Faithful citizenship and poverty


Last month in this space we told you about an interfaith Vote to End Hunger Rally which will be held Nov. 8 at Grand View University in Des Moines. Now we’re asking you to exercise your faithful citizenship by attending the rally or by supporting it through prayer and legislative advocacy.

The rally aims to inspire participants to make hunger a priority issue in the political campaign, which is heating up in anticipation of Iowa’s first in the nation presidential caucus Feb. 1, 2016.

Bread for the World and the Iowa Catholic Conference are sponsoring the event, scheduled from 2-4 p.m., at Sisam Arena on Grand View’s campus. Iowa church organizations of different denominations support the effort. The event’s speakers will include Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines and the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. Elected officials and candidates are also invited to attend.
Cory Berkenes, executive director of the Iowa Food Bank Association, will speak about what hunger looks like in Iowa. Jos Linn, Grassroots Manager, U.S. Poverty Campaigns, RESULTS, will lead an interactive session educating participants on how to make hunger a priority issue in our political campaign.

Helping families and children overcome poverty is among the goals for political life that the U.S. bishops identify in their teaching document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (see The document seeks to guide Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. That means reflecting on church teaching in forming our consciences and educating ourselves on moral issues so that we can contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape our choices in the coming election.


We are called to work toward the common good, which embraces all, with special attention toward people who are weak and vulnerable. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that people oppressed by poverty require preferential love on the part of the church. We cannot cease working for their relief, defense and liberation — through charity, as needed, but equally important, by advocating for changes in society that allow people to thrive.
That’s why a broad coalition of about 100 national faith leaders formed a “Circle of Protection.” Their aim is to work with congressional and administration officials to ensure that the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people are met through compassionate legislative action. To keep the issue of poverty front and center, Circle supporters asked presidential candidates to each produce a short video on how the candidate would address hunger and poverty as president. Nine of the candidates — six Republicans and three Democrats — submitted videos which you can view (as well as read the transcript) at the time to learn what the candidates have to say. It’s rare to hear a candidate reflect on an issue that gets little attention in the public square and yet has a profound impact on millions of lives.

Search through periodicals and newspapers to read about poverty; do an Internet search by typing in the word “poverty.” One such search led to an Oct. 23 National Public Radio broadcast concerning the 7.9 million children in the U.S. who live in “food-insecure” households. No one should have to worry about whether there’s enough to eat at home, especially kids. The report focused on an American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity by asking a series of questions during checkups. What are the ramifications of that recommendation for the rest of us? How should we respond?

We need to put some “skin” in the game, giving of ourselves to help improve the lives of others. One of the presidential candidates bravely calls for self-sacrifice. To make Social Security safe, for example, younger people are going to have to work longer because we’re living longer. For people with higher income levels, it means taking a little less in benefits, the candidate said. “I could give up some of my benefits — to make sure it was there for others.” Amen, we say.

If you’re planning to join the rally in Des Moines, sign up at The cost: Your time and commitment to alleviating poverty.

Barb Arland-Fye

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