Priests share their thoughts on Vision 20/20

Anne Marie Amacher
Father Steve Ebel distributes the blood of Christ to Father William Kneemiller during a Mass Feb. 7 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Bishop Thomas Zinkula is counting on the support of priests of the Diocese of Davenport to help move the Vision 20/20 initiative forward, and told them so. “Your role is critical; it is essential. You are the leaders in your parishes,” the bishop said at the first of three identical Vision 20/20 meetings for priests held earlier this month. Meetings were hosted at diocesan headquarters in Davenport, St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa and St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant. Priests participated in person or via video conference.

Vision 20/20: From Pentecost to Pentecost is an ongoing initiative that Bishop Zinkula spearheaded last year to provide a path forward; to build a vibrant church whose members celebrate the joy of the Gospel with others.

Regional conversations about Vision 20/20 are underway to identify solutions to challenges discussed during parish listening sessions last fall and the tools needed to implement these solutions. Themes that emerge from the regional conversations will be shared at the Vision 20/20 convocation June 6-8.

In his listening sessions with the priests, Bishop Zinkula reflected first on the past. At one time, parishes served as the social gathering point for Catholics, he said during the Feb. 7 meeting at the St. Vincent Center in Davenport. “That’s where people went to socialize.” He recalled a couple of parishes he visited that even had bowling lanes.

‘Our baptismal mission’

Parishes were turned more inward then. “It was expected that you practiced your faith, belonged to a parish; faith was kind of private; we were born into it,” the bishop said. That focus on community has given way to a focus on self, almost to the exclusion of community. “People today are isolated, lonely. People are more educated,” the bishop said. He identified a preoccupation with “ism” — consumerism, secularism, atheism, for example.

Competing expectations in society, including athletics, also presents challenges to the church. So does a breakdown in institutions; people aren’t joining groups as much. Mass attendance is down and the clergy sexual abuse crisis is back in the news because of some bishops’ failure to stop abuse in the past.

“We need to do something, obviously,” the bishop said, referring to the daunting challenges. “It is our baptismal mission to share the joy of the Gospel. We need to turn outward way more than we have been. Pope Francis uses the language of encounter, accompaniment. Vision 20/20 is our mechanism for evangelizing.”

The church needs the laity to be evangelizers, the bishop said. Father Tony Herold, the diocese’s vicar general, said parishes are in the process of building evangelization teams. Vision 20/20 leaders have defined evangelization as “in­ten­tionally, personally and joyfully witnessing to the core message of God’s love for us as revealed in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ.”

Composition of the evangelization teams should be diverse, he told the priests. “Male, female, young, old … people who are passionate about their Catholic faith. Evan­geli­zation teams can be as large as you want them to be.” Dele­gates will be selected from the evangelization teams to participate in the convocation, but the evangelization teams will remain an active part of the parish.

Evangelization teams will need education and formation, Fr. Herold said. “They will work side by side with their parish priest.” And if the priests/pastors “are not intimately involved in this process, it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Priests’ questions about Vision 20/20

One priest asked: “What do we have for those who are already on fire so that they don’t get bored during Vision 20/20?” “I don’t think they are going to get bored at the convocation,” Fr. Herold responded. The convocation will feature three nationally known speakers, workshops, prayer, liturgy and dialogue aimed at moving the church of southeast Iowa forward.

Another priest asked about an emphasis on preaching during the convocation. That’s what he enjoyed reading about in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” which provides the framework for Vision 20/20. A preaching workshop is a possibility.

What about role playing, to give a demonstration of what evangelization looks like, another priest suggested. That also is a possibility. One priest expressed frustration with what he sees as the “shifting goal posts” in the Vision 20/20 process. It’s not so much shifting goal posts as it is fleshing out the process, Bishop Zinkula said. “It’s a big deal and it’s going to (involve) some work,” he added. “One of the challenges,” Fr. Herold said, is that “it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Another priest suggested that the diocesan Faith Formation Office could be a resource for the faith formation of evangelization teams. That will happen, said Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan chief of staff.

The convocation’s cost was the focus of another question. “It’s not in our budget,” a priest said. “I’m in the same boat,” said Fr. Herold, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. Costs are still being determined, but the financial obligation will be modest and shared among the diocese, parishes, delegates and possible grants, he said.

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