It was a chilly November day in 2006 when Martin Amos got the call from Rome to serve the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.
Two days before his appointment was announced, the diocese declared bankruptcy because of lawsuits filed in the priest sexual abuse scandal. Not only was Amos, 64, taking on a daunting challenge, but he was leaving the area of Cleveland, Ohio, where he had lived his entire life.
He pulled no punches when asked about his upcoming work in Davenport.
"I know I can't wreck it; that's a positive," he said at the time, laughing.
Fred Rickets, leader of the Davenport Knights of Columbus 4th Degree Assembly No. 3413, noted Wednesday that Amos came to the diocese "at a very bad time."
"But," Rickets said, "he put a smile on his face, and he told people to be patient. He said we'd get through it, and we did."
Amos steered the diocese through a years-long Chapter 11 bankruptcy case amid more than 100 sex-abuse lawsuits. The reorganization process closed in 2012 with a $37 million settlement to victim survivors.
Amos also visited parishes where abuse occurred and met with survivors.
And he spoke for the board of trustees of St. Ambrose University, Davenport, when it decided in 2007 to remove the name of Bishop Gerald O'Keefe from the school's library. The decision came after it was determined that O'Keefe had known about sexual abuse among priests, but instead of addressing the problem, he moved the priests to other parishes.
Sister Joan Lescinski, current president of St. Ambrose University, said in an email on Wednesday that Amos "has been a blessing to the St. Ambrose community through his leadership as chair of our board of trustees."
"He has been a friend and a champion for strengthening the Catholic identity of our university," she said.
Amos also set a tone of humility. Three weeks after arriving in Davenport, he asked to move to a smaller, “fixer-upper” home where he could put his carpentry skills to use. The former bishop’s residence was too big, he said, and it was sold to help raise funds for victims of sexual abuse.
In more recent years, Amos worked to put the diocese on firm financial footing.
Each year, he has led the diocese’s Pacem in Terris Award events, and he has approved new priests, including a married priest who previously served in the Episcopalian church.
Amos consistently supported the rights of immigrants to the United States and joined in a Catholic call for peace in Syria in 2013. He lobbied in Des Moines for an increase in the minimum wage and for a "middle ground" solution to proposed collective bargaining changes.
He also stayed true to Catholic teachings about controversial topics, including gay marriage and abortion. When the U.S. Supreme Court approved gay marriage in 2015, Amos and the Catholic bishops in Iowa issued a statement and said the ruling “saddens us.” The ruling might be legal, but “that does not mean that it is true or good.”