Catholics Big Part of 50th Batavia Brotherhood Banquet
By Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
February 28, 2019
BATAVIA—In addition to this year’s Catholic keynote speaker, Eric Groth, the 50th anniversary Batavia Brother hood Banquet also honored Msgr. William J. Donovan.
“It’s good to meet together and lift up the name of Jesus,” said Bob Dahlstrom, in his welcoming remarks to more than 350 men at the banquet Feb. 19 at Immanuel Lutheran Church here.
Dahlstrom has attended every banquet since the first in 1970 and, according to banquet chairman Elvin Harms, “this is the only type of such a banquet in all of Illinois.”
This year’s gathering of Christian men of all denominations was a celebration of the ecumenical banquet’s past, present, and future. 
The long-standing event has strong roots tied to Holy Cross Parish in Batavia and it has been held there on 23 occasions beginning in 1971.
Prior to the keynote speech, Mayor Jeff Schielke of Batavia declared the day as Batavia Brotherhood Banquet Day. 
Schielke read the official proclamation and in particular the area recognizing the late Msgr. William Donovan, who served the Holy Cross parish from 1929 until his retirement in 1967.
The proclamation stated in part: “Whereas, Msgr. Donovan was quoted in early records about the idea of a citywide Brotherhood Banquet as noting, ‘The righteousness of the bright light of ecumenism is the foundation of such a grand plan. It sets into motion once again, the spirit of true Christian teaching throughout our beloved community.’ ”
Schielke, who has also been part of the banquet for many years, said the city’s only bridge over the Fox River on Wilson Street is dedicated as the William J. Donovan Bridge. 
“Our city has come a long way since the Brotherhood Banquet began,” Schielke said. “We didn’t have Fermi Lab, the successful Randall Road corridor, or our vibrant downtown. 
“When I give tours now to other mayors who want to see what Batavia is all about, I always stop and park over the bridge and show them the bridge dedication sign. 
“They always say to me ‘How did you get away with that?’ and I tell them how very beloved Msgr. Donovan was throughout our town.”
The evening included a meal, prayer, fellowship, along with a talk of faith by Eric Groth, a member of St. John Neumann parish in St. Charles. 
Groth is CEO and president of ODB Films and the producer of “Paul, the Apostle of Christ,” a movie of God’s mercy that has been shown nationwide.
Groth shared his own journey of faith and giving himself up to God. 
“I had plans for my life and wanted to be a professional baseball player,” he said. 
Succumbing to an injury, his dream was gone. He shared a pivotal moment when he attended a retreat, where he said he realized “my life does not belong to me anymore. God spoke to me and told me, ‘I love you,’ ‘I did that for you,’ and ‘I want your life,’ ” Groth said. 
He urged those in the room if they came to the same realization to, “Enjoy (it), because God will take you for a ride. You can’t just sit there.”
During the filming of “Paul, the Apostle of Christ,” Groth said the best times were sitting with the crew in what they called the “video village” when the actors reviewed their shots. 
“It was here when we spoke of our faith and it would come naturally,” he said. “For all of us, talking about our faith can happen anywhere, every day.” 
There were enlightening moments for the cast, including British actor James Faulkner, who portrays Paul. 
“James told us he grew up as an Episcopalian, but admitted he never was baptized,” Groth said.  “He felt he was filled with the Holy Spirit in his role.”
 As he looked back at all of his experiences, Groth said, “God’s mercy is bigger than any of our mistakes.”