Corpus Christi parish in Galesburg, IL, where I'm giving a parish mission this week, is served by two priests of the Institute of Charity or Rosminians. Today I went with Frs. William Miller and Joseph Presley to Peoria where one of their community houses is located. There we had lunch with five priests of the Peoria diocese, one of whom, Fr. Greg Nelson, I knew because last year at this time I gave a parish mission at St. Paul's in Danville, IL. It was good to see him again and to make some new friends among the local clergy, two of whom graduated from the College of Philosophy and Letters at St. Louis University just as I had.
On our way back to Galesburg we visited the Community of St. John in Princeville, IL. I first heard about this community through their work of promoting Eucharist adoration for children. Fr. Antoine Thomas spearheads that effort speaking around the country, creating videos and a website called "Children of Hope." I've met Fr. Antoine a couple times over the past few years and have always been moved by his simplicity and his deep love for our Eucharistic Lord.
What is the Community of St. John? A brochure I picked up says the following: "The Community of St. John is a religious family founded in 1975 by a French Dominican, Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe. Following the example of the beloved disciple St. John, the Brothers and Sisters have chosen to live a contemplative life in service to the Church. They consecrate their lives to God, emphasizing the Eucharist, silent prayer in common, study, and fraternal charity. Like St. John, they receive the Virgin Mary as their Mother and live intimately close to her. The Brothers, especially the priests, are called to give retreats, seminars, and missions. Since 1975, the Community has grown from its original five members to 950 Brothers and Sisters from over 25 countries, serving in about 80 priories (houses) throughout the world. The Community has established several priories in the U.S.: Laredo, Texas; Peoria, Illinois (Newman Center at Bradley University); and Novitiates for the Brothers and Sisters in Princeville, Illinois."
We saw some art work (calligraphy, paintings, and sketches) done by two of the Sisters that was on display in the conference center and we prayed in the chapel where an afternoon of adoration was going on.
As we began to leave, driving down a gravel driveway, whom should we see walking up the road but Fr. Antoine himself. I was happy to have this opportunity to see him again because in a few weeks he will be leaving the U.S. to help found a new priory in Christchurch, New Zealand. His smile radiated the warmth of a personality which has been obviously formed by his contemplative life and mission of teaching children to meet Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Like the namesake of his community, he has drawn near to the Heart of Jesus and found there a joy that he cannot keep to himself.