By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “Look at change in our country at the feet of those who stand and work for justice,” Ryan Saddler told a large group of students, faculty and staff at St. Ambrose University on Jan. 21. Saddler, the university’s associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, led a program and silent march to commemorate the life of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Standing in Christ the King Chapel’s gathering space on campus, he asked participants to think of the lives of individuals who have suffered because of systemic discrimination. He asked participants to reflect during the silent march and ask themselves, “Are we there (in terms of racial diversity and inclusivity of all)?”
Father Thom Hennen, the university’s chaplain, led the group in prayer “to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.”
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, the university’s president, said King is remembered worldwide as a “passionate advocate for peaceful change and his statue stands above the west door of Westminster Abbey in London along with other 20th century martyrs who gave their lives for such causes.”
She noted that the civil rights leader is remembered with particular pride locally “because we were part of his receiving the Pacem in Terris award here in Davenport in 1965. Let us today not just remember this great man, but recommit ourselves to working for peace and justice, values that have been a part of St. Ambrose for generations.”
As participants geared up for the one-mile walk to the Center for Health Sciences Education, they were cautioned to watch for possible snow and ice on sidewalks along the route. A “pop up” crosswalk planned at Gaines Street was not deployed that day because of the weather. A tarp was going to be used to show where a crosswalk should be located along the walk, organizers said. Participants were asked to think about those who walk to school or work or have different barriers as they try to reach their destination.
At the health science center, the participants gathered in the lobby where Saddler asked them to think about those in oppressed neighborhoods and those who have other challenges. “We march and stand for ‘the other.’”
Sandra Cassady, vice president for strategic initiatives and dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said the university’s mission is to live out the core values and traditions of social justice through all majors and programs. She said St. Ambrose offers a pro bono clinic that provides free rehabilitation services to the underserved. The Institute for Person-Centered Care treats all people with dignity and respect, she added.
Thomas Mason, Class of ’91, spoke about the collaborative effort among the City of Davenport, local church leaders, residents and St. Ambrose University to designate Marquette Street in King’s honor. Since the project started, signage now runs from River Drive north to 65th Street.
Many streets across the United States and Puerto Rico have been named in honor of King, the participants learned. As they prepared to walk back to St. Ambrose, Mason said, “Change is hard. It is uncomfortable. But it is necessary for progress. As we celebrate the life and legacy of King, we must ask ourselves how much change is being made. On MLK Day, and every day, we must recommit ourselves to the tenets that King espoused. The work is difficult and unforgiving. The issues affecting us will not be solved in a lifetime, and perhaps not even a generation.”