By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Kent Ferris gave a quiz on the topic of refugees to members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council at their March 12 meeting. But he also helped the advisory board to Bishop Martin Amos fill in the blanks.
“How many refugees are there in the world right now?” asked Ferris, director of the diocese’s Social Action Office. Someone guessed 2 million. When Ferris provided the correct answer — 60 million refugees — council members responded with amazement. Eighty percent of those refugees, he noted, are women and children.
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” Ferris said, quoting Pope Francis. The pope observed that “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who … share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.”
Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle who chairs the Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked his fellow bishops in 2014 to support refugee resettlement in the U.S. To date, 88 dioceses out of 195 are now engaged in resettlement work, Ferris said.
He identified three levels of participation: a resettlement program, a satellite program (collaborating with a neighboring diocese) and a remote placement program. “We don’t have the staffing or the funding to establish a resettlement program and a satellite program might stretch us beyond our means. The remote placement program appeared to be the best option for us,” Ferris said.
Through that program, the Davenport Diocese will accept up to 35 refugees per year who have an “anchor” — family, friend or someone who knows them — committed to assisting the refugees during the initial stage of their settlement in the diocese. “Bishop Amos and his administration have determined this is feasible,” Ferris said.
He assumes refugees likely will settle in the Iowa City area, which already has a significant refugee community composed of Sudanese, Congolese, Burmese and other nationalities. He is not aware of any Syrian refugees who have settled in the diocese.
“What do you want us to do to help?” DPC member Clarence Darrow asked. “The case management responsibility for initial resettlement will be out of our office,” Ferris responded. But his office hopes to get local parishioners involved in supporting the effort.
Darrow said that he and his wife, Lili, sponsored a family of 11 or 12 refugees from Vietnam in the late 1970s. “It’s a lot of work,” he told his fellow DPC members, “but you’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to help you out.”
Bishop Amos recalled that when he was a pastor at St. Dominic Parish in Shaker Heights, Ohio, the parishioners sponsored Bosnian refugees. “It was a really great experience for the parish.”
More men are responding to a call to vocations in the Davenport Diocese. Fourteen seminarians are presently studying at four locations in the U.S. and in Rome. Seven more men are contemplating a call, which could bring the number of seminarians to 20 this fall, Sister Laura Goedken, O.P., told the DPC. The cost per seminarian is $33,000 a year, while the diocese’s budget is $462,000 for the year. Thus, the diocese will conduct a Seminarian Appeal the weekend of April 16-17 in all parishes to help fund seminarian education. April 17 is Good Shepherd Sunday and also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Sr. Goedken showed a video “Meet our Seminarians” in which diocesan seminarians reflected on their vocation and education. Each one spoke of the profound influence a priest or priests had in their life. “I met so many priests who not only changed my life, but who I saw changing the lives of each and every person they encountered,” seminarian Deacon Ross Epping said. “We have a common goal of wanting to become more like men of Christ,” seminarian Ben Synder said. A mailing about the Seminarian Appeal will be sent to the 30,300 households in the diocese prior to the Seminarian Appeal, Sr. Goedken, diocesan development director, noted.
Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee
Don Boucher, director of the Office of Faith Formation, introduced two youth members of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee (DYMC), Louis DelVecchio and Lorena Nava. They provided an update on what DYMC is doing with the upcoming Junior High Youth Rally on April 10. Among the unique activities: a Year of Mercy pilgrimage from Regina High School to St. Mary Parish in Iowa City to pass through one of the Holy Doors in the diocese. The walking route is about 1.7 miles. Knights of Columbus will be stationed along the route to provide a safety net. An 8-1/2-foot-tall cross will be carried from the high school to the church. “We’ll use that cross in the future for all of our youth events,” Boucher noted. In response to a question about DYMC membership, he said that DYMC can have a membership of 18 youths and six adults, with representation from each deanery. Youths must apply for a position.
Sr. Goedken said a Stewardship Day has been planned for April 7 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. Guest speakers will be Bishop Robert Gruss, a former priest of the Davenport Diocese, who now leads the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., and parish ministry expert Tracy Welliver of Liturgical Publications.
Ministry in Motion
Bishop Amos announced that a diocesan Ministry in Motion conference has been scheduled for July 30 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The purpose of the gathering is to share information on developing and maintaining various “ministries of mercies” within a parish and to help others learn how to become involved as a merciful minister with organizations or ministries that implement works of mercy in the community.
Year of Mercy activities
At the request of DPC president Ken Miller, several members shared what their parishes are doing to celebrate the Year of Mercy. Nancy Roberson of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine gave an extensive list of activities the parish has or is undertaking. Among them: a three-day mission, a celebration for deacons and another one for priests and a special day set aside for individuals who are sick, disabled or living in a nursing home. Carol Kaalberg, representing parishes in Lone Tree, Nichols and Hills, also provided an extensive list of activities. Among the highlights — a 21.6-mile pilgrimage walk on the Feast of the Visitation (May 31) from St. Mary’s in Iowa City to St. Mary Church in Nichols. Pilgrims will be able to pray along the way. “I think it can be a real powerful day,” Kaalberg said. DPC member Janice Crall reported on a variety of activities in her cluster of parishes in Albia, Melrose and Georgetown. Among the activities is a weekly Lenten luncheon on Tuesdays in Albia that draws people from the surrounding communities. A free-will offering is taken with proceeds donated to different charities. At St. Mary’s in Iowa City, Father Corey Close has produced a Stations of the Cross booklet that is prayed each week during Lent and is posted on the parish’s website. Also during this Year of Mercy, Miguel Moreno, coordinator of multicultural ministry for the diocese, is organizing a pilgrimage for Hispanic Catholics on May 7 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. Bishop Amos said 300 to 400 pilgrims are planning to participate. Fourteen priests will be available to hear confessions.