By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — More than 150 years ago, Catholics walked from the mother parish of St. Anthony to the new mission parish of St. Mary. Following the Oct. 11 closing Mass at St. Mary Church, Catholics processed to St. Anthony Church. The two parishes merged on July 1. “We have come full circle,” said Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Anthony Parish.
Prior to the outdoor Mass celebrated at St. Mary and the procession that followed, Davenport Mayor Mike Matson spoke. He said the two communities of St. Mary and St. Anthony will be stronger together and the city will be better with them. “We wish you the best. In addition, there are no two better saints to watch over you — St. Mary and St. Anthony. This is a great union.”
“For over 153 years, St. Mary Church has been a spiritual icon in the west side of Davenport,” Father Juarez said. “She has served as the physical reminder of God’s presence in good times and in bad times for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The actual physical plant will continue to be used in the future for the same purpose for which it was founded — as a vehicle for loving and serving God, and loving and serving our neighbor. The Diocese of Davenport and the parishioners of St. Mary and St. Anthony are proud to be part of this pivotal moment in the history of our city and we look forward to being a partner in the noble work of promoting and serving the good of society.”
Bishop Zinkula opened the outdoor Mass. “The Holy Spirit is blowing through here,” he quipped, as his vestments blew in the wind in front of St. Mary Church. Catholics and neighbors sat in chairs in the blocked off street and on the hill across the street. They wore face masks and physically distanced themselves because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s hard to say goodbye,” the bishop said. Priests with ties to St. Mary concelebrated the Mass: Father Juarez, who served as administrator, then pastor of St. Mary from 1991-2004; Father Joseph Sia, sacramental minister of St. Mary from 2018-2020; Father Guillermo Trevino, in solidum at the parish from 2015-2018; and Msgr. Francis Henricksen, administrator, then pastor, from 1975-1986.
Connecting the visual and symbolic imagery of the feasts described in the first reading and the Gospel, Bishop Zinkula said in his homily, “In our Catholic worship, the Eucharistic feast is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Many Eucharists have been celebrated in this church named after the mother of the sacrifice offered on the altar.”
The bishop reflected on the memories the day brought to mind — the Masses, the celebration of the sacraments and other celebrations. “The Church has many houses in which the Lord lives. The Lord isn’t more present in one house/church than in another. That is one side of reality, but there is also the personal side, which deals with feelings and emotions.”
Beyond the sadness, “Isaiah tells us that God will wipe away the tears from every face. He writes, ‘Let us be glad and rejoice for the Lord has saved us.’” Places of worship are important, but “in the big picture, they are secondary to the feast itself,” the bishop said. “The point of the parable is that God wants to marry us. That is how much God loves us. Feasts and halls are a means to an end. The end is union with God.”
Referring to the second reading, the bishop said, “As Paul tells the Philippians, we can do all things in him who strengthens us, including beginning a new adventure in a new house of worship.”
Father Sia translated the bishop’s homily for the Spanish-speaking worshippers in the congregation. All in attendance renewed their baptismal promises. After Communion, Bishop Zinkula led the rite of farewell, moving to various spaces in the church and asking Catholics to remember items in these spaces: the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the baptismal font, the reconciliation chapel, the Stations of the Cross, the ambo and the altar.
The processions that followed, with a police escort and lane closure, caught the attention of drivers and walkers along the route. A cross-bearer and altar servers led the procession. The Knights of Columbus carried the American, papal, Knights and Mexican flags; Father Trevino carried a St. Mary Parish banner. Other priests followed and next were more Knights holding a canopy over Bishop Zinkula, who carried the monstrance. An Irish bagpiper and members of the St. Patrick Society were followed by liturgical dancers who preceded a truck that carried an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe surrounded by flowers. Aztec dancers, and people dressed in attire that represented the posadas, were among other participants.
Other people greeted the procession as participants arrived at St. Anthony. Several different dancing groups performed as the parish family gathered on the front lawn of St. Anthony. The celebration concluded with benediction.
A former St. Mary parishioner named Magdalena, speaking through a translator, described the day as really pretty and said she enjoyed that parishioners could share their culture. Joe Dooley of the St. Patrick Society said the group felt honored to be asked to attend the Mass and participate in the procession. Irish settlers founded St. Mary Parish. Dooley’s parents were married at St. Mary Church.
Paty Martinez, who led the Aztec dancers, said she felt sad about the last Mass at St. Mary, the church where she celebrated her marriage and the baptism of her first child. However, “we are happy to have a new home.” Alejandra Martinez, one of the younger dancers, enjoyed the procession from St. Mary to St. Anthony Church. The dancers wore clothing that the Aztec people would have worn, including the headdresses, said Alicia Nava, who belonged to St. Mary, and previously to St. Joseph Parish, which merged with St. Mary in 1999. She said she participated in the procession between those two parishes and now to St. Anthony.