Mottet Leadership Institute fulfills one of priest’s last wishes


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

A social justice activist even as he approached death, Msgr. Marvin Mottet gave an earful of advice to Dan Ebener, Loxi Hopkins and other colleagues about moving forward with social justice in the Davenport Diocese.

“The last several times I visited with Marv we might have spent an hour-and-a-half talking about the things he wanted me to do to carry on his work,” said Ebener, an educator and diocesan leader. “The last thing he told me was, ‘Get to work.’” Hopkins, a volunteer in the diocese’s Social Action Office, said Msgr. Mottet “wanted ‘The Two Feet of Social Action’ to continue, and that we train young people to get involved.”

Logo design by Lindsay Steele

The Mottet Leadership Institute is the result of that mandate; a training institute to engage people of all ages, particularly young adults, in the work of social justice. The institute’s centerpiece is an eight-week course led by national trainers and spread out over eight months. The first session will be held in September at diocesan headquarters in Davenport. It is a project of Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) in collaboration with the Diocese of Davenport, St. Ambrose University in Davenport and the NAACP.


Leslie Kilgannon, QCI’s executive director, said her organization believes the institute will provide terrific training for people who might not otherwise get the opportunity. Msgr. Mottet was a founding member of QCI committed to “engaging ordinary people to make changes around issues affecting their lives,” she noted.

Msgr. Mottet, who preferred to be called Father Mottet, died Sept. 16, 2016, at age 86, following a life dedicated to The Two Feet of Social Action. He believed that action on behalf of social justice was a necessary part of Christian life. Charity and justice are the two steps in his “two feet” approach. Training is essential to understand and carry out this approach, he believed.

In his own efforts to bring about change, he worked with Gamaliel Foundation of Chicago to provide faith-based leadership training for people from around the diocese and beyond. Gamaliel trains community and faith leaders to build political power and create organizations that unit people of diverse faith and races. The founder, Greg Galluzzo, is also a founding member of the Mottet Leadership Institute.

Ultimately, the institute reinforces the core values of Fr. Mottet: participation in the public square; social justice; solidarity; dignity of the human person; stewardship of God’s creation; and preferential option for the poor and oppressed.

People interested in becoming more involved in public life are the institute’s target audience. “They might be interested in local politics, or state, federal or international,” Ebener said. “It’s wherever they want to make an impact in public policy.” He gave as an example concern over a new fireworks law that is disrupting the quality of life for some Iowans. If someone wanted to change the law, “what can they do? How do they begin to impact change on something like that?” Ebener asked. The leadership institute provides the skill-building necessary to address such questions.

Institute participants can expect to be challenged and held accountable for carrying out the actions they plan during the training sessions, Ebener said. “We expect them to impact the public policies they’re most interested in, or to start building the relationships necessary to make an impact.”

Mentors will be available to help participants with their “home work.” Hopkins describes institute training as a “life-changing experience. You have to look deep within yourself and ask where you are and what you want your life to be.” The training offers benefits beyond community advocacy. “It helps you with relationship building, and how you deal with jobs, managers, and people in general,” Hopkins said. She hopes participants come out of the Mottet Leadership Institute “feeling that they want to be part of something bigger.”

The Mottet Leadership Institute is about “creating a new generation of leaders for social change,” Ebener said. “We’re making a special effort to recruit younger people, but also people from lower-income neighborhoods. We’re building capacity for people who generally don’t have a voice in public policy.”

Training for the Mottet Leadership Institute
What: The Mottet Leadership Institute, an eight-week training program.
Where: Diocese of Davenport headquarters, 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport.
Time commitment: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on eight Saturdays.
Week one: Sept. 23 – Public life, power, values and self-interest.
Week two: Oct. 28 – Public relationships, one-on-ones, building a public life.
Week three: Nov. 18 – Qualities of a leader, building a team, power analysis.
Week four: Dec. 16 – Cutting issues, doing actions, how to enter the public arena.
Week five: Jan. 2018 – How to run and organize a meeting, power one-on-ones.
Week six: Feb. 2018 – Media and social media as part of a change campaign.
Week seven: March 2018 – Organized money and people.
Week eight: April 2018 – Pathway to power.
Cost: $400 per participant. No one will be turned away due to lack of funding. Funds are being raised to create a scholarship fund. “If participants can’t pay $400, we’ll ask them to raise the money from their church or a civic organization or ask to be considered for a scholarship,” said Dan Ebener a founding member of the institute.
Other details: All sessions will be taught by the Gamaliel Foundation. St. Ambrose University in Davenport will issue a certificate to all institute graduates. A mentor will be assigned to any participant who is interested.
To register, contact Loxi Hopkins at or call her at (563) 940-2580.

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