22 April 2010

SJ-R welcomes Bishop Paprocki

In his press conference Tuesday the Most Reverend Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop-Designate of Springfield in Illinois, noted that Mr. Lincoln said he always found a friend in Springfield's State Journal-Register; Bishop joked that he hoped to find the same.

In this morning issue, the SJ-R has an editorial titled, "An enthusiastic leader for local Catholics," the text of which follows, with my emphases:

THE REV. THOMAS PAPROCKI won’t officially assume his duties as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield until June 22, but he’s already made a name for himself.

It’s not often, after all, that one meets someone with a resume that includes Catholic priest, lawyer, hockey goalie and veteran of 16 marathons in 15 years.

THE VATICAN on Tuesday announced the appointment of Paprocki to succeed Bishop George Lucas, who became archbishop of Omaha last June. A native of Chicago and currently auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the 57-year-old Paprocki gave area Catholics and the community as a whole reason for optimism in his introduction Tuesday.

“I went to law school as a priest, which some people found to be a bit interesting,” he said. “The reason why I did that was because of my belief of what the church teaches about caring for the poor… That’s what I wanted to do as a special sort of focus with my ministry, and I was doing that and continue to do that with legal services for the poor.”

Paprocki is president of the Chicago Legal Clinic, which provides legal services to those who otherwise could not afford it. He said Tuesday that among his plans upon taking office will be working with government and social service agencies to help those hardest hit by the struggling economy.

Whether you’re Catholic or not, that attitude is encouraging.

WHEN LUCAS became bishop here in 1999, one of his biggest tasks was dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct by priests under his predecessor. The result was a 2006 investigation, overseen by former U.S. Attorney Bill Roberts, that led to the removal or suspensions of eight priests. A report from that investigation acknowledged that the misconduct “seriously eroded the trust of parishioners and the community at large.” It was a significant admission that went a long way toward restoring that trust.

Paprocki comes in at a better time for the diocese, but also as the Church deals with new misconduct allegations elsewhere. Again, the Springfield diocese should benefit from Paprocki’s experience in Chicago, where he has been a delegate to the board that investigates allegations of sexual misconduct against minors.

“I know what a painful and what a troubling issue that this sin and this crime is,” Paprocki said.

As he introduced himself on Tuesday, Paprocki made an impression as an energetic, affable and enthusiastic leader. We look forward to his applying his vast experience to the Springfield Catholic Diocese and the overall community.

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