New CRS University chapter to host global fellow

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By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — The Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa is working to build a strong foundation for its new Catholic Relief Services (CRS) chapter. It is the first CRS University chapter in Iowa.

To help the chapter gain footing in the Iowa City community, CRS Global Fellow Deacon Don Weigel will give a talk at Newman Center on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. The talk, “Transforming Lives Around the World: The CRS Story,” will offer students, staff and others an opportunity to learn more about CRS. Guests may participate in person or online through Iowa Catholics’ YouTube channel. Deacon Weigel will also speak at weekend Masses in the Iowa City area Oct. 9-10 and at the Newman Center donor luncheon Oct. 10.

CRS carries out the commitment of the U.S. bishops to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas, motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life. The agency fosters charity and justice and embodies Catholic social and moral teaching. CRS in recent years has encouraged the formation of community and university chapters as a way to spread awareness and get more people involved in the mission. A Diocese of Davenport chapter formed earlier this year.

Faculty advisor Ann Thomas believes the CRS University chapter will offer University of Iowa students a unique opportunity to equip themselves with the skills to become effective advocates for global change. Members will have regular access to CRS instruction that focuses on specific issues and action plans. They will learn skills in the areas of leadership, fundraising and advocacy. Earlier this year, Newman Center hired Thomas to the new position of Outreach Assistant to support the new CRS University chapter in addition to several other Newman Center ministries. Newman Center selected student Madeline Monahan to serve as the first CRS student chapter leader.

Interest among students has been promising so far, Thomas said. At the beginning of the school year, Monahan set up a booth at the university’s organization fair and about 30 people signed up. Several students said they were not devout Catholics but wanted to aid the cause. The organization is open to anyone, regardless of faith background, Thomas said.

She and Monahan plan to take baby steps initially to ensure the chapter has the foundation it needs to thrive for years to come. The focus for now will be training members and building community awareness and support. “Patience and persistence are important. We need to go slow and not be discouraged if we don’t see results right away,” Thomas said.

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