By Barb Arland-Fye
News that Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula has been appointed to lead the Archdiocese of Dubuque was released July 26, the day after we went to press with last week’s issue of The Catholic Messenger. Fortunately, we were able to post the news the same day as the announcement on our website and social media. Publishing it in the print and e-editions would have been a bonus!
When Bishop Thomas Zinkula arrived in the Diocese of Davenport six years ago, he referred to himself as a “baby bishop” and the name stuck informally, of course! We — the people of our diocese
and especially those of us who work closely with him — watched him grow into his bishop’s role. I smiled as he practiced putting on and taking off his zucchetto and miter at the appropriate times during rehearsals for his first diocesan-wide liturgies.
From the beginning, he conveyed a down-to-earth and approachable demeanor but also a deep intellect honed as a civil lawyer and later, canon lawyer. He discerns issues carefully and consults with a variety of people as he contemplates the best course of action.
Figuring out how to address him in the newspaper was tricky at first: “Bishop Tom Zinkula?” “Bishop Thomas Zinkula?” What about in a column? Just “Bishop Tom?” Eventually, he settled on “Bishop Thomas Zinkula” on first reference and “Bishop Zinkula” on subsequent references — whether in a column or news story.
I have enjoyed interviewing him for stories but I’m sure his eyes roll every time he reads the many probing (and sometimes goofy) questions I ask via email or in person. Thank goodness he agreed to be our regular guest for the monthly “Catholic Messenger Conversations Podcast!”
We recognized his passion for going to the peripheries to meet people where they’re at — a food pantry, shelter, school, hospital, nursing home, prison, on a bicycle, in a canoe, on the border with Mexico, in the slums of India and at Mass. Covering his journey to India to deliver the Pacem in Terris Award to the Dalai Lama and to walk among the poorest of the poor is among the highlights of my journalism career.
People appreciate Archbishop-elect Zinkula’s homilies, which bring the Scriptures into the context of our lived experience today as Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport in southeast Iowa. His letters and columns, published in The Catholic Messenger, provide a wide outlet for teaching the faithful, as well.
Evangelization is the hallmark of his episcopacy in our diocese, beginning with the Vision 20/20 initiative that fueled so much promise — paused by a pandemic — and reignited with the Synodal Summit. He practices and preaches listening with the ear of the heart and building relationships as essential elements of revitalizing our Church. Thus, our diocese’s focus on welcoming people and ensuring that they have a sense of belonging.
The pandemic exacerbated the wounds and divisions within our society and our Church, which Archbishop-elect Zinkula has experienced firsthand — in emails, letters and one-on-one conversations. However, he strives to demonstrate for people on either side of an issue how a “both/and” approach aligns with Church teaching and how an “either/or” approach does not.
The author of Ecclesiastes says “There is an appointed time for everything, and time for every affair under the heavens” (3:1). This is Archbishop-elect Zinkula’s time to lead the Archdiocese of Dubuque (beginning Oct. 18) and our time to give thanks for his leadership in our diocese, which enables us to move forward as the body of Christ.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)