Diocese of Joliet

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History of the Diocese of Joliet




Years of Change...

On August 31, 1966, the feast of St. Raymond
Nonnatus, Romeo Blanchettewas installed as the second
Bishop of Joliet by Archbishop John P. Cody of Chicago,
in ceremonies at St. Raymond’s Cathedral. This period not only
marked the passing of the first Bishop of Joliet; it also
marked the passing of many traditional laws and customs
that had been part of Catholic life for centuries.

The post-Vatican II years have been years of renewal for the
Church, and for the Diocese of Joliet. It fell to Bishop Blanchette to
implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council, especially
with regard to the renewal of the liturgy, the involvement of the laity
in the life of the church and ecumenical outreach to various Christian denominations as well interfaith dialogue with non-Christians.

The Diocese of Joliet did not find it very difficult to implement the decrees set down by Vatican II. In fact, some of the changes called for by Vatican II had already been put into existence by the Diocese of Joliet. For example, lay people and religious had been serving for many years on diocesan boards that were formerly made up of clergy.

The Diocesan Pastoral Council was established by Bishop Blanchette in the fall of 1966 as a sign and symbol of the unity of the People of God, and as an effective means of accomplishing the mission of Christ in the modern world. Composed of clergy, religious and laity, the Council concerned itself with everything pertaining to pastoral activities, making careful studies and producing practical recommendations for the Bishop’s consideration. Bishop Blanchette also established the Senate of Priests (now called the Presbyteral Council). This body, composed of priests, most whom are elected by their brother priests as well as some appointed by the bishop, continues to advise the Bishop in the administration and direction of the diocese. Bishop Blanchette also instituted the permanent diaconate in the diocese, a diocesan newspaper, The Joliet Catholic Explorer, and was a leading voice in the respect life movement in this country.

On January 5, 1968, Monsignor Raymond Vonesh, another Chicago canon lawyer “loaned” to the Joliet Diocese by the Archdiocese, was named auxiliary bishop to assist Bishop Blanchette and he was consecrated on April 3, 1968, at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus by Patrick Cardinal Cody of Chicago. He faithfully served the diocese until his retirement and death in 1991, shortly after he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Bishop Blanchette oversaw the celebration of the Diocese’s silver jubilee in 1973-1974. The theme chosen for this jubilee year was “joy and thanksgiving,” and the celebration culminated with the consecration of anew altar and the Cathedral church of St. Raymond Nonnatus on March 24,1974.

25th Anniversary Booklet

Due to the tremendous growth of the Diocese, the Holy See named former Abbot Daniel Kucera of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle as a second auxiliary bishop to assist Bishop Blanchette, and he was ordained a bishop on July 21,1977, at the Cathedral. He served the diocese until he was named Bishop of Salina, Kansas, in 1980 and eventually became Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, in 1984.

Having been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), Bishop Blanchette resigned as diocesan bishop on January 30, 1979. For the next three years as the painful disease progressed, he lost all use of his limbs and eventually lost his ability to speak. He learned to communicate and even write articles for the Diocesan newspaper by blinking his eyes. He died onJanuary 10, 1982, and his funeral was celebrated on January 14 at the Cathedral. He is entombed in the mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville. At the time of Bishop Blanchette’s resignation, the Catholic population of the diocese had grown to 401,000 with 113 parishes.

Sources

  • Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus Dedication Book (1955)
  • Diocese of Joliet Twenty-fifth Anniversary book (1974)
  • Diocesan 50th Anniversary Book (1999) History of the Diocese of Joliet by Rev. Richard Walsh
  • Various articles from The Joliet Catholic Explorer and Christ is our Hope