Clinton Bishop Zinkula blesses cancer-fighting linear accelerator

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula leads prayer before blessing the new linear accelerator at MercyOne Clinton Radiation Oncology Center in Clinton. Three MercyOne representatives pictured with him – Amy Berentes, Malissa Sprenger and Julie Dunn – were among a small group of healthcare providers at the Jan. 6 blessing service.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

CLINTON — God’s presence filled the room inside MercyOne Clinton Radiation Oncology Center where Bishop Thomas Zinkula blessed a new linear accelerator designed to treat patients’ tumors with greater precision.

MercyOne’s leaders asked the bishop to bless the high-tech machine and the healthcare professionals entrusted with its operation during a small, private prayer service Jan. 6. The blessing underscored MercyOne’s mission to “serve with fidelity to the Gospel as a compassionate, healing ministry of Jesus Christ to transform the health of our communities,” said Executive Vice President Amy Berentes. The project is especially meaningful as she thought about someone she worked with closely who received radiation treatment at MercyOne.

“Part of the human vocation is to cooperate with the Creator in order to improve the lives of our sisters and brothers through the work of our hands and with the help of technology,” Bishop Zinkula said during the introductory rites. “We are called to do so in service to the human family, and indeed, to the whole cosmos. Let us, then, bless God as we use this linear accelerator in our healing work, never forgetting to praise God….”


Berentes read a passage from Genesis about the Creation story. Malissa Sprenger, vice president, mission integration, MercyOne Eastern Iowa Region, led the intercessions that gave thanks to God and asked for God’s continuing guidance.

Bishop Zinkula asked permission before sprinkling the linear accelerator’s table with holy water. Afterwards, he blessed the small gathering of healthcare providers in the room. The blessing culminated more than four years of planning and hard work to keep the latest cancer treatment technology close to home for area patients.

The $6.4 million linear accelerator project includes the machine and the addition to house it. Construction workers poured more than 2.3 million pounds of concrete to form a vault, the protective shield for the radiation therapy.

MercyOne launched a capital campaign that raised $2 million in grants and community donations, including a $500,000 grant from the Clinton County Development Association, said Julie Dunn, executive director of

MercyOne Clinton Foundation. MercyOne capital resources provided the rest of the funding. “I was overwhelmed by the support we received from the community,” she said. “We received some of the most heartwarming letters from people who underwent radiation treatment or had a loved one who underwent treatment. They stressed the importance of receiving treatment locally.”

“Our mission is to be a healing presence and to transform the health of our community,” Sprenger said. “The dedication, innovation and delivery of local radiation oncology care assures patients and families are close in a time of great uncertainty. We are grateful to our generous donors, compassionate treatment team, and all those who brought this to fruition.”

Darla Olson, a radiation dosimetrist and therapist who participated in the blessing, appreciates the spiritual component of MercyOne’s approach to healing. Cancer patients can receive radiation treatment elsewhere, “but that’s the difference, our faith-based culture.”

From the technology aspect, she appreciates the new linear accelerator’s ability to provide advanced imaging to allow treatment that is more precise. Seven patients were to receive treatment on the new machine this week; the existing linear accelerator remains in use as needed. Patients typically receive radiation five days a week; treatment time could be as short as three to seven minutes per session with the new technology, Olson said. The technology and MercyOne’s relationship as an outreach of University Iowa Hospitals and Clinics make it possible for patients to incorporate treatment with their daily work and activities.

“It is so exciting to be at this point,” Dunn said. “We are thankful to have the bishop come to give a blessing. It was so important for us to have the equipment blessed and for the staff to have the assurance that we’re not walking this journey alone.”

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