By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — A worldwide wave of prayer swept into the Diocese of Davenport at noon Dec. 10 when Catholics and others paused to pray for greater awareness of hunger and how to stop it.
Bishop Martin Amos led a prayer service in the St. Vincent Center Chapel at diocesan headquarters, Davenport, while Sisters of St. Francis held a prayer service at The Canticle, their motherhouse in Clinton. Some parishes also held prayer services.
“One of the most devastating consequences of poverty is hunger,” Bishop Amos said in his opening remarks. “It could involve a Syrian refugee mother watching the child in her arms die of starvation, or a family in the U.S. struggling to put food on the table. It could be an elderly or disabled person making a choice between medicine and food … Struggling with hunger is inhumane.”
The bishop pointed out ways in which the Catholic Church reaches out to those in need: 9.5 million Americans, annually, turn to one of the 1,400 charitable organizations run by the Church. Through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Church’s aid reaches nearly 100 countries throughout the world. At the diocesan level, an ecumenical network of churches supports 24 food pantries. Last year, these pantries served some 103,000 people in the Quad-City area alone, he said. Parishes around the diocese also partner with other churches in their communities to support food pantries. One quarter of the diocese’s annual CRS “Rice Bowl” collection goes toward grants to organizations that operate meal sites or provide similar efforts to combat hunger, he continued.
The bishop quoted Pope Francis, who initiated the wave of prayer: “It is a scandal that there is still hunger and malnutrition in the world.” The Holy Father characterized hunger as “a problem that challenges our personal and social conscience, to achieve a just and lasting solution,” Bishop Amos said.
Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and Catholic Charities, told the audience that the Farm Bill, presently being debated in Congress, provides an example of where the pope’s concerns come into focus in this country.
The Farm Bill “has significant impacts on hunger both domestically and across the world,” Ferris said. The nation’s Catholic bishops conveyed their and the Holy Father’s concerns in letters to U.S. Senate and House representatives last month. The bishops’ letters included recommendations that “will not eliminate hunger here or abroad, but … will show the world that we care for our own and acknowledge our bond with those in our countries,” Ferris continued.
Among attendees at the Davenport prayer service were Leslie Kilgannon, executive director of Quad Cities Interfaith, and Alison Hart, Southeast Iowa regional director for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
“I’m grateful to be here and excited for the wave of prayer. I’m sure non-Catholics are participating as well,” Kilgannon said. “I’m moved by this as a Catholic and in the work we do.”
Sen. Harkin, in a statement, said: “Modest food assistance programs benefit the most vulnerable among us — children, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-wage workers to name just a few. For many Iowans, these programs are a lifeline used to put food on the table.
“As a member of the committee debating a new farm bill, I am committed to passing a balanced measure that protects our farmers and rural communities while providing food assistance for needy families in Iowa and around the country.”
During the prayer service at The Canticle, a guest speaker from the Benevolent Society offered information about services provided in Clinton. The Sisters provided a live video stream for people unable to attend the prayer service. To view it, go to: http://www.clintonfranciscans.com/justice-poverty.html.