Show and tell: resources for addressing social justice issues

Allison Ambrose, a social justice committee member at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, references the “two feet” model during a Lunch and Learn hosted by the Diocese of Davenport May 5.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

The Diocese of Davenport is filled with people who are passionate about addressing social justice issues, said Amy Kersten, a diocesan Social Action volunteer.

As host of the diocese’s monthly online Lunch and Learn series, Kersten invited participants on May 5 to “share that particular resource that they love, that they go to. It could be a podcast, website, video or book, just whatever they go to when they want to learn something themselves or teach someone else.”

Loxi Hopkins, a diocesan Social Action Office volunteer, offered the seven principles of Catholic social teaching as a resource and inspiration that drew her into the Catholic Church. Catholic social teaching “is one of the most positive things in the Catholic Church as to how we should live as Catholics,” she said. She has frequently referenced these principles, as well as the late Msgr. Marvin Mottet’s Two Feet of Social Justice model.


Allison Ambrose, a social justice committee member at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, also referenced the “two feet” model. The social justice foot addresses systemic, root causes of problems that affect many people. The charitable works foot focuses on short-term, emergency assistance. The parish makes and distributes action cards for its social justice events; each card contains next steps for addressing the issue with both feet. Most people are more comfortable with charitable works, but “we want people to understand that justice is more long-term.” Both feet are essential, she said.

Jean Simpson of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport spoke about her efforts to promote Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical, subtitled “On care for our common home.” At the parish level she spearheaded a campaign to write letters to legislators, organized a Laudato Si’ Way of the Cross and created “Less is Blessed” checklists with ideas for helping the environment. She finds encouragement in connecting with similar-minded people worldwide.

Nancy Stone of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport has an interest in prison ministry and in addressing racism and poverty. Social media posts and action alert emails from advocates and advocacy groups provide up-to-date information. She gets ideas for the parish’s social justice Bible study from the Field Hospital Podcast.

Leigh “Ginger” Arnold, board member and production manager of KTJT-LP in Davenport and a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Rapids City, Illinois, is developing “CONNECT: Support for Single Moms.” Through surveys, Arnold has identified an unmet need among single mothers for emotional and peer support, which she hopes to address through the program. These observations align with her experience as a single mother to her now-adult daughter. “There is never enough time and it can be extremely isolating.”

Glenn Leach, a diocesan Social Action Office volunteer, said it is important for Catholics to stay grounded in faith while working on social justice issues. “I have to have a reason for why I’m doing what I’m doing; otherwise I just become another political activist.” He finds comfort and guidance in the spiritual exercise book, “30 days with St. Ignatius of Loyola.” He received the book at a diocesan retreat and refers to it daily. “Every day begins with a Scripture, a prayer and an action,” he said.

Washington-area farmer Mitchell Hora, a member of St. Joseph Parish in East Pleasant Plain, talked about his work helping farmers establish sustainable practices. He co-hosts a podcast, Field Work Talk, which contains information about sustainable agriculture and interviews with policy makers. It is one of many resources available to help those who want to farm in a more sustainable manner. “If people are getting the right resources and help, they can really be successful at generating these systems.”

Many of the speakers noted online resources, including Nicky Gant, coordinator of Service and Justice at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. She identified several online programs geared toward helping people understand current issues and how to address them, including, and

Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action, encouraged parishes to follow local news as a way to identify issues that may warrant response. Individuals can be boots on the ground helping to identify individual and community needs.

Emily Pries, executive secretary to Bishop Thomas Zinkula, said people may not pay attention to available resources until something becomes relevant to them. “If you can continue to share resources and be that point person, if someone has a need they’ll come to you and you can lead them in the right direction.”

List of resources

View a list of resources compiled from the Lunch and Learn at

To view the Lunch and Learn on YouTube, go to

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