Center hosts meeting of statewide advocacy leaders

JP Shortall, M.A., Director, Communications and Advancement

April 5, 2022

Leaders from advocacy organizations across the state of Indiana gathered on Friday, April 1, 2022 at the Geddes Hall coffee house to share their work and consider opportunities for collaboration on statewide advocacy efforts. The meeting was part of the Center for Social Concerns Signs of the Times brown bag lunch series and was led by Bill Purcell, senior associate director at the Center for Social Concerns, and Michael Hebbeler, director, discernment and advocacy education at the Center for Social Concerns. More than 30 people attended.

Angela Espada, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) led off the gathering by addressing the question of why the Catholic Church needs a public policy voice at all. She explained that many of the political ideas and issues Hoosiers are currently talking about–the common good and workers’ rights, for instance–are things the Church has been concerned with for years. 

Andre Stoner is a community organizer with Faith in Indiana, a vehicle for ordinary people of faith and goodwill to act together in the public arena to create better communities. Stoner shared the story of how advocacy work originated with his growing sense of marginalization as a young Mennonite who slowly came to see the good that political power can do when it is participatory instead of coercive. He described the importance of developing political imagination in order to see what’s possible together, using local work on developing communal mental health resources as an example of political imagination put to practical use.

The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) is a national call for moral revival uniting people across Indiana to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation’s distorted morality of religious nationalism. Crystal Durril is a state campaign organizer who represented PPC, which works on issues related to unjust incarceration and voting rights. 

Sr. Emily TeKolste is grassroots mobilization organizer with NETWORK, an organization founded by Catholic sisters to promote Catholic social justice and create a society that promotes justice and dignity of all people. She explained that NETWORK’s focus is on federal policy, especially on education with regard to systemic injustice. The group is currently hosting national workshops on the racial wealth gap in the United States.

Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (HIPL) brings Hoosiers of faith together as stewards of creation to promote renewable energy, energy conservation, and energy efficiency, as a faith response to climate change. Rev. Kimberly Koczan is an HIPL board member and described the work HIPL is doing to lower the carbon footprint of people in Indiana, which is home to eight of the top super polluters in the country. HIPL was instrumental in pressuring AEP/Indiana-Michigan Power to close its Rockport, Indiana coal power plant by 2028.

The event closed with a conversation about possibilities for collaboration between statewide advocacy organizations and the University, especially on effective advocacy methods, increasing conversation around racial justice, and overcoming apathy on the part of citizens. Panelists shared research areas that would be beneficial to their work. Attending students from Notre Dame’s Student Policy Network emphasized young people being involved in such collaborations to ensure the longevity of advocacy efforts.


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