Editor’s note: The Catholic Messenger asked Bishop Martin Amos to respond to questions that children in the Diocese of Davenport wanted to ask him as he prepares for retirement this month. The bishop answered the questions during a “Video Chat” with Editor Barb Arland-Fye, which can be found on The Catholic Messenger’s YouTube channel. Here are his responses:
Q: What is the most challenging thing you have had to do while bishop?
A: The most challenging thing is to balance different opinions and different ways of looking at things; being faithful to the teachings of the church while being pastoral. All of that comes together when you are trying to make decisions — particularly decisions about people and their lives.
Q: What advice would you give the new bishop?
A: I think I would give him the same advice our retreat master gave us when the (Iowa) bishops met last January for our retreat. He said to us, “Remember that your predecessor left you with things to do and you will leave things for your successor to do. You can’t do everything. You do the best you can with the knowledge that you have and the people who are working with you and then leave it up to God.”
Q: What was your favorite thing you accomplished?
A. Probably getting homilies done on time (he chuckles). Most of the time when I’m giving a homily it’s for a special occasion, and so you want it to be good. It takes a lot of work. So the fact that I got through those the past 10-1/2 years and got them done on time is something I’m proud of. I usually write 10-15 homilies in a particular month.
Q: What will you miss doing from your job as Bishop?
A: The interaction with the people of the diocese. It’s fun when I go to confirmations, it’s fun when I’m sitting down and having coffee with someone at a parish. I think I’m going to miss that a lot.
Q: What are some of the things that have brought you closer to God as a bishop?
A: A lot of it is the ceremonial stuff that I do. I do find that to be a time of prayer for me. It’s not just something that I do out there; it brings me closer to God. Every confirmation, imparting the Spirit at an ordination, passing on the apostolic ministry; those things all bring me closer to God.
Q: What was your biggest mishap in a Mass as a bishop?
A: There have been a LOT of mishaps but most people would probably never, ever, know that they happened. I don’t know how many people know this one happened, but (at one Mass) I didn’t have a Master of Ceremonies and I was taking care of my own miter. It was time for the post-Communion prayer, and I’m sitting there thinking, “Where’s my miter?” I was sitting on it! So I very gently took it out and I don’t think anybody saw.”
Q: What is your favorite Bible story?
A: From the Old Testament: a story from the book of Kings about God coming to Elijah and not being in the normal places where an epiphany would take place but coming in a gentle whisper. I just think that’s how God works in my life. And then (in the New Testament), from St. Paul in Romans: No one lives as his own master, no one dies as his own master; whether alive or dead, we belong to the Lord.
Q: How did you change our diocese for the better?
A: I hope I’ve changed it for the better! I’ve tried to. How have I done that? I think part of that is by delegating. We’re surrounded by a lot of very, very talented people and I hope I’ve allowed people to do what they do best and not try to micromanage them, even though I want to be in control all the time (he chuckles).
Q: What will you miss most about being Bishop of Davenport?
A: I hope to still help with liturgies, wherever I am, but don’t think I’ll have the same intensity of interaction with people.
Q: Are you excited or sad to retire?
A: I suppose there is a mixed emotion. But probably a majority of it is very glad. It’s time. I think at 75 I don’t get around like I did when I first came here. That makes a big difference. It’s hard to stand for a long time when I get pictures taken, and stuff like that. So that lets me know that it’s time. And I think God has put into me the thought that I’ve done what I can do and now it’s time for somebody else to take the next step.
Q: What challenges did God have you face as a bishop?
A: In the very beginning, with the bankruptcy, that was a challenge. It was something I had never done before. But day by day, listening to the advice of good people, you get through that. Having to call someone in to have a “conversation” is sometimes a little bit difficult to do. Certainly, when you have to close a church building, it’s very difficult.
Q: What is your favorite Mass of the year?
A: Easter Vigil. To go into a dark church and see the light of Christ spread through the whole congregation just shows how interconnected we are. And then to have all those readings — our salvation history — is always great. And then, the sacraments of initiation.