be served.

Philosophy as Bishop-Elect

Fr. Tylka said his mission is the same whether he is a pastor in Tinley Park, or the Bishop in Peoria. He said,"My philosophy, if you want to call it that, is that we have to work on becoming better disciples so that others can encounter the Lord."

Tylka said he has a lot to learn about Peoria, and wasn't able to comment on what he might do here.

He did say despite the pandemic, he is learning new ways to evangelize and share the message of The Church. "I think it's actually challenging us to become better evangelizers."

Tylka said his parish started live streaming mass in November, making his digital efforts a little easier.

Fulton Sheen

Fr. Tylka said he knows a bit about the Fulton Sheen beatification process, but not enough to comment on what he could do as bishop to move it forward.

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced in December that Fulton Sheen's Beatification was postponed. Beatification is a title achieved before one can become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Danial Jenky announced in November that Sheen's Beatification would take place December 21st, 2019 after Pope Francis called for the ceremony.

In a press release , the reason for the postponement states, "...the Holy See decided to postpone the date of Beatification, at the request of a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration. In our current climate, it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor. " The release from the diocese went on to say they have investigated Sheen's life "meticulously" and that, " At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question."

To read more about that announcement, click here.

Molly Jirasek

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