By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
The Chicago Regional Census Center has recognized the Diocese of Davenport for its assistance in the 2020 United States Census.
The eight-state Chicago region, which covers Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, exceeded the National Self-Response Rate of 67 percent and had the highest self-response rate among all regions, of 69.8 percent.
In a letter to the Diocese of Davenport, Chicago Regional Director Marilyn Sanders wrote, “Working alongside more than 2,015 Complete Count Committees, you and our many valuable partners hosted thousands of recruiting events to hire Census workers that spoke the languages, understood the cultures, and lived within the communities they were tasked to count.”
This once-in-a-decade survey of the U.S. population determines representation in Congress, allocation of funds for new roads, schools and emergency services, social services, housing construction and business decisions. For several months last year, diocesan staff members and volunteers worked as a team to spread information — and debunk disinformation — about the 2020 Census. “We worked on plans to get publicity that would encourage people to be counted,” said Loxi Hopkins, a Social Action Office volunteer who coordinated Census promotion efforts in the diocese. The team wanted to reach out to the “many types of people who live in our area, and then we broke that down into ideas on how to reach those populations.”
Staffer Esmeralda Guerrero and volunteer Amy Kersten of the diocesan Social Action Office made an information website and created bulletin and pulpit announcements — translated into English, Spanish, French and Vietnamese — for parishes and schools to run in February and March 2020.
“These covered the topics of why the Census matters, confidentiality and security, what information is asked, why counting children is important, and the different ways people can respond,” Kersten said. “We included links to related flyers, including multiple languages when available, that could be printed from the Census website, and encouraged posting them physically or virtually where people would see them. Throughout the entire time, we put information in the Two Feet Newsletter, in Clergy Notes, and the Social Action Google groups.” The Diocese of Davenport shared information on social media, and The Catholic Messenger regularly shared Census information and wrote stories related to Census efforts.
The COVID-19 pandemic hampered the diocesan team’s in-person outreach, including after-church social gatherings with Census counters present. Changing government deadlines also hampered the process, Hopkins said. “Sadly, not everyone was counted.”
Still, she was proud of the efforts everyone made in working to achieve a high response rate from households in the diocese. “This, like most everything we do, is a team effort, and we have a great team.”