By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — A virtual meeting July 22 to plan for the future of Catholics in Bettendorf drew 100 people, including diocesan officials, members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and School and St. John Vianney Parish.
Mark Kemmeter and Alan Meitler of Meitler, a professional services organization that works with faith-based institutions to prepare for the future, led the two-hour session. Meitler has been working with the parishes for some time.
Kemmeter engaged attendees in song and prayer based on the diocesan Vision 20/20 theme song “Renew Our Hearts.” Lourdes pastor Father Jason Crossen and St. John Vianney pastor Father Jim Vrba welcomed participants.
Meitler said the Bettendorf Vision Committee has been meeting throughout the pandemic to help plan for the future of the Bettendorf parishes and school. “COVID-19 hasn’t stopped us. We’ve had to make some adjustments, but we continue to be on track.”
Dan Ebener, director of parish planning for the Diocese of Davenport, provided information about the number of priests available for ministry today and 10 years from now, which will affect parishes. At present, 55 diocesan priests, three religious order priests and three international priests serve in the diocese. By 2030, projections show 22 of those active diocesan priests under the age of 70 available to serve the diocese. Priests can work beyond age 70 and many do, but that is not a guarantee.
Some priests have assignments in addition to their parish ministry, such as campus ministers, school chaplains, hospital chaplains, vicar general, judicial vicar and director of vocations. Those positions previously had been full-time positions. Today, Scott County has 12 parishes and nine resident pastors. “I think it’s a fair question. How many resident priests will Scott County have in 2030? Three or four?”
Andy Craig, president of Assumption High School and co-leader for Scott County Catholic Schools’ strategic plan (which includes Lourdes Catholic School), shared that Meitler worked with the schools’ strategic planning process, beginning in 2017. The strategic plan seeks better collaboration between the schools and parishes. Such planning could benefit parishes anywhere, Craig said.
Last year, Bishop Thomas Zinkula reviewed some possible scenarios presented to him for the Bettendorf parishes and school. He recommended two options: relocation of Lourdes parish and school to the north, which is a growing area, or the relocation and combining of the two parishes and school with a new building.
During the July 22 meeting, participants reviewed six scenarios in small groups:
1) Relocation of Our Lady of Lourdes church and school.
2) Sharing additional parish ministries and staff.
3) Sharing one pastor and parochial vicar with both parishes.
4) Sharing all parish ministries and staff.
5) Merging both parishes with a new name at two sites.
6) Merging both parishes with a new name at one site (this would include the school).
Afterwards, Kemmeter asked the participants to vote on their preferred and backup choices in a poll sent to their computers or phones. Some emailed their choices. The top vote for the preferred option was to merge the parishes with a new name at one site (37 percent). The second-place preferred option was to relocate Lourdes parish and school (28 percent). The top vote for the backup option was to merge the two parishes with a new name at two sites (35 percent). The second-place backup option was to relocate Lourdes parish and school (22 percent).
Meitler said the Bettendorf Vision Committee will meet to review the results and questions people raised at the meeting. During August, conversations will continue with parishioners and others. Parishioners will receive a survey, likely in September, to provide more input. By sometime in October, Meitler hopes to send a preliminary recommendation to the two pastors. Afterwards, the parish councils and others will review the recommendations. A final recommendation will be presented to Bishop Zinkula.
Fathers Crossen and Vrba expressed appreciation for people’s participation at the July 22 meeting and prior meetings. “It is important that we have as many as possible participate,” Father Vrba said. People need to know the facts, not the opinions, so they can make informed decisions, recommendations. “We are talking together.”
Father Crossen said the planning process has been in the works for several years. As participants take in more information, the clearer the vision will become. “Know you are in our prayers and we look forward to hearing from you.”
By Anne Marie Amacher