By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — While vesting for 8 a.m. Mass on All Saints Day, Father Rich Adam was surprised to see a man wearing a suit and tie inspecting the sacristy of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“I said, ‘Good morning, can I help you?’ thinking he came for Mass, but I was confused because he had just walked through the chapel!” Fr. Adam, the cathedral’s pastor, said. The visitor responded, “I’m with the Secret Service.” He explained that Vice President Joe Biden, on the campaign trail in Davenport, had just left his hotel room and would be attending Mass. Several other Secret Service agents were already in St. Margaret’s Chapel, where daily Mass is held.
Fr. Adam insisted that worshippers in the chapel be informed about the unexpected guests. “I went over and told everyone, ‘These people are here from the Secret Service and Vice President Joe Biden will be here in a couple of minutes.’ Everyone’s face had a look of total surprise,” Fr. Adam said. About 50 people were in attendance, more than usual, because All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation.
Vice President Biden arrived; Mass began and Fr. Adam welcomed him and other guests, including the vice president’s sister. A few people who arrived late for Mass were frisked at the door. After Mass, Fr. Adam greeted Vice President Biden. “He shook my hand and said, ‘You have a beautiful chapel here.’”
Fr. Adam has received plenty of advice from people who approved and disapproved of the vice president’s visit and reception of Communion. During the recent vice presidential candidate debates, Biden noted that on the issue of abortion he would submit to religious authority, but as a lawmaker, he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.
“I was in no way prepared to confront him on politics,” Fr. Adam said. “I thought he chose a beautiful way to begin his day, especially on a holy day, by going to Mass.”
The priest explained during Masses the following weekend that participation in the Mass, the ultimate prayer, impacts lives. If Catholics want to see change, prayer is the most powerful way to make a difference, he said. Fr. Adam also stressed to the congregation that he wasn’t endorsing any candidate. “I’m endorsing the Catholic Church.”
Donald Stanforth, a Catholic, commended the vice president for taking time out of his busy schedule to attend Mass on a holy day of obligation. “The papers locally reported the Secret Service quickly canvassed the church and chapel for the protection of our VP as well as searching the other attendees of Mass … the real irony is, I ask you Mr. VP: as a Catholic, who is protecting our most innocent citizens, the unborn?”
Sacred Heart parishioner Mary Costello had a different perspective: “During Mass I was thinking … here we have the second most powerful man in the United States in our chapel, but he is not the most important or powerful person here. Besides that, our own Fr. Adam is celebrating Mass and representing our Lord. Wow!”