Catholic Charities to start in diocese


By Barb Arland-Fye

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Davenport will begin operations July 1 in an effort to reduce poverty, support families, and empower communities, the diocese’s director of social action announced this week.

“Our first offering will be modest in size and scope, but will begin work that can be sustained for many years,” Social Action Director Kent Ferris said during the Annual Clergy Institute held June 7-9 at the Quality Inn in Iowa City.

“We have an incredibly rich tradition of addressing direct needs of people and with peace and justice efforts through the Office of Social Action,” he said. That tradition included Catholic Charities, whose work eventually was absorbed into the greater community.

But the two feet of social justice model  (a creation of the diocese’s first social action director, Msgr. Marvin Mottet) in which one foot addresses direct service needs and the other is concerned with affecting social change, need to work together more than ever, Ferris added.


“We have always done a lot of Catholic charity. I think we ought to name what is there,” Bishop Martin Amos told The Catholic Messenger in explaining why Catholic Charities is a priority. “It does not in any way alleviate the need to do social justice. We need to do social justice to correct the things that are wrong in society, but we also need to help people. And by being a part of the Catholic Charities USA network of more than 1,700 Catholic Charities agencies and institutions nationwide, we can tap into their resources,” the bishop said.

Funding for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Davenport will come from the diocesan capital campaign now underway. Catholic Charities will have these features:

• Enhancing services already in place — The Immigration Office will now be part of Catholic Charities. As the diocese strengthens its Immigration Office by returning to staffing capacity with two Board of Immigration Appeals-approved Immigration Counselors, it will continue to provide legal paperwork assistance to immigrants on their path towards legal citizenship.  The office will strive to make visits to satellite locations in the diocese.  “It is a unique service offering, and we are committed to filling that niche,” Ferris said.

• Local disaster response also will be part of Catholic Charities.  “Our diocese responded to the Flood of 2008 by involvement with local, long-term recovery committees in the affected counties. We attended their meetings and distributed monetary donations to the case management process which allowed case managers to combine our funds with funds from other sources and in-kind donations of materials and labor to maximize the benefits to flood victims,” Ferris said. Inclusion of disaster response within Catholic Charities reflects the support and assistance the diocese has received from Catholic Charities USA over the years.

• Working collaboratively with community partners — Plans already are in the works to pilot a small program with Catholic Charities of the Peoria, Ill., Diocese to provide mental health counseling services to clients from the Davenport Diocese who to this point have had to cross the river for services.  In addition, “we have learned from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque about its new partnerships with external agencies to provide services, such as adoption services,” Ferris said. Meetings also are scheduled with representatives from the University of Illinois who are interested in providing citizenship classes in the Davenport Diocese.

• Supporting and promoting local ministry efforts already in place — Parish Health Ministry efforts are already being undertaken across the diocese. The clergy and laity in individual parishes have put together wellness committees, visited the homebound, maintained prayer lines, and have attended to the physical, mental and spiritual needs of their members. A small number of parishes have also employed parish nurses to assist with this ministry. Catholic Charities can support these ministry efforts already in place by providing information and gatherings to share best ideas, Ferris said, and can also promote this ministry to parishes not yet involved by sharing resources and expertise.

• Catholic Charities also intends to support and promote the existing jail ministry in the diocese and to coordinate information and workshops so that best practices can be shared with communities that are interested in beginning jail ministry. “Our neighbors in Dubuque have a strong prison ministry program and we are fortunate to have them so close and willing to assist us in our future efforts,” Ferris said.

“Catholic Charities will build on the diocese’s rich history of responding to the needs in parishes and communities, doing so collaboratively and creatively.  And in so doing, the people of the Diocese of Davenport will again recognize our justice and charity efforts in our Catholic community.”

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