By Fr. Joseph Sia
Here are some fun facts for your next “Trivia Night:”
When was the Diocese of Davenport created? Answer: 1881.
Who was the first bishop of Davenport? Answer: Bishop John McMullen, who was rector (and builder) of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago right before he was named bishop of Davenport.
How many parishes did Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P., establish in our diocese? Answer: 40
The topic of the recently concluded Iowa Seminarian Convocation was on the history of the four dioceses in Iowa, beginning with the Archdiocese of Dubuque, followed by Davenport, Sioux City and, finally, Des Moines.
I appreciated that the speakers not only gave historical facts such as dates, names and places, but also spoke on the human and spiritual dimensions of the establishment of these dioceses. The speakers helped the audience see the plan of God in the events that happened through the years. For example, they mentioned how some of the priests strived to learn the languages of the Native American Indians to better minister to them and related that historical tidbit to the current need to reach out to immigrants whose first language is not English.
The speakers analyzed the development of parishes from single communities with close ties to the town in which they were located to a “community of communities” wherein worshippers are not necessarily locals and travel from miles away to be at a certain church. Stories were shared of sacrifices made by laypersons, clergy and religious sisters. These stories reminded us of the constant need for evangelization and missionary work today and certainly in the future.
In the Philippines we have a saying that goes something like, “The one who does not look back at where he has come from will never get to where he is going.” I’ve always been struck by the wisdom of that saying and how true it is in many situations.
In this case, looking back at the history of our diocese can make us appreciate where we are today and help us prepare for the future. Hopefully, we can be less anxious about what is to come and instead focus on growing deeper in our love for God so that we may indeed bring many more to the safety and comfort of his church in the state of Iowa.
(Fr. Sia is vocation director for the Diocese of Davenport and serves as sacramental minister at St. Mary Parish-Davenport. Contact him at (563) 888-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)