Diocesan Pastoral Council Ponders Poverty
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
March 8, 2018
DIOCESAN—What is poverty? Who are the poor? Who is responsible for poverty and for responding to those who endure it?
These were some weighty questions for a spring-like Saturday morning as the Diocesan Pastoral Council gathered for its quarterly meeting March 3.
The Diocesan Pastoral Council assists the bishop of Rockford with issues of concern for the local and universal Church and of the laity it serves. 
For this most recent meeting Bishop David Malloy and Dr. Michael Cieslak, director of Research and Planning, invited Patrick Winn, director of Catholic Charities to talk about poverty and to help guide a conversation for the council. 
Dr. Cieslak, director of Research and Planning, serves as executive secretary of the DPC.
Bishop Malloy attends the meetings to address and discuss with the group various topics of his choosing. However, for this meeting Bishop Malloy excused himself at the halfway point of the three-hour meeting to make his way to Minnesota for a seminary visit.
To prepare for the discussion, council members were asked to read several documents including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops statement on options for the poor and vulnerable.
Winn gave an overview of some of the work being done to assist the poor and low income families in the diocese specifically through services offered at St. Elizabeth Catholic Social Center in Rockford. 
“We have taken great strides to evaluate and change how we deliver our services,” Winn told the council. Specifically, the food pantry has been changed from clients just receiving a bag of food items to allowing people to choose their own items. Winn explained that this small change has improved the atmosphere of food distribution days, uplifted the dignity of those receiving assistance and helped eliminate waste. 
“We also offer cooking classes so the folks we serve can make healthy choices on limited budgets,” Winn said.
After breaking into small groups council members were asked to reflect upon and discuss what they considered to be impediments to serving the poor and who should be invited to do this work and do we want the poor to thrive? As the group came back together after their discussions they were asked what they wanted Bishop Malloy to know about the poor.
The top ideas sent to the bishop from members were that they would suggest:
That engaging the poor  needs a more prominent place in the annual appeal materials and video;
That issues of poverty need to be preached on more often and not just at the time of the annual appeal or for special collections and
That engaging the poor needs to be demonstrated at all levels of parish life.
The DPC had also planned to discuss ministering to the elderly but ran out of time. So council members suggested that when the topic of the elderly is scheduled, that issues of poverty for them also be part of the discussion.
“I thought we had a great meeting and that council members were very engaged in the topic of poverty. In fact, they were so engaged, that when it was time to take a break, the small groups used their break to continue their discussions!’ Cieslak said.
“That tells me that poverty, the poor and vulnerable are very important to Catholics and their parishes,” he said.
DPC members also heard brief reports on Be Reconciled, general analytics of myParish app around the diocese and updates on the Faith Forward Strategic Planning process for Catholic Schools. 
The next meeting of the DPC is set for June 9. 
For more information about DPC, contact Mike Cieslak at mcieslak@rockfordforddiocese.org.