By Barb Arland-Fye
Giving thanks for priests and women religious of the Davenport Diocese, Serra Club members hosted Mass and dinner Nov. 15 for individuals who responded “yes” to God’s call to the priesthood or religious life.
Attending this event at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport has become a tradition for me, serving as a means to express appreciation for the bishops, priests, Sisters and Serrans who give witness to the full expression of living out their vocations.
Father Thom Hennen, diocesan director of vocations, gave an eloquent homily based on the readings he selected for this Mass of thanksgiving at which Bishop Martin Amos presided: Ephesians 1:3-14, Psalm 145 and Luke 17:11-19.
“True thanksgiving comes not just from the lips, but from the heart,” Fr. Thom observed. “It comes when we recognize and fully embrace that fact that God has chosen us in Christ Jesus, that He has made us His sons and daughters through the spirit of adoption, that he made us for Himself, and from that place of gratitude we are willing to lay down our lives in service to God, as priests, deacons religious, lay, married, single. Such a profound gift as our redemption deserves profound thanks, namely, the thanks of service that issues from a grateful heart.” (To read the full homily, click here).
During the dinner that followed, I had the pleasure of glimpsing grateful hearts up close and personal, beginning with the reunion of Serra Club President Bill Barrett and his third-grade teacher, Sister Catherine Linnenkamp, CHM. Some 55 years ago, when she taught Bill, she was a young lay teacher contemplating a vocation to religious life. At the Serra dinner the two hugged each other and beamed in gratitude. “I was delighted to be there and to greet him,” Sr. Catherine said. “I’m so proud of him.”
Bill shared the news of their reunion with the rest of the dinner crowd and reminded the Serrans to ask others whether they’ve considered a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. He shared a personal experience. About six months ago, during a sports event at Assumption High School in Davenport, Bill ran into a student from St. Ambrose University, Davenport. During the course of their conversation, Bill asked the young man whether he’d ever considered a vocation to the priesthood. “As a matter of fact, I have,” the college student told Bill. “So the seed is planted … even if someone hasn’t (considered a vocation), at least you’ve planted that seed in their mind.”
Msgr. Frank Henricksen, a priest since 1955 and retired editor of The Catholic Messenger, asked Bill to introduce Msgr. Frank’s neighbors Walt and Eleanor Droll of St. Mary Parish in Tipton to the gathering. The Drolls celebrated 65 years of marriage in October and have been attending the Serra dinners since at least the 1990s to show support for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Parents of seven grown children, Walt and Eleanor smile endearingly at each other when asked about the longevity of their marriage. “Laughter,” Eleanor says. They’re still kidding each other all these years later, solid in their commitment to the vocation of marriage, in their gratitude toward each other and toward God.
In the Gospel story of the 10 lepers, proclaimed earlier in the evening, just one of the lepers, a Samaritan, returned to give God thanks. “The call, of course, is for us to respond as the Samaritan did, the one among the ten, who recognized that he was ill, that he was in need of healing, who recognized that he had been healed, and who stopped in his tracks, who returned glorifying God, and who fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him,” Fr. Thom said in his homily.
“At the root of every vocation is a profound thanks to God for all that He has done and a desire to give something in return,” Fr. Thom continued. “And so we pray, brothers and sisters, in thanksgiving to God tonight, especially for the priests, deacons and religious who have served us. And we pray that many more will recognize the healing that is theirs in Christ and will respond generously from that place of deepest gratitude.”