In a two-hour Mass Tuesday morning, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.
Over 1,000 people attended the Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
In his homily, Bishop Paprocki expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Francis George for installing him as bishop, as well as for his guidance over the years.
“It has been my privilege to serve him as Chancellor, as pastor of a parish, and as his auxiliary bishop for the past seven years,” he said. “In so many ways he has truly been a mentor for me, teaching me how to be a bishop, providing an example of how to be a good shepherd caring for the flock of our Lord’s faithful people.”
Noting that the installation Mass was taking place on the feast day of St. Thomas More, Bishop Paprocki spoke about the heroic witness of the saint. Describing his own background in law, he explained, “A wise lawyer like St. Thomas More helped me to recognize that the law of the heart is love.”
“I see my primary task as bishop is to love you, more precisely, to radiate Christ’s love with the help of God’s grace throughout the twenty-eight counties of central Illinois that comprise the State of Illinois,” he said. “I come to our state capital not as a sort of Catholic lobbyist, but as a shepherd of souls.”
The bishop went on to say that he must proclaim the truth in order to radiate Christ's love. “Pope Benedict XVI made this connection between love and truth the focus of his encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate,” he said.
“The second major task that I see for a Catholic bishop is to be the center of unity for the Christian community,” Bishop Paprocki said. He called to mind the famous speech of Abraham Lincoln, delivered in Springfield in 1858.
“Mr. Lincoln quoted the Bible in reminding people that a 'house divided against itself cannot stand,'” he said. Recalling President Lincoln's commitment to preserving the Union, he continued, “So also a bishop must make every effort to be a sign of unity among all Christians and solidarity among all the peoples of this world.”
Bishop Paprocki was born in Chicago in 1952. After his ordination as a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1978, he studied law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1981. He co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic to assist the poor in their need for legal services.
He went on to study canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and completed his doctoral degree in 1991. He was appointed to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago in January, 2003.