SIOUX CITY | Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, returned from his office in Texas Friday night worried about Tropical Storm Karen swirling around the Gulf of Mexico. He flipped on a weather station but found only talk of another storm hundreds of miles north.
“There's a great problem going on in Northeast Nebraska and Northwest Iowa right tonight,” DiNardo remembered, referring to the nine tornadoes that touched down in Siouxland that night. “Boy, did I feel at home."
It was a preview of DiNardo’s Wednesday visit to Sioux City, where he spent seven years as bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City. He would go on to lead the Galveston-Houston Diocese, be named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI and travel to Vatican City to elevate Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, of Argentina, to become leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
DiNardo returned to Iowa to take part in Briar Cliff University Department of Theology and Philosophy’s Annual Sister Ruth Agnes Ahlers Lecture Series. About 500 people attended the event, at the St. Francis Center on campus.
DiNardo used the discussion to talk about the 50th anniversary of the constitution on the sacred liturgy, which changed the way Mass is presented now, in the language of the people, rather than the traditional Latin. The constitution emphasizes that Mass requires the full, conscious, attention of all people.
Linda Harrington, associate professor of theology at Briar Cliff, said the turnout was strong because of DiNardo’s personality.
"Part of the draw, all of the draw actually, is that Cardinal DiNardo is remembered with such affection by folks in Sioux City," Harrington said. "People want to come and see what he has to say."
Mary Kallsen, of Hinton, was in the audience with her daughter, Anne, a Briar Cliff student. Kallsen said she remembers DiNardo speaking several times at St. Michael's Church in Sioux City, where his voice had a calming effect.
"When Annie was very little she was very naughty in church, always moving around," Kallsen said. "But when he'd come around she'd calm, she'd sit quietly and listen. He just has a presence."
The lecture is presented every year and has included Briar Cliff instructors Ronald Herzman and the Rev. Timothy A. Friedrichsen. Social and political activist Frank LaMere, of the Winnebago Tribe, took part in 2009.
The event came about after Harrington encountered DiNardo in Washington, D.C., and they talked about having him return to Sioux City, she said.
DiNardo was one of 117 cardinals who selected Pope Francis in March. He was the only cardinal from the southern U.S. in the conclave. He worked in Pittsburgh before coming to Sioux City.
R. Walker Nickless became Sioux City bishop in 2005. The diocese covers about 24 counties.
Harrington said she wants the lecture series to continue provoking discussions about the role of faith in the community.
"This will hopefully generate some interest in theological topics,” she said, “maybe spark some conversations around town.”