Persons, places and things: The Years of Faith

Barb Arland-Fye

As the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate a Year of Faith, I think about the clergy and women religious celebrating years of faith during milestone anniversaries this year. Many have spent decades committed to sharing the faith with others.
One of them is Father Ed Dunn, who celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood with a Mass, luncheon and reception June 3 at St. Mary Parish in Oxford, his home parish. He continues to serve that parish and St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove as administrator.
Like so many clergy and women religious in their senior years, Fr. Dunn continues to serve the Church in marvelous ways. During the prelude before the anniversary Mass, people turned around in their pews and looked up toward the choir loft to see Fr. Dunn enthusiastically directing the choir in his white, hooded alb. Amazing!
Ten minutes later, Fr. Dunn processed down the aisle to the sanctuary to preside at Mass, following behind Deacons John Kelly and David Montgomery, Fathers Chuck Adam, Joe Rogers and Tom Stratman and Msgr. Frank Henricksen. Fr. Adam, a former student and colleague of Fr. Dunn’s at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, served as homilist. He was returning a favor to his mentor, who had given the homily at Fr. Adam’s 25th anniversary Mass.
Fr. Adam gave a terrific homily that incorporated Fr. Dunn’s ministry within the context of the Gospel for Trinity Sunday. One small anecdote lingered in my mind. Fr. Adam described a prank in which he and other seminarians converted the third floor hallway of what was then St. Ambrose Seminary into a bowling alley. Fr. Dunn was rector at the time. While the rector had a sense of humor, he also was very serious about the seminary’s purpose: “If you’re not here to pray, then don’t stay,” Fr. Adam recalled of one of Fr. Dunn’s sayings.
The centrality of prayer in the formation of a seminarian bears repeating, especially in today’s culture, which is so obsessed with multitasking and busyness “24/7.” I am deeply moved anytime I see a priest kneeling in a pew, absorbed in prayer before Mass or at another time when the church is otherwise empty.
Prayer remains a focus for women religious as well. Years ago, I thought the description “a ministry of prayer and witness” was a euphemism to describe individuals who could no longer carry out “real” ministry.  Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the grace of a ministry of prayer in visits with Sisters at the three communities with motherhouses in the Davenport Diocese: The Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport, The Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton and the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in Eldridge.
Some of the Sisters of Humility (see Page 9) who are celebrating 60, 70 and even 75 years of vowed commitment to their community are engaged in their ministry of prayer and witness at their retirement center near Des Moines. These senior Sisters remind us that God calls us to respond in faith in whatever way we can at every stage in our lives.
In his “Liturgy Notes” for June, Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan liturgy director, notes that “Faith is not just an assent to doctrinal propositions, but a living encounter with the author of our salvation, Christ. It is hoped that we will all grow deeper in that relationship during this special year, and proclaim Christ more boldly to others as we evangelize the culture.”
We would do well to follow the example of the faith-filled men and women whose anniversaries we celebrate this year.
Barb Arland-Fye

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