By Celine Klosterman
BURLINGTON —Looking out at 1,000 Catholics from the Keokuk Deanery who’d gathered for Mass at Burlington Memorial Auditorium, Bishop Martin Amos began his homily July 20 with a note of commendation. “For this deanery to come together to celebrate what is the font and summit of our faith in Eucharist is awesome,” he said.
In front of banners representing the 11 parishes in the most southeastern region of the Diocese of Davenport, he presided at a Year of Faith Mass concelebrated by priests serving in the Keokuk Deanery. Lay people from various parishes served during the liturgy in numerous roles, including as choir members, handbell ringers and more than a dozen other instrumentalists.
In the third of six deanery celebrations slated during this Year of Faith, which began Oct. 11, 2012, and ends Nov. 24, 2013, Bishop Amos noted that each generation passes on the faith to the next generation. “A good example is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults,” he said. “When I was a parish priest, early on in RCIA we would ask those inquiring into the faith what brought them to this point. Each person’s journey was very individual and different, but almost without exception it involved someone — a family member, a spouse, a friend, a neighbor who opened the door for them and invited them in. Perhaps at this Eucharist we could remember in a special way those who have passed our faith on to us.”
The bishop acknowledged that “those of us who are older remember a somewhat different Church 50 years ago. And we remember a society that was quite different 50 years ago. There was a strong Catholic identity.” Catholics could articulate, if somewhat mechanically, what they believed — such as the definition of a sacrament and the four chief marks of the Church, he said.
“Our world has since been tainted by a strong individualism, a strong secularism and a strong materialism, to name just a few…. Because it is a different world, Pope John Paul II, in his call for a new evangelization wanted a new ardor, new methods and new expressions.” The pope didn’t seek “a doing away with the old order, but a new boldness about the gift of faith we possess.
“When someone says something at a party, in the workplace or over a cup of coffee, does our faith shine through? If we don’t know the answer, or the reason, or how to articulate it — we need to continue the study of our faith,” Bishop Amos said.
“We have our work cut out for us…. It is our turn to share the gift of faith we have received.”
For Mary and Steve Fickel of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, the deanery Mass was another opportunity to express the faith they’ve shared for four years. Since Steve joined the Catholic Church in 2009, after more than 42 years of marriage, both spouses have been volunteering in more parish ministries. Serving as RCIA team members, eucharistic ministers and in other roles became something the couple could do together, Mary said.
They appreciated the bishop’s homily and Catholics’ participation in the deanery celebration. “I wish there was this much enthusiasm at every Mass,” Steve said.
“To me, this was a real success,” said Gary Fell of Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington. He attended the liturgy with his wife, Dianne. In response to the bishop’s words about passing on the faith, she recalled the example of her devout mother. When sick with leukemia, Dianne’s mom had said, “Not to worry, St. Jude and I have it taken care of.” The West Burlington parishioner has also seen, in her work as a nurse, how faith helps other patients cope.
In a deanery with several small, rural parishes, the Burlington Mass showed how large the Catholic community is, said Father Dennis Hoffman, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Farmington and St. Mary’s in West Point. “This was a big undertaking, but it’s wonderful when you see all these people get together.”
Year of Faith celebrations in the Davenport, Ottumwa and Clinton deaneries are slated for this fall. For more information, visit www.davenportdiocese.org/lit/yearoffaithlit.htm.