Persons, places and things: St. John Vianney sets a P.R. (personal record)


By Barb Arland-Fye

We walkers and runners paused for prayer led by T-shirt-and-shorts- clad Bishop Tom Zinkula in St. John Vianney Parish’s parking lot in Bettendorf. Putting God first reinforced the spiritual journey overarching every physical step we take. The 5K-one-mile fun run/walk on that sunny Saturday morning, Sept. 16, served as one item on a smorgasbord of activities the parish organized to celebrate the parish’s 50th anniversary this year. Proceeds from the race go to charities that give a hand up to people in need.

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Tom Zinkula gives a blessing before the St. John Vianney 5K fun run/walk Sept. 16 in Bettendorf. This was one of several activities for the parish’s 50th anniversary.

Father Jim Vrba, pastor, wearing the event’s signature neon green race shirt, fired the starting gun — which he assured us he’d point straight up in the air! The shirts, printed by Classic Graphics of Davenport, featured the church’s octagonal shape and the baptismal font.

Why host a run/walk for the anniversary, I asked afterwards. “That’s what people do around here. They do races for everything…. Some of the people on the planning committee were also runners, so I think they had an inside suggestion there,” Fr. Jim quipped. “I walked the one mile; came in at 21:45. I was the caboose of the group, on purpose.”


Father Ross Epping, the parish’s parochial vicar, ran the 5K (3.1 miles) in 31 minutes. “It just went by so quickly,” he told me, before confessing “I hate running. I don’t even enjoy it. But I do it because it’s good for you. Bad on the knees, but it’s good for you.” Joking aside, he said the event was a great way to bring people together. “We’re all here, praying together, running together. That’s what community is all about.”

Bishop Tom had just returned from a seminar in Rome for new bishops and set aside jet lag to participate in the 5k run/walk. “I finished; I wasn’t crawling,” he joked afterwards. “I did OK — 25 minutes; that’s what I was hoping for. … Some little kid on a tricycle didn’t beat me.”

As a longtime runner dealing with a couple of health issues, I chose to walk the 5K to enjoy the people, the exercise and the great outdoors. Thanks to Pat and Sharon Hunt for keeping me company for a couple of miles. I ran into (not literally) lay people and clergy I’ve interviewed and gotten to know over the years. What fun to see everyone relaxed and enjoying each other’s company! I even talked shop with Ken Miller, a St. John Vianney parishioner and database management expert who shares his expertise with The Catholic Messenger.

I got to listen to wonderful post-run/walk stories, too, like the one about a man who pushed a stroller while running. Before the end, he stopped so the kids could get out and run across the finish line ahead of him! Another highlight for me: chatting with St. John Vianney parishioners Eric and Leah Johannes. We previously belonged to the same parish. They ran the race while St. John Vianney provided child care for their three children and other kids. Eric placed first, finishing in 23 minutes. Their 17-month-old son waved goodbye to me with a smile that felt as good as winning a race medal.

Parishioner Molly Rowland’s enthusiasm for the run/walk inspired her suggestion for another one next year titled: “Beat the Bishop.” Count me in. I’ll be praying to beat the bishop!

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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