An Iowa legislator is making sure he stays “close to reality” as he begins his first term in office.
Rep. Charles “Chuck” Isenhart, a lifelong Catholic and a Democrat from Dubuque who represents Iowa’s 27th House district, stays in a simple room at Dingman House of the Des Moines Catholic Worker, not far from the state capitol.
Once a journalist in the Catholic press, Isenhart now helps when he can at the Worker House with cooking, serving meals and clean up. He says his responsibilities as a first-term legislator keep him busy for 12 or 13 hours a day so he’s not always alongside his fellow Catholic Workers in carrying out the corporal works of mercy.
Isenhart, 49, settled on getting a simple room at the Catholic Worker for pragmatic reasons: it doesn’t cost much and he needed a place to stay after being elected in November. He says he didn’t want to room with another legislator and surround himself with politics 24 hours a day.
“You can get stuck in the bubble. You lose touch with what’s gong on in the real world,” he says.
Isenhart, who once worked at The Witness, newspaper of the Dubuque Archdiocese, and helped CNS cover the 1987 U.S. trip of Pope John Paul II, decided to enter politics after serving for 17 years as executive director of the Dubuque Area Labor Management Council. He’s also a member of the National Writers Union as owner of his own small communications consulting and public relations firm.
His says his platform was largely built around Catholic social teaching and the concept of the common good.
“The folks involved with the Catholic Worker, including the folks at this house, are very committed in what they do,” he says. “You have to admire them for being persnal witnesses in what they believe in.”