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Faith Action Network’s new co-director seeks to build
a stronger interfaith voice advocating for the poor

As society’s foundations shift and people rely more on Hollywood and digital connections for inspiration, Jackie O’Ryan seeks to help Washington’s congregations build a stronger, interfaith voice to advocate for poor, low-income, working poor and middle-class families whose voices may otherwise not be heard.

Jackie O'Ryan
Jackie O'Ryan is the new FAN co-director

A fifth generation Washingtonian, Jackie, a member of St. James Catholic parish in Seattle, has joined the Faith Action Network (FAN) as co-director. 

She was in Spokane recently for a benefit lunch for FAN, which is “a statewide interfaith partnership for the common good.”

Last summer, the Washington Association of Churches and the Lutheran Public Policy Office united to form FAN to mobilize interfaith communities and connect as needed with secular organizations, drawing on their theological, cultural and ethnic roots “to unite people in compassion and inclusiveness,” she said.

 “We need to build a stronger voice that has a moral compass, a stable, consistent voice on issues that matter to poor and working families.  Occupy has it right that the 99 percent could be more active and at the table,” Jackie said.

“An interfaith voice with a broad base is needed in these times,” said Jackie.

She pins her motivation about the need for moral leadership on her parents—a journalist and a teacher—and on Seattle’s late Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen.  Her uncle, Fr. Michael Ryan, was a close aide to the archbishop.

“He said what needed to be said and brought in diverse voices,” she said.  “I covered him in media. What he said motivated me to work with Catholic Charities of Seattle.  He challenged systems that cause human suffering.”

Jackie, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1989 at the University of Washington, spent 15 years in media, doing documentaries for Public TV and  reporting for KIRO-TV.

She then worked with Catholic Community Services of Western Washington in public affairs and community development from 1996 to 2001.  She loved advocating for low-income families whose voices are not heard.

Jackie was communications director for One America, an organization promoting justice and fostering immigrant rights and reform in 2008.  She was an advocate for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.

In 2001, she was communications director for Seattle City Council and had a private consulting firm, Moving the Message Media, to advise nonprofits on strategies to build advocacy movements. She also consulted with the Archdiocese on advocacy.  For two years, she marketed Lakeside School in Seattle to build diversity among its students.

“I wanted to be back in the movement, so I began working with the Faith Action Network,” said Jackie. 

She started with the Faith Action Network in May, learning about the complex ways co-director Paul Benz and former co-director Alice Woldt have worked.

Jackie supports FAN’s effort to build advocating congregations across the state to expand the voice of the faith community.  There are now 38 advocating congregations, 10 of which are in Central and Eastern Washington.

Her advocacy bent grew through her faith, reading and learning about statistics and the lives of people in poverty and people seeking racial justice.

“I believe Jesus Christ would act in ways that differ from the prevailing social order,” she said.  “We, too, need to be brave to approach tables, at which we do not sit, and have courage to turn them over.  Our voices are important.”

She believes it’s useful today to work in an ecumenical and interfaith way. 

“The future requires it,” Jackie asserted.  “People of different races and cultures across the state deserve a voice.

“The ecumenical movement needs to draw in people of all faiths for a common moral voice for the common good,” she said.

FAN’s priorities for the common good are 1) to reduce hunger, homelessness and poverty; 2) increase affordable and accessible housing and health care; 3) reform the criminal justice system; 4) care for the environment and promote sustainable agriculture; 5) advocate for civil and human rights; 6) advocate for accessible and quality public education, and 7) support avenues for building the state’s revenue base.

 “I will work with advocates in congregations on messaging and strategy.  We hope this effort will bring people into the movement to have a stronger voice in the legislature,” Jackie said.

FAN’s vision is to build a diverse coalition of people and like-minded communities to “take courageous action and create a more just and peaceful world.”  Organizers know that reaching this goal takes compassion, courage and persistence.

For information, call 206-625-9790 or visit