Firing Up Fathers

by Bishop Joensen | June 19, 2024

Bishop William Joensen

Summer is fast heating up, and with it, so are events in our Diocese and our country that are sure to stir the flame of the Holy Spirit among us to even greater intensity.  

Coincident with last month’s Pentecost Feast was the kick-off of our diocesan Strategic Visioning implementation phase.  And on June 23-25, our Diocese will host the Serra Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage as it winds its way from Corpus Christi Parish in Council Bluffs to Holy Rosary Parish in Glenwood, then on to St. Patrick Parish in Imogene, and finally to St. Mary Parish in Shenandoah before heading on to Missouri and Kansas.  

Details can be found on our diocesan website at

I hope you and some of your family and friends will join us for at least one of the processions, Masses, meals, and the overall celebratory spirit of these days that represent a once-in-a-lifetime event sure to open a wide channel of grace for our diocesan family!  

And then in July, after the swimming pool constructed in Lucas Oil Stadium for the June U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials has been taken down, the four spokes of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will converge in Indianapolis as the first National Eucharistic Congress in 80+ years will take place at that same venue. More than 200 members of our Diocese, including laity and clergy representing many of our 80 parishes, will participate.  

As in our local parishes each Sunday and at daily Mass, we will dive into the water and fire of the Spirit who always accompanies our Eucharistic Lord.  As the prophet Elijah prepared to make sacrifice on the altar on Mount Carmel, he told the people, “The God who answers with fire is God” (I Kings 18:24).  It is by the fire of the Spirit that bread and wine on the altar are changed into the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.  For as Father Donald Haggerty reminds us, “The Eucharist is not a static reality, unmoving, a thing to be admired like a painting in a museum.  No, it is alive, a fire burning and leaping with flame.”  

The National Eucharistic Congress will segue into the third year of our National Revival, the Year of Missionary Sending. To be a genuine Catholic Christian is to be missionary. This is particularly true in our Diocese as we embrace our mission, “Sowing God’s Spirit.”  The mission is organically tied to our vision: “Cultivating Connections in Christ through Encounter, Friendship, and Communion.”  Going forward over the next year and beyond, we will regularly highlight in these pages and on our website, in podcasts and other media where and how this mission and vision are unfolding.  

In anticipation, I would like to familiarize you more intently with the Eucharistic dimension of our diocesan vision. In this Father’s Day month, I also accent the spiritual fatherhood of our priests who dedicate their lives to offering the Eucharist to their people.  Our two “freshest” priests, soon-to-be Fathers Luis Cabrera and Michael Mahoney, will be ordained to the priesthood on June 21 at St. Ambrose Cathedral—two days before the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage “hits our shores” at Riverview Park in Council Bluffs.  I invite and challenge us all to be more fervent and faithful in asking the Lord to raise up vocations to the priesthood of Jesus Christ from among our families and parishes.

In the “friendship” and “encounter” sections of our Diocese’s vision, we reflect: “Jesus is not simply the loving ‘giver’ who pours out his body and blood, his very life for others. He shows us God’s humility in not being afraid to share his ‘need’ for us. God’s truest friends, including saints such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, know that he still thirsts for souls to whom we are called to show love, to reveal that whatever we do for the hungry, naked, imprisoned, the vulnerable and least among us, we do for him.  And in the process, these connections sown and sealed in the Spirit endure forever.”

Further: “How many of us are still searching for a place to belong, to feel that we are unconditionally loved and accepted as we are?  Jesus wants to incorporate our story into his story, which is more incredible than anything we could have imagined. The Father sends his Son in the fullness of time so that we can participate in the communion of love who is God, thanks to Jesus becoming God-with-us, both human and divine in the wonder of the Incarnation. Jesus greatly desires to eat and drink with us as he did with disciples and the multitudes drawn around him. He then fulfills his desire to BECOME food and drink for us in the mysterious, miraculous gift of the Eucharist.”  

Each of our ordinandi, Deacons Luis and Michael, have had a mysteriously winding, sometimes surprising, sifting, and ultimately affirming path to the priesthood. For Deacon Luis, the exploration of a call to religious life, then to marriage, then as a grieving widower followed by a resurgent call to priesthood has been both a tragic and poignant path of God’s persistence.

And for Deacon Michael, the initial promptings to teach middle school students eventually prompted the intuition that he was called to be a spiritual father and priest. Both men have probed their identity as sons of earthly and heavenly Fathers, have identified the wounds life has left them bearing to this day—marks that will enable them to be selfless conduits of God’s compassion.  Each of them humbly, boldly offers himself to Christ and his Church to be a day laborer who sows the seeds of the Word, an instrument of God’s generative grace in the sacraments—foremost in the Eucharist.

Every woman, man, and child—whether they know and acknowledge it or not—longs for Jesus. Hence, we need and desire priests who will bring us to Jesus, and bring Jesus to us through the life-giving, paternal potential of the priesthood. We rejoice and give thanks to God that these two deacons choose to lay down their lives for Jesus, for us. And we give thanks to their parents, the Manuel and Maurita, and Tom and Celia, who gave them life, who sowed seeds of their vocation by their own example, generosity, and fidelity to their own vocations as spouses and parents. 

All this is good news that stirs not only thanksgiving, but fervent petition in the spirit of Elijah who says, “The God who answers with fire is God”:  Please, Lord: fire up spiritual fathers for our Diocese!

Bishop Joensen

The Most Reverend William Joensen is the current bishop for the Diocese of Des Moines, having been ordained and installed in 2019.