By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Bishop Martin Amos is three weeks away from his 75th birthday, the age at which bishops must submit their resignation to the Holy Father, who in turn determines the retirement date. That process could take up to a year, Bishop Amos told his Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) at its Nov. 12 meeting.
A firm believer in planning ahead, Bishop Amos asked the DPC to participate in a strategic planning exercise to prepare for a new bishop. Last month, the chancery’s leadership team engaged in the strategic planning process, and one of the three strategic issues that emerged was preparing for the next bishop.
Father Tony Herold, the diocese’s vicar general, facilitated the strategic planning exercise Nov. 12 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. DPC members used sticky notes to compile their ideas about the diocese’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and recorded the ideas for each category on large sheets of paper. Discussion about strategic planning will continue in March, when the DPC meets again to explore their ideas in greater depth.
Among other issues the DPC discussed:
The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan chief of staff, gave a simplified presentation of new federal overtime rules that take effect Dec. 1 and will impact parishes and other diocesan entities. Employees earning less than $47,476 annually should be considered non-exempt from overtime rules, a new and significant change. The salary level test does not apply to school teachers, doctors or lawyers or for other individuals who qualify for an exemption.
Deacon Montgomery noted that one of the challenges of the new law is a perceived stigma of salaried employees who will become classified as hourly employees. A second challenge: many employees work more than 40 hours per week on a regular basis, but parish budgets are limited. Third, the state of Iowa does not have case law to support a “ministerial exemption,” which generally refers to ordained, religious and ministers. This exemption is not mentioned in the final FLSA regulations, either. Furthermore, the term “ministers” is not defined. For the Diocese of Davenport, youth ministers, Directors of Religious Education (DREs) and music ministers are non-exempt unless they pass the three-part exemption test. He noted that flex time is allowed, but not comp time. Responses to the overtime rule include: permit flex time within the same work week; encourage volunteers to assist staff or relieve some of the staff workload; increase efficiency of staff through technology (such as phone conferencing instead of travel); prioritize.
While challenges exist, “the purpose of the law is a good one because it strives to ensure that people are paid for the work they do. We have to go by what the law is going to do and make the change,” Bishop Amos said.
Election of officers
Ken Miller of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf was re-elected president. Carol Kaalberg, cluster coordinator for St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols and St. Joseph Parish in Hills, was elected vice-president. Diane Lannan of Holy Family Parish in Davenport was elected secretary. Bishop Amos thanked T. Waldman-Williams of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville or her work in shepherding the election process.
New Catholic Marriage Rite
Fr. Herold shared information about the new “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” which has received final approval and has been published. Workshops are being held in the Davenport Diocese for those who preside at weddings and/or are involved in ministry to couples preparing for marriage. The next workshops are scheduled Dec. 2 and 3 at diocesan headquarters. “The rituals of the church are always undergoing changes and revisions because we’re always undergoing change,” Fr. Herold noted. One aspect of the rite that surprised DPC members is a requirement that a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic Christian receive special permission for a Mass. “Why would we turn down a Mass?” a DPC member asked. Bishop Amos pointed out that couples need to think about the reason for having a Mass. Unity should be an important element. If only some in the wedding party can receive Eucharist, that can create strain and hard feelings, Fr. Herold added. More information about the new rite is available on the diocesan website (http://tinyurl.com/zq5hsr2).
Year of Mercy
Bishop Amos said he would close the holy doors at Sacred Heart Cathedral during the 4 p.m. Mass that day. Pope Francis will officially close the holy doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Nov. 20. “The pope wanted to be the first person to open the holy doors and the last one to close them,” the bishop explained.
Chancery strategic planning
Deacon Montgomery elaborated on the process of preparing for a new bishop, one of three strategic issues that diocesan directors identified last month. An individual to be ordained a bishop has four months from the time of his appointment to take possession of his diocese; an already ordained bishop takes possession within two months of his appointment. Chancery staffers are working ahead to strive to establish a smooth transition. “Why might a priest refuse an appointment to be bishop?” asked DPC member Nancy Roberson of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, Muscatine. Bishop Amos said it doesn’t happen often, but a priest might not think he is ready for that responsibility. “Bishop, I’d just like to say thank you for saying ‘yes.’” Roberson said.
DPC members shared reports from their parishes and clusters before the meeting concluded in song: Happy Birthday to Bishop Amos (Dec. 8). DPC member Patti McTaggart of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City led the group, asking the bishop his preferred style of “Happy Birthday.” “Rap,” he joked, before asking for the traditional style.