On the observer’s right, which in heraldry is the sinister or left side of the shield, is the personal coat of arms of Bishop James Golka. It reflects the journey of his personal and spiritual life as stated in his motto: “Stewards of God’s Mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4: 1).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells the Church at Corinth to think of their ministers as servants of Christ: as laborers, each with a specific task (1 Corinthians 3: 5-9). In chapter four, Paul clearly states the task to which each laborer is called: “Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." This was essential to the leaders of the early Church. Peter, to whom Jesus entrusted the keys or the governance of the Church, encouraged the correct and wise use of spiritual gifts, reminding us that each spiritual gift is a holy stewardship which one receives for the edification of the Body of Christ and for the glory of God (cf. 1 Cor 12: 4-11). The grace that pours into our lives is to become a channel of God's blessing, which, in turn is poured out in service to others.
The good steward tests the spirits, discerns, to see if these gifts are of God and to see that they be used correctly and administered according to holy ways. It is as old as Scripture itself. It is a holy tradition not a program. Within the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola, the discernment of spirits helps to uncover or discover what God is asking of us in both the big and little decisions of our lives. Ultimately, it is how we come to act “for the greater glory of God” (Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam).
Amid the discernment of spirits, the recognition of the spirit of the love of God is supreme. The Archangel Michael, the vanquisher of evil, is the unrivalled protector and defender of the love of God. All archangels have a “task” or ministry called a ray of God. Michael is of the “first ray.” The color of which is blue, signifying the power, protection, faith, and the will of God.
On the observer’s right, the green field of the shield represents the grass roots of Bishop Golka, where he was born, and where his spiritual life began: Grand Island, Nebraska.
In heraldry, white is used in place of silver. This is a practice that began as a solution to the problems associated with the tarnishing of silver. Though the term “silver” or “Argent” is still used, it is usually rendered in white. In heraldry, silver and white are one and the same.
The wavy bands of gold and silver (white) represent Nebraska, part of the great plains, whose people proudly serve the nation through agriculture, and the Wood and Platte Rivers, that helped to form the actual island. Famously, when the Pike’s Peak gold rush began, Grand Island was the last stop where prospectors and travelers could obtain supplies. The importance of Grand Island was also noted in 2010, when it became the home of the Nebraska State Fair. Such achievements and history are represented in the colors of silver and gold. These wavy bands serendipitously flow into the left side of the shield where they change into the blue and white bands of the Colorado Springs.
The Pelican in her Piety shows the mother wounding herself to offer nourishment and life to her young. This is a strong reference to the sacrifice of Jesus, who feeds us in the Holy Eucharist. It is placed in the upper most part of the right shield, what is known as the middle chief section. It fills the space and is the essence of the ministry of Bishop Golka: the mystery of the sacrifice of Jesus, which nourishes and sustains the people of God.
The sword of the Archangel Michael speaks of the ministry of deliverance and healing of which Michael is the patron saint and of which Bishop Golka is a minister. In the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, one of the main tenants is the discernment of spirits—a very old practice found in Scripture. Bishop Golka received part of his education and spiritual formation within the Jesuit tradition. A graduate of Creighton University, he served as a Jesuit lay missionary volunteer at Native American missions in South Dakota before entering Saint Paul seminary in Minnesota. During this time, the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola became important part of his spiritual life.
On the left in the lower portion of the shield is the Morning Star, a six-pointed star, a Marian symbol. It is the symbol of the patroness of the Diocese of Grand Island and the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary where James began his sacramental journey, having received his first sacraments in this church, and where his priestly ministry began with his ordination in 1994. He served as the rector of this Cathedral from 2016 until his appointment as Bishop of Colorado Springs.