New Bishop takes helm in Joliet Diocese
With a touch of humor, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon took the helm of the Diocese of Joliet on Wednesday during a ceremonial installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet.
Hundreds of Roman Catholics and church officials gathered to welcome Conlon, 62, and he began his first homily with a joke about being appointed to the post formerly held by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle.
"I am enjoying the idea of succeeding to the chair of Peter," said Conlon, who earned loud laughter and applause at his word play alluding to St. Peter's throne in heaven.
Bishops from throughout the Midwest traveled to Joliet for the two-hour Mass that was officiated by Cardinal Francis George, who leads the Chicago Archdiocese. Sartain also traveled from his new post to attend, along with retired Bishop Joseph L. Imesch.
Conlon told congregants they "represent the vitality and diversity of good people who are called to faith," and spoke to them about the idea of being sent by God to serve others.
"I have come not to do my own will," said Conlon "but the will of Him who sent me."
Conlon continued to pepper his homily with humor that struck a chord with congregants, while also delivering a solemn message of Catholic service.
Several songs and readings were delivered in Spanish, since the diocese has a strong Hispanic population. Prayers were also read in seven foreign languages, including Polish and Korean, to represent common languages among area Catholics.
Before coming to Joliet, Conlon spent nine years leading about 100,000 Roman Catholics in Steubenville, Ohio. Now he will be head of more than 655,000 Catholics in seven counties, including DuPage and Will.
In Steubenville, Conlon promoted the Catholic faith by developing teachings, as well as promoting the formation of priests and new priestly vocations. He also made it a priority to visit all the parishes and schools of the diocese numerous times.
Conlon also is active in family ministry and diocese officials said he is interested in programs that help strengthen marriage.
Ongoing projects will be a priority, officials said. Under Sartain, the diocese launched a plan called "Lighting the Path to Our Future," which aims to deal with demographic shifts. The plan affects 40 schools and parishes and will unfold over about a decade; four schools will close (some closures were completed last year), others will merge, and new schools will open in areas experiencing an increase in Catholic residents.
The plan also calls for trying to stabilize some schools with sagging enrollments and trying to help with fundraising initiatives.
Conlon began his religious vocation in 1975 when he was ordained a priest. He holds numerous theological degrees and was named to several leadership posts.