We taught him how to be a bishop and, in turn, Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula has taught us how to take a stronger role in our diocesan Church. Next week, he takes leave of us to become the Archbishop of the Dubuque Archdiocese. We are in a time of transition, a time between bishops to lead our diocesan Church, a time to reflect on change and our need to change, a time for possibilities and prayers.
In gratitude for his six years of servant leadership as Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, we take up our role to carry out the plans, projects and emphases he developed, endorsed or encouraged. While any new initiatives must await consultation with the next Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, we are empowered to move forward with the things with which Archbishop-elect Zinkula has entrusted us.
Diocesan Evangelization Director Patrick Schmadeke identifies the “big” things: Vision 2020, the Laudato Si’ Action Plan, the Guidelines for Pastoral Accompaniment of Sexual and Gender Minorities, implementation of the Synod on Synodality and the listening sessions that led to the Davenport Diocese’s Synodal Summit this past June.
Archbishop-elect Zinkula leaves us with a “powerful roadmap for building vibrant church communities to carry out the Gospel work in the world,” St. Ambrose University President Amy Novak said. He did so through his “empathetic engagement with all communities in the synodal sessions, distilling that information into tangible actions to help build a more welcoming Church.”
Evangelization, the hallmark of the archbishop-elect’s episcopacy, is bearing fruit through the work of the Synodal Summit’s parish and school representatives who are receiving ongoing formation and inspiration in their efforts to foster the work of evangelization in their communities.
“To move the needle, we will need greater collaboration among the clergy and the laity. Through our common baptism, we are called to co-responsibility for the Church’s mission to spread the Good News of Jesus in our daily lives,” Archbishop-elect Zinkula said in the Synodal Summit report.
We are called to servant leadership, which “can enhance engagement of the people,” says Dan Ebener, who has written extensively on this subject. “It inspires people to participate, to take initiative, to help each other and to develop themselves as disciples of Jesus. It inspires people to become servant leaders themselves” (The Catholic Messenger, July 19, 2018).
Archbishop-elect Zinkula set the example for servant leadership for us. From the start, he has been “open to dialogue, open to new challenges and always willing to support evangelization initiatives, especially those that bring the Gospel to the peripheries,” says Miguel Moreno, diocesan director of Multicultural Ministries. “He precisely promoted the creation of the Evangelization office in the diocese, with the desire to unify all pastoral forces.”
Archbishop-elect Zinkula leaves us at a momentous time in the Catholic Church, the first of a two-year phase of the Synod on Synodality in Rome. The synod’s emphasis on being a listening Church to discern our mission ahead speaks to the gifts we must employ — attentiveness to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, prayer, humility, fraternity, deep listening and a commitment to unity.
“This synod is about how as a Church we are called to listen to one another, and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying,” Father Stephen Page, pastor of parishes in DeWitt and Grand Mound says in a reflection. “Sometimes we forget as Christians in the Catholic faith tradition that it isn’t just the pope or bishops or pastors or parish councils who run the Church. The Church is run, or animated, by the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit led Archbishop-elect Zinkula on his journey to the priesthood and some 30 years later to lead us on our mission of evangelization. “If we are going to be successful in our evangelization, we need to be united as priests, clergy, the local Church and as parishes. We need to be together, we need to be a strong body of Christ.”
Unity begins with deep listening and dialogue. That’s where we begin — in our homes, parishes and schools — the mission of evangelization Archbishop-elect Zinkula inspired us to embark on.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor