By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Bishop Thomas Zinkula listened as Hispanic Catholics of St. Mary Parish-Davenport, described their love for their parish, the Catholic Church and the building in which they celebrate their faith.
The bishop met with the group of 13 people Oct. 18 at diocesan headquarters, a week after parish leaders and other members met at St. Mary Catholic Church in west Davenport to discuss the parish’s future. Bishop Zinkula has been considering for many weeks merging the parish with one or more neighboring parishes. The meeting with Hispanic Catholics preceded one scheduled for later this week with other parishioners. Miguel Moreno, diocesan coordinator of Multicultural Ministry, called for and facilitated the meeting.
The Hispanic Catholics believe their community is a vibrant one at St. Mary. The parish is like a second home to them, they said. Alicia Nava read a letter that she composed for the bishop. Father Rudolph Juarez, vicar for Hispanics, translated throughout the meeting. Nava said the Hispanic community feels pain and sadness about the possibility of losing their sense of community.
“It’s your parish home; I understand that,” Bishop Zinkula said.
Thirteen parishes exist in Scott County, during a time of changing demographics and fewer priests, said Dan Ebener, diocesan director of Parish Planning. The diocese is not looking at closing a community but consolidating resources so that parishioners can continue to do what they are doing, but at a different location.
Parishioners expressed concern that they might not be welcome at a receiving parish. The bishop emphasized that it is a diocesan priority for parishioners to feel welcome in the receiving parish.
Funding and availability of priests are issues in regards to the merger, but not the only issues, the bishop said.
Father Joseph Sia, diocesan vocations director and St. Mary Parish’s sacramental minister, said he is at peace with a decision “as long as the decision is made by the Holy Spirit.” He made an analogy to the leading of the Israelites to the Promised Land.
One parishioner said that prior to the decision, “we need to meet with other priests and their parishes.” Moreno said parishioners should make a list of their needs for the next meeting. The bishop will receive that list and make a choice on the welcoming parish.
Ebener thanked the parishioners for their input. “Parishes are important to us,” the bishop said. At the same time, they belong to the greater church.
“I am most impressed with the faith, peace and love shared here,” Father Juarez told the gathering. “You’ve spoken honestly. You inspire me,” the bishop said.
All those gathered that evening concluded with prayer, arms linked as they prayed.