By Barb Arland-Fye
Georg Gunzenhauser hoped to surprise his wife Monica Banks-Gunzenhauser on the fifth anniversary of their marriage in the Catholic Church with a blessing from the bishop. Things didn’t go exactly as he planned, but the outcome moved his wife to tears of gratitude anyway.
Two weeks earlier, Georg called Diocese of Davenport headquarters to request that Bishop Martin Amos bestow a blessing on him and his wife Nov. 10. On that date, five years ago, Georg and Monica were married at St. John Vianney Church in Bettendorf. They had exchanged vows in a civil ceremony in 2001, but needed to go through the annulment process before being able to marry in the Catholic Church.
Monica, a cradle Catholic from Paraguay, who has a bishop and an archbishop in her extended family, and Georg, a convert to Catholicism, are deeply committed to the faith. They had been attending Mass all along, accompanied by Monica’s now-grown children, but followed Church teaching by abstaining from receiving Communion.
The Davenport Diocese granted the annulment in 2006, six months before Georg and Monica’s wedding at St. John Vianney. Georg thought a fitting anniversary present would be a blessing from the diocese’s shepherd.
On Nov. 10, however, Bishop Amos underwent knee replacement surgery and wasn’t available for the blessing. “I was the switch hitter,” Msgr. Marvin Mottet said. “I always wondered what it would feel like to replace the bishop!”
The Gunzenhausers were appreciative. They had attended Healing Masses at which Msgr. Mottet presided and followed stories about the awards he’s received for his social action ministry. He couldn’t have been a better substitute, they thought.
Msgr. Mottet greeted the couple and escorted them to the chapel in diocesan headquarters for the blessing. But before he began, he peppered Georg and Monica with questions. They knew him, but he wanted to get to know them. Georg was born in Germany and raised as a Lutheran who attended Catholic school. He has been a professor with Western Illinois University for 23 years. Monica is an adjunct instructor at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.
Monica and Georg held hands as Msgr. Mottet said prayers over them; tears fell from Monica’s eyes. “It couldn’t have been a better present,” she said afterward. “It wasn’t a ring, it wasn’t a necklace; it’s the kind of present that’s really meaningful.”
Explaining why he wanted a blessing of his union with Monica, Georg said: There are times in life when we’re challenged. I want to reaffirm to her that we’re together.”
The couple had been apart for three months — from July 6-Oct. 6 — while Monica looked after a new grandchild in Florida. “I was busy with the baby, but Georg was here at home and missing me,” she said.
Msgr. Mottet appreciated the couple’s desire for a blessing. “I thought it was nice that they thought that much about their faith that they wanted to celebrate it with a blessing. Their example might help other people to appreciate the sacraments and their faith,” he said.