An Easter filled with thanksgiving | Persons, places and things


By Barb Arland-Fye

Gratitude for the miracle of the empty tomb may have awakened more of us from our spiritual slumber this year. Through God’s grace, we could choose to participate in the Easter Triduum liturgies in-person, an impossibility last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Concluding the Easter Vigil at Church of St. Peter in Mendota, Minnesota, the pastor, Father Steven Hoffman, shared his gratitude for all of the people who contributed to the joyous celebration, including the in-person congregation and those watching online. He even thanked the bees for making the wax used in the Paschal candle! The gratitude from those of us in the pews seemed mutual.

Online Masses have become a godsend for people who are vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus, people who are homebound or people dealing with other issues that keep them away from in-person participation in the liturgy. However, when virtual participation was our only option those first months of the pandemic, it created a sense of longing for many of us to be together and to receive the body of Christ in the palm of our hand.

Some Catholics appreciate the simplicity of the liturgy during this time of pandemic. Others of us look forward to the return of singing within the full assembly (the hymns as well as the Mass settings), bringing up the gifts to the altar and physically exchanging the sign of peace.

Seeing everyone at Mass wearing masks during the Easter Vigil evoked feelings of tenderness for me. People chose to be here to celebrate the mystery of our faith, whatever their views on mask wearing. Our shared faith mattered more during this time we spent together in God’s house.

In his homily, Father Hoffman reflected on the power of the Risen Christ, who at the darkest moments in our lives, descends to the place where we suffer and lifts us up to a new place of forgiveness, hope, redemption and love. The pastor shared a story of his younger self, when he was consumed with anger and rage because of the hurt he felt from different people in his life. The anger and rage were coming out in destructive ways, until God lifted him from that place to a new place of resurrection.

Earlier that day before the Easter Vigil, “I was thanking God as I was looking over my life for the moments of resurrection,” Father Hoffman said. The power of the Risen Christ “took me out of that place, that prison of anger and rage to a place of forgiveness, and even more than that, to a place where my heart could now love the very people who hurt me. I could never have dreamed that was possible.”

“I have witnessed thousands of resurrections. It is one of the joys of my life as a priest,” he said. “I have been with people at the hardest moments in their lives … I have seen Jesus descend to that place where they are and to take them to a place of acceptance and trustful surrender and to offer their suffering to the Risen Lord so that their suffering now become something redemptive.”

In his Easter Vigil homily at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, Bishop Thomas Zinkula reflected on how challenges in life “can make us bitter, or they can make us better. God can squeeze grace out of difficult situations. God can turn them on their head.” In the Paschal Mystery, “God squeezed grace out of Jesus’ passion and death … raised him to new life!”

The Easter message, the bishop reminded his listeners, “is both old and new: love is stronger than hate, good is stronger than evil. Hope is stronger than despair. Life is stronger than death, and nothing is impossible with God.”

Easter is a time of thanksgiving; I realize that fact more keenly after a year of pandemic.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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Visit and tour with deacon helps bring Stevens family into the church

Becky Starns
The Stevens family was welcomed into the Catholic Church as full members at the Easter Vigil. This picture of the family was taken March 26 following a convalidation ceremony in which the Catholic Church officially recognized the marriage of Brian and Janine Stevens. Also pictured are their children Gus, Beau and Ruby.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BLUE GRASS — When Janine Stevens’ grandfather was terminally ill and wished to see his granddaughter married, she and her fiancé Brian decided to get married. They were married in a civil ceremony, and not in the Catholic Church.

Brian was a baptized Catholic but had not received the other sacraments of initiation, Communion and confirmation. Janine was baptized at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Davenport and received the sacraments of Communion and confirmation at Our Lady of the River Catholic Church in LeClaire.

The couple did not have enough time before their marriage for Brian to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, they said. Now, 19 years after their marriage, Brian and the couple’s three children were initiated in the Catholic faith during the Easter Vigil at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Blue Grass.

Brian said that as a child and young adult he was not exposed to the Catholic faith because his parents were not active in the church. He said he has always been curious about the Catholic faith while attending Catholic funerals, weddings and other events and wanted to learn more.

About a year and a half ago, he had an informal chat with Deacon Terry Starns, the Parish Life Coordinator at St. Andrew. Brian said he felt very welcomed by Deacon Starns, who helped relieve some anxiety when Brian inquired about coming into the church.

Deacon Starns said Brian, a police officer, stopped in at the parish office after work one day, in full uniform. “He told me he and his wife had been talking about going to church and were looking for a place to attend.”

The two men talked for more than an hour and Deacon Starns gave Brian a tour of the church and parish facilities. Because RCIA classes were already underway in fall 2019, they decided to wait to begin the process.

Brian and Janine talked about the possibility of Brian and the kids entering the Catholic Church together. “We made a decision to do this as a family so we could all help each other learn and understand as we go through the journey,” Brian said. “We agreed it was a healthy decision.”

“Brian and his family started attending church right away. As soon as we began RCIA last fall, Brian, Janine and all three kids started attending classes faithfully every session possible,” Deacon Starns said.

Brian, Gus, Beau and Ruby attended most classes in person, Brian said. Janine chose to attend the classes with her family to support them and to help them in any way needed. Brian received the sacraments of Communion and confirmation. The three children re­ceived all three sacraments of initiation.

Coming into the church, Brian looked forward to learning more about the history of the church and strengthening his relationship with God. Gus, 14, looked forward to being baptized. Beau, 12, liked learning many prayers. And Ruby, 10, looked forward to being closer to God.

Prior to the Easter Vigil, Brian and Janine had their civil marriage validated in the Catholic Church on March 26. “We did it so our family could complete the journey,” Brian said.
They have been amazingly dedicated to the RCIA program, Deacon Starns said in an earlier interview. “They are an amazingly close family and such a welcome asset to St. Andrew Church. What a joy it will be at the Easter Vigil.”

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Christ is risen indeed


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since the outbreak of COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and we made the decision — in the face of the rapid spread of this infection — to temporarily close our church buildings and celebrate the liturgy on-line. I remember celebrating the Sacred Triduum last year at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport with just a few other people. I must admit, it was a very strange experience, both comforting as I savored familiar texts and gestures, and disturbing as I looked into a camera and out into an empty nave instead of into the eyes of my sisters and brothers.

Bishop Zinkula

This year, thankfully, our churches are able to be open and we can gather this Triduum and Easter in person or via technology. We unfortunately are not yet able to be together in the fullness that we miss, but we are getting closer to that day.

As we enter into the holiest days of the year, I invite you to embrace our simplified liturgies rather than bemoan them. I invite you to enter into the silences and rest in God’s presence. I invite you to allow the texts, the readings and the prayers, in all their power, to soak into your bones.

On Holy Thursday, St. Paul will tell us that we are to take, bless, break and give “in remembrance” of the Lord Jesus, offering ourselves along with the one who is both saving victim and priest. John will remind us that doing so commits us to following Jesus’ example of washing feet.

On Good Friday, we will exercise our baptismal priesthood and offer solemn intercessions for the church and world. In light of the ongoing pandemic, we will pray that God, the “source of all life, health and healing” will “grant recovery to the stricken, strength to those who care for them, and success to those working to eradicate this scourge.”

At the Easter Vigil, the Exsultet will bid us rejoice with all of creation, as darkness is overcome by the light of Christ, the prison bars of death are broken, and joy is restored to those who mourn. What a fitting prayer of hope! We will rejoice with those being baptized or coming into full communion with us.

I pray that this one Great Liturgy over Three Days will be a great source of comfort, joy and renewal for all of us. Lent 2021 is drawing to a close, as is — we hope and pray — the long Lent of this pandemic. May we enter into the joy of Easter ready to share the Good News of Jesus with all we meet by washing feet, by being light in the darkness, and by joyfully proclaiming: Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen, indeed!

Sincerely in Christ

Most Rev. Thomas R. Zinkula
Bishop of Davenport

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(This is the first of three parts of a piece that Father Timothy Regan wrote, reflecting on the Holy Week experience through the lens of the hospital/health care experience. Father Regan serves as the Catholic chaplain/Spiritual Services with University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City.)
Such a busy place, and noisy, confusing,
with comings and goings, to-ings and fro-ings.
Artisans, workers, trade-folk,
professionals, elites and destitutes.
Native tongues, foreign tongues,
dialects, insider-jargonese and wordless cries.
Does anyone know how much I hurt?
Does anyone care? – Who? – How will I know?
My hurt, my pain, somehow isolates me.
Everyone else is too busy to be occupied with my need.
But I do need.
Then a Voice speaks,
touching my heart and my hurt.
“I DO know.  I DO care.  Trust me.
You are not alone – ever alone.”
The Voice that speaks is from just another face in the crowd.
But it’s someone who knows – and understands.
This Voice speaks Truth and Healing and Peace.
I listen.
The busy, noisy confusion fades
and the hurt.
Enigmatic garden, renowned orchard,
what will I find as I enter thee
or bare my life, my soul, amidst thy structures
ancient and new?
Your very existence bespeaks the power of life,
the determination and will to live
even when stricken from without,
aged from within,
or gnawed upon by infesting agents.
Your shelter breathes the words
But I find in thee also a darkness and pain
of unremitting mortality that is laid upon my shoulders and my heart;
a burden that causes my soul to quake,
my heart to fear,
my mind to rebel against all that I know must be
because all the powers on earth cannot make it otherwise.Within you, dearest garden, I bare my soul to its Creator,
whether to life or to death,
and in the Creator’s love for me
find the strength, the will, the courage to accept
and be at peace.

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