By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A family with a toddler, a St. Ambrose University student discerning a vocation to the priesthood, clergy, St. Serra Club of Davenport members and other adults spent quiet time before the Eucharist during the inaugural Holy Hour for Vocations at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Feb. 18 that led into the Holy Hour for Vocations. Concelebrating were diocesan priests Fathers Thom Hennen (vicar general and the cathedral’s pastor), Ross Epping (vocations director and St. Ambrose University campus chaplain), Gary Beckman (pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish-Iowa City) and Hai Dinh (pastor of St. Mary Parish-Lone Tree, St. Mary Parish-Nichols and St. Joseph Parish-Hills). Deacon Dan Huber of the cathedral assisted.
During the Holy Hour, “we will pray that people in general embrace God’s will by denying themselves and taking up their cross and following Jesus,” Bishop Zinkula said during his homily, reflecting on the Gospel reading for the day. Mark (8:34-9:1) tells his listeners, “Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, taking up his cross, and follow me….’”
“We will pray in particular for vocations,” the bishop continued. “We will pray that those who are being called to marriage, religious life, the permanent diaconate or the priesthood may discern and accept their vocation, their calling from God.”
“For disciples of Jesus, the person who is not struggling is called by Jesus to mount the cross and die for the one who is struggling. Those who are faithfully, generously and sincerely living the vocations of marriage and holy orders are a witness to the Gospel and a witness to the Kingdom of God. The path of discipleship is a path of self-sacrificing love, and that means the path of suffering. That is what we, his disciples, should do as well. Jesus calls us to actively seek out ways to lighten the loads of other people by faithfully and lovingly living our vocation and carrying our crosses.”
Pope Francis said, “Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us. We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives.”
The diocese’s Vocations office offered the Holy Hour for Vocations at the cathedral to encourage parishes around the diocese to help the faithful discover and embrace their vocations. Immediately following Mass, Bishop Zinkula and the priests returned to the front of the cathedral to begin the Holy Hour. The bishop incensed the monstrance from his kneeler on a step leading to the altar and the priests knelt on the floor at the foot of the sanctuary.
Periods of silence, prayer and music marked the Holy Hour, which concluded with Benediction.
A St. Ambrose University student discerning a vocation to the priesthood said he enjoyed the Mass and Holy Hour. It was the first time he had attended Mass at which a bishop presided and he appreciated that experience. “His message spoke to me in discerning the priesthood,” the student said.
“There’s only one way, and that’s in front of the sacrament, to really take time to listen, to pray, to know what to pray and take your time to get your requests out there to God,” said Tim Frandsen. A member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport and of the St. Serra Club, he thought the Mass and Holy Hour for Vocations were awesome. He offered one suggestion, “maybe a little more singing.” However, he understands diocesan precautions during a pandemic.
“Prayer is the most communal, responsible, easy way to foster vocations,” Father Epping said afterwards. “What better way to come together as a community rooted in the very true presence of Jesus Christ than to offer time and to sacrifice our evening for the sake of vocations and the Church?”
“It is a blessing to be able to offer these prayers on behalf of the Diocese of Davenport. Our hope is that more parishes will participate.” The diocese has equipped priests, deacons, lay leaders and lay ministers to offer the Holy Hour for Vocations in their parishes, Father Epping said.
“What better way and easier way to promote vocations than to simply pray for them?”