Transition time in the Diocese of Davenport: Maintaining course in the life of the Church

Anne Marie Amacher
Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula talks with seminarians William Keating, left, of the Diocese of Davenport and Steven Kessler of the Archdiocese of Dubuque after Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport Aug. 7. Seminarians from all four Iowa dioceses were in Davenport for the annual seminarian convocation.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

The question now on people’s minds: Who will be the next Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport and when will the successor of Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula take office? The answer hasn’t surfaced yet. As the archbishop-elect pointed out, it’s only been a couple of weeks since the Vatican announced on July 26 that he has been appointed to lead the Archdiocese of Dubuque, beginning Oct. 18.

“During the transition period, I will be conducting myself as the bishop of the Diocese of Davenport just as I have the past six years,” Archbishop-elect Zinkula said. “I of course will be in on the decision-making regarding the installation Mass and activities in Dubuque, but I won’t dive in there with both feet until Oct. 18.”

“This is a bittersweet time for me. Bitter in that I will be sad to leave a diocesan Church I have grown to love and a place that has become home. Sweet in that I will be happy to return to a local Church I served as a priest for 27 years. I have been asking people to pray for me and for the two dioceses.”


Speculation that the Vatican will appoint his successor within a few months after the archbishop-elect leaves the Davenport Diocese is overly optimistic, diocesan leaders say. Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan chancellor and chief of staff, points to the long list of “vacant sees,” or dioceses without a bishop. Some 200 dioceses around the world are awaiting appointment of a new bishop, five of them are in the U.S., including the Davenport Diocese.

This is the first time in 79 years that a bishop leading the Davenport Diocese has been assigned to another diocese without a successor waiting in the wings, as Father Thom Hennen said in his Catholic Messenger Question Box column last week.

The diocesan College of Consultors will convene within eight days after Archbishop-elect Zinkula takes possession of the Dubuque Archdiocese. They will elect a diocesan administrator to serve until the next bishop takes possession of the Davenport Diocese, said Father Hennen. The pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, he is one of the nine diocesan priests who constitute the College of Consultors.

In some ways, the transition is a waiting game but the ministry and work of the diocesan Church will continue. “The idea is to keep things working in maintenance mode. Although no new initiatives may be undertaken, we need to maintain the initiatives already under way,” Deacon Montgomery said, notably, Building on the Synod, the National Eucharistic Revival and the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. “With everything we have going on in those three areas, there’s a lot of work to do. These are initiatives that Bishop Zinkula has already started.”

Planning for a new bishop is not at a standstill.  “We’re in the very initial stages of the planning process but many things are unknown, such as, whether it is an ordination and installation of a new bishop or installation of someone who already is a bishop,” Deacon Montgomery said. “We’ve gone through this before. The chancery staff will rally around the challenge. I have a lot of confidence in them.”

“We will, as we have in the past, provide parishes with resources for praying for our next bishop,” Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of Liturgy said. “Otherwise, we will begin to put a liturgy preparation committee together and review what we have done in the past. That way, we’ll be ready once the announcement of our next bishop is made. In addition, we will continue the usual work of the office, including planning for our annual celebrations: Rite of Election, Chrism Mass, ordinations. Of course, some of the details will remain up in the air until we know who will be leading the diocese from Oct. 18 until our new bishop is installed.”

Major initiatives continue

Building on the Synod, a three-year process that kicked off June 17 with a Synodal Summit, is the fruition of Bishop Zinkula’s emphasis on evangelization and commitment to listening to his flock. This process “has been discerned by the people of God in the Diocese of Davenport,” diocesan Evangelization Director Patrick Schmadeke said. “The shape of the content of the three years is an unfolding reality in dialogue with the people. It’s a very conversational process.”

Anne Marie Amacher
Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula speaks during the Synodal Summit at St. Ambrose University in Davenport June 17.

During this transition, Schmadeke hopes to tap into Archbishop-elect Zinkula’s insights pertaining to each year’s theme: welcoming and belonging, youth and family engagement, and Church teaching and tradition.  “He’s lit a fire in our hearts for evangelization. How can we do anything but continue that work? The fire is still going!”

The National Eucharistic Revival is also a three-year initiative that the U.S. bishops launched in 2022. It aims to renew Catholics’ personal encounter with Jesus Christ, particularly through the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Eucharist. “Our participation in the Eucharistic Revival overall, and the Congress in particular, will not change during the transition,” Deacon Agnoli said. “We will have to wait to see if the new bishop has any ideas or initiatives in mind when it comes to the Revival.”

Last October, the Davenport Diocese launched its first step in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a multifaceted, seven-year plan to inspire people to build on their relationship with God, each other and all of God’s creation. “We continue to work on development of the plan and we’re committed to the mid-project goals (working toward net-zero carbon emissions) to be announced Oct. 4,” said Deacon Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and of Catholic Charities. “We are also mindful of the need to explain the work to Archbishop-elect Zinkula’s successor.”

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