The 2015 Iowa Institute for Social Action conference, sponsored by the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) and the dioceses of Iowa, will help leaders advocate for social justice in the public arena. The 2015 Institute will be held Sunday and Monday, Jan. 18 and 19 (Martin Luther King holiday) at Saints John and Paul Parish in Altoona, Iowa.

One of the main themes of the annual Institute is economic justice. Economic life should be shaped by moral principles. The United States Conference for Catholic Bishops describes the economy as existing for the people – not the people for the economy. Awareness of this issue is important especially to young people as they enter into the workforce and start building families.

The ICC is pleased to announce that the Institute will feature a youth/young adult track where principles of economic justice will be discussed through a variety of compelling methods including presentations, opportunities for creative dialogue, and the development of an “action plan” for an issue of concern.

The youth/young adult track will begin on Sunday, Jan. 18 with check-in at noon and a “young adult” keynote by Julia Dinsmore and others at 12:30 p.m. They will present an interactive activity, “10 Chairs of Inequality,” with an emphasis on wealth distribution in the United States. Spoken word poems and the inclusion of the perspectives of the people living in generational poverty will be part of the presentation as well.

Dinsmore is a poet, author, spoken-word artist, mother and grandmother who has given presentations for more than 25 years. Most known for her poem “My Name is not ‘Those People’,” she promotes a greater understanding and appreciation for the strengths and resiliencies of people who are marginalized by poverty or other factors in our society. Alondra Hernandez and Mulki Ali are two young people who will assist in the presentation.

In the evening of Sunday, Jan. 18, following the presentation of the documentary “A Bridge Apart” from Catholic Relief Services, there will be a time for young participants to share their creative views (poems, songs, a short story) about various issues.

Coordinating the youth/young adult track is Kevin LaNave. He has been involved in the field of social justice education- and service-learning since 1987. LaNave is the director for the Center for Service-Learning and Social Change, and also teaches in the Civic Leadership Institute, a civic engagement and social justice education program through Johns Hopkins University.

Participants in the youth/young adult track will also have the opportunity to participate in other content presented at the Iowa Institute for Social Action, including the keynote speech late on Sunday afternoon by Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Monday morning’s main speaker will be Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register, on the political landscape in Iowa and Washington, D.C.

Additional sessions during the Institute will include:

  • How to communicate with legislators
  • Addressing the root causes of injustice
  • Food, faith and climate
  • Human trafficking
  • Campus activism/pro-life
  • US AID and Catholic Relief Services: working together
  • Care for creation

Registration is free for students and $20 for others. Register at iowasocialaction.eventbrite.com.

P.S. Please note that the Midwest March for Life sponsored by Iowa Right to Life is on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque will celebrate Mass at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines at 9 a.m. to begin the Catholic involvement in the event. For more information, go to www.iowartl.org/midwest-march-for-life.