Bishops Join in Mass at St. Ambrose
By Nancy Ruby
Sunday was the Most Rev. Daniel Jenky’s first visit to the Iowa Quad-Cities since being appointed bishop of the Peoria Catholic Diocese, but he clearly felt at home.
Clad in a rich green robe trimmed in gold, Jenky led the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Christ the King Chapel on the campus of St. Ambrose University in Davenport after crossing the Mississippi River, which provides the border between the Peoria and Davenport dioceses.
Jenky, who began his tenure with the Peoria Diocese — which includes the Illinois Quad-City area — in April, obviously was in his element as he addressed a full house of students, faculty, staff and visitors at the beginning of the service.
“It is a great joy for me to be here,” he said after being welcomed by Bishop William Franklin of the Davenport Diocese and enthusiastic applause from the congregation. It was Franklin who invited Jenky to visit Davenport.
“I spent most of my life, before becoming a bishop, on the campus of another Catholic university: Notre Dame,” he said, referring to the famous South Bend, Ind., school where he also served as the football team’s chaplain.
During his brief homily, Jenky drew on texts from 1 Samuel, 1 Corinthians and the Gospel of John, using humor and his trademark conversational style to deliver a message to students about listening to the word of God.
“Jesus Christ, the son of God, believes in us more than we could ever try to believe in him,” he concluded. “So when he speaks, listen.”
As bright rays of sunshine on a clear, cold, mid-January morning helped illuminate the chapel near the end of the service, the charismatic bishop spread his arms wide and lifted his face in prayer as his deep voice rose in a chant before offering Communion.
At the end of the Mass, the crowd again saluted the two bishops with profuse applause, and Jenky thanked Franklin and the St. Ambrose community, saying, “It is always a joy for me to be on a university campus.”
Andrew Moeller, a St. Ambrose student from Sherrard, Ill., said he was glad to have his first opportunity to see the bishop from his home diocese.
“It was great to see him and see what he is like,” said Moeller, adding that he really enjoyed the tone of Jenky’s sermon. “I thought it was good,” he said. “He presented it well, and it was different than priests I have heard in the past. He seemed to really be talking to students.”
Moeller also felt that the Mass with the bishops representing both sides of the Quad-City region was a special event. “It was pretty neat to see both bishops at once,” he added. “You don’t get to see that very often.”
St. Ambrose admissions staffer Sarah Wright said she was “very impressed” with what Jenky had to say. “I thought he spoke to a variety of people — in a way that they could relate to his message. It was a pleasure having him here because we have so many students from the Peoria Diocese who come (to St. Ambrose).”
Jenky has drawn national attention for his rapid response to the cases of sexual misdeeds that have plagued the Catholic Church nationwide during the past year or so. Just nine days after being installed as bishop April 10, he announced a new protocol for the way the 26-county Peoria Diocese will handle allegations of sexual abuse against clergy and staff.
Less than two months later, he asked seven priests to step down from the ministry over accusations of sexual misconduct. They included three who either served or had served in the Quad-City region.
Jenky’s visit included an informal reception after the Mass and
a private luncheon hosted by Franklin.
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