By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Retired diocesan priest Father Ken Kuntz of Iowa City is the newly elected diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Davenport, a responsibility he accepts happily, even though his nomination came as a surprise to him. His election by his fellow members of the College of Consultors on Oct. 20 follows the installation of Archbishop Thomas Zinkula for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which created the vacancy of bishop for the Diocese of Davenport.
Father Kuntz will oversee the diocese’s administration until the appointment of the next bishop for the Davenport Diocese by Pope Francis, which could take six to eight months or longer to occur. The functions of diocesan administrator end with the installation of a new bishop.
During this interim period, the diocesan administrator maintains the diocese’s current programs and initiatives. No new policies, procedures, projects or initiatives can begin. New building projects and mergers of parishes must await approval for the next bishop. The sanctifying functions reserved to a bishop cannot take place, including the ordinations of deacons and priests. The diocesan administrator cannot appoint new pastors for the first year but can appoint administrators for parishes.
Father Kuntz, 72, shared this reaction to his election. “Suddenly, someone offered my name and nominated me and the next thing I knew, I was elected! Going into that meeting, I never thought that I would be the one.” After he accepted the position, “Someone said, ‘You have to start training for RAGBRAI.’ I think they were joking,” Father Kuntz quipped, referring to Archbishop Zinkula’s moniker in Iowa as the “RAGBRAI Bishop.”
Father Kuntz emphasizes that he will not be fulfilling the duties of a bishop because he is not one. “I don’t see myself showing up for everything you’d want a bishop to show up for,” he said. For example, “I will delegate pastors to administer the sacrament of confirmation in their parishes.” He does plan to attend various statewide and provincial meetings to represent the diocese. “We need to live with the fact that we do not have a bishop right now and we need to pray for a bishop who will carry out the shepherding duties of the diocese, as bishops do,” Father Kuntz said.
He expects to work closely with Father Thom Hennen, who previously served as vicar general to then-Bishop Zinkula. “Even though Father Thom is not vicar general, I am delegating the authority for him to do what he had been doing,” Father Kuntz said. “So he’s not off the hook!”
Father Kuntz also plans to work closely with diocesan Chief of Staff Deacon David Montgomery, Emily Pries (who served as Bishop Zinkula’s executive secretary) and diocesan Chief Financial
Officer Tom Tallman. He describes all of these staffers as invaluable. He also expects to consult regularly with the College of Consultors, which during the vacancy serves in the place of the Presbyteral (Priests) Council.
Father Kuntz believes he brings the skills of a good listener and administrator to his new, temporary, post. “I’ve had a lot of experience over the years doing administrative things. I firmly believe in collaborative ministry. I’ve been blessed with wonderful staff people over the years in every parish where I’ve been,” he said. “It’s not about power, it’s about ministry. Whatever I can do to assist with that, that’s what it’s all about. I pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and I bring a willingness to serve.”
He plans to commute from his home in Iowa City. “To some extent, the diocese runs by itself. We have very capable people in positions they are in. I do not intend to be a micromanager.”
His schedule will be fuller now “but not overflowing.” He looks forward to continuing to what he loves most – filling in as a presider on weekends in the parishes where he currently fills in – St. Patrick, St. Wenceslaus and the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. “I love liturgy. That’s kind of my thing.”
About Father Kuntz
Father Ken Kuntz brings extensive experience to the position of diocesan administrator. He has served on the College of Consultors, Presbyteral (Priest) Council, Diocesan Review Board, Priest Personnel Board, and the Priest Vocation Board. He served as episcopal vicar for Iowa City and as dean of the Clinton Deanery. Currently, he also serves as director of the recently ordained priests.
Following his ordination in 1977, Father Kuntz served as associate pastor for St. Joseph Parish- DeWitt,
St. Anne Parish-Welton and St. John Vianney Parish-Bettendorf. He has served as pastor for St. Peter Parish-Buffalo, St. Andrew Parish-Blue Grass, St. Mary Parish-Iowa City and Jesus Christ Prince of Peace Parish-Clinton.
For details about the process of appointing bishops, see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website: http://tinyurl.com/ws7n9ec3.
For information about the role of the diocesan administrator, see The Catholic Messenger website: https://catholicmessenger.net/2023/10/the-bishops-chair-is-vacant-what-happens-next-in-the-davenport-diocese/