By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — After his return from India where he observed U.S. international assistance funds in action, Bishop Thomas Zinkula spoke about the impact with legislative aids to U.S. Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst and U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack.
The bishop explained that he visited a USAID-funded polio eradication project March 5 in India which is part of a collaborative effort with governmental and nongovernmental agencies, including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), to ensure that young children get vaccinated.
He met jointly with Joe Krenzelok, regional director for Ernst in Davenport, and John Kaufmann, constituent services specialist with Grassley’s office in Davenport. Afterwards he met with Brian Kramer, a caseworker for Loebsack in his Davenport office.
“CRS helps people get to the vaccination sites,” Bishop Zinkula told the legislative aids. That’s no small task in a region that contains 320,000 households, and the vaccination rate in some areas is well below 53 percent. He said that CRS, which is an outreach of the U.S. bishops and the U.S. church in more than 100 countries, taps into the church structure to maximize resources.
What he witnessed in India (see accompanying story) was the good feeling that people of different faiths, race and ethnic groups have for the Catholic Church’s efforts to help people to help themselves. “It goes a long way in building relationships,” Bishop Zinkula said.
He asked the legislative aids to impress upon their bosses the importance of protecting international poverty-reducing humanitarian and development assistance.
The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, released March 11, appears to threaten that protection. In fact, the Administration is calling for eliminating aid to the northern triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, said Kent Ferris, director of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport. He accompanied the bishop on the legislative visits.
Bishop Zinkula and Ferris asked that Grassley, Ernst and Loebsack also support the proposed Early Childhood Development (ECD) Act of 2019. This bill recognizes the vital role of healthy, early childhood development in reducing violence, boosting incomes and improving the immediate and longer-term health and wellbeing of communities and countries. The bill’s supporters say it seeks to integrate Early Childhood Development activities into child-focused programs such as Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education.
Ferris said the bishop’s visit to India to see a CRS project at work “shows how we appreciate the comprehensive response to the world’s poor. The bishop witnessed the work the church is doing as a person of faith and as a constituent. He’s modeling what he is asking us to do. He made the visit to the congressional offices as a faithful citizen.”
By Barb Arland-Fye