The College for Bishops assigns a "peer coach" to every newly-consecrated bishop. This relationship is pretty well explained by its name, and lasts for three years. My peer coach is the Bishop of Albany, Bill Love. (As it turns out, we knew each other two decades ago at Nashotah House, where he was in the class two years behind mine.) Every peer coach is encouraged to make an on-site visit to the assigned new bishop, and today was Bishop Love's day to do just that. He flew in to Springfield late last night and will be flying home (if the travel gods smile on him) early tomorrow morning. Today I picked him up at his downtown hotel around 9am, and drove him down to the cathedral-diocesan office complex. We prayed the morning office together in the cathedral, and I showed him around both there and the "round house."
We then headed out on a tour, stopping first at Christ Church, where we had a brief chat with Fr Greg Tournoux, then on to St Luke's, where we looked around the exterior of the property. Next we headed west to historic Jacksonville, and a tour of the church and parish hall at Trinity Church, generously offered by Fr Kip Ashmore. After lunch in Jacksonville, we headed northwest to the Illinois River community of Beardstown. (The last time I saw Beardstown, it was from the river, about 44 years ago, when I was on a boat trip from Starved Rock to St Louis.) We do not have a congregation in this county seat town of 5,500 (not sure if we ever had), which now has the largest concentration of Latinos anywhere within the bounds of the Diocese of Springfield. Seeing it gave Bishop Love and me plenty of fodder for discussing mission and ministry in rural areas.
Opting for the direct route back to Springfield, we headed southeast on IL 125. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to tackle an item that has long been on my to-do list, but which I don find a pleasant task ... shopping. All along, my office has needed a couch and a side chair for the kind of meetings for which sitting at a conference table does not seem appropriate. So we stopped by a retailer that had been recommended to me and I actually ended up purchasing ... a couch and a side chair. After they're delivered, I can then start to hang pictures and certificates, and the place will begin to looked settled.
After some time at our home sitting in the living room with Brenda over some refreshements, the three of us headed out to a nice dinner.
The hours Bill and I spent driving around afforded us the opportunity to process the experience of my first three months in the diocese. It's always helpful to have the ear of someone outside the system in which one operates, and I look forward to the three years of his being available for counsel and advice.