By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Bishop Thomas Zinkula wants to pray for the people he serves in the Diocese of Davenport, by name and by prayer intention. So much so, that he invites people to share their prayer intentions with him on his new prayer webpage (davenportdiocese.org/prayer-requests) or email to: email@example.com. Prayers may also be submitted by email or in a printed note. Prayer intentions in English and Spanish are welcome.
“I feel a special bond with the people I serve,” Bishop Zinkula told The Catholic Messenger. “Praying for them makes me feel closer to them.” Every time he celebrates Mass in a parish, he prays for the people of that parish. On Sundays, he prays for all of the people of the diocese.
Often, people approach him before or after Mass and ask him to pray for a special intention. He tries to jot down the intention or to remember that individual’s name during his personal prayer time, but it’s haphazard, scattered, he says.
Over the years, he has tried different techniques. He even created in his mind a basket in which to collect all of the prayer intentions and names he might have overlooked. He would pray for all the intentions in the basket, remembered or forgotten. “Whatever is in that basket, God knows what they are.”
At the same time, Bishop Zinkula was growing a little too restful in contemplative prayer, which has been a significant part of his personal prayer for years. His drowsiness means, “It can’t be as much of my personal prayer as it has been.” Perhaps that nudge from the Holy Spirit inspired the bishop to dream up a more organized, egalitarian approach to praying for his people. The prayer intentions webpage emerged with the assistance of his technology team. “It will help me to pray better,” the bishop says.
“It’s just the idea of being in solidarity with people in the diocese, in communion with them in a more particular way. I am really big on the communion of saints; there’s this mystical union. I really feel that.” He believes his bond with the people in the parishes will grow deeper “as I am praying for their intentions.”
Another reason to receive people’s prayer intentions is to get a better sense of the pulse of the people of the diocese. “What are people concerned about?” Praying for individuals’ intentions may also relieve a smidgen of guilt he feels about “people praying for me at every Mass. People pray for me by name in the Eucharistic prayer.” He wants to reciprocate the gift of personal prayer.
“I feel their prayers at Mass, their personal prayer. Their prayers and the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders hold me up in a big way. Those two things I really feel help me to deal with hard things and to exercise my ministry.”
Emily Pries, the bishop’s executive secretary, will help manage the incoming, confidential prayer intentions. The webpage, titled “Bishop Thomas Zinkula will pray for your needs” in English and “Mons. Thomas Zinkula rezara por sus necesidades” in Spanish, provides a short form for prayer intentions. It reads: “Please fill out and submit the prayer request form so that Bishop Zinkula can pray for your intentions. The ‘Your name’ and ‘Name of the person to pray for’ fields are optional.” Instructions are in Spanish, also.
Bishop Zinkula anticipates a variety of prayer petitions. “It could be something about praising God, or giving thanks. With intercessory prayer, usually people are asking God to help with a need. I’m guessing it will be more of that kind of thing. I hope that there will also be prayers for world peace, to end racism. It would be nice to have bigger issues beyond personal intentions.”
The bishop is not worried about receiving too many prayer requests. As Jesus instructed his apostles, “You cast out into the deep.” The mechanics and logistics will work out as the prayer intercession ministry evolves.
He plans to pray with the prayer intentions in the chapel in his apartment, where he prays daily. The frequency with which he prays people’s intentions will be determined. “It could be once a week, but I’m guessing it could be more than that. I’d like to think it’s something I would do most days because I pray every day.”
Bishop Zinkula emphasizes that his prayers are no more important than other people’s prayers. He shares a favorite saying that should apply to any baptized believer: “I’m just one poor beggar trying to tell other poor beggars where to find food. I found spiritual food in the church, in the sacraments, in God, in Jesus.”