By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Catholics from across the diocese sang the hymn “Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty” with extra enthusiasm as Bishop Martin Amos proceeded to the altar for Solemn Vespers, his farewell liturgical service.
Solemn Vespers, prayed June 11 at St. Mary Church, provided an opportunity for the retiring shepherd and members of his flock to give thanks for the blessings received from God during his episcopate. The prayers were sung. The music of harpist Charles Brungardt and flutists Amy Yan and Molly Vittetoe and clarinetist Megan Schnoebelen added a poignant sound to the liturgy.
Bishop Amos began his homily by reflecting on the dash between the start and end of his episcopacy in the Davenport Diocese: Nov. 20, 2006-June 22, 2017. “… There have been joys, some sorrows, some challenges; many ordinary days and some extraordinary. I have received much support. Some things I remember, some are lost to memory, but known to God.”
The bishop thanked the deacons, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful for their support and for being a blessing in his ministry. He keeps a list of names of people who have influenced his life and reviews those names each year on retreat. “I remember them and events associated with them, and add new ones,” he said. “Some of you here today are on the list by name. There are some groups, too: people I have married, baptized, anointed, buried. There are some people I don’t remember by name but who were there for me.”
He said he thinks about how many people he has confirmed, the many times he has celebrated Eucharist with the faithful and the good work he has witnessed being done. He’s made great friends here. “Sometimes it takes losing something to appreciate it,” the bishop reflected.
His homily included a story about the value of a positive attitude: A newcomer arrives at the gas station and asks “What are the people like in this town?” “What were the people like in the town you came from?” the attendant asks. “They were great people. We laughed together, we cried together, we celebrated together and just had a wonderful time.” The attendant responded: “You will find the same kind of people here.” “I came from a place with that kind of people,” the bishop said, “and I leave a place with that kind of people.”
Concluding his homily, he noted that people ask him what kind of legacy he will leave. “I don’t have a clue,” he joked. “My hope comes from a line that I say to a new pastor when he is being installed: be a loving father, a gentle shepherd and wise teacher. I hope that is what I have been — a loving father, a gentle shepherd and a wise teacher.”
That’s precisely the kind of bishop he has been to many of the people who attended Solemn Vespers.
“Bishop Amos has been such a kind and gentle leader for our diocese. He is so personable, I will miss that,” said Patti McTaggart, St. Mary-Iowa City’s coordinator of youth, music and liturgy. “I’ve seen him involved in so many situations, and he’s handled each one with grace and dignity. He’ll continue to be a shining light wherever he goes.”
“He has truly been a wise teacher, a loving father and a good shepherd. He has been an absolute joy as a leader in our diocese,” said seminarian Terry Ball.
“He was a humble servant, a loving father and a wise teacher. He was all of that in spades,” said Deacon Candidate Joe Rohret of St. Peter Parish-Cosgrove.
Seminarian Dominic Nguyen said he sees in Bishop Amos: “gentleness, kindness and humility,” and experiences that in his handshake, his smile and the sense of humor he conveys, even in his homilies. “As a seminarian, I see him as a good role model. I try to follow his goodness. Through his example, “I can see Christ is with everyone, with every people, with every race. I feel very grateful to have him as bishop.”
Quotable quotes from Solemn Vespers
Sister Jan Cebula, president of the Sisters of St. Francis-Clinton, said: “We appreciate his collaborative, pastoral approach, how he brought joy, and his sense of humor. He came nearly every year for our jubilee celebrations. He gave meaningful homilies. He enriched our celebrations.”
Sister Johanna Rickl, president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary-Davenport, said: “We have been grateful for his celebration of the Eucharist with us, particularly the inspiring homilies. And also the friendship and support we’ve received over the years.”
“To me, he’s a very humble, gentle and thoughtful bishop. He cares for everyone. To me, he’s a good shepherd. I am so blessed to have been ordained by him,” said Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish-Muscatine.
Pam Gantz, a ministry leader at St. Patrick Parish-Iowa City said: “He’s a gentle shepherd.” Whenever he’d come to the parish for an event, “He’d hold out his arms and give you a big hug.”
Parish Life Coordinator Shirley Van Dee of Ss. Joseph and Cabrini Parish-East Pleasant Plain/Richland, said: He’s meant so much to our parish, listening to the people and keeping the parish open. He’s a special priest, a special bishop.”
Deacon John Osborne of St. Mary Parish-Grinnell said “He was like a father to me, a young father,” said Osborne, who was ordained by Bishop Amos in 2013.
Tammy Rohret, wife of Deacon Candidate Joe Rohret, said: “We feel a little privileged; we’ll get to spend a little time with both bishops (Bishop Amos and Bishop-elect Thomas Zinkula) at our retreat. It’s like icing on the cake.”
“It was a bittersweet service,” said Denise Van Wyk, of St. Mary Parish-Pella, whose husband Lowell is a deacon candidate. “He’s done a lot for us personally. He’ll be sorely missed.”