By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University honored its namesake, Saint Ambrose, a fourth-century bishop and doctor of the church, on Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent. “Happy New Year,” Bishop Thomas Zinkula said at the beginning of Mass, referring to the start of the new liturgical year.
The saint’s actual feast day is Dec. 7, but the university traditionally commemorates its patron saint with the bestowal of the Bishop John McMullen Award on the first Sunday of December. Inaugurated in 2006 on the 125th anniversary of St. Ambrose University (SAU), the award recognizes people dedicated to the university’s mission of enriching the lives of others.
This year’s recipients are Msgr. Drake Shafer, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove and former SAU faculty member; Dan Broderick, a neuroradiologist who serves as vice chair of SAU’s Board of Trustees; and Tom Mnich, an architect. The latter two honorees live out of state. SAU President Joan Lescinski, CSJ, presented the McMullen Awards to the recipients prior to the concluding rite of the Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Zinkula fit together four separate things and connected them with the Scriptures — the feast days of St. Francis Xavier and of St. Ambrose, Advent, and the McMullen Award.
“Today would have been my father’s 88th birthday,” the bishop reflected. His father died last year, just a few days before Thanksgiving. “It’s easy to remember his birthday because his middle name is Francis. He was named after St. Francis Xavier.”
The bishop shared a humorous recollection of growing up in a farmhouse where the four boys shared an upstairs bedroom and the five girls shared another upstairs bedroom. Occasionally, their father would catch the boys by surprise when they were fooling around and they’d be in big trouble. “We hear about watching and waiting in today’s Gospel passage. The Master tells the watchman to be on the lookout … he will be returning … no secret, no surprises (unlike Dad’s unexpected appearance when his sons were goofing off). “Jesus wants us to be ready for his second coming. He’s on our side. He cares a lot about us. He died for us on the cross. He wants us to live our lives in such a way that we will be ready to welcome him with open and loving arms when he returns.”
Bishop Zinkula noted that St. Ambrose had a great impact on St. Augustine. “Prior to his conversion, Augustine watched Ambrose live his life in an exemplary manner. He wanted to be like him. So he hung around him, attended his Masses, listened to his sermons and sought his counsel.… Watching Ambrose led Augustine to watch for the Lord, to long for the Lord, to prepare for his second coming.” An inspired Augustine observed: “You have formed us for yourself; our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Just as St. Ambrose had a significant impact on St. Augustine, so this year’s McMullen Award recipients have had a great impact on St. Ambrose University, Bishop Zinkula said. “Watching and hearing about how they used their gifts hopefully will influence us to use our own gifts in such a way as to prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ.”
Later, during the blessing of the awards, Bishop Zinkula prayed: “Send your Spirit upon these awards and those who will be honored with them. … Strengthened by your blessings, may they always be thankful to you and bless you with unending joy.”
Sr. Lescinski introduced the recipients and shared how they had made an impact on the university. A reception followed in the gathering space. Each of the recipients expressed appreciation for the award.