Remarks from Ana Chavarin, the 2019 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award Winner

On November 11th the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) presented the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award to Ana Chavarin, interim lead organizer at the CCHD-funded group Pima County Interfaith, in Tuscon, AZ. Ana was honored for her efforts mobilizing migrant families and faith communities to impact the issues that affect them. To learn more about the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, please see the USCCB press release. Ana’s remarks offer reflections on the call to work for justice and peace in our communities:

Good evening, I am honored to be here today. I would like to thank USCCB for this opportunity, the selecting committee, Sr. Leonette Kochan who nominated me, and those who supported my nomination; My Pastor Monsignor Raul Trevizo and My Bishop from the Diocese of Tucson Bishop Weisenburger.

I am an immigrant from Mexico, I moved here in 2003. I am raising 4 kids as a single mom and I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Arizona while working in my community as an organizer.

I first became involved in Pima County Interfaith Council, which receives funding from CCHD, in 2014. I prayed to God to help me find the right job where I had the flexibility to take care of my children and use the skills and my passion to help others. Three days later Mr. Courtney, former lead organizer, called me and offered me a job as a project organizer starting with 10 hrs a week. This gave me the flexibility I needed plus, I had the opportunity to use my voice and train others to use their voices.

This work has helped me to achieve things I never imagine possible. I have learned how to teach, lead, think and analyze, connect with people, see what others don’t see, and to have the courage to make changes in my community. All the things I have learned in my work as an organizer with Pima County Interfaith has helped me in my education as well. When in my class I must present about a topic, I can do it easily because this is part of my daily job.

This work also brought me closer to my faith, to my God-given purpose and my community. When we work to better the life of our neighbor, I know I’m fulfilling my mission.

My work consists of finding the right people who care for their communities and who want to bring change. I work with them and train them to develop stronger skills so they can advocate for issues that threaten our families. For instance, in 2016, the issue was drugs sold legally in our low-income immigrant neighborhood. A group of concerned churches and community members came together. We had mothers sharing their stories about how this drug was destroying the life of their kids. We trained those mothers and they learned how to use their voice to defend their children, for the first time ever, they had the opportunity to use their voice and advocate for their families. Also, the drug issue led to the creation of a strong relationship between the Police department and our community at St. John’s, our parish.

The results were a City Ordinance that prohibited the sale of this drug in Tucson and then passing of state law.

On the issue Immigration, I have been training leaders to host “Know your rights sessions” and workshops to learn how to do power of attorney letters, to educate families and help them to be prepared in case of being detained.

Also, every year Pima County Interfaith Council makes sure that more low-income students receive help through JobPath our workforce development program. Which helps low-income students with tuition, books and other needs to help them to achieve success. Every year, PCIC advocates for the funding needed to operate this program. Last year PCIC achieved an increase of almost 20% from the County’s budget for JobPath. Over the years JobPath has lifted more than 1,500 families out of poverty into living-wage jobs.

CCHD has helped us to make this work possible. Thanks to this support we can train leaders and build stronger relationships in our community. Now we are working with over 150 new Hispanic leaders through CCHD and the impact in our community shows. Last year, when we had asylum seekers coming to Tucson, the Hispanic leaders took charge and organized their parishes to shelter immigrants. I was very proud to see that many of our leaders who came to our trainings were leading their parishes and preparing them to be shelters or assisting parishes who operated as shelters.  This is the impact of CCHD in our lives.

But our work has been possible thanks to the support of Bishop Weisenburger, Bishop Emeritus Kicanas, Monsignor Trevizo, Fr. Vili Valderrama, Sr. Leonette Kochan, and Sr. Gladys Echenique. Without their support, our work would have not been the same.

One of my favorite elements in Catholic Social Teaching is Human Dignity. To me, human dignity means to make sure that every person has access to education, food, shelter, health care, a decent job, and to live in a community free of violence and drugs. This is what CCHD helps us to protect, human dignity.

I thank God for this life and for being here in this moment. My wish is to continue to grow stronger in my faith, to continue doing this work, and that all of us will feel the call to protect the most vulnerable in our community. When I see the people working in the community reminds me of the love of God. It strengthens my faith and gives me hope for a better future. When I see the leaders working for the common good, I think, this is it! This is what is about, this is what Jesus Christ told us we should do as in Mathew 25:35-40



Ana Chavarin is the interim lead organizer at the CCHD-funded group Pima County Interfaith in Tuscon, AZ and the winner of the 2019 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.


Labor Day 2019: On the Hundredth Year of the United States Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction

OT Photo TwoIn his 2019 Labor Day statement, On the Hundredth Year of the United States Bishops’ Program of Social ReconstructionBishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, invites us to consider how we can work together to address the persistence of low wages and inequality in our workplaces:

In the Gospel for this Labor Day, Jesus proclaims in the synagogue the words of Isaiah: that he, like the prophet, has been “anointed” “to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Lk. 4:18). How do we bring glad tidings to the poor today? As Pope Francis said earlier this year, “today’s tendency is toward slowing down the pace of reducing extreme poverty and increasing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. . . . Many do not have food to eat and live adrift while a few drown in excess. This perverse current of inequity is disastrous for humanity’s future.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the “Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction,” published by an early predecessor of the current U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following World War I, the bishops recommended a series of “practical and moderate” reforms because “the only safeguard of peace is social justice and a contented people.” Today’s economy, if measured by the stock market, has the most money and wealth it has ever had, and unemployment is around the lowest it has been in fifty years. And yet, roughly four in ten Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 bill, and would fall below the poverty line after three months without income. More than one in five jobs in the United States is in a low-wage occupation where the median wage pays below the poverty threshold for a family of four. Real wages have been largely stagnant for decades, and workers’ share of the fruits of the economy has been declining for decades. Why does this situation persist? It is worth revisiting the “Bishops’ Program,” which presented three themes from Catholic social teaching that, as recent research suggests, may help explain the present.

It is up to us, as Bishop Dewane reminds us, to live and act in solidarity with all workers as we seek to live out the call of the Gospel:

As the “Bishops’ Program” concluded 100 years ago, “[c]hanges in our economic and political systems will have only partial and feeble efficiency if they be not reinforced by the Christian view of work and wealth.” In this view, workers and owners both have rights and duties towards each other; a business enterprise must view itself as a “society of persons” rather than a mere commercial instrument. As Pope Francis recently said, “[t]he new course for sustainable economic development needs to set the person and work at the center . . .”16 To this end, no merely technocratic policy changes will bear the fruit that is so desperately needed today. Rather, with consideration for the treasury of the Church’s social teaching, let us consider “new processes” that can build up justice in the workplace over time. Let us then proceed as a people who, through Baptism, share in Christ’s anointing “to bring glad tidings to the poor.”

Read the complete 2019 Labor Day statement (also available in Spanish), and find ways to help your community respond with prayer and action in the 2019 pastoral aid. (en Español)

Additional ways you can help your community support workers and strive for just workplaces:

What the Revision to U.S. Catechism means for the Work to End the Death Penalty

IncarcerationIn June, Catholic Bishops from around the United States gathered in Baltimore for the Bishops’ Spring General Assembly. At the top of the agenda was a discussion of the universal Catechism revision announced on August 2, 2018, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith that definitively declared the death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases.  With a vote of 194 to 8 with 3 abstentions, the full body of the U.S. Bishops resoundingly approved this revised passage on the death penalty for the U.S. Catechism for Adults.

For people of faith already invested in the movement to end the death penalty, the news out of Baltimore was joyous confirmation of the Church’s support of abolishing the death penalty. Since they first declared their opposition to the death penalty in 1974, the U.S. Bishops have consistently voiced their concerns for this deeply flawed aspect of our criminal justice system. The death penalty unfairly targets people of color; individuals with intellectual disability and mental illness; and people who are poor and marginalized in other ways. In 2018, more than 70 percent of the people executed displayed evidence of serious mental illness, brain damage, intellectual impairment, or chronic abuse and trauma. Furthermore, since humans are fallible and prone to error, there is always the risk of executing an innocent person. Since 1973, 166 people have been exonerated from death row and cleared of all charges after having been found innocent. Without a doubt, the death penalty unequivocally counters Jesus’ call to care for the least of these and disregards our call to respect the God-given dignity of the human person.

It’s not just the Catholic Church that’s sending the message loud and clear that the death penalty has no place in our country’s criminal justice system. 2018 was the country’s fourth consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions and less than 50 death sentences, reflecting a long-term decline in the use of capital punishment across the United States. Additionally, in the past twelve months, there has been undeniable progress towards abolition:  In October, Washington state’s Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional due to its arbitrary and racially biased nature. In March, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state-wide death penalty moratorium and shut down the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere. Most recently, New Hampshire repealed its death penalty in May and became the 21st state to scrub this antiquated and cruel practice from its books.

As Catholics, the Bishops’ recent confirmation of the revision in the U.S. edition of the Catechism is a timely opportunity to build a culture of life that is, in the words of Saint John Paul II, “unconditionally pro-life.” While it is true there is much evidence to suggest that the death penalty is on its way out, there are still over 2500 people sitting on death row in the United States. Nineteen executions are scheduled for the remainder of 2019, including four in August alone. On Thursday, July 25th, the Department of Justice announced it will resume executions at the federal level for the first time in nearly 20 years, scheduling five executions to begin at the end of this year and continuing through early 2020. Despite being blatantly out of step with where the rest of the country is headed, these imminent executions are a bleak reminder that the death penalty remains active in the United States and violates our commitment to the dignity of all life.

With the knowledge that there is still work to be done to build a more restorative criminal justice system and with this renewed burst of momentum from the Catholic Church to end capital punishment, you may be asking yourself, “So what now?” Let Catholic Mobilizing Network help. Here are five ways you can take action and join the work for the abolition of the death penalty:

  1. Examine what’s in your own heart – what are your thoughts and reactions to this Catechism revision? Are you feeling skeptical about the Church teaching that even people on death row deserve life? Take this time to examine any resistance you might have to this life issue.
  2. Sign Catholic Mobilizing Network’s  National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty. Join the over 25,000 Catholic and people of good will who have committed to educate, advocate, and pray for an end to capital punishment!
  3. Sign up for Mercy in Action. Subscribe to receive monthly alerts about upcoming executions which include resources for prayer and advocacy opportunities.
  4. Sign up for Catholic Mobilizing Network’s new blog, Hope Over Death.  Inform yourself with lived experiences, ministerial examples, and spiritual reflections of Catholics and people of faith working to promote restorative justice and an end the death penalty.
  5. Look for space in your parish and community on opportunities to engage in conversation with folks about the death penalty. Having those difficult discussions with people who may think about the death penalty differently than you do is a chance to encourage others to recognize the inherent, God-given dignity in all people, as well as an opportunity to deepen your own resolve to build a culture of life.

How will you respond to the call of the Pope Francis, echoed by the U.S. Bishops at their June meeting, to get involved in the fight to end the use of the death penalty and build a criminal justice system that honors the dignity of all life?

Emma headshot (1)Emma Tacke is the Associate Director of Community Engagement for Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of good will to work for an end to the death penalty and transform the U.S. criminal justice system from punitive to restorative. CMN works in close collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and lives the Spirit of Unity of its sponsor, the Congregation of St. Joseph.

Public Policy in the Pews: How the Diocese of Rochester NY Engages Catholics in Advocacy


10300 petition signatures for governor 2 - TGF

This year the Diocese of Rochester collected over 10,300 signatures in support of a bill granting basic labor rights to farmworkers in New York State. These workers had been denied overtime pay, a voluntary day of rest per week, and collective bargaining protections.  After years of advocacy by our New York State Catholic Conference and many other groups and individuals, in June our state legislature finally passed the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act to address these injustices! Our work was part of this victory.

From support for farmworkers to the DREAM Act to pay equity for women to opposition to physician-assisted suicide and abortion, parishioners in the Diocese of Rochester, New York have been advocating for years on issues across the spectrum of Catholic Social Teaching.

They do so as one voice, through the coordination of the Diocesan Public Policy Committee. This group of clergy and laity from around the central New York State diocese chooses a topical public policy issue each year, which is then reviewed and approved by our bishop. The committee is staffed by Justice & Peace Ministry staff members at Catholic Charities’ offices around the diocese.

These staff members produce materials for parishes to use to raise awareness about the public policy issue each year. Bulletin notices, pulpit announcements, prayers of the faithful and suggestions for educational programs are distributed to the parishes through the Justice & Peace staff. These explain not only the details of the chosen public policy issue but also its connection to our Catholic faith.

All of this awareness-raising culminates in the annual diocesan-wide Public Policy Weekend.  During the Saturday evening and Sunday Masses on a designated weekend, the issue is discussed during or after the homily.  Parishioners are then invited to sign petitions advocating for the issue. These signatures are tallied, gathered up with those of other parishes, and eventually delivered to the elected officials representing those parishes.

Yes, we do this advocacy work right at (or just after) Mass.  For me, this reflects the original meaning of the word liturgy which comes from the Greek leitos meaning public and ergo meaning to do. “Liturgy” for the Greeks meant a public duty or service. The U.S. Bishops wrote in their document Faithful Citizenship, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (13). In the Diocese of Rochester, the liturgy is one setting for our parishioners to do their public duty and meet that moral obligation.

Over the years, we have found that the way to collect the most signatures is to give time for this during the Mass. Tabling at the back of church after Mass just isn’t as effective, as people can get distracted and hurry out the door. Instead, I encourage parishes to harness what I call “the awesome power of the clipboard.”

10300 petition signatures for - TGFThis means providing clipboards and pens in every pew with the petitions attached. Then during the Mass, either after the homily or after a post-Communion announcement, parishioners are invited to sign the petition and pass the clipboards along. The petition sheets can then be placed in the collection baskets, or simply left in the pews and collected after Mass.

Completing the petitions during Mass is a powerful way to make the connection between worship and action. It is a reminder that as surely as Christ is present in the Eucharist, he is also present in “the least, the lost, the last and the little” for whom we are speaking out. We receive his Body, and we become his Body the Church, and we serve him in them, through this work.

Through our work to highlight a variety of issues over the years, our Diocesan Public Policy Committee has helped parishioners to recognize the breadth of Catholic Social Teaching.  This advocacy also reminds people of the power they have to advocate with our state and federal elected officials, and the importance of their calling to build up Christ’s reign of dignity, justice, and peace.

Harness the “awesome power of the clipboard” in your parish!

Answer the call of Catholic Social Teaching by helping your fellow parishioners participate in advocacy on important justice concerns in your area. When you bring public policy to the pews in your diocese, here are some best practices to engender wide participation in these advocacy efforts:

  • Two weeks before Public Policy Weekend, print the text of the petition in the parish bulletin to alert people on what they’ll be asked to sign.
  • One week before Public Policy Weekend, invite a member of the parish team orchestrating these efforts to announce that the Weekend is coming and to speak briefly about the issue at all the Masses.

Laurie 2Laurie Konwinski serves as the Deputy Director of Catholic Charities in Tompkins and Tioga Counties in upstate New York, in the Diocese of Rochester.  She coordinates Catholic Charities’ Justice & Peace Ministry for Tompkins County. Laurie is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds a master’s degree from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada.

Going Deeper!

Looking to learn more about how your parish can get involved with local advocacy? Check out this advocacy toolkit and read more about a parish in Minnesota that empowers parishioners to put their faith into action.

Fe en el Valle: Poniendo nuestra fe en acción

Faith in the Valley (FITV), o Fe en el Valle, es una organización comunitaria con base religiosa en el Valle Central de California, que representa a más de 100,000 familias de los condados de Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus y San Joaquín. Nuestro trabajo es dirigido por líderes voluntarios que se encuentran entre las personas más impactadas por desigualdades, y se enfocan en campañas sobre problemáticas tales como calidad del aire saludable, justicia restaurativa, dignidad para todos los inmigrantes a través de políticas justas y viviendas asequibles para todos. Financiada en parte por la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano (CCHD), Faith in the Valley empodera a sus miembros para que trabajen juntos en transformar sus comunidades en lugares de oportunidad.

Creemos que es posible un futuro diferente y mejor para los habitantes del Valle Central si trabajamos juntos. Un futuro en que todos estén incluidos, tratados como seres sagrados, con la oportunidad de prosperar y vivir una vida saludable y decente. Un futuro en que nadie sea visto como “menos que” o viva con temor debido al color de su piel, su estatus legal o la cantidad de dinero que gane. Un futuro donde todos tengan acceso a buenos empleos, aire limpio, agua limpia, alternativas al encarcelamiento, atención médica de calidad y vecindarios seguros.

Una forma poderosa que elegimos para llevar a cabo esta visión profética es asegurar que nuestro proceso democrático sea accesible para las personas más impactadas por las decisiones políticas. Los obispos católicos de los Estados Unidos exhortan a los católicos de toda nuestra nación a participar en el proceso político: “La obligación de la Iglesia de participar en la formación del carácter moral de la sociedad es un requisito de nuestra fe”. ¡Los líderes de las parroquias católicas de todo el Valle Central viven esta santa vocacion! Esforzándonos por ser pacificadores de nuestra nación, y como seguidores de Cristo, estamos comprometidos a defender la dignidad de todos y buscar el bien común de nuestros vecinos mediante ser ciudadanos fieles  y la participación cívica.

En los últimos meses, nuestros líderes han entrado en conversaciones con varios candidatos políticos* para asegurar que, independientemente de líneas políticas, nuestros futuros representantes electos escuchen lo que es importante para nosotros como comunidad de fe. Confiamos en que las historias compartidas por los miles de votantes anteriormente no comprometidos nos den el poder de hacer que nuestros líderes electos rindan cuentas por nuestras demandas de justicia y dignidad para todos.

Los líderes de Faith in the Valley y miembros de la comunidad también tocaron cientos de puertas e hicieron llamadas telefónicas a votantes alejados, quienes a menudo se han sentido marginados y no representados. Los educamos en proposiciones importantes acerca de viviendas asequibles, aumento de la inversión en espacios públicos y protección de fondos escolares, y alentamos a sus comunidades a hacer escuchar sus voces votando el 6 de noviembre.

Estos son algunos de los puntos importantes y los poderosos testimonios de algunos de nuestros líderes:

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Maura, de la Iglesia San José en Selma, California, invitando a su congregación a votar como un símbolo de compromiso santo, el 21 de octubre de 2018.




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“Muchas de las medidas locales tienen el poder de impactar directamente y hacer un cambio inmediato si nos tomamos el tiempo para educar a nuestra comunidad y animarlos a votar. Estoy comprometido porque sé lo que se me ha dado. Puede que nunca conozca a ninguna de ellas, pero tengo un profundo agradecimiento por las personas que abogaron por las leyes de amnistía de 1986, y, gracias al compromiso de tantas personas, ahora soy un ciudadano. Ahora es mi turno devolverlo. Mi fe en Dios también es mi fundamento. Mi único hijo tenía serios problemas respiratorios cuando era bebé, hasta el punto de ser hospitalizado. Desde entonces, me resultó difícil dormir porque temía que se ahogara. Me sentaba toda la noche teniéndolo en mi pecho mientras oraba a Dios por mi hijo. Un año después, a mi hijo le diagnosticaron asma y recibió medicamentos. Esa fue una oración respondida. Por todas las bendiciones que Él me ha dado, es importante que ore y actúe por los demás.” –Amador, Iglesia Católica San José en Selma, CA (izq.)

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“Me ofrecí de voluntaria para exhortar a las personas a votar porque, como soy menor de edad, no puedo votar. Así que quiero hacer todo lo que esté en mi poder para tratar de mejorar la vida de mi comunidad, mi familia y la mia”. Kazzandra, Saint Anthony Mary Claret en Fresno, CA (fila posterior, izq.)

Nuestros esfuerzos al rededor a las elecciones intermedias de noviembre de 2018 fueron solo una de las muchas problemáticas sobre las que los líderes de Faith in the Valley están organizando su comunidad. Como personas de fe, continuaremos nuestro compromiso con nuestros valores sagrados apoyando a los más marginados y vulnerables de nuestras comunidades.


¿Está buscando formas de apoyar a grupos como Faith in the Valley en su propia comunidad? Descubra dónde hay en el país grupos comunitarios que trabajan para abordar las causas fundamentales de la pobreza que reciben fondos de la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano (CCHD). ¡Use el mapa interactivo para ubicar y contactarse con un grupo local de la CCHD en su área y conocer cómo puede participar!


Faith in the Valley es una nueva organización comunitaria de base religiosa en el Valle Central de California de 120 congregaciones que representan a más de 100,000 familias en los condados de Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus y San Joaquín.

(*FITV no es partidista y no está alineada explícita o implícitamente con ningún candidato o partido. Aunque FITV está trabajando para promover la participación cívica, incluyendo el registro y educación de votantes, no respaldamos ni apoyamos candidatos a posiciones políticas).


Christus Vivit and Young Hearts that are Witnesses of Justice and Peace

freely-10182 (2)As a parish youth minister for more than a decade, I know well the innate desire for justice and the natural ability to create change that is inherent within many youth and young adults. They know injustice when they see it and want to say or do something about it. In his recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, Pope Francis goes so far as to claim that young people have a “young heart” that allows them to not only see injustice for what it is but also to have both the hope that something can be done and the creativity to solve the problem.

Holy Ground

Youth is a time of training, a time to practice doing what disciples of Jesus do, namely, “living in the midst of society and the world in order to bring the Gospel everywhere, to work for the growth of peace, harmony, justice, human rights and mercy, and thus for the extension of God’s kingdom in this world” (no. 168). This is the vocation of all Christians, but it is essential to the growth of young people that they practice this lifestyle of justice so as to cultivate the incipient virtues already found within them.

In Christus vivit, Pope Francis has made quite a statement about young people in general, and specifically with regard to youth and justice. In fact, he has such a high regard for youth and young adults that he says, “Each young person’s heart should thus be considered ‘holy ground’, a bearer of seeds of divine life, before which we must ‘take off our shoes’ in order to draw near and enter more deeply” (no. 67).

Three Qualities Inherent to the Young Heart

But what do we find when we meditate on the sacred space of young people? Here are three inclinations toward justice and peace that Pope Francis finds present in a youthful heart, and which ring true in my experience.

Fraternal Love: First, he says that one of the key indicators that a young heart is following the path of Christ is that it grows in what he calls fraternal love. Avoiding the temptation to isolate ourselves or become jaded by “a world so full of violence and selfishness” (no. 168), we must come out of ourselves to love and serve others. “We grow in wisdom and maturity when we take the time to touch the suffering of others” (no. 171), and such encounters help young people grow in fraternal love. The desire for such fraternal love, and the readiness to embrace it, is instinctive for young hearts.

Protagonists of Change: Secondly, when full of fraternal love, young hearts “want to build a better world . . . The young want to be protagonists of change. . . . to fight apathy and to offer a Christian response to the social and political troubles emerging in different parts of the world” (no. 174). Within the nascent hearts of young people lies both the desire and potential to act, to do something, to heroically stand on the side of the oppressed, the voiceless, or the outcast. Young people only need to be encouraged and empowered by the adult mentors in their lives to “fight for the common good, serve the poor, [and become] protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism” (no. 174).

The Joy of the Gospel: In making a stand and becoming protagonists of change, young people begin to experience the joy of the Gospel. “God loves the joy of young people. He wants them especially to share in the joy of fraternal communion, the sublime joy felt by those who share with others . . . Fraternal love multiplies our ability to experience joy, since it makes us rejoice in the good of others (no. 167). Pope Francis says that fraternal love leads to a real form of ecstasy, a coming out of one’s self that culminates in joy. When we serve, when we stand on the side of the poor and speak up for those who have been marginalized, we come to know the ecstatic joy of the Gospel. “Social engagement and direct contact with the poor remain fundamental ways of finding or deepening one’s faith and the discernment of one’s vocation” (no. 170). Young people already possess a natural joy within them and living their true vocation from the Lord brings the deepest joy imaginable.

The Good News for Youth and Adults Alike

These are qualities and callings particular to a “young heart,” and Pope Francis says in no uncertain terms that the adult Church can have either a young heart or an old and withering heart. It is possible for the old to remain young at heart, and this is not a platitude but a requirement of adult disciples and for the Church at large. “[Young people] can keep [the Church] moving forward, prevent her from being proud and sectarian, help her to be poorer and to bear better witness, to take the side of the poor and the outcast, to fight for justice and humbly to let herself be challenged” (no. 37).

Chapter Four of Christus vivit is really the heart of the whole document in which you can hear Pope Francis’ challenge to emulate those among us who possess a “young heart”. He exhorts the whole Church to know deeply that we are loved by God, that it is Jesus Christ who saves us, and that Christ is alive and present to us right now. The Holy Spirit is always at work, changing, challenging, and empowering us to live the Gospel. If we give our lives to Christ Jesus, if we sacrifice ourselves in fraternal love so as to walk with and bring about concrete change in the daily lives of those who suffer, we will find our most personal vocation and purpose. We will know the joy of the Gospel and bring hope to the world.


With 13 years of experience in full-time youth ministry and a Master of Divinity from the University of Notre Dame, Mike Buckler has presented at churches, trainings, and conferences on both youth ministry and Catholic social teaching. He currently serves as Regional Associate Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and both he and his wife Megan serve as Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade Ambassadors. They live with their four kids on the north side of Tampa.

Going Deeper!

 How can you work to cultivate a “young heart” with youth and young adults as well as the rest of your parish community? Check out the Two Feet of Love in Action and explore two distinct, but complementary ways we can put the Gospel in action.

Reconciling God, Creation and Humanity on Earth Day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we celebrate Earth Day, we are reminded of Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si’ to care for creation and to reconcile our relationship with God, creation and one another.

 The following is an excerpt from an Ecological Examen developed jointly by Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The Examen asks you to reflect on your personal relationship with creation, to acknowledge and amend your ways and to promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.

Begin the Examen by placing yourself or your group in a posture that allows you to be open to the ways the Spirit is working in you. There are six steps in the Examen.

1. I give thanks to God for creation and for being wonderfully made. Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?

I begin my Examen by centering myself in the midst of God who is the God of unconditional love and infinite creativity. I imagine how this God of love created the beauty of the universe.

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” 1  I see that God is part of every facet of creation, operating in the world in the smallest organism to the greatest mountain range.

I give thanks to my God who created all the Earth, all the creatures upon the Earth, the fishes of the sea, the birds that soar through the skies, the water that gives us life and all humanity.

I give thanks to a God who molded me in my mother’s womb and who crafts me into the person who I am today. I thank God for my life and for all that God has provided me to sustain this very life. I recognize all I am and all Creation that surrounds me is a gift from God.

2.  I ask for the grace to see creation as God does – in all its splendor and suffering. Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?

I ask for the grace to look at the world as God does – to see the world in its infinite goodness, diversity and interconnectedness.

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf,

I see the close relationship between all creatures and our common home and how we are dependent on one another for our mutual well-being.  Like God, I rejoice in how the earth and the creatures and people who inhabit it are all wonderfully made.

But like God, I also hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  I hear how “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

I see signs of our sins reflected in the “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” I see how indigenous peoples have been displaced from their lands and seen their water contaminated due to an economic system that prioritizes profit over people and the common good. I recognize how a “throwaway culture” discards not only things but people as “leftovers,” and how it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most from climate change.

I see how poor people and persons of color disproportionately live in neighborhoods near industries that produce contamination and waste, whether in urban cities, rural areas or in precious natural biomes such as the Amazon.

I see how poverty, inequality and globalization contribute to “social exclusion [and] an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services.” I am pained by the increasing negative impacts of globalization on the earth and humanity.

As Pope Francis exclaims, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who “is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” 

3.  I ask for the grace to look closely to see how my life choices impact creation and the poor and vulnerable. What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation? How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?

How present am I to the world around me? How do I show my love for God through my respect for creation and my neighbor? How does my environment shape who I deem to be my neighbor or part of my community? Who is left out?

Where are the most polluted areas of my community and in the world? Who lives there?

How do I use water throughout my daily life? How am I a responsible steward of this gift? How do my consumption patterns and demand for energy impact the availability of clean water for communities in my country and around the world? Who has access to clean water, a basic human right, and who does not?

Do I recognize that eating is a moral act and that “how I treat my food is how I treat my home?”  Do I take more than I can eat?” Do I waste a lot of food when many around the world are hungry? Am I conscious of where my food is grown and under what conditions? Am I aware of the energy and water that went into the production of my food, and the impact on the environment?

iStock_000006715814Large4.  I ask for the grace of conversion towards ecological justice and reconciliation. Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?

In my desire for reconciliation with creation, I ask God for forgiveness and the grace of ecological conversion.

I acknowledge the ways in which I personally have chosen convenience, selfishness, and greed over ecological and social justice.

I also acknowledge the ways structures, patterns, and cultures of sin impact my life, the lives of people on the margins and the earth. Through my recognition of where I have fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters, and through God’s mercy, I pray for a conversion of heart to amend my ways. I seek through my prayer and actions to reconcile myself with God, creation and humanity.

I ask for the grace to become someone who chooses to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized and acts to contribute to a more socially and ecologically just society.

Seeing the joys and suffering of the Earth and its creatures and persons across the globe, I also see “signs of God’s work, of the great ministry of reconciliation God has begun in Christ, fulfilled in the Kingdom of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.” 

5.  I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity, and to stand in solidarity through my actions. How can I repair my relationship with creation and make choices consistent with my desire for reconciliation with creation?

God calls us as caretakers of the earth not simply to take the earth’s resources for our own benefit, but to use the earth’s resources to praise, reverence, and serve God.

By working for environmental justice and reconciliation with creation, we reverence the God of love and co-labor with God towards Christ’s own mission of reconciliation and love.

We “are called to help heal a broken world,” to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter. This means embracing a new sustainable path forward and a “new way of producing and consuming [that] puts God’s creation at the center.”

I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity. With the entire Ignatian Family, I take up this challenge by identifying personal concrete action steps to live more sustainably.

In what ways through my actions can I stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected by the environmental crisis?

In what ways will I advocate for environmental policies that care for creation and the most vulnerable?

6.  I offer a closing prayer for the earth and the vulnerable in our society.

“A Prayer for Our Earth” 

All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

(Laudato Si’, n. 246)

Going Deeper!
Caring for creation doesn’t stop with Earth Day! Learn more and view the full Ecological Examen, available online and in booklet form. Find out how you can get involved with the work of the Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Good Friday: The Day Jesus Sat on Death Row

prison-553836On the morning of the very first Good Friday, I imagine Jesus waking in a jail cell alone. I picture him sitting in the corner, eyes trained at a wall, preparing himself for a death that would come at the hands of the state.

Minutes away from experiencing the most extreme punishment of a justice system motivated by fear and vengeance, I imagine Jesus recalling the relationships, encounters, and experiences he had throughout his life.

It is the great love Christ had for all of us that most stands out me as I reflect on the depth of despair present on Good Friday. Forgiving those who condemned and executed him, even forgiving the criminals he died alongside. Christ is our example of unimaginable mercy. For as he looked down into the crowd of those who condemned him, he uttered these words: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)

I see the reflection of Christ in those sitting on death row today, awaiting a similar death. Men and women, who despite the grave harm they’ve caused are created in the image and likeness of God. Their dignity as human persons handed over to a criminal justice system all too similar to that of Jesus’s time.

As I meditate on state-sanctioned execution of Christ, I am reminded that our faith compels us to follow the example of Christ, who even as he suffered on the cross, chose mercy.

Families of the murder victims whose perpetrators sit on death row show us this mercy of Christ present on earth. At Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), we have the privilege of working and advocating with many of these families who, like Christ, seek mercy and forgiveness in the face of loss and suffering. I have been deeply impacted by the faith of these families. Their losses are unimaginable, yet they remain steadfast in their commitment to upholding the dignity of human life. They recognize that the death penalty is a false promise of peace.

This is not easy work. We see the utter brokenness of the criminal justice system, demonstrated most clearly by the 165 innocent people exonerated from death row over the last 40 years. At the same time, we see crimes which are truly egregious, often committed by people who were once victims of terrible harm themselves. We see cycles of trauma and violence that extend back generations and manifest in horrifying ways.

Catholics and people of goodwill are challenged to answer the Church’s call for the abolition of capital punishment by advocating for the repeal of the death penalty and opposing upcoming executions. We believe in the inherent human dignity of all persons, regardless of the harm we may have caused or experienced, we all have dignity and deserve an opportunity for healing and redemption. This is what Christ teaches us on the cross.

CMN is entrenched in of these dark corners of our criminal justice system. Places devoid of hope and life, where it always feels like Good Friday.

But Good Friday is not the end of Jesus’ story — and neither is it the end of ours.

By the grace of God, we know what happens on that third day. On Easter morning, humanity is redeemed and reconciled. Through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, we are transformed into a people of new life.

Each one of us has been impacted by harm in some way. But the resurrection of our Savior forever changed how we are called to respond to acts of harm. In the way of Christ, we are called to pursue restoration over vengeance and hope over death.

This Good Friday, how will you answer the call to advance Christ’s justice and mercy?

Going Deeper

The work of Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) takes root in this scene. As the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice, we mobilize Catholics and people of goodwill to answer the Church’s call for the abolition of capital punishment by advocating for the repeal of the death penalty and opposing upcoming executions.

This May, CMN will release a brand-new faith formation guide centering around restorative justice and our Catholic faith. Published by Liturgical Press, Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity is an invitation to consider our individual and communal responses to harm, and how our criminal justice system falls short of promoting human dignity, hope, and healing. Preorder your copy now!

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Katlyn Toelle is the Communications Manager at Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.


Journeying through Lent with Catholic Social Teaching

povertyusa 7One of my favorite parts of my job as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Intern for the Archdiocese of Seattle is the work that I get to do around education and outreach on Catholic social teaching.

At the core of Catholic social teaching is the belief that all people are made in the image of God who desires to pour forth love into the world. So, to begin this conversation with students, I often like to begin with a seemingly simple question: “Who is God? What is God like?”

Responses are often straightforward and profound: “God is present in everyone.” “God is caring and loving.” “God’s image looks like us.” “God is like a friend to me.”

When we live into our authentic call as children of God, attentive to the ways the Holy Spirit is already at work in the world, these are characteristics we are invited to model.  We are called to be caring and loving, brave and powerful, like a friend, vessels of love and justice in the world.

And yet, as Pope Francis reminds us in his Lenten message: “The root of all evil, as we know, is sin, which from its first appearance has disrupted our communion with God, others and creation itself.”

When students are asked to brainstorm ways that life is threatened in their schools, communities, and the world, responses cover the spectrum of our shared brokenness: “Racism.” “Bullying and bad friends.” “School shootings.” “Family and school drama.” “Lack of opportunity.” “Gun violence.” “Discrimination.” “Climate change.”

As we move towards the end of this Lenten season, we know sin. We see sin’s destructive power in our lives, in broken relationships with friends and family, in the toxic and debilitating forces of shame and self-criticism, in gossip and untruths. We know sin in our communities and in our world; In the heart-breaking injustices of racism, hatred, poverty, and inequity. We both participate in and are harmed by broken systems and structures in our country and our Church. We know sin all too well.

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus says: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7). It is difficult to look at the world through God’s eyes of compassion. It is difficult to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the ways that we perpetuate systems of harm.

Similarly, our Lenten practices can sometimes be uncomfortable. We experience hunger during our fasting. We may experience awkwardness or discomfort in trying a new prayer practice.  It is also true that embodying the invitation of Catholic social teaching can sometimes be a challenge. It is hard to consider our lives as deeply interconnected to the well-being of our neighbor, and it is challenging to know how to act out of this.

Organizations funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) work to address the systemic roots of poverty in our communities. We must each confront the ways in which we have allowed systems and structures to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. When we learn how to identify unjust systems that undermine the dignity of God’s children, we can more authentically live out our call to Catholic social teaching. The work of CCHD and the groups it funds is unique and often creative because it goes beyond a “helping” model and into developing creative and sustainable ways of making systemic change.

Rooted in Catholic social teaching, CCHD works to embrace in new ways the realities of the preferential option for the poor, the call to family, community, and participation, the life and dignity of the human person and solidarity. CCHD responds creatively to the invitation of Catholic social teaching to bring us back into right relationship with one another. It does this in new and creative ways, and in ways that may be challenging.

During Lent, we are invited to see differently, and then to act anew. We are also invited to see that God is working in new ways through CCHD to bring us back into relationship with one another.

As we continue to move through Lent towards the new life of Easter, the invitation and wisdom of Catholic social teaching, as embodied through CCHD, patiently awaits us: Come back to who God is, come back to who we are.

Going Deeper!

As we continue to journey through Lent, take a moment and reflect on how your choices and actions reflect our call to live in right relationship with our neighbors with this examination of conscience in light of Catholic Social Teaching (also available in Spanish). Afterward, learn more about the power and work of CCHD and find ways to get involved in your community.

Claire Lucas

Claire Lucas is a senior at Seattle University studying Psychology and Theology & Religious Studies, and is currently the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) intern at the Archdiocese of Seattle. A self-proclaimed Catholic social teaching nerd, Claire is passionate about fostering attentiveness to the signs of the times and building communities of loving solidarity via fair-trade coffee and spontaneous dance parties.

Walking with St. Oscar Romero: Sacred Heart School journeys from home to Rome

A few years ago, the Archdiocese of Washington invited us to “Walk with Francis” in honor of the pope’s visit to Washington, D.C. This year, Sacred Heart School has been walking with the newly canonized St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador and champion for peace and the poor who was martyred while celebrating Mass in 1980.

Sacred Heart School--photo of students with St. Romero and cranes - TGF use ONLYOur journey has taken us to the heart of the classroom and the Vatican, to Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador and to St. Romero’s nieces, and as far away as Norway. On March 20, 2019, in anticipation of St. Romero’s feast day (March 24), we celebrated a Mass with students from around the Archdiocese of Washington.

As we “Walk with St. Romero” this year, we reflect on his homilies, rejoice in his canonization, and try to live his legacy of justice and solidarity. In the weeks preceding his Oct. 14, 2018 canonization, students led morning prayer by introducing different quotes from Romero. Teachers also created lessons from the quotes. Middle school students, for example, reflected on Romero’s prophecy, “Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.” They put up a message board for people to comment on the meaning of this challenge. Second graders constructed a replica of Divine Providence Hospital and chapel, where Romero preached his last homily before being martyred during Mass on March 24, 1980.

The school also hosted a catechetical evening with parents. Students, dressed as Romero’s many siblings, assisted in the presentation. St. Romero’s actual brothers, Tiberio and Gaspar, attended the canonization in Rome. (Gaspar died last month at the age of 89).

In class and at the catechetical evening, students folded origami peace cranes that we sent to the canonization Mass at the Vatican. The colorful cranes had a bright yellow tag that read, “Sacred Heart School loves Romero. Send us a message about your connection to Romero or experience at the canonization….”

Five Sacred Heart School teachers, along with a group of parents and parishioners, served as the school’s ambassadors at the Vatican. We gave the origami cranes to pilgrims from around the world who came to experience Romero, Pope Paul VI, and five other witnesses become officially recognized saints. We also shared the cranes with Cardinal Rosa Chávez and two of Romero’s nieces from the saint’s hometown of Ciudad Barrios. The crane’s message included a QR code that allows us to see the country of origin of those who scan the code. Our cranes reached as far as the Salvadoran diaspora in Norway.

Another project that bridged home, Rome, and beyond was collecting the school community’s prayers. Our school’s director of religious education carried them in her backpack to the canonization Mass, a papal audience the following day, and to churches throughout Italy. A highlight for several members of the trip was praying for all of the students at the tomb of the Franciscan saint, Anthony of Padua. We lovingly left the prayers at his tomb then celebrated Mass.

Our celebrating continued with students from around the archdiocese on March 20 with a Mass in anticipation of St. Romero’s feast day (March 24). Our choir sang songs in honor of Romero. Our offertory collection supported local people in need with gifts of money and food. We reflected on the same readings that St. Romero celebrated with during his last Mass: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).

St. Oscar Romero is legendary for many members of our community, especially those with Salvadoran roots and those who seek solidarity with them. His canonization provides a special opportunity to explore his prophetic path and challenges us to walk this same holiness. We hope in this Paschal season of dying and rising that you too will walk with St. Romero. As the saint preached in his last homily, “We know that every effort to improve society…is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God requires of us.”


Cinnamon Sarver serves as the director of religious education at Sacred Heart School.  She has theology degrees from Boston College and the University of Notre Dame. Having traveled to El Salvador four times to research St. Romero’s life, she enjoys speaking and writing about his legacy.


This post was adapted for ToGoForth, and reprinted with the permission of the Catholic Standard. Read the original version at the Catholic Standard website and learn more about the March 20th mass honoring St. Oscar Romero