By Judith Costello
For The Catholic Messenger
“Vinum Non Habent,” a ministry whose name means “They Have No Wine,” (John 2:3) held a retreat at St. Ambrose University in Davenport earlier this month that drew more than 100 people. They listened to local speakers who shared personal faith stories in Christ the King Chapel. The retreat ended with a gift of “Spiritual Warfare Kits” for attendees.
Father Nicholas Akindele, parochial vicar at Holy Family Parish in Davenport, started the “Vinum” ministry. He is “on loan” from his bishop in Nigeria and originally came to the Quad Cities to study for his doctorate and work at the marriage tribunal. In 2019 he had a vision which he compared to St. Francis when the saint heard Jesus say, “Rebuild my church.” The words Father Akindele heard were, “They have no wine.” He believes the world is struggling now because “God has been set aside.” Mary is an intercessor who leads people to God. “Miracles happen through her.”
For 18 months, Father Akindele has gathered together people who pray, reach out to young people, promote evangelization and teach the truth of the Gospel. He said that during these COVID-19 months, “the ministry of ‘Vinum Non Habent’ has been growing and expanding.” He and the 17-member ‘Vinum’ team meet monthly with young people to share faith and food, participate in adoration and discussion. “We have been recording Masses and novenas since this started and some of these videos have reached 500,000 viewers around the world.”
The first retreat speaker, Catherine Hamling of Bettendorf, was used to “powering through every problem on my own” until she received a breast cancer diagnosis. She met Father Akindele who advised her to turn to adoration and remember, “We are never alone.” Her family now prays the rosary nightly and seeks intercession from St. Philomena. “She expanded our trust and blessed us with peace.”
Andy Katherman and Father Denis Hatungimana shared statistics about the state of the world and the church. “Membership at Catholic churches has been declining rapidly and only three out of 10 Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” said Katherman. Father Hatungimana, a priest and graduate student from Tanzania, has traveled the U.S. and seen the declining numbers everywhere. “When we feel we are at a dead end without answers, that’s when the door opens. Let us begin.”
Speaker 16-year-old Meredith Heinold from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport shared the struggles of her generation and the graces she has received from being homeschooled to pursue strong catechesis. She attends Saturday morning Youth Breakfasts of “Vinum.” “I wanted to know my faith so I could be a witness to others. The world today does not love God and without God there is an emptiness. Young people tend to think a new iPhone will bring happiness. Instead, it just separates them more and more.” She noted, “Kids can smell hypocrisy. They also crave boundaries and solid moral teaching.” She credits her family and Father Akindele with helping her feel strong in faith.
Sonya Meria-Dautmeyer of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf talked about growing up in the Philippines. “My brother was a drug dealer and an addict. He beat me so much that I couldn’t recognize my face in the mirror.” When her son attended public school, he was bullied but the school refused to believe him. “Faith and the ‘Vinum’ community helped us to pray for the bullies. I have a devotion to the holy face of Jesus since he too was beaten beyond recognition.” She said she made peace with her brother before he died and her son is now getting help.
“Mary always notices our needs. Do you want to experience the miracle of Cana? Go to our Mother and ask for her help,” said Father Nicholas.
(Contact the “Vinum” community through Facebook and YouTube at VinumNonHabent.com.)