By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — The new bishop of Rapid City, S.D., walked down the familiar center aisle of Sacred Heart Cathedral to lead a Mass of Thanksgiving Sept. 4 for the Davenport Diocese, where he was ordained a priest 17 years ago.
Bishop Robert Gruss, ordained a bishop just five weeks ago in Rapid City, got choked up as he greeted the congregation at the beginning of Mass. He said it was good to be among them, and he planned to savor this time before returning to his new home and ministry. Prior to his July 28 ordination to the episcopate, he served as rector and pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Bishop Martin Amos, bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, and his predecessor, Bishop-Emeritus William Franklin, were in attendance at the Mass as were some of the diocese’s priests and deacons. The priests concelebrated the Mass at which Bishop Gruss presided.
Before beginning his homily, Bishop Gruss thanked all in attendance for their prayers and confessed he still finds it unbelievable that he is a bishop and is serving in a diocese where he doesn’t know the people and poverty is a pressing issue. Responding to the needs, the Davenport Diocese designated the collection of the thanksgiving Mass for the Native American missions in the Rapid City Diocese.
In his homily, Bishop Gruss reflected on questions that arose from the readings of the day. “Are we responsible for our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, and even our enemies?” the bishop asked. “Am I my brother’s keeper? For a Christian community, ‘no’ would not be the appropriate answer.”
He shared a Zulu proverb that says when a member of the community has a thorn in a foot the whole body must bend over to pull it out. “We do not live our faith in isolation, but always in community,” Bishop Gruss said. “We find our deepest identity, I think … not in ourselves, but in community with God and others.”
Any of us can bring discord to the body by our sins, and it takes the body to restore health. But how, the bishop asked. “St. Paul has the solution for all conflicts: owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.”
Bishop Gruss acknowledged it is not easy to extend Christian love to others, particularly those individuals we don’t like or who don’t like us. “Love is willing the good of the other, and then doing something about it.” And if fraternal correction is required, it ought to be done in love and charity, he said. “Are we are brother’s keeper? Yes, because Jesus is our keeper. He came not to condemn us, but to save us.”
The bishop had one unexpected visitor during his homily, a bat, which he ignored except for one glance upward as the flying creature circled the sanctuary.
At the close of Mass, Bishop Amos surprised Deacon Julian Gutierrez with a plaque of appreciation for his 30 years as a deacon. Along with his wife, Maria del Rosario, Deacon Gutierrez has been serving the people of the diocese for decades, with a special ministry to the Hispanic community. The couple is moving to Alexandria, Va., to be closer to children and grandchildren — the domestic church — Deacon Gutierrez said.
Bishop Amos hugged the deacon and then announced to Bishop Gruss that he didn’t have a plaque for him, which elicited a laugh from the congregation. But he did offer gratitude, prayers and thoughts. “You are always welcome here,” Bishop Amos told his brother bishop.