Social action conference focuses on hope

Lynn Keller and Deacon Dan Goetz, both of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, listen to the keynote speaker at the Iowa Institute for Social Action Oct. 9 in Elkhart.

By Anne Marie Cox

With the help of Catholic Relief Services, the people in earthquake-devastated Haiti are learning how to use what they have to earn some money and become more self sufficient.

The country has a shortage of sand and gravel for rebuilding after January’s massive earthquake.

Local people are grinding down the rubble – and there’s a lot of it – then bagging it and selling it for the rebuilding of their country.

This small anecdote was just one of several that Tina Rodousakis shared with about 80 people from across the state attending the annual Iowa Institute for Social Action held Oct. 9 at St. Mary-Holy Cross parish in Elkhart, about 10 miles north of Des Moines.


The story struck Bernadette Rixner, of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Sioux City.

After the keynote presentation, she said, “I loved the real practical stuff. The story of the gravel and the sand sounds so simple” but excels at helping people.

She and others at the daylong event were looking for practical ideas for facilitating social justice that she could bring back to her parish.

One such tip sprang from a question and answer session. Rodousakis asked folks to hold up their cell phones. Then, she explained that an ore mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo is used in those cell phones and in computers. Militias want to control the transportation routes and benefit from the mines.

Their weapon of choice is rape.

Rodousakis said she’s not going to give up her Blackberry and personal phone, but she will ask the seller and cellphone provider if her phone was made with material from a conflict-free area. In fact, legislation was recently passed requiring companies to assure that.

Even as consumers, she said, people can hold others accountable by asking questions.

Rodousakis reminded people how powerful Iowa congressmen and senators are, and they could be contacted to push legislation that brings about justice.

Tips also came from breakout sessions on domestic violence, ending the death penalty, a farm-to-school program, climate change, post abortion ministry, fighting abusive lending, voter education and more.

“We need people like you all over the world to put faith into action,” Rodousakis said. “Together, we will turn our personal outreach into something beautiful and that is hope in trying times.”

Deacon Dan Goetz, who serves on the Social Action Commission at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, attended the conference to “come and learn practical ideas so we can help facilitate change.”

Fellow Newton parishioner Lynn Keller said she learned quite a bit about global poverty issues. While she was aware of these issues, it was interesting to learn some of the specifics, she said.

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