Holy door opened to begin yearlong celebration at St. Patrick-Iowa City

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula blesses the holy door at St. Patrick Church-Iowa City to inauguate a jubilee year. Father Joseph Sia assists the bishop at Mass Nov. 28.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — The congregation faced the back of St. Patrick Church on Nov. 28 to listen to Bishop Thomas Zinkula, presiding at Mass for a special occasion. “As we begin a new liturgical year, we also inaugurate a jubilee year celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of St. Patrick,” the bishop said. “Pope Francis has graciously granted a plenary indulgence to those pilgrims who, properly disposed and having met the usual conditions, make a visit to this church during the Jubilee Year and, while here, offer prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father.”

Pope Francis has granted this indulgence also to the sick and the elderly who are unable to go on pilgrimage. They may receive the Jubilee Indulgence by living with faith and joyful hope in their moment of trial and by receiving Communion or attending Mass and community prayer, even through various means of communication, the bishop said.

The bishop blessed the church’s holy door, praying, “Bless this door which we consecrate to this time of jubilee. Here, may we enter your presence as humble worshipers. From here, may we go forth as instruments of reconciliation to a troubled world.” Holy doors are doors opened on special occasions and anniversaries in a cathedral, basilica or church.

He used incense at the double door, the smoke of which connects the worship on earth with the worship of heaven, then opened the door and walked through. The bishop blessed holy water that Father Joseph Sia, the pastor, and Deacon Mitch Holte sprinkled on the people gathered.


During his homily, Bishop Zinkula said the Scripture readings “encourage us to be hopeful.” The first reading from Jeremiah speaks of the coming days of safety and security and for people to be patient in waiting. In the responsorial psalm, the Lord guides sinners and the humble along the paths of kindness and constancy.

The second reading from 1Thessalonians encourages listeners to “increase and abound in love for one another and for all. Strengthen your hearts. Be blameless in holiness.” The Gospel of Luke identifies signs of hope and advises the faithful not to give up. “Advent is a season of patiently waiting, watching, desiring, pondering, longing, trusting, yearning, dreaming, preparing, hoping,” the bishop said. The candles on the Advent wreath are a sign of hope, also.

St. Patrick Catholic Church’s namesake is another example of hope, despite his capture at age 14 by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. “While he was held captive in Ireland, Patrick hoped and prayed and waited patiently for freedom,” the bishop said. In his memoir, “The Confession,” St. Patrick wrote that the love of God grew in him more and more. “He prayed as many as a 100 prayers in a single day and nearly the same in the night.”

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula shows a decree for St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City at the end of Mass Nov. 28. The decree was written in Latin.

Patrick’s captivity lasted six years before he escaped after having a dream from God, Bishop Zinkula said.

“For six long years, Irish immigrants in Iowa City — who had formed a parish — hoped and prayed for a church in which to celebrate their Catholic faith. Their longing and dreaming bore fruit in 1879, when the first Mass was celebrated in the first church on Court Street. Three long years of waiting and preparing and hoping after a tornado destroyed that church in 2006, this (present) church was dedicated … All of us are hoping, dreaming, waiting and longing for many things.”

As Mass ended, Bishop Zinkula unrolled a decree that arrived just in time from the apostolic nuncio with the official decree of indulgence written in Latin. After Mass, the gathering participated in receptions in the narthex and social hall. Betty Osland, a member of St. Patrick Parish since 1997, remembered that frightening night when she was in the basement of the former church rectory during the 2006 tornado. Attending the jubilee Mass was “wonderful and embracing.” She looks forward to the yearlong celebration and is excited that Father Sia leads the way.

Parishioner Bertha Martin said, “This is a once in a lifetime celebration. The message was inspirational to help guide us through turbulent times.” She looked forward to the many events planned in the next year.

To learn more about the history of St. Patrick Parish and a calendar of events, visit stpatsic.com/150th


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