By Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Martin Amos sat in the cab of Roger Friederichs’ combine harvester savoring the ride as the massive machine munched through the hills and valleys of a farm field near Blue Grass. That gloriously sunny afternoon in early October during harvest season yielded perfect photos for The Catholic Messenger.
The best of crop from that photo shoot appears on the front page of this week’s Catholic Messenger, an essential communication tool for Bishop Amos who leads nearly 100,000 Catholics spread throughout 22 counties of southeast Iowa.
It was his idea. As publisher of the diocesan newspaper, and one of its greatest supporters, Bishop Amos enjoys brainstorming unique ways to promote subscriptions. So one day in early fall when we were talking about the 2016 subscription drive, he asked, “What are we going to do for the photo?” He followed his question with a suggestion: “How about a farm?”
“Good idea,” I agreed. Walking out of his office, I thought: “How are we going to find a farmer whose hectic harvesting schedule can accommodate the bishop’s equally demanding schedule? And what if it rains?” Roger and his wife, Janet, members of St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass, said “No problem.” Janet set a date and options in case of rain.
Catholic Messenger reporter/photographer Lindsay Steele, Bishop Amos and I drove to St. Andrew’s where Janet met and guided us to the field where Roger was combining. We’d probably still be trying to find that field if Janet hadn’t led the way! But we couldn’t have prayed for better weather or setting. Another journalist was already out in the field chronicling a farming feature.
Roger pulled up the towering combine next to our car and invited Bishop Amos for a ride, which he readily accepted and must have enjoyed based on the time we waited for them to return! The bishop loves going into the field, so to speak, to shepherd his flock, as Pope Francis has urged bishops to do.
In his nine years as chief shepherd of the Diocese of Davenport, Bishop Amos has led Catholics through challenging and joyous times, in prayer and in celebration of the sacraments. He’s joined them in the ordinary moments, too, laughing at their jokes, telling a few of his own, eating at their potlucks.
So of course he’s willing to show his humanness in Catholic Messenger photo shoots. One year we photographed him as his barber clipped and trimmed the bishop’s white locks. He paged through the newspaper (trying not to laugh) as a photographer snapped away. Another year, Bishop Amos and I, each with our own copy of The Catholic Messenger, posed for a photo during our trip to France where the bishop delivered the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award to Jean Vanier. One year Bishop Amos posed for a photo at his physical therapist’s office. We’ve photographed the bishop at home and at diocesan headquarters, too.
While it’s a lot of fun organizing and doing these photo shoots, what matters most is the message Bishop Amos conveys. Subscribe to The Catholic Messenger; I do. It’s a publication worth my time.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)