By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
The diocesan Social Action office gave a preview of notable observances in January 2023 during the final Lunch and Learn session of 2022. Deacon Kent Ferris, the office’s director, hoped the presentation would inform Catholics of the various causes on which to focus as the new year begins.
World Day of Peace
World Day of Peace is Jan. 1, coinciding with the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Glenn Leach, a Social Action volunteer, offered a history of this annual observance, established by St. Paul VI in 1967. “He wrote what became the mantra for those of us who work for justice: ‘If you want peace, work for justice,’” Leach said. He highlighted organizations that help to work for peace and nonviolence, including Pax Christi USA and the Franciscan Peace Center, a ministry of the Clinton Franciscans. Websites for both organizations (www.paxchristiusa.org and www.clintonfranciscans.org) offer resources, reflections and action steps, he said.
Poverty Awareness Month
Poverty Awareness Month is observed in January. Social Action volunteer Loxi Hopkins shared national trends and statistics on the issue. Citing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Poverty USA website, she said 9.7% of seniors and 16.2% of children are living in poverty. “That just blew my mind.” About one-fourth of Native Americans are living in poverty, “a really sad statistic.” The website povertyusa.org contains additional statistics, prayers, related Scripture readings and other resources. “I love the stories of hope, too,” Hopkins said.
It’s important for Catholics to become aware of the needs of their local brothers and sisters, she added, which extends beyond “the homeless or the people who come to the clothing center.” Because of stagnant wages and inflation, “your next door neighbor could well be living in poverty and not knowing where their next meal is coming from.” Especially in small communities, people in need may be afraid to ask for help. “We need to be aware of what we can do in our own parishes to help people feel comfortable coming for help” and to learn about the systemic issues, locally and nationally, that exacerbate poverty, she said.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
January is also National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Linda Molyneaux, a member of the Quad-City faith-based group Attacking Trafficking, pointed out that human trafficking exists in Iowa and that recent state legislation now requires hotels and motels to have sex trafficking awareness training. Molyneaux, a retired lawyer and member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, said individuals can help with anti-trafficking efforts by educating themselves on the issue and learning how to get involved locally.
Attacking Trafficking previously hosted a prayer service each January. This year the group is trying something different by hosting an event at St. Ambrose University after the students return from winter break. She hopes the event will educate college students about human trafficking and encourage them to get involved. The event will be open to the community; details will be released in the coming weeks. She said citizens should keep their eyes open and report suspected activity but avoid personally attempting to rescue or approach people they believe are involved in human trafficking.
9 Days for Life
Each year, the USCCB leads 9 Days for Life, a novena for the protection of human life, via its website, https://www.respectlife.org/9-days-signup. A short reflection accompanies the daily intention and suggests actions to help build a culture of life. The 2023 novena is Jan. 19-27.
The novena is primarily concerned with unborn human life, previously coinciding with the anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, Deacon Ferris said. It is important for Catholics to be “and” people, concerned with social justice issues and the right to life. “We do both because of the inherent human dignity we need to uphold.”
Where to watch
To watch this Lunch and Learn presentation and view a list of resources, go to the Diocese of Davenport’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/t3ngsKsPgaA .