New Springfield bishop also lawyer -- and hockey goalie

April 22, 2010 6:19:51 AM PDT
A Chicago Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop has been named the new bishop for the Springfield diocese. Bishop Thomas Paprocki will lead an area that covers 28 counties in central Illinois.

Paprocki is a lawyer as well as a priest. And when he's not in church, you may find him on the hockey rink.

For a man who's been a Chicago priest for 32 years it's quite a change when the Vatican calls and says you're going downstate.

"First it comes as a little bit of a shock, at least a surprise, but then it becomes exciting," said Bishop Paprocki.

The official announcement was made Tuesday in Springfield, a city the bishop has visited in the past.

But now he'll be the leader of Roman Catholics in the state capital including those who make the laws.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that if I call a legislator, or member of the Executive Branch, or even the judiciary, that I'm coming to lobby for something. It means that I may just want to establish a pastoral relationship. And if in the course of that some topic or matter comes up, that would be fine," said Paprocki.

Not everyone is pleased by Paprocki's appointment. The advocacy group for abuse victims called SNAP claims that Paprocki is "an extremist," pointing to a homily - a sermon - the bishop gave a few years ago to a Catholic lawyer's group where he said "none other than the devil" was behind mounting sex abuse lawsuits.

"Obviously, I believe it's a much bigger context than that. The whole issue stems from the abuse that takes place in the first place. It is the priests who have engaged in this activity who unfortunately succumbed to that temptation and committed a very grievous sin - and a crime," said Paprocki.

When Paprocki moves to Springfield, Chicago will lose a prominent Polish-American.

The bishop led the thousands who came to Holy Name Cathedral last Sunday to mourn the loss of Poland's president and leaders in a plane crash. Paprika has been the cardinal's liaison to the Polish community in Chicago.

"Going to Springfield, that's not going to be the case. I'm told there's not that much, if any, real Polish population there, so that will be something I'll miss," said Paprocki.

Something he's hoping not to miss is his love of sports. He's an avid runner and hockey player featured in a past story here on ABC7. His Chicago teammates call him the "holy goalie."

"I've gotten emails from my teammates telling me if necessary, they'll drive down to Springfield and pick me up for our Thursday night games and they've also advised me to take Friday morning's off, so I hope to do that," said Paprocki.

Bishop Paprocki will formally take his new job in Springfield on June 22.


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