Formation sessions are getting under way


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Earlier this year, Bishop Thomas Zinkula announced that the Diocese of Davenport would begin a journey toward a revitalization of our faith and a renewal of grace in the spirit of Pentecost. It is called Vision 20/20: From Pentecost to Pentecost.

As that journey takes shape, parishes throughout the diocese are organizing formation sessions on “The Joy of the Gospel” (“Evangelii Gaudium”), an apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis on proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

Barb Arland-Fye
Sharon Roling, co-chair of the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee, talks about upcoming formation sessions.

During the formation sessions, which will be held in parishes this month and next, participants will be asked to reflect on “The Joy of the Gospel.” Anyone who wants to learn more about this apostolic exhortation, or letter, is invited. Participants will also review materials to raise their understanding of the current state of the Catholic Church here and worldwide. The parish sessions will focus on questions about missionary discipleship and evangelization.


Listening sessions will follow later this fall; regional conversations will be held after that, during which diocesan leaders will identify themes to be addressed around the diocese during spring 2019 and at a diocesan convocation to be held June 6-8 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

The formation sessions provide “an opportunity to better understand what Joy of the Gospel is about,” said Sharon Roling, who co-chairs the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee with Michael Havercamp. Since the listening sessions will focus on “Joy of the Gospel,” it is helpful for parishioners to understand what the apostolic exhortation contains, said Roling, principal of St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt. Partici­pation in the formation sessions is strongly encouraged but not mandatory to join the listening sessions.

Each parish may choose from various sources to study and reflect on “Joy of the Gospel,” and several parishes have informed the diocese of the materials and format they plan to choose. For example, St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt will offer three six-week studies on three different days to accommodate parishioners’ needs, beginning Sept. 15. One study will be offered on Sundays between Masses and religious education. Another study will be offered on Wednesdays after the all school Mass and a third study will be offered on Thursday evenings.

Roling expresses enthusiasm for the process because of the grassroots approach. “We’re responding to the bishop’s vision through the work in the parishes. That approach continues through the listening sessions amidst clusters of parishes and at the regional level. Roling and the other Steering Committee members acknowledge that the clergy sexual abuse crisis remains a part of the church’s history. That issue will not be ignored but other challenges exist in the world, requiring attention and reflection.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national convocation on “Joy of the Gospel” provided the impetus for the Diocese of Davenport’s Vision 20/20 journey. “The process is evolving, and so we readjusted our timeline to add the formation piece. We realized that formation piece is so important,” Roling said.

“As a Catholic, it (‘Joy of the Gospel’) challenges me to be more aware of what it means to be an evangelizing disciple in my day to day interactions with people and how I live that out in the parish,” said Roling. “Joy of the Gospel” also provides the “bigger picture” of evangelization, of what it means to reach out to others beyond one’s community, and what it means to be a dynamic Catholic in the world today.

The listening sessions to be held later this fall (read more about them in upcoming issues of The Catholic Messenger) are not intended to be problem-solving sessions, Roling said. It’s more of a conversation, a deepening awareness, a call to action a self-reflection on how to bring joy to others — known and unknown.

From the listening sessions and the convocation, participants will take away a tool box of ideas to implement within their unique parishes and communities. As the journey moves forward toward the convocation in 2019 and a diocesan-wide celebration in 20/20, “it’s energizing,” Roling said. “You can see the potential for the Spirit working in the diocese.”

For more information about Vision 20/20: From Pentecost to Pentecost, visit the diocesan website at and continue to read future stories about this journey in The Catholic Messenger.

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