By Barb Arland-Fye
When Bishop-elect Thomas Zinkula walked into the library of diocesan headquarters and received applause from people he’d never met, his sense of humility grounded him. The focus wasn’t on “Tom,” he realized, but on apostolic succession. The diocesan staff and volunteers were excited because they were getting a new bishop, he told me during an interview that day, April 19.
As I write this column, we are just a few days away from witnessing the ordination of Bishop-elect Zinkula as the Ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport at St. John Vianney Church in Bettendorf. The change of venue is necessary because Sacred Heart Cathedral, the bishop’s church, is in the midst of a humongous building project.
This week’s edition of The Catholic Messenger is published the day of the ordination, June 22, but goes to press two days before. On June 29, we will publish a commemorative 38-page edition featuring the ordination Mass, the Vespers liturgy the night before and many terrific stories and photos chronicling the life of our new shepherd. You won’t want to miss it!
Bishop-elect Zinkula is being ordained on the feast day of several saints, including St. Thomas More, a 16th century martyr who like the bishop-elect was a lawyer. More than 925 people have submitted their RSVPs for the ordination Mass and more than 740 will be in attendance for Evening Vespers the night before. This is the first time in more than 100 years that a bishop will be ordained in our diocese for our diocese! Planning for the ordination and installation of our new bishop has been an intense process for many diocesan staffers.
A sense of anticipation and nervous energy has filled the St. Vincent Center as staffers and volunteers prepare for their roles in the liturgies, in hospitality, or as chauffeurs, greeters, ushers, security guards, or videographer. Conversely, try to imagine the mixed feelings of sadness and joy that people in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the bishop-elect’s home diocese, must be experiencing as they say goodbye.
During his April 19 interview with me (on his 60th birthday!) Bishop-elect Zinkula admitted that partings are difficult for him. “For me, the hardest thing about being a priest is leaving a parish to begin a new assignment.” This time, he’s leaving behind a diocese — filled with parishioners, clergy, women religious and laity who have impacted his life indelibly. What makes these partings doable is his relationship with God, his attentiveness to the Holy Spirit guiding him. Partings are also an important time of growth, he noted. He loves to learn, to engage in new experiences and be exposed to a diversity of people and cultures.
A few weeks ago, I asked Bishop Martin Amos if he knew why the vacancy created by his retirement is being filled more quickly than bishop vacancies in other dioceses. (Bishop Amos submitted his resignation when he turned 75 last December, as required by the Vatican.) He conjectured that the Vatican knew what kind of shepherd the Davenport Diocese needed, based on information provided by people knowledgeable about the diocese, and had a candidate who would be a good match for those needs.
Bishop-elect Zinkula arrived as a stranger April 19, but he returns today as our spiritual leader. We, his new “parishioners,” look forward to building a relationship with him.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)