WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pope Francis has appointed Father Louis Tylka, a pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago, to be the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois.
Tylka, who will celebrate his 50th birthday May 26, will eventually succeed Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, 73, who has led the diocese for 18 years. The normal retirement age for a bishop is 75.
The appointment of the coadjutor bishop was announced May 11 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.
The new coadjutor bishop currently is pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park and president of the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council.
Born May 26, 1970, in Harvey, Illinois, he attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights before enrolling at Niles College Seminary of Loyola University Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He then entered Mundelein Seminary, earning a bachelor’s in theology and a Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained to the priesthood May 18, 1996.
He served as associate pastor at St. Michael Parish in Orland Park and then at Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Parish in Winnetka before being named pastor of Mater Christi Parish in North Riverside in 2004. He has been pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish since 2014.
“I am both overwhelmed and humbled by the Holy Father’s faith in me and in that spirit I accept this calling from the Lord and his church,” said Tylka in a video message posted on the Peoria Diocese’s website.
“Under other circumstances, I would be there in person to meet you and properly introduce myself,” he said. “However, until we can do that safely, let me offer this video by way of greeting and introduction.”
An announcement from the Diocese of Peoria said the bishop-designate is known as “a man of holiness and prayer, generous in service, who knows how to encourage the talents of others in collaborative ministry.”
“I know that I speak for all the priests, deacons, consecrated religious and faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria who join me in giving heartfelt thanks to Almighty God and to our Holy Father Pope Francis,” said Jenky of the appointment of Tylka.
Jenky said in recent years he has experienced “growing mobility problems” because of arthritis and spinal issues. About a year ago, he petitioned Pope Francis for help in the administration of the 26-county diocese.
“I am extremely grateful to the pope for granting my request and sending us this good shepherd,” Jenky said. He added that the coadjutor, who has served in parishes since his ordination in 1996, will “bring enormous talent, zeal and a warm personality to the service of God and neighbor here in central Illinois.”
He will receive an enthusiastic welcome when he arrives, the bishop predicted, and “we look forward to his pastoral ministry and leadership.”
“Upon my retirement,” added Jenky, “I will be happy to know that he will become the ninth bishop of Peoria.” Jenky has been instrumental in supporting the sainthood cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, a widely popular presence on television and radio from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Tylka will be the second coadjutor in the Peoria Diocese’s 143-year history. In 1987, Bishop John J. Myers was ordained in that role, serving with Bishop Edward O’Rourke for three years and then succeeding him, later becoming archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.
In his video message, Tylka said he was “flabbergasted” when Pierre called to inform him of the appointment to Peoria.
“I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to sustain me so that I respond generously to the Lord’s call,” he said.
He spoke of his family as “a source of strength in my years of ministry” and said that his parents “instilled great values in us — the importance of family and of faith, and the freedom to chart our own course in life and the courage to go after those dreams.”
His mother died just as he was entering seminary 30 years ago. His father now resides close to St. Julie Billiart Church.
Tylka asked for prayers for his youngest sister, Mary Lou, who is battling terminal cancer. “May Jesus keep her and all those sick and suffering close to his heart,” he said.
Expressing gratitude to Jenky for his warm welcome and encouragement, Tylka also had a message for the priests of the Peoria Diocese.
“Brothers, I pledge to listen to you, to respect your lived experiences of pastoring your people, and I look forward to ministering and working alongside you in the coming years,” he said. The same commitment, he added, goes to the women and men religious, deacons, and other ministers, and he expressed an eagerness to meet is eager to meet the diocese’s seminarians.
“I so look forward to being with the people of God in Peoria soon,” he said. “You can teach me about the parishes of the diocese, its cities and towns and the spaces between.”
Until that time, he said: “Let us pray for one another.”
No date was immediately set for Tylka’s episcopal ordination.
Contributing to this story was Tom Dermody, editor of The Catholic Post, newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria.