Diocesan Pastoral Council shares inspiration from Vision 20/20 Convocation
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Small-town Hills has a population of around 800 people and just one church, St. Joseph Catholic, which organized a Fun in the Park picnic for everyone in town this summer. More than 300 people attended the event, advertised through a door-to-door flyer campaign. The town’s businesses donated items for door prizes and the parish provided the food. Sister parishes, St. Mary in Lone Tree and St. Mary in Nichols, helped out. “That’s evangelization,” Carol Kaalberg told her Diocesan Pastoral Council colleagues at their Aug. 17 meeting at St. Patrick Parish.
Kaalberg, who chairs the DPC, shared that story during summaries DPC members gave about the impact of the Vision 20/20 Convocation, which the Diocese of Davenport convened June 6-8 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. Evangelization is the primary focus of the ongoing Vision 20/20 initiative. “This is my top priority as bishop of Davenport,” Bishop Thomas Zinkula said during the DPC meeting.
DPC members, who represent parishes throughout the diocese, serve as an advisory board to the bishop. They reported enthusiasm for the Vision 20/20 Convocation and the ongoing initiative.
In her assessment of the convocation’s impact, Suanne Dickey of Packwood said, “Evan-gelization can happen one on one and with everyone we encounter.” Mark Godar of Grinnell said he discovered that evangelization is doable, it doesn’t have to be a large undertaking; it can begin with small steps. His parish, St. Mary in Grinnell, meets this week for a post-convocation meeting. “Father (Ross) Epping is a good leader for us, and (for) giving us guidance on how to keep this spark going,” Godar said.
Linda Molyneaux of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport said the convocation provided her with an opportunity to talk with younger adults about religious issues. She also appreciated the convocation’s effective communication and hospitality. “Hospitality and authentic relationships, that is the solution to every problem,” she said. At the convocation, “We were able to form those authentic relationships with almost everyone we met.”
Bishop Zinkula said the diocese wants to keep the momentum going by providing companions/mentors who can walk with parishes as they step into evangelization. The Vision 20/20 Steering Committee is working out the details, he said.
At the chancery, his staff has begun exploring resources parishes might need to evangelize. Catholics need to go out and encounter others, as Pope Francis calls them to do. “The laity has to be involved in this,” Bishop Zinkula said. “This is where the laity can shine. It is no longer simply Father’s church or sister’s church.”
The bishop provided some examples of evangelization from parishes he visited this summer:
• Holy Family Parish, Davenport. A young mom the bishop met between Masses one Sunday said she thought it would be a great idea to have a Catholic booth at the Mississippi Valley Fair, which was underway at the time. Fairgoers could ask questions and engage with Catholics at the booth. “I encouraged her to take her idea to the parish leadership but I also told her I hoped the pastor would take it to the deanery. This could be a deanery project.”
• St. Anthony Parish, Davenport. Pastoral Associate & Business Manager John Cooper distributes a weekly email newsletter to parishioners and others. Recent issues provided a link to podcasts from the Vision 20/20 Convocation. Next month, the parish’s pastor, Father Apo Mpanda, will share his faith story and so will Vision 20/20 participants. Also, an announcement is made after each weekend Mass encouraging anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic faith or wanting to become a parishioner to talk to a waiting staff person. Because of this effort, “Last year, 52 people joined the parish and the year before, 17. This year they’re already at 40,” Bishop Zinkula said. After he celebrated Mass there recently, he saw a young couple approach Cooper about joining the parish.
• Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, Muscatine. At a recent picnic for clergy and laity who serve in Hispanic ministry, Father Troy Richmond, pastor of the Muscatine parish, told the bishop that parishioners are planning a Vision 20/20 summit this fall.
• Parish not identified. While visiting another parish, Bishop Zinkula spoke with a convocation delegate. She and her husband are interested in opening a storefront for community events. He suggested contacting the people who established COR (Come, Observe, Reconnect) in Waterloo. COR is a free-standing Catholic hospitality center in the city’s commercial and entertainment district. The bishop spoke there recently on the topic “Causes of the Church’s Abuse Crisis.”
“These are creative things, out of the box kind of things I was hoping people would do,” the bishop said.
Vicar General Father Tony Herold, who is also the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, distributed the Vision 20/20 Convocation executive summary to DPC members, praising Dan Ebener for his synopsis. Fr. Herold also announced that St. Paul the Apostle is hosting two, daylong hospitality training workshops this week. The first, Aug. 23, is for diocesan parish staff. The second, Aug. 24, is open to all parishioners and Catholics. Each event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $25 and includes materials and light lunch. Go to www.stpaulse.com/davenport/ for more information.
DPC members also brainstormed in small groups about ways that their parish or cluster of parishes can embrace Vision 20/20. Ideas included meeting with parish councils and commissions to get people fired up, using social media and linking parishes’ social media pages with the diocese’s social media pages. Also, giving a faith-based puppet show at a fair, creating a “God moment” jar, inviting people without a church home to an ecumenical prayer service or praying one on one. “Get people together, even to sit down to a cup of coffee around the table,” Ed Schloemer of Bettendorf said.