By Jeffrey van Zuiden
This article has been a long time coming for me, and long overdue for the great Christian warrior, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. While in the midst of my conversion, I quickly became enamored with the good Bishop. I quickly learned what it was like to have a great religious leader in front of me. Being educated in the great leaders in Church history, I reveled in living under a great Bishop who unabashedly took on the evils of the world while compassionately leading his flock. Great Bishops of old like immediately came alive to me in the person of my newfound leader. I do not hesitate to mention the enormous personality of the 4th Century Bishop, St. Augustine, at this point. However, at this point, I will digress, for I could talk for pages about his effect on me, but this is an ode to our Heroic Bishop, and not myself.
I will begin by simply scratching the surface of this modern day renaissance man’s impressive resume. A windy city native, Bishop Paprocki was born August 5, 1952, the 3rd in a line of 9 children. After graduating from Catholic High School, Bishop Paprocki, would begin his impressive career of education, spaced within different assignments in the Church. From what I can gather, he has spent at least 15 years in education (though I would guess that number is probably higher), obtaining 8 Diplomas over the years. Among these Diplomas are a Juris Doctor of Law from DePaul University, (he passed the Illinois Bar in 1981), a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and an MBA from Notre Dame (Bishop Paprocki’s Bio here).
Now, to round off that education, his Excellency is an avid runner and talented hockey player. Not content to count those as simple hobbies, he has scrimmaged with the Chicago Blackhawks, and competed in eighteen marathons of the years, internationally, I might add. While doing this, he has raised over $367 thousand dollars for charity. In 2013, Bishop Paprocki released a much-lauded (and much needed) book, Holy Goals for Body & Soul: 8 Steps to Connect Sports with God and Faith (Buy a copy here).
You might look at the proceeding two paragraphs and think, “Wow, that’s an impressive resume, but that’s personal accomplishment. Why should I care?” Well, I’ve only now gotten to what really matters. In this era of dying faith and morality Bishop Paprocki has stood, rock solid in the faith. Where he really begins to shine? Confronting the evils of secular society head on. Especially over the past few years, the Bishop has taken his full arsenal of talents against the corruption and evil infiltrating our government and elsewhere in society. In the process, he at times has really thrown himself to the wolves, but like a real man, is able to fend them off, and keep his head held high.
Again, I could fill pages just on the topic of how boldly the Bishop has stood up against government abuses and moral corruption, but I’ll summarize. Going back to 2005, we begin to see what our warrior Bishop would be like. When then Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order requiring all pharmacists in the state to dispense contraceptives, despite moral objections, the great Bishop said, in his presence, “I am dismayed that our secular society has reached the point that individuals are being required by law to violate their personal religious beliefs in order to accommodate the selfish demands of special interest groups.” The Bishop would continue over the coming years, defending freedom of religion in the public square. In 2010, for instance, while defending against FOCA he proclaimed, “It could mean discontinuing obstetrics in our hospitals, and we may need to consider taking the drastic step of closing our Catholic hospitals entirely. It would not be sufficient to withdraw our sponsorship or to sell them to someone who would perform abortions. That would be a morally unacceptable cooperation in evil.” The Bishop has very vocally and publicly spoken out against the Obama Administrations religious freedom abuses, and has hosted a religious freedom rally on the steps of the state capitol in both 2012 and 2013 (Learn more here. Watch the 2013 Event on Youtube). In-fact, it was Bishop Paprocki who coined the term, “Fortnight for Freedom.” Of course, he is a member to the USCCB’s ad-hoc committee on Religious Freedom.
Within the Church, the Bishop helped form a committee within the USCCB on Exorcism. In such a dark day and age where the evil forces are knocking on our doors, it’s no wonder it is needed (Learn more here). Additionally, he is one of the 3 Bishops tackling the debacle of the LCWR’s reform (Learn more here). Within his own Diocese, he has helped ensure religious orthodoxy, created an explosion in both youth and adult catechetical programs (both diocesan run and more notably, lay-run), and created a passion for the new evangelization. In fact, inspired by his leadership, St. Paul Street Evangelization, a lay run apostolate, formed a chapter in 2012 and has made a regular presence on the streets of Springfield, spreading the word of Christ and his Church (Learn about them here). Truly, when the laity begin to respond by their’ own accounting, you can bet there is a great Pastor above them.
Finally, try Google. Bishop Paprocki is all over the headlines. This author’s quick Google check found more search hits in regards to the defense of religious faith and moral issues for our good Bishop than any other. His bold and eloquent homilies are replayed regularly on EWTN. He regularly responds to local media attacks on the Church, even going so far as writing to local newspapers to respond to ‘letters to the editor’ that degrade the Church or it’s teachings (One example, another example). More recently, I was astonished when he accepted an offer to not only speak at, but debate at, a conference in favor of so-called gay marriage. On their’ own ground, he even won the debate, beautifully defending the Church’s eternal teaching on marriage (Courageous Bishop Paprocki Shows Us How to Contend for the Truth About Marriage) . What a proud moment for Christ’s faithful.
I would love to go on for pages, but suffice it to say, I can’t recommend enough, that you at least take the time to read or listen to his bold and decisive homilies (Read or watch them here). The apostle of God, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, is a scholar, he is an athlete, he is a warrior, and truly, he is a great man. Bishop, you are a hero to many, an inspiration to even more, and we, you flock, will follow you to the ends.
May God Bless You.
Please, click the link below and sign the letter of support for Bishop Paprocki!