By Anne Marie Amacher
BETTENDORF — Children helping children. That is the theme of the Holy Childhood Association that helps children worldwide.
“Today we pay tribute to our home missionaries in the Diocese of Davenport,” said Msgr. W. Robert Schmidt, director of the Holy Childhood Association and Diocesan Volunteers Program. He was speaking at the annual Holy Childhood meeting April 25 at The Lodge in Bettendorf. More than 150 adults and children were present.
He explained how 164 years ago a bishop in Paris wanted to help children in China and his home country. After making inquiries, he was encouraged to start a group to help children. This group became the Holy Childhood Association.
All 197 dioceses in the United States help support the program today, Msgr. Schmidt said. Children in many parish religious education programs and Catholic schools collect money each year to support the program. In turn, they receive educational materials to learn about their peers in other countries.
Msgr. Schmidt thanked the children and adult supporters at the Bettendorf meeting. “You are all missionaries and bring the message of Jesus to people. You have done wonderful work for others.”
JoLynne Pohlmann, former director of the Center for Street Children in Medina, Brazil, recently returned to the diocese after serving as a missionary for about 20 years. She received money from the Diocesan Volunteers program and Holy Childhood Association to help children.
“Your money helped take care of street children,” she said. Money from the Davenport Diocese helped in her efforts to provide love, faith and food to those at the Center for Street Children, where she had served for the past 10 years.
“These children had no food at home. They hit the garbage cans. With diocesan money, you helped us feed the children and build a sports field for them.” The field is a hit and is well used, she noted.
Diocesan funds have also helped to support Dr. Alan Hathaway, a Davenport dentist, along with his wife and Pohlmann’s sister and husband. That group has made dozens of trips to Medina over the years to offer dental care for children. When children’s teeth got better because of checkups and education about good oral hygiene, Hathaway began serving prisoners, too.
“You have helped in the transformation of people. I’ve seen what love can do,” Pohlmann said. “Thank you in my name and the children’s names.”
Nine people were honored by the Holy Childhood Association for their work on behalf of others:
• Christine Meyer, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt;
• Father Jack Gallagher, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport;
• Sheryl Lackey, a diocesan accountant who processes diocesan collections including the volunteers’ collection and Holy Childhood;
• Father Michael Spiekermeier, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, which supports St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport;
• Edward Ercegovich, who serves in various roles at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport and is a volunteer at Fr. Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope;
• Leo Bressanelli, who is a member of and assists St. Anthony Parish, his work on various Quad-City and state boards, many which benefit children;
• Alice Cross, who has served children at various Quad-City area schools and taught religious education at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport and is involved in St. Anthony Parish;
• Ray Stoddard, who has been generous in scheduling events for the diocese at The Lodge in Bettendorf where he is general manager and also director of operations with Platinum Hospitality Management Co.;
• Father Tim Sheedy, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and with Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf.