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

Posted on

Send your prayer intentions to Bishop Zinkula

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula prays inside the chapel in his apartment. He looks forward to receiving your prayer intentions through his new prayer webpage

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Bishop Thomas Zinkula wants to pray for the people he serves in the Diocese of Davenport, by name and by prayer intention. So much so, that he invites people to share their prayer intentions with him on his new prayer webpage ( or email to: Prayers may also be submitted by email or in a printed note. Prayer intentions in English and Spanish are welcome.

“I feel a special bond with the people I serve,” Bishop Zinkula told The Catholic Messenger. “Praying for them makes me feel closer to them.” Every time he celebrates Mass in a parish, he prays for the people of that parish. On Sundays, he prays for all of the people of the diocese.

Often, people approach him before or after Mass and ask him to pray for a special intention. He tries to jot down the intention or to remember that individual’s name during his personal prayer time, but it’s haphazard, scattered, he says.

Over the years, he has tried different techniques. He even created in his mind a basket in which to collect all of the prayer intentions and names he might have overlooked. He would pray for all the intentions in the basket, remembered or forgotten. “Whatever is in that basket, God knows what they are.”

At the same time, Bishop Zinkula was growing a little too restful in contemplative prayer, which has been a significant part of his personal prayer for years. His drowsiness means, “It can’t be as much of my personal prayer as it has been.” Perhaps that nudge from the Holy Spirit inspired the bishop to dream up a more organized, egalitarian approach to praying for his people. The prayer intentions webpage emerged with the assistance of his technology team. “It will help me to pray better,” the bishop says.

“It’s just the idea of being in solidarity with people in the diocese, in communion with them in a more particular way. I am really big on the communion of saints; there’s this mystical union. I really feel that.” He believes his bond with the people in the parishes will grow deeper “as I am praying for their intentions.”

Another reason to receive people’s prayer intentions is to get a better sense of the pulse of the people of the diocese. “What are people concerned about?” Praying for individuals’ intentions may also relieve a smidgen of guilt he feels about “people praying for me at every Mass. People pray for me by name in the Eucharistic prayer.” He wants to reciprocate the gift of personal prayer.

“I feel their prayers at Mass, their personal prayer. Their prayers and the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders hold me up in a big way. Those two things I really feel help me to deal with hard things and to exercise my ministry.”

Emily Pries, the bishop’s executive secretary, will help manage the incoming, confidential prayer intentions. The webpage, titled “Bishop Thomas Zinkula will pray for your needs” in English and “Mons. Thomas Zinkula rezara por sus necesidades” in Spanish, provides a short form for prayer intentions. It reads: “Please fill out and submit the prayer request form so that Bishop Zinkula can pray for your intentions. The ‘Your name’ and ‘Name of the person to pray for’ fields are optional.” Instructions are in Spanish, also.

Bishop Zinkula anticipates a variety of prayer petitions. “It could be something about praising God, or giving thanks. With intercessory prayer, usually people are asking God to help with a need. I’m guessing it will be more of that kind of thing. I hope that there will also be prayers for world peace, to end racism. It would be nice to have bigger issues beyond personal intentions.”

The bishop is not worried about receiving too many prayer requests. As Jesus instructed his apostles, “You cast out into the deep.” The mechanics and logistics will work out as the prayer intercession ministry evolves.

He plans to pray with the prayer intentions in the chapel in his apartment, where he prays daily. The frequency with which he prays people’s intentions will be determined. “It could be once a week, but I’m guessing it could be more than that. I’d like to think it’s something I would do most days because I pray every day.”

Bishop Zinkula emphasizes that his prayers are no more important than other people’s prayers. He shares a favorite saying that should apply to any baptized believer: “I’m just one poor beggar trying to tell other poor beggars where to find food. I found spiritual food in the church, in the sacraments, in God, in Jesus.”

Posted on

Bishop Zinkula offers guidance on COVID precautions, vaccines


By Bishop Thomas Zinkula
For The Catholic Messenger

This Lent has brought a number of grim milestones. We have been in a pandemic for a year; over 500,000 people have died because of COVID-19 in our country; and over 2.5 million have died around the world. It is important to keep in mind that these were our sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents, children and co-workers, neighbors and friends. Many died alone. More than 115 million people (that we know of) have been infected and countless others have faced financial hardships, eviction and job loss. Communities of color, and the poor, have borne the brunt of the suffering.

We have given up much this past year. Out of concern for the common good and out of love of neighbor, we have had to modify how we celebrate the Mass and other liturgies, how we catechize and how we support one another in our parishes. It has not been easy. We are tired. We are ready for this pandemic to be over. We ache from COVID fatigue. Sacrificial love is costly. It is tempting to want to just bounce back to what we were doing in 2019, especially as we see others acting as if the COVID-19 virus has magically disappeared. It has not.

The number of reported infections has been dropping. This is good news. However, the variants — changes in the virus over time — are a significant cause for concern. These variants, which are more contagious and seem to cause more severe disease, put us at increased risk for another significant spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Protecting one another, and avoiding overwhelming our healthcare system, remain critical goals. The next one to two months (March-April) will be crucial as we watch for a surge of variants, especially if people getting re-infected becomes a growing concern.

All is not doom and gloom. We have been blessed by several safe and effective vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson), which Catholics can use with a clear conscience and are encouraged to do so for the sake of ourselves and the common good. While the number of persons presently vaccinated is not high enough to warrant changing the current practices in the Diocese of Davenport, this is sure to change in time. It was encouraging to hear that enough vaccine for adults in this country ought to be manufactured by May, but getting the vaccines into arms will be another challenge. It will take time before we can completely relax our safety protocols.

We are watching the situation closely and will ease our restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so, in a manner that keeps us prudently safe and is consistent with what we know about the virus. The vaccines have offered a sense of hope that such a time is getting closer. But we are not there yet. We need to stay the course for now. Letting our guard down too early would risk even greater spread of the virus and prolong the pandemic, which is the last thing we want to do.

Posted on

19: Catholic Messenger Conversations Episode 19: Reflecting on Lent with Bishop Zinkula


Bishop Zinkula shares with Catholic Messenger Conversations what changes he plans for his personal Lenten practices this year.

This segment was produced and recorded at KALA Radio Studios, St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa, USA.
Renew Our Hearts, copyright 2019 by Joe Mattingly. All rights reserved.
Published by NS Publications, 2325 James St., #11, Coralville, IA 52241.
Email: Voice/text: 319-331-8812.
For rights and reprint information, contact the publisher.
Recorded at Holy Mountain Studios, Coralville, IA.

Posted on

Join bishops in virtual novena for derecho victims

Screen capture
Bishop Thomas Zinkula will lead a prayer service online, along with other bishops, later this month.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

On a Saturday morning, not long after the Aug. 10 derecho storm that brutalized Iowa, Jim Ennis of Catholic Rural Life received a phone call from Kent Ferris of the Diocese of Davenport. “Jim, this is devastating,” said Ferris, the diocese’s director of Social Action and Catholic Charities.

“I knew it was devastating,” Ennis said, recalling the conversation. The derecho disregarded diocesan boundaries. Catholic Rural Life (CRL), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the vitality of the American countryside, had the connections to reach out to the broader community. “Let’s arrange a novena,” Ennis said.

The Virtual Novena for Iowa, a nine-day prayer service in honor of St. Isidore the farmer, will remember the victims of the storm and offer prayers for the rebuilding of the communities and farms impacted by it. Each day’s 15- to 20-minute prayer service will appear on Facebook Live. The landing page for the Virtual Novena for Iowa is A bishop will lead each day’s prayer service, which begins at 10 a.m. except on Sept. 27, when the service will begin at 11 a.m. All are welcome to participate in real time or later on at their convenience.

Each bishop leading a diocese in Iowa will participate — Archbishop Michael Jackels, Arch­diocese of Dubuque; Bishop Thomas Zinkula, Diocese of Davenport; Bishop R. Walker Nickless, Diocese of Sioux City; and Bishop William Joensen, Diocese of Des Moines. “All four were receptive to doing this and all four were most supportive of the rural as well as the metro communities of their dioceses affected by the storm,” Ferris said.

In addition, two bishops serving on the CRL Board of Directors will lead one or more days of the novena — Bishop Robert Gruss, Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan (vice president); and Bishop Brendan Cahill, Diocese of Victoria, Texas (president). Bishop Gruss has close ties to Iowa, having been ordained a priest of the Diocese of Davenport in 1994. When Ennis approached him about the novena, Bishop Gruss said, “Jim, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it.”

CRL organizes a novena to St. Isidore leading up to his feast day (May 15) and for other events, such as Rogation days (festival days devoted to special prayers for crops). The novena this past May was a virtual event that drew 11,000 participants, Ennis said. The Iowa novena represents a special occasion, taking time to show support for all who suffered through that storm. “They need prayer.”

Iowa’s encounter with the derecho shocked many people. The widespread storm with straight-line winds in excess of 100 mph in some places damaged 14 million acres of cropland (50 percent of all of Iowa’s cropland) and destroyed farm buildings, silos and rural communities. Some people lost power for days or weeks. The city of Cedar Rapids sustained substantial damage. Iowans, especially in rural communities, had already been hard hit by trade wars, the pandemic and drought.

Related reading: ‘I grabbed my dog and ran down to the basement,’ priest recalls

The CRL website announcement about the Iowa novena acknowledges that suffering in a message of solidarity. “One of the themes St. Paul repeats in his letters in Holy Scripture is the truth that as Christians, we are the body of Christ, and like our physical body, ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together….’”

Ennis describes the novena prayers in honor of St. Isidore, patron of rural people, as ancient and beautiful (also available and downloadable on CRL’s website). St. Isidore, a12th century farmer, was prayerful and particularly devoted to the Mass and the Eucharist. He and his wife, Maria, practiced charity and willingly helped neighbors in distress and the poor in the city slums.

(Visit the Catholic Rural Life website at for details.)

Posted on