By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Epiphanies are plentiful in Scripture and in the lives of the faithful today, Bishop Thomas Zinkula said during Mass last Sunday at St. Anthony Catholic Church, after which he blessed the parish’s new education center. “Jesus continues to work his miracles in our midst. He gives us many signs, epiphanies, of his presence among us and his love for us.”
The thriving, multicultural parish that has grown in many ways since the merger of St. Anthony Parish and the former St. Mary Parish speaks to the manifestations of the Lord’s presence that led to the opening of the Grace Center, the bishop believes.
His homily built on the epiphany revealed in John’s Gospel (2:1-11), which tells the story of the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus works his first miracle. His transformation of the water into wine is a manifestation, a revelation, of God in Jesus, the bishop said. He gave examples of the Lord’s manifestation at St. Anthony:
• The loving welcome of St. Anthony parishioners toward the former St. Mary parishioners.
• The trust that former St. Mary parishioners gave to their bishop in his decisions regarding their parish, which they were not happy about initially. “You embraced your new parish community,” he told them, adding that he also had to trust that “things would work out.”
• The coincidence of a building just a block up the street from the parish being put up for sale when St. Anthony needed that space to accommodate a growing demand for classrooms. “Albert Einstein said: ‘coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,’” the bishop said.
• The pastoral leadership of Father Rudolph Juarez, the parish’s pastor.
Bishop Zinkula explored analogies between the Gospel passage and the merger of St. Anthony and St. Mary parishes: the things that led up to Jesus’ transformation of water into wine, the marriage of the Cana couple and the marriage of two parishes, and the transformation of a difficult situation into a blessed union.
“Water is transformed into wine, wine is transformed into the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ transforms us into Christ and we transform the world,” the bishop concluded.
After Mass, Bishop Zinkula led the congregation by foot on sidewalks still marked by melting snow to the Grace Center, which formerly housed Big Brothers Big Sisters in the historic City Market building. The parish took possession of the 5,040-square-foot building in August.
St. Anthony Parish received funds through the merger and a donation of in-kind labor from Joseph Sampson Construction and architect Fred Ebeling to make the completed project possible, said Pastoral Associate John Cooper. Joe Sampson, the construction company’s owner, and Ebeling are St. Anthony parishioners. “Sampson Construction did an amazing job getting us ready for classes by the first Sunday of October,” said Cooper, who also is the parish’s business manager.
Religious education enrollment totals 165 students. Grace Center houses grades five through eight and can accommodate more than 100 students. Lower grades attend classes in the former St. Anthony school building. The Grace Center also accommodates parish meetings, the Knights of Columbus and other groups. “As COVID lifts and more groups get back to meeting, we will need the center even more,” Cooper said. “We also had a need for storage. We are using so much of our space for McAnthony Window and related ministries.”
Parishioner Carlos Valdez appreciated Bishop Zinkula’s mention of the former St. Mary Parish in his homily. As a Fourth-Degree Knight, he also appreciates holding monthly meetings in the Grace Center. Tina Wagschal, the parish secretary/accounting assistant, said the new center symbolizes “growth, hope … moving forward.”
“This is the culmination and a beginning of many blessings for us as a parish, a place for people to gather and learn and experience our faith and the presence of Christ,” Father Juarez said.