New vocations director takes on half-marathon


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Father Joseph Sia is off to a running start promoting vocation awareness in the Diocese of Davenport.

The new diocesan director of vocations, who is not a runner, accepted a challenge from two priest friends to run a half-marathon Aug. 11 in Hurley, Wis. Asked if he has any clue what it’s like to run 13 miles, Fr. Sia said, “I know how far it is to drive.”

Lindsay Steele
Father Joseph Sia runs on the Duck Creek Trail Parkway in Davenport on July 19 in preparation for his upcoming half-marathon.

No sweat. He hopes to finish the 13-mile race and to raise money for vocation awareness from anyone who chooses to make a pledge for the miles he covers. This is his first run, ever. “I haven’t even done a kiddie run,” admitted the 43-year-old priest, who considers himself a bicyclist.


A little background might be helpful. Fr. Sia belongs to a priest support group of classmates from seminary. One of them, Father David Schalk, now serves as pastor of Christ the King Parish in Columbus, Ohio, and is an avid runner. He discovered the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, which also has a half-marathon component. Another classmate, Father Dan Schuster, is vocations director for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis. He joined Fr. Schalk for last year’s race. “Now they’re challenging me to run it with them,” Fr. Sia said.

How could he turn them down? Their priest support group has been meeting quarterly since they graduated from the seminary 10 years ago. “Just an overnight, to share our story and to pray together and to support one another,” Fr. Sia said. They were scheduled to meet in August, so the timing was perfect. Peer pressure factored in, just a tad bit. “They said they were going to do it anyway,” Fr. Sia added, with a smile. “They’re doing it for fun. I decided I might as well do it and tie it in with raising funds for vocation awareness, especially since I was named vocation director.”

But with his recent move to Davenport, “I haven’t been able to run until recently … the farthest I’ve run is seven miles — running and walking combined,” he said last week. He consulted with a parishioner at his former parish, St. Joseph in Columbus Junction, who gave the priest this advice: “Pace yourself.” Bishop Thomas Zinkula offered some advice, too. Train on Duck Creek Trail Parkway near the chancery. Fr. Sia is taking that advice.

A good pair of running shoes and papal Ninja Warrior shirt will hopefully enhance his performance. He was inspired by Sean Bryan, a Catholic involved in lay ministry who competed in NBC TV’s American Ninja Warrior obstacle course competition and sported a shirt bearing the papal flag. Fr. Sia found the shirt for sale on line and bought it.

Pledge cards are being circulated in parishes and in an advertisement in this week’s Catholic Messen­ger. Donors can submit checks with the pledge amount after the race results are in, which will be available on the diocesan website ( and in the

Messenger newspaper and on its website (www.

As he runs, Fr. Sia will be praying or thinking about how to promote vocation awareness — and a little divine guidance to finish the race.

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