Additional speakers have been announced for the interfaith Vote to End Hunger Rally to be held Nov. 8 at Grand View University in Des Moines.

Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register, will serve as the emcee for the event. 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.

Please sign up for the free event at votetoendhungeriowa.eventbrite.com. The event will begin at 2 p.m. and end at 4 pending on the availability of presidential candidates, who are being invited to speak. Several videos of candidates explaining their plans to address hunger and poverty will be shown in the arena immediately before the start of the rally.

Several groups have announced their support for the rally, including Church World Service, the Northeastern and Southeastern Iowa Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, the Presbytery of Des Moines, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. Plymouth UCC Peace Committee is also a supporter.

The Vote to End Hunger Rally is sponsored by Bread for the World and the Iowa Catholic Conference. Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann and Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates will speak at the event as well.

ICC BOARD MEETS

The Iowa Catholic Conference Board of Directors met in Ankeny on Oct. 15 and considered its legislative agenda for the coming year and other concerns of the Catholic Church.

During the meeting, Frank Harty of the Nyemaster law firm spoke on the future of religious liberty in the wake of state and federal Supreme Court decisions on marriage. Father Bud Grant of St. Ambrose University also presented on Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si”.

The board received an update on efforts to fight assisted suicide proposals and educate people on the availability of palliative care at the end of life. Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new California law earlier this month legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

During its discussion of the ICC legislative agenda, the board affirmed its ongoing priority to achieve Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). These would allow parents who choose not to enroll their children in a public school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account to use for educational expenses.

Other priorities were approved, including:

  • Increase in the state’s minimum wage
  • Restrictions on the use of fetal tissue for research following an abortion
  • Support for refugees

The full list can be viewed at www.iowacatholicconference.org.

The bishops of Iowa are encouraging parishioners to participate in both the Vote to End Hunger Rally and the Jan. 16 Midwest March for Life, both in Des Moines. There will be a Mass with the bishops at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 16 at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, followed by a rally at the state capitol and a walk to the state Supreme Court building. This will be followed by an educational event at the Iowa Events Center. Click here for the “save the date” page.

If you want to look into going to Washington, D.C. for the national March, go to www.iowansforlife.org.

Following the conclusion of the ICC board meeting, the bishops met with the leadership of the Iowa Knights of Columbus. The bishops also met with the regional stake presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints regarding religious liberty and possible cooperative charitable opportunities. More information on that later.

FEDERAL UPDATES

The U.S. House approved a reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The SOAR Act is a school voucher program available to some parents and children in Washington, D.C.

Archbishop George Lucas, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, recently wrote to the House of Representatives urging them to support the swift passage of the bill. “As the Catholic Church has consistently taught, all children have the universal right to education and that parents have the responsibility and sacred duty as the first educators of their children. States, therefore, have the fundamental obligation to support parents in fulfilling this sacred duty,” he wrote.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Sister Donna Markham welcomed the recent introduction of the bi-partisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 in the United States Senate. The Act reduces certain mandatory minimum sentences, expands so-called sentencing “safety valves,” works to reduce recidivism with expanded prison-based programs, and limits solitary confinement for juvenile offenders, among other things. Key sponsors include Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Senator Dick Durbin, as well as Senators Cornyn, Whitehouse, Lee, Schumer, Graham, Leahy and Booker. Thanks to Senator Grassley for working on this.

“The bishops welcome this modest bi-partisan effort to reform our criminal justice system. We must try to ensure that sentences are just, while creating humane space in which individuals can restore their lives with the kind of support that reduces the chances that they will return to prison in the future. These reforms are a step in the right direction,” said Archbishop Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“Reform to the criminal justice system is long overdue,” said Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President of Catholic Charities USA. “Catholic social teaching affirms that human dignity is not something we earn by good behavior, but it is something we are endowed with as children of God. Strengthening families and community connections should play a central role in our criminal justice system. Catholic Charities USA supports efforts that reflect these priorities.”