Persons, places and things: ‘It’s great to see you back!’

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

A woman of influence suggested to her husband that they provide a small room in their home for Elisha, who visited them often in his travels. They expected nothing in return. God rewarded the childless couple’s generosity when they welcomed a baby son into their lives the following year.

This story from 2 Kings provided a wonderful message of hospitality for the resumption of weekend Mass June 27-28 in the Davenport Diocese, said Father Rich Adam, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

Barb Arland-Fye
Father Rich Adam greets a parishioner following Mass June 28 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

I attended the cathedral’s 9 a.m. Sunday Mass with my son, Patrick, for a story that our Catholic Messenger team planned for this week’s paper. Patrick and I experienced hospitality beginning at the cathedral’s front door where one of several greeters wearing face masks greeted us, “Welcome back, it’s good to see you.”

As we entered the gathering space, I recognized parishioner Diane Tiedje, wearing face mask and gloves and holding a stack of parish bulletins. We couldn’t see the smiles on each other’s faces because of our face masks but the warmth flowed from our verbal exchange. She explained that the bulletin contained the readings for Mass and invited us to head into church. I have attended Mass numerous times at Sacred Heart, so many of the faces, despite the face coverings, looked familiar. We waved at one another and smiled with our eyes.

Red tape separated open pews from closed pews for physical distancing, but Patrick and I didn’t feel socially distanced from the faith community, gathered for the first time in 15 weeks. Bishop Thomas Zinkula, after careful consideration, determined that public celebration of Mass could begin June 22 with safety measures in place to protect us from the pandemic.

“I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see you this morning. It’s great to see you back!” a delighted Father Adam said to a gathering of about 100 people (from babies to senior citizens) at the 9 a.m. Mass June 28. He gave instructions about how things would proceed, including reception of the Eucharist. Assisting him at Mass were Deacons John Jacobsen and Dan Huber.

Father Adam opened his homily with the excitement of a kid just back from summer camp, wanting to share details of amazing experiences. “There’s so much to say … it’s like seeing friends after a long absence.”

Preparing for this long-awaited weekend, he and his staff asked themselves, “What can we do to make people feel welcome?” Father Adam said. “That’s the theme of our readings, hospitality.” He encouraged us to convey hospitality by recognizing Christ in one another, no matter the other person’s race, creed or culture.

Father Adam shared a story about a homily of retired Bishop William Franklin, who said that people often asked him, “What does God look like?” Turn to the person to your left and look that person in the eye. Then turn to the person to your right and look that person in the eye. That’s what God looks like, the bishop said.

“It’s not easy to be a Christian, to see Christ in one another,” Father Adam said. He reflected on verses from the Gospel that day, Matthew 10:37-42. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.…”

As followers of Christ, “we are all brothers and sisters and moms and dads to one another,” Father Adam said. He also considers himself dad to his new puppy, “Joey,” whom he welcomed into his life during the time the cathedral had been closed because of the pandemic. Pick up a bubble gum cigar as you leave, the priest told the congregation. The wrapped cigar bears the message “It’s A Boy!”

“You could tell how happy he was to be celebrating Mass in front of the people again,” Patrick said to me later that day. For me, it felt like a homecoming in a faith community genuinely grateful to celebrate Eucharist together. “It’s good to be home,” another friend, Kris Johnson, told me.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org)


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