Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Face of Peoria Catholic Diocese Changing

The Peoria Catholic Post editorial on June 15, 2008 was titled “Face of Diocese Changing”. The article focused on the massive amount of construction that is occurring within the Peoria Diocese.

“As the sounds of construction echo this summer heralding wonderful, anticipated projects such as expanded Catholic Newman Centers at the University of Illinois and Illinois State University, the Milestone Project at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, and the Diocese of Peoria’s own pastoral center, we have another reminder that everything in this world is passing.”

Tom Dermody, editor of the Catholic Post, ends his article with, “The true face of this diocese will always be Jesus, gloriously the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Who can disagree with this last statement but it just did not seem to go along with the article.

I am sure Tom means well. However, the Publisher of the Post is Bishop Daniel Jenky and Tom isn’t naive.

I think that the "face of Jesus" would have been more real if the OSF Milestone Project, which is costing about $500 million dollars, were less expensive and more Haitian Hearts patients were alive today. OSF is turning away dying Haitian children while they construct the largest private construction project in Peoria history.

Much of the same issue of the Catholic Post concerns the poor of the world and programs like Catholic Charities and JustFaith. There was also an article regarding a Peoria diocesan priest and his two children who he supports in Mexico through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (“We don’t see poverty. We see potential".) I wonder what OSF would say if this good priest tried to bring one or both of his “children” from Mexico for medical care?

The actions of the leaders of the OSF and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria seem to be opposite to many of the themes of the articles written about the poor in the Catholic Post. That can leave the laity confused.

I love Peoria Notre Dame High School. My family runs on the beautiful Mervyn Haycock Athletic Field track and we pass the football on the adjacent green soccer field. Both of these fields are next to the school. The other night two rainbows were in the sky and the moon was coming above the ND goal post as we played on these fields.

The Catholic Post’s top story on June 22, 2008 regarded a feasibility study planned to determine the level of financial support for the construction of a new Peoria Notre Dame High School to be built on donated land off Willow Knolls Road in north Peoria.

Do we really need a new Catholic High School in Peoria? I realize that the high school is more than just athletic fields, but is a new campus necessary?

The full construction cost for the proposed new facility is $60 million dollars. Tuition will most likely go up at the new facility. What about kids in the future that want to go to Notre Dame. Will their parents be able to afford it? Will they be able to find the new school on the north side of Peoria?

The article named and quoted a lady who had a positive reaction to building a new school. Interestingly, the article also stated that, “A man in attendance who asked not to be named expressed concerns about fundraising in the present economy, and noted area parishes with capital campaigns already under way or planned in the near future.”

Why do you think that the man wished to remain anonymous? Because he doesn’t want to publicly disagree with Bishop Jenky and other powerful people. I am sure he thinks that the school will be built and his public disagreement or caution would and could hurt him and his family. (Notre Dame has been working with the diocese on this project and has the blessing of the bishop.)

I have no doubts either that the new high school will be built and there will be many good aspects. But is the greater good served in Peoria with the construction of this school?

I have also seen Saint Joseph’s Home on Heading Avenue open in the 50’s and close in the early 2000’s. Old people are just not viewed the same as constructing a new $60 million dollar high school, Newman Centers in two cities, and a one-half billion dollar medical center expansion. And the elderly obviously did not have the support of Bishop Jenky.

My view is probably myopic. But I have seen up close and personal what OSF’s administrative philosophy and expansion efforts, backed by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, have done to Haitian Hearts patients. Staring at the body of a young Haitian patient and friend of mine lying on the autopsy table is a sobering experience and made me realize how powerful and wrong OSF really is. He had been a patient at OSF but was denied care at OSF when he needed repeat heart surgery.

And with the support of the Diocese, OSF has partially forgotten why they were founded 130 years ago.

So big building projects scare me especially when the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and OSF are involved.

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