By Barb Arland-Fye
Sacred Heart Cathedral’s rectory spilled over with people, one of whom was the soon-to-be new Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport. I didn’t know his name or what he looked like as I searched the crowd that morning in October 2006. I mistook a tall man with silver hair to be the new bishop; he was a friend of the bishop. Then, I spotted a clergyman chatting with people as if they were old friends. I introduced myself to Bishop Martin Amos and began what would be the first of many enjoyable interviews over the next decade.
His down-to-earth demeanor put me at ease immediately. I got into the habit of asking him for his homilies after special liturgies so that I could include excerpts in articles for The Catholic Messenger. After the Chrism Mass in March 2008, I asked for his notes earlier than usual. I didn’t explain that my family was preparing to leave for the funeral of my father-in-law in Minnesota because I didn’t want to interrupt his convocation with his priests. Later, when he learned about the reason for my request, he sent a card on his diocesan stationary, expressing condolences in his elegant cursive.
Once I asked Bishop Amos if I could car pool with him to a special event in the far reaches of the diocese. He welcomed the company, and so I asked to car pool on multiple occasions. He accommodated me even when he had other passengers or someone else was driving. One weekday, the bishop was scheduled to attend a deanery meeting about an hour-and-half away from diocesan headquarters. We arrived in time at the church, but the parking lot was empty. We were at the wrong church in the wrong city! Despite the snafu, we headed back on the road to the correct church and made the meeting. The deanery’s priests greeted us graciously, but probably had a good laugh over what happened.
Because the bishop serves as publisher of the diocesan newspaper, I asked if he would be willing to pose for a photograph showing him reading The Catholic Messenger. He agreed, but suggested something different from the routine bishop-reading-the-paper-in-his-office photo. So, I took a photo of him reading the paper in the enclosed porch of his home on a cold winter day. That photo shoot led to more creative ones with each passing year: Bishop reading the Messenger while getting his hair cut at the barber’s, at his physical therapist’s office, in a soybean field next to a harvester. One unique photo shoot occurred in a small village in France, where both of us were present for the in-person delivery of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award to Jean Vanier.
Visiting Jean Vanier in France with Bishop Amos remains a cherished memory for me, one filled with laughter, prayer, and wonderful interactions among people with and without disabilities who share life together. Returning from an early-morning walk on the second day of the trip to France, I saw Bishop Amos praying Morning Prayer in the garden and asked if I could join him. We prayed Morning Prayer together in that garden throughout our brief stay. I feel particularly attuned to God’s presence in nature. And there I was — praying in the midst of God’s creation with the bishop, in persona Christi. It doesn’t get better than that!
Bishop Amos has been a terrific publisher. He placed his trust in me and my staff and appreciated our efforts to consult with him about issues or questions pertaining to the newspaper. His open-door policy symbolized his approachability and his willingness to listen. Thank you, Bishop Amos. I am blessed to have been a part of your pilgrim journey on this earth!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)