By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Four women of Vietnamese heritage carefully wrapped chopped vegetables and meats with rice paper the evening of June 20 at a private home in Davenport. As members of Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Vietnamese community, they had the task of making 500 egg rolls for Bishop-elect Thomas Zinkula’s Solemn Vespers reception, which took place June 21 at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. The women admitted they’d be working late into the night, but having the opportunity to share their culture with the new bishop — and helping him to feel welcome in the process —made the time and effort worthwhile.
“Egg rolls are one of the favorite Vietnamese foods,” said Vietnamese community representative Martin Trien Ngo. “Most parties will have egg rolls and everyone loves them. We hope our new bishop will love them, too.”
The Diocese of Davenport relied on the generosity of parishes to provide food for the Solemn Vespers reception and people were eager to help, said Andy Gaertner, the diocesan director of Development. Parishes from every deanery provided favorite snacks, with special care taken to make sure the food options were as diverse as the people who make up the Diocese of Davenport.
St. Wenceslaus Parish, located in a traditionally Czech neighborhood in Iowa City, has a long-standing tradition of making kolaches for parish events, according to parishioner Lisa Schintler. When they found out that Bishop-elect Zinkula had Czech heritage — and more so, that poppy seed kolaches were one of his favorite foods — they were eager to get in the kitchen and start working. “Our recipe, which has been used by the parish for more than 50 years, has won many blue ribbons at the state fair,” Schintler said.
The parish worried about how to transport 500 kolaches roughly 60 miles to St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf; usually the kolaches made in the parish kitchen are served or sold on parish grounds. Schintler hoped unused pizza boxes, which were donated from a local restaurant, could safely be used to stack and transport the kolaches.
Dick Hanzelka of St. John Vianney Parish had also heard of the incoming bishop’s love of kolaches and made some for a Solemn Vespers practice earlier in the week. “Dick is a wonderful Czech baker,” said Father Jim Vrba, pastor of St. John Vianney. Like Hanzelka and Bishop Zinkula, Fr. Vrba has Czech heritage.
Because there is strong Hispanic presence in the Diocese of Davenport, Gaertner said it was important for Hispanic Catholics to be represented in the food offerings, as well. Catholics in Davenport and Columbus Junction made 15 dozen tamales each for the reception.
Other parishes provided favorite snacks such as appetizers and cookies. Local Hy-Vee stores donated disposable dinnerware and lemonade mix.
Though he loves his Bettendorf parish’s kolaches, Fr. Vrba admitted to trying some of St. Wenceslaus’ kolaches, which arrived at the reception successfully. When playfully asked who makes the better kolaches, Fr. Vrba responded, “I better not break the seal of confession.”