EAST MOLINE, Ill. — After the Chicago Bears lost their Sunday bid to play in the National Football League playoffs, a sign saying “Is your faith in hibernation like the Bears” popped up at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, East Moline.
The Rev. Greg Jozefiak couldn’t resist the jab. He loves word play and the chance to put a smile on people’s faces as they drive by the church sign on the corner of 17th Avenue and 6th Street.
“Wise cracks” about the Chicago Cubs have been popular mainstays, he said.
About a year ago, he said he put up a sign that read: “Dear Santa: How about the Cubs in 2013?”
His wish, as baseball fans know, went ungranted.
Others he fondly remembers include: “Don’t steal, unless you’re a Cub on first base,” ”Put your faith in Christ, not the Cubs” and “If God said the least would be first, He must have been a Cubs fan.”
When division rival St. Louis made it to the World Series vs. the Boston Red Sox in the fall, Rev. Jozefiak couldn’t resist a message that read “Cardinals belong in the Vatican, not the World Series,” which garnered much attention, especially amid the contingent of Cardinals fans at St. Anne’s, and at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, in Silvis, where he also pastors.
“Those congregations have made me feel so very welcome and have been so kind to me,” he said, adding that the sign messages provide plenty of conversation-starters.
“And who knows what the messages may have meant to people driving by,” he said.
He said he tries to keep messages brief to give drivers a chance to read them before they pass by.
Rev. Jozefiak said he likes humorous messages the best, but occasionally throws a more serious topic on the sign, still relying on word play. Recently, the sign read: “His presence is the best of all presents.”
When war was brewing in the Middle East again last year, prompting Pope Francis to call for churches to fast and pray, Rev. Jozefiak had a message that read: “Fasting and prayer are needed to beat the hell out of the devil,” based on Biblical passages.
One church member complained about that one, saying it didn’t seem right for Rev. Jozefiak to suggest that anyone get beaten, he said.
But overall, sign response has been positive and uplifting, he said. “I like to keep things light.”
He’s not fond of older “more cliche ones,” such as the one that reads: “Ch–ch. What’s missing? UR.”
He prefers to come up with his own, and then “bounce them off a few people first to get their reaction.”
Staff members at Silvis Blackhawk Bank and Trust usually are among the first he checks with, Rev. Jozefiak said.
He’s also noticed customers from Smokey’s Country Diner, across the street from the church, often posing for photos in front of the sign, saying “that makes my day.”
“It has certainly sparked conversations about faith, even among ‘Chreasters’,” Rev. Jozefiak said, referring to the term used for people who usually attend church only on Christmas and Easter.
And it helps “plant seeds” among the unchurched, he said.
He plans to leave the Bears’ hibernation sign up for another week or so. By then, he said, everyone should have forgotten about what happened to the them.
And baseball spring training is less than a couple months away, so he soon will be able to refocus his attention and take some more swings at the Cubs.