Thirty years ago, congregations representing various denominations in the Quad Cities came together to respond to social challenges resulting from the farm implement crisis. The late Msgr. Marvin Mottet, then pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, was among the founders of Quad Cities Interfaith, a nonprofit organization that empowers people on the margins to work for justice in their communities.
The tenacity of Quad Cities Interfaith to bring about change is impressive. Its successes include:
• A mental health court pilot project launched in Scott County this past summer.
• A 100 Ready Workers campaign that built a coalition of faith, business, education and community stakeholders to educate and train workers for local, good-paying jobs.
• An initiative to improve local police and community relationships.
• Development of a gang intervention project and an education incentive program for youths.
• A coalition of local lenders and community groups to combat predatory lending.
One effort of Quad Cities Interfaith that should be replicated across the United States is a listening campaign. The aim is to build relationships, learn about people’s dreams and concerns, to discover their gifts and to foster deeper participation in the life of their churches, including outreach beyond themselves.
Supporters, which include the Diocese of Davenport, learned Nov. 10 of three ambitious Quad Cities Interfaith campaigns: hire a second organizer, expand across Iowa, and end mass incarceration. This announcement serves as an example of the proactive approach to resolving problems that is so desperately needed in today’s bitterly divided society.
An investment in Quad Cities Interfaith — and its expansion to more communities in our Davenport Diocese — requires money and, equally important, people willing to volunteer their time and talents to the organization. In its 2016-2017 report, Quad Cities Interfaith notes: “For QC Interfaith to take on an issue it must have two simple requirements: it must be winnable and the work must result in systemic change….” That strategy works, and it’s hard work.
Quad Cities Interfaith uses the tools of community organizing to address the root causes of problems and to train and empower people to have a seat at the table when decisions are made. Some Catholics read the term “community organizing” with suspicion, perhaps because they don’t want to confront challenges. But systemic change requires challenges to be identified and overcome. People on the margins advocating for change raise questions with community leaders who may have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Community leaders are held accountable for actions that do not serve the common good. We need more, not less of this kind of advocacy in a country in which the gap between rich and poor widens.
This weekend, parishes throughout the Diocese of Davenport will collect donations for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. A quarter of the proceeds of this national collection will remain in the diocese to fund organizations such as Quad Cities Interfaith and Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa. Bishop Martin Amos refers to the achievements of both organizations in his letter about the collection in this week’s Catholic Messenger. The collection is a good investment for the common good.
We are called as Catholics to work for and support the common good. Quad Cities Interfaith has served steadfastly for 30 years as a concrete example of working for the common good. Visit the website www.qcinterfaith.org, Facebook page at www.facebook.com/qcinterfaith, explore membership for faith congregations, labor unions and community organizations, or become a sustaining donor. Contact Quad Cities Interfaith at email@example.com.
Barb Arland-Fye, editor