A rivulet of sweat trickled down the neck of more than one guest at the walk-up window of Café on Vine in Davenport as each picked up a to-go meal of sloppy joes, baked beans, hard-boiled egg, chips and cookies. Another guest struggled with attaching four plastic bags of to-go meals to the handlebars of her bicycle. All of the guests clearly were in need of sustenance, in the broadest sense of the word on Aug. 6, an oppressively hot day.
In the air-conditioned café’s kitchen and entryway, seven volunteers and one staffer assembled and packaged the meals for take-out, did dishes, poured milk and coffee in to-go cups and handed out the bags at the window. Before opening the window to serve guests, the small faith community bowed their heads as one of their members led them in spontaneous prayer. Their church and political affiliations did not matter here; they united in their commitment to serve others. Our Church and our nation would benefit greatly by focusing on these examples of “comm-unity.”
The volunteers were engaged in charity, the giving of themselves, one foot of what the late Msgr. Marvin Mottet identified as the two feet of social justice. The other foot of social justice involves addressing the underlying issues that result in the need for charity, in this case, the poverty that takes people to the meal site. Our responsibility as Christ’s followers is to engage in both feet of social justice based on our means and abilities. For Catholics, that responsibility straddles political party affiliation, a fact that we need to acknowledge and to apply in our advocacy to county, state and federal elected leaders and in the voting booth.
During his trip to Canada last month, Pope Francis emphasized the fundamental importance of “exchange, confrontation and dialogue” for communication (America, Aug. 4, 2022). Our experience participating in the diocesan synodal process served as an exercise in active listening, a willingness to hear what others say about their joys and hopes, fears and concerns for the Catholic Church. We must continue to listen, to learn and to follow through in our advocacy, prayers and service.
In preparation for the mid-term elections, for example, make an effort to meet or correspond with candidates and elected officials (congress.gov, legis.iowa.gov) about issues, such as:
• Affordable housing. Join the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) in advocating for equitable policies and large-scale sustainable investments needed to ensure that renters with the lowest incomes have an affordable place to call home (nlihc.org).
• Greater protection for manufactured housing residents. Seventeen members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, are asking the Federal Housing Finance Agency to heighten tenant protections such as long-term leases for manufactured housing communities (MHC) to prevent frequent rent increases (iowacapitaldispatch.com, 8-5-22).
• Abortion. Promote policies that support pregnant women and new moms, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Walking with Moms initiative and the Iowa MOMS program. Ask the Iowa Legislature (legis.iowa.gov) to expand Iowa MOMs and to extend Medicaid post-partum coverage. Advocate for passage of the referendum to declare that the Iowa Constitution does not recognize or secure a right to abortion or require public funding of abortion.
• An expanded child tax credit, including for pregnant moms.
• Federal paid family leave policy.
• Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
• Foster care. Express support for the bipartisan Data-Driven Foster Parent Recruitment Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to address the shortage of foster care placement in the U.S. . . . The bill would create new state requirements when recruiting, screening and aiding foster families. All foster parents and kinship parents would have consultations with state officials. States would develop data-driven plans to gauge progress and determine needed support for foster and adoptive families
• Consistent opportunities and protection for all persons seeking asylum at our borders.
• A permanent solution for Dreamers (undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children). An executive action that created The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 10 years ago needs to become law through Congress so that those who qualify have access to permanent legal status and citizenship. A federal district court’s ruling last year declared DACA to be unlawful, preventing new applications from being processed and jeopardizing protection for current beneficiaries (justiceforimmigrants.org).
• Stewardship of the earth. Ask the Iowa Legislature to provide financial incentives for alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, and for farmers’ implementation of cover crops.
We are a Church on the move, sent by Christ to travel the road of compassion on our two feet of social justice, to share sustenance for the journey and in the process, pass on our faith.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor