Bishop McGovern of Belleville

On July 22 the Most Rev. Michael McGovern (56) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, will be ordained a bishop in the Church and installed as the IX Bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.

The new bishop is assuming a personal coat of arms which will be impaled with the arms of the See:

In the dexter (left side as we view it) impalement, Belleville is symbolized by a blue field with a green mount or hill rising from the base of the design. This hill has a dual significance. It refers to Compton Hill, the name of Belleville until 1814, and to Cahokia Mounds near which Bishop Laval of Quebec established the first mission serving the Cahokia Native Americans in 1699. On the top of the hill is a castle which is the traditional symbol for a city (“ville”). It is rendered in gold for beauty (“belle”) which identifies the See city, Belleville. Rising above the castle is a gold cross with arms that end in fleur-de-lis to honor the French missionaries who served the Native Americans of Southern Illinois. Above the castle is an arched bar which is taken from the Coat of Arms of His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII who erected Belleville as a Diocese in 1887. Just above this bar are the symbolic “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” given by Christ to Simon Peter, the rock on which He built the Church. This is in recognition of the diocese’s Cathedral Church of Saint Peter.

The personal coat of arms assumed by Bishop McGovern combines symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his spiritual life and priestly ministry. The field is red, a color associated with the Holy Spirit as well as with the Passion of the Lord. The life and ministry of a priest and bishop are rooted in the Paschal sacrifice of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. The main charge, a silver (white) pelican in its piety, symbolizes the discipleship to Christ to which all Christians are called. It depicts a pelican vulning its breast, or picking at its own flesh to feed its young with its blood. This is clearly an image of Christ and the Eucharist who calls us all together as His brothers and feeds us with His Body & Blood.

Below the pelican is a gold (yellow) crescent which is a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States of America. Above the pelican are two gold fleurs-de-lis which, while also being a symbol associated with Our Lady, are included here because they are taken from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where Bishop McGovern served as a priest prior to becoming a bishop.  

The motto below the shield is, “Vos Autem Dixi Amicos”, taken from John 15:15. Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” This, too, is an allusion to the fellowship of discipleship which Jesus gives to all people.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to design and emblazon the bishop’s coat of arms as well as to marshal them to the existing coat of arms of the See of Belleville..

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