By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Collaboration between parishes remains a priority for Bishop Martin Amos and he praised efforts he heard about during the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting July 12 at St. Patrick Parish. The council (DPC) also heard a presentation on marriage and family life in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in October, and reflected on passages from Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel exhortation.
The meeting began with mid-day prayer from Liturgy of the Hours, followed by introductions before Bishop Amos asked for reports on the pastoral planning process.
Challenges regarding one parish cluster “engendered talk that some of these (parish) configurations aren’t working too well. This isn’t a plan to close parishes; it’s meant to be a better way to arrange things,” the bishop said. As a result, he’s asking members of 10 parishes to meet later this summer to discuss ways in which to better minister to Catholics in their communities.
DPC member T. Waldmann-Williams of St. Anthony Parish, Knoxville, said the term “clustering” conjures up negative feelings for some Catholics because they connote the term with “closing.” She wondered whether a better word could be used.
“I would hope clustering would say we’re going to support one another,” Bishop Amos said. “If there is a better word, we can think of it. There is a truth that some (parishes) will close. That’s quite possible. The more they work together, the less chance they’re going to have to close.”
DPC member Ken Miller of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf shared a story about a collaborative effort between his parish and Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf. Road construction outside St. John Vianney prevented the parish from conducting its fundraising garage sale on site this summer. Our Lady of Lourdes opened its doors, and the garage sale was underway as Miller spoke. “That’s a wonderful example of collaboration,” the bishop said.
More stories of parish collaboration emerged. Church of the Visitation in Camanche and Our Lady of the River in LeClaire began sharing a pastor (Father Joe Wolf) on July 1 and that is going well, said DPC representative Gary Low of the Camanche parish. Waldmann-Williams said the parish cluster of St. Anthony’s in Knoxville and Sacred Heart in Melcher appreciates new administrator, Father Jake Greiner. Sharon Crall told of the various ways parishes in Georgetown, Melrose and Lovilia are working together. DPC representative Clarence Darrow reported that five parishes in the Davenport/Blue Grass/Buffalo cluster worked together to hire a youth minister who will help develop and grow this multi-parish pastoral ministry.
The Davenport/Long Grove parish cluster that DPC representative Ted Taylor represents has not met since last year. “It’s dormant, as far as collaboration goes.”
Diocesan Development Director Sister Laura Goedken, O.P., suggested one way to bring parishes together: collaborate on Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Some members of parishes in rural areas noted challenges that urban-based parishes don’t deal with, such as distance between parishes and students in different school districts. “People need to be realistic about what can be done,” Bishop Amos observed.
Marriage and family life
IlaMae Hanisch, newly retired Adult & Family Formation/Lay Ministry coordinator for the Davenport Diocese, gave a presentation on marriage and family and provided numerous resources on the subject. She expressed concern about a lack of resources in parishes for family life personnel. She noted that fewer Catholics choose to marry in the Church than ever before, and more couples choose to cohabitate. Parishes need to be mindful of family structures: two-parent and single-parent families, blended families, divorced Catholics, senior citizens entering marriage, among other configurations. Hanisch would like to see parishes and the diocese focus on family spirituality. “That would help us with Mass attendance and longevity of marriage.”
She reminded her audience, “What happens to one person in the family affects the entire (family) system.” It would be helpful for parishes to have more of a family perspective, she added.
Some DPC representatives raised the issue of how to deal with Catholics marrying non-Catholics. “We need to be more welcoming when they come to our parishes,” Bishop Amos said.
Joy of the Gospel
Bishop Amos began discussion about Pope Francis’ exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (Joy of the Gospel) by sharing a passage (No. 78) that he found particularly challenging.
The passage begins: “Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity …”
“The reason it was a challenge for me … I firmly believe I need to have a day off,” Bishop Amos said. “If I don’t take some time for myself, I get crabby; right, Sister?” he said jokingly to Sr. Goedken. But the bishop also said he understood the point the pope was making. There’s a fine line between being overly individualistic and taking time for oneself.
Goodbye to outgoing DPC representatives
Bishop Amos thanked retiring DPC representatives for their service on the council:
Matt Pacha, Pat Kedley, Lien Truong, Kay Temple, Ruth Skeens and Ted Taylor. The nominating committee will bring a slate for election of new officers to the Nov. 8 meeting.