By Barb Arland-Fye
Kent Ferris and his team in the Social Action Office are reaching out to deaneries (regions) in the Davenport Diocese to help create or reinvigorate local Social Action committees.
They began the effort July 30 with a meeting of the Davenport Deanery, which is composed of parishes in Scott County and the cities of Muscatine, Columbus Junction and Wilton.
Twenty-one people met at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf to listen, learn and share ideas about what they envision for social action in their parishes.
Ferris, who’s been the Social Action Office’s director for just two months, spoke about social action within the framework of the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching: life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.
He noted that Pope Benedict’s newest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, incorporates the elements of Catholic Social Teaching and recommended further reading and discussion of the encyclical for a future meeting.
A short debate about the merits of health-care reform and how best to meet the needs of those who can’t afford health care ensued. Loxi Hopkins, one of the meeting’s presenters, reminded those gathered that “we’re not talking about issues tonight, but Catholic Social Teaching and how we might work together.”
Glenn Leach, another presenter, pointed out that diversity is a part of the Catholic Church and that the focus of social action should be on church teaching and Scripture, not politics.
Ferris referred to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ reflection on Catholic Social Teaching: “There will be legitimate differences and debate over how these challenging moral principles are applied to concrete situations. Differing prudential judgments on specifics cannot be allowed, however, to obscure the need for every Catholic to know and apply these principles in family, economic and community life.”
Hopkins, who also serves as diocesan director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, asked the participants to identify what social action ought to look like within their parish committees.
“I think education is key today, based on Catholic Social Teaching,” said Ollie Finn, a member of Pax Christi Quad Cities and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
Lori Ferris, Kent’s wife and a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, said she’d like to see a good cross-section of people from her parish and its Hispanic mission engaged in social action.
Michael Agin of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf said social action ought to be “encouraging pastors to give homilies that address these issues.”
Legislative advocacy, food-clothing pantries, pro-life activities, advocating for a living wage, welcoming diversity of opinion, collaborating with Quad Cities Interfaith and hiring a social action coordinator were among other items identified as important to social action ministry.
Kent Ferris shared an example from a parish bulletin about social action that not many people think about: parishioners dealing with an immediate crisis or emergency. The writer of the bulletin announcement suggested a plan ought to be in place to help such people — ensuring for example that their family members are fed, chores are completed and children are cared for.
As the meeting concluded, Hopkins noted that the Social Action Office welcomes invitations from parishes to help them get social action committees going or re-energized. Among the parishes the team most recently visited was St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant.
The Social Action team also plans to hold deanery wide meetings in other regions in the future. The Catholic Messenger will publish those dates as they become available. The next meeting of the Davenport Deanery is Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at a location to be announced.