By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — No one who attended the ordination of Bishop Thomas Zinkula was alive the last time a bishop was ordained in and for the Diocese of Davenport more than 100 years ago. What made this ceremony even more memorable was the new bishop’s humility, humor and ardently expressed desire to be faithful to the people he will now serve. Referring to the church’s nuptial imagery, Christ as the bridegroom and the church as his bride, Bishop Zinkula declared: “We’re married today. As far as I’m concerned, the love affair has begun!”
Some 1,000 invited guests filled the pews at St. John Vianney Church in Bettendorf for the historic ordination and installation of the Ninth Bishop of Davenport on June 22. Altar servers and banner holders led 34 deacons, 107 priests, 16 bishops and the bishop-elect into the church. Vocalists and instrumentalists inspired the gathering to sing at full throttle. As one guest observed, “We were roaring to heaven!”
Archbishop Michael Jackels of the Dubuque Archdiocese presided at the ordination and installation of Bishop Zinkula, one of his own priests. “I don’t know whose buttons are bursting more – the Zinkula family or the church family of the Archdiocese of Dubuque,” the archbishop declared as he was about to begin Mass.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, paid tribute to Iowa’s papal connection in his introduction of the Apostolic Mandate confirming the bishop-elect’s appointment. “Thirty-eight years ago, Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul II, during his first apostolic journey to the United States, celebrated holy Mass at Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, in the Diocese of Des Moines.” The French-born nuncio accidentally pronounced Des Moines with a French accent and then corrected himself, and good-naturedly accepted the congregation’s laughter.
Archbishop Pierre continued, “During the course of his homily, on this occasion, the Holy Father reflected on Christ, the bread of life, who alone satisfies the deepest hunger of humanity. While we are mindful, said the pope, of the physical hunger of millions of our brothers and sisters on all continents, at this Eucharist we are reminded that the deepest hunger lies in the human soul. Even if all the physical hunger of the world were satisfied; even if everyone who is hungry were fed by his or her own labor or by the generosity of others, the deepest hunger of man would still exist.”
Then, addressing Bishop-elect Zinkula, the nuncio said, “At this truly important moment of your life, and in that of this beloved local church, we are confident that through your faithful episcopal ministry, you will feed the flock being entrusted to your pastoral care with Jesus, the bread of life, the shepherd of souls to their spiritual betterment and to that of the community at large.”
Scanning the large gathering, the nuncio, asked: “Where is Bishop Martin Amos?” The bishop, whose retirement led to Bishop Zinkula’s appointment, was seated among a sea of white albs with his fellow bishops. He received a standing ovation and was moved by the acknowledgement of his 11 years shepherding the diocese.
During his homily, Archbishop Jackels shared a legend about St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola in the fifth century, who became a slave to keep a widow’s son from that fate. “… For one who is called to mission as a bishop, his gift of self will look like that essential act of St. Paulinus — with a great heart, close to God in devotion, close to his people in ministry, sacrificing his very self, your very self, in their service.”
During the Litany of Supplication, the bishop-elect reflected on the Communion of Saints and how his father Robert, who died in November, was among the gathering at the liturgy, but in a different way. The bishop-elect’s mother, Mary, and his eight siblings and other family members were present in the church. His 88-year-old mother later told her daughter, Sharon Zinkula, “I don’t have many years left, but I’ll always remember this.”
After the litany, Archbishop Jackels and the other bishops laid hands on the bishop-elect and then the Book of the Gospels was placed over his head by Deacons Mark Comer and Daniel Goetz. “A beautiful prayer was read by the archbishop while we held the Book of the Gospels over the bishop-elect’s head,” Deacon Comer recalled. “What came to mind was the weight of the responsibly our new bishop is accepting.”
For Bishop Zinkula, that ritual was powerful. “When I experienced that, I was thinking, this ministry is bigger than me. This is the Gospel, and I need to be true to the Gospel. This ritual is so beautiful. I was feeling a joyful, spiritual weightiness.”
Archbishop Jackels anointed the new bishop’s head with the Sacred Chrism and invested him with the episcopal ring, miter and crosier, each a sign of the office and ministry of bishop. Then the archbishop led Bishop Zinkula to the cathedra, the bishop’s chair.
During the sign of peace exchanged between bishops, Bishop Robert Gruss of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, said he told Bishop Zinkula: ‘“The Lord’s peace be with you, and welcome to the episcopacy!’ I was happy for him and happy for the Diocese of Davenport,” added Bishop Gruss, who served as a priest of the Davenport Diocese before his own ordination to the episcopacy in 2011. “It was a great blessing to be able to celebrate this moment in the history of the diocese.”
In closing remarks, the new bishop gave thanks to every group represented in the congregation – from laity and clergy and vowed religious to family and friends. He called for another round of applause for Bishop Amos. Then, the new bishop thanked the Apostolic Nuncio, but turned to the congregation and said, “If you aren’t happy with my ministry at some point, you can blame him because he talked me into this!”
Bishop Zinkula said the people of the Archdiocese of Dubuque taught him how to be a priest. He looks to the people of the Davenport Diocese to teach him how to be a bishop. “So, if I don’t do a good job, it’s your fault!” he joked. But he’s also attuned to the Holy Spirit acting in his life, and said after Mass, “I’m banking on the Holy Spirit to make me a good bishop.”
Archbishop Michael Jackels lays hands on Bishop-elect Thomas Zinkula as seminarian Andrew Rauenbuehler and Deacon Jeff Schuetzle watch. (Photo by Lindsay Steele)