By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Bishop Thomas Zinkula stood before the presider’s chair, his face beaming with joy, as he welcomed laity, clergy and women religious to the first public celebration of the Chrism Mass in three years. “It is so nice to be back together again,” he told the faithful, who came from throughout the Diocese of Davenport for the Mass celebrated April 11 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic curtailed participation in the Chrism Mass in 2020 and 2021.
During this liturgy, a favorite for many in attendance, the bishop blessed and consecrated the oils that all of the parishes in the diocese will use in the coming year. He blessed the oil of the sick, which strengthens, consoles and heals those who are infirm. He blessed the oil of catechumens, which strengthens and frees those preparing for baptism. He consecrated the Chrism, used to ordain bishops and priests, to confirm, to anoint newly baptized infants, and to dedicate churches and altars.
The faithful also witnessed 71 priests — active, retired or from outside the diocese — renew their commitment to priestly service. In unison, the priests responded confidently, “I am,” to three questions Bishop Zinkula asked regarding their commitment. Their harmonious response added to the faithful’s sense of what it means to be Church beyond their individual parishes.
“It was cool to see everyone come together,” said Logan Detterman, 15, one of six confirmation students from Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, who attended the Chrism Mass. His classmate, Yuliana Marcos, 16, described the liturgy as a “very powerful” experience. Their parish’s faith formation director, Brenda Bertram, explained on the drive down that the students would witness the consecration of the Chrism that Bishop Zinkula will use to confirm them. “It’s important for them to see that direct connection, that we (as a Church) are larger than the parish to which we belong,” Bertram said.
Bishop Zinkula’s homily focused on priestly promises and emphasized unity and communion as essential to the life of the Church. He identified three essential traits of priests: they are men of prayer, communion and proclamation.
The bishop quoted Pope Francis, who said, “prayer is not devotion, but a necessity; it is not one task among many, but an indispensable ministry of intercession: each day he must lead people and lay their situations before God.” Quoting retired Pope Benedict XVI, the bishop described prayer as “the soul’s breath, without which the priest necessarily remains breathless, deprived of optimism and joy, which he needs if he is to allow himself to be sent, day by day, as a worker in the Lord’s harvest.”
As men of communion, priests are marked with “the charism of togetherness,” Bishop Zinkula said, quoting Pope Francis. The bishop acknowledged the “toxic polarization” of American society today, which “unfortunately has affected and infected the Church and our parishes and even our priests.” Pope Francis, echoing St. Augustine said that the Church “needs union, not soloists apart from the choir.”
“At the Last Supper, Jesus explicitly prayed for you and me,” the bishop told the priests. “He prayed for unity. ‘I pray not only for them, the disciples you have given me, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they all may be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.’”
Bishop Zinkula beseeched his brothers in the presbyterate and himself “to look into our own hearts and reflect on how we can be healers and builders of unity, dismantling walls and using the stones to build bridges. That takes a lot of patience, humility and love. It takes the capacity to forgive and begin again.”
Finally, as men of proclamation, priests have friendships with the people they serve, which are not limited to those in the pews, the bishop said. “The disciples were sent forth to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations. Pope Francis constantly urges us to be a ‘Church that goes forth,’ a ‘field hospital.’ Priests need to not spend an inordinate amount of time in the office, but rather be out among the people, following the humble example of Jesus,” the bishop said.
He referenced the listening that the diocese has been engaged in through the Synod, Rediscovering Sunday and Vision 20/20. Now it is time to digest, correlate and respond. “Jesus is calling us to follow his example in bringing God’s love to those who are marginalized by injustice, freedom to those who are imprisoned in sin and healing to those whose very self has been broken.”
Bishop Zinkula called clergy and laity to draw more closely together as a local Church “to embrace our baptismal call and more fully experience, live, celebrate and share the love of God and the joy of the Gospel in word and deed.”
Deacon candidate Andy Hardigan of Prince of Peace Parish-Clinton, who served as an acolyte, experienced that coming together during the Chrism Mass. “We were all one body praising God together with our episcopal leader — one voice, one communion.”
“It was great to see the church so full, to witness the body of Christ present among us,” said seminarian Isaac Doucette, anticipating his service to the body of Christ as a priest.
Father Ron Hodges, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish-Colfax, thought the bishop’s homily “was outstanding.” Hearing the people sing again and seeing the smiles on their face uplifted Father Joseph Phung, pastor of Holy Family Parish-Fort Madison. “The Church is singing!”
Father James Flattery, ordained to the priesthood in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, appreciated seeing the cathedral full again — minus the masks!
Father Guillermo Trevino, pastor of St. Joseph parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty, enjoyed seeing people from previous parishes he has served and people he didn’t know. “That’s what Chrism Mass is all about — all of us coming together for our Lord.”