By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Clergy, women religious, children and adults prayed and sang with heartfelt gratitude during Solemn Vespers, the farewell liturgical service of Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula, on Sept. 17 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Next month he will be in Dubuque for another liturgical celebration, his installation as Archbishop of the Dubuque Archdiocese on Oct. 18.
The enthusiastic participation of the faithful during Vespers inspired Father Ken Kuntz, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese, who described the atmosphere as “Everyone joyfully giving thanks to God. We want to thank not only the bishop for his leadership here but God for having sent him here as our bishop. And the kolaches (the archbishop’s favorite treat) served after Vespers, was a nice touch,” Father Kuntz said.
Altar servers Henry Clark, 10, and his sister Marysa, 9, said they felt overjoyed and amazed to serve Archbishop-elect Zinkula at his farewell Vespers service. Their brother, Trent, 12, greeted people at the door. Their family, cathedral parishioners, have enjoyed getting to know the archbishop-elect in his six years as the Davenport Diocese’s bishop, said the children’s mom, Michelle Clark.
The Vespers service connected the Liturgy of the Hours in a more powerful way “to what we are singing and praying about” in the universal prayer of the Church, said Deacon Mike Linnenbrink. “It was awesome to see Bishop Zinkula share from his heart,” the deacon added, referring to the archbishop-elect’s farewell remarks. “We all have a deep love for Bishop Zinkula.”
“As I approach the end of my assignment here in the Diocese of Davenport, it is appropriate that the Scripture reading for this end-of-the-day Vespers Service is from the end of the Book of Revelation,” Archbishop-elect Zinkula said in his homily. In that Scripture, “The entire biblical story of salvation history comes to its climax with the arrival of the heavenly Jerusalem.” The final words are “Come, Lord Jesus!”
“This is a response to Jesus promising three times in the previous verses, ‘Behold, I am coming soon.’ This prayer is echoed in many Advent hymns, such as ‘O Come, O come, Emmanuel.’ Christians have prayed this prayer from the earliest days. It is the oldest Christian prayer we know, not counting the Lord’s Prayer.”
The diocesan Church
“In our focus this year as a diocese on Welcoming and Belonging, we call out to everyone, Come and join us in our communal prayer, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ Come, especially, those of you on the peripheries. Come migrants, you who are divorced and remarried, prisoners, LGBTQ+, young people and others who feel lonely and isolated. Come, those of you who are grieving, disabled, depressed, anxious, afraid. Come, and together we will cry out, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’”
“In our diocesan Laudato Si Action Plan, we issue a cosmic call: ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ come to heal our earth and the poor who are most detrimentally affected by climate change. ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ to our retired priests whose material needs will be met in part by Upon This Rock capital campaign funds so they can focus their attention on preparing to say, ‘I am ready, when you come.’ ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ to our seminarians who also will be assisted financially by the capital campaign so they can focus their attention on discerning whether Jesus is calling them to lead the people of God in pleading: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’”
He referenced other examples of the diocesan Church inspiring the faithful to call out “Come, Lord Jesus”: the domestic church, parish schools, faith formation programs and the Eucharist — the foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Prior to the closing rites and the blessing of the cathedral’s new doors, he shared words of farewell. “I’m not good at goodbyes,” he confessed. “I find it hard and difficult.” Thus, he chose to quote from a homily of St. John Chrysostom, a fourth-century doctor of the Church, who is “more eloquent than me.”
Words stir emotions
Struggling to maintain his composure, Archbishop-elect Zinkula had to pause several times as he read these words:
“I always say Lord, your will be done; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.”
“Where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.”
“You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.”
Blessing of the doors
After a minute of silent reflection, Archbishop-elect Zinkula announced, “New doors have been installed here at the cathedral, and it is right that they should be blessed. Let us pray fervently to the Lord that all who enter this cathedral through these doors would be welcomed as Christ, who is both our Shepherd and our sheepgate. May those who come here to hear the word of God and celebrate the sacraments, heed the voice of the Shepherd and grow in faith and love.”
As he blessed the doors and sprinkled them with holy water, he prayed “… He is the Good Shepherd; he is the door through which those who follow him enter and are safe, go in and go out, to find pasture. Grant that those who enter this church with confident faith in him may persevere in the teaching of the apostles, in the breaking of the bread, and in unceasing prayer, and so be built into the heavenly Jerusalem….”
Archbishop-elect Zinkula “obviously leaves us with mixed emotions. He’s been good for us but he’s been called to serve elsewhere, so we must let him go,” said Lee Morrison, retired diocesan superintendent of schools. “It’s a prayerful way to send him off.”