Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Great Profile of a Great Catholic Priest - Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Bishop Thomas Paprocki has our backs, Catholics.

‘You’ll get no fable that’s told by me.

For Paul, in writing there to Timothy,

Reproves those who swerve from truthfulness,

Relating fables and such sinfulness.

Why should I sow chaff from my fist,

When I can sow wheat, as I would wish?

So I will say, that if you wish to hear

Of morality and virtuous things here,

And grant me of my speech an audience,

I will gladly do Christ full reverence,

Giving you lawful pleasure, as I can.

But in truth I am a southern man;

I cannot give you “rum, ram, ruf” by letter,

And, God knows, I hold rhyme little better.

Rhyme and alliteration I’ll dispose

With, and tell you a merry tale in prose,

To knit up all this game and make an end.
Parson's Prologue -Canterbury Tales.

The only real priest and honest Churchman in the Canterbury Tales is the Parson. Chaucer lived in a time when Church was identified more with clerical abuse than sanctity - Monks were slum-land-lords, Nuns were no better than Rush Street Cougars, Friars were sots on the make and Abbots were gang-banging Warlords. The Parson was Christ-like.

Yesterday, I read a wonderful profile of Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki, by Bruce Rushton in Illinois Times. Bishop Paprocki is a tough Polish kid from 'over-by there.' Paprocki is a priest's priest and a jock-strap: an very educated man who remembers that he walked in alleys and ran through gangways.

Like the Parson of Chaucer's poem, Bishop Paprocki gives Catholics hope.

Only Catholic clerics who cave-in to secular agendas get fair play with academics, media mouth-pieces and political opportunists in and out of office.

Abortion is unacceptable. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Sex outside of marriage requires a trip to the confessional box and not a plebiscite. Social justice should not require a public relations team.

Esse Quam Videri was stated by lawyer and orator Cicero - To be rather than seem.

The Catholic Church has seemed to be anything and everything for more than forty years. That is far too long. Bishop Thomas Paprocki lives what must be, for Catholics and other good people. Good people protect their children, their rights and their souls as best they can.

They call him the Holy Goalie, the bishop who saves goals and saves souls. He is, according to Jeff Rocco, director of the Sacred Heart-Griffin hockey squad, the real deal in the net – you’d never know that he didn’t take up ice hockey until the late 1990s, when he was closing in on 50.

What possesses a man in mid-life to become a puck target?

“Why do you want to play goalie – it’s like, why do you want to be a priest?” answers Paprocki, who also runs marathons. “Part of it, I guess, is being at the center of the action. Being a goalie is like being a bishop: You’re at the center of the action.

Really, Paprocki says, it isn’t much different than playing goal in floor hockey, which he did back in the eighth grade while growing up on Chicago’s south side. There were no ice rinks, and so his six brothers and their friends played in a basement beneath his father’s pharmacy.

“The basic principle is, you play the angles,” he says. “You just want to position yourself in a way so the puck hits you.”

Plenty of pucks have hit Paprocki since his arrival in Springfield 18 months ago. He doesn’t shy from strong statements, which has earned him critics who call him divisive, arrogant, inflammatory – and worse.
. . . After passing the bar exam in 1981, Paprocki and Grossman founded the Chicago Legal Clinic, which still provides legal services to the poor. Grossman is executive director while Paprocki remains president. Grossman, who is Jewish, says the bishop has a keen sense of humor, the sort who enjoys stories that begin with “A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar….”

“He always tells those jokes,” Grossman says.

But Paprocki knows where the line is located.

“He is never not a bishop,” Grossman says. “It’s not a job for him. It’s a lifestyle. It’s something that permeates every aspect of his being.”

Paprocki entered law school three months after he was ordained – it was all part of a plan that made sense to him, he says, but perhaps not to others.

“That all fit for me,” he says with a chuckle. “I describe the law as a tool for ministry. Other people looking at that, ‘He was ordained a priest and now he’s studying to be a lawyer? He’s already so dissatisfied with the priesthood...’ . . .
Between explaining himself on high-profile matters, Paprocki leads the day-to-day life of a bishop, lawyer, marathon runner (he finished 531st out of 1,330 finishers with a time of 4:08:39 in the Kansas City Marathon last fall) and, Grossman says, a man who is making plans to earn a master’s degree in business administration. Somehow, he finds time for matters large and small.

“You can imagine a person in his position must get asked a favor or for something a million times a day,” Grossman says. “He always, always, always takes time for people.”

Including for members of the Sacred Heart-Griffin hockey team, which won its first-ever championship last season, when Paprocki served as the squad’s goalie coach during his first year in Springfield. The bishop attends about 70 percent of the team’s practices and games, says Rocco, the team’s director, and he commands respect by blocking 60-mph shots by college-bound players.

“He can play,” Rocco says.
You got that right, Rocco. Play is damned serious these days.

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