The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering: Inspiring, eye-opening faith-in-action

This past February was my first opportunity to attend the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC. Having recently begun working at the Catholic University of America as an assistant campus minister, I took several of our students to participate in the Young Leaders Initiative. We met with over one hundred other young people from college campuses across the country, all of whom are active in works of service and justice in their particular communities. It was a time to share ideas, learn new things, and be inspired by the many speakers and participants who are working for a better world in many different fields and in all different corners of the globe.

The opening mass set the tone for the whole conference. The room was packed, and Monsignor Ray East’s energy and liveliness woke us up to the strength and beauty of a faith lived through action. Songs and readings were done in languages from the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and the room of people of all ages and races were united by a love of God and love of justice. It was impossible not be touched by the Spirit moving in that room.

Sunday evening we were honored to meet several members of Living Hope Wheelchair Association. Founded by people with spinal cord injuries, they serve others with spinal cord injuries and wheelchair-confining disabilities. They told stories of how they were founded, how they have grown, and how they have fought to overcome obstacles both external and internal. Seeing people who are physically limited have so much strength and resilience, and who have done so much for others who suffer, helped us to have a more hopeful perspective. These people were truly shining examples of positivity and solidarity in a world more and more threatened by negativity and individualism.

Throughout the conference, we heard from many different speakers and participated in different discussions about social justice issues both domestic and international. One of my students has spent a lot of time tutoring low-income students in a predominantly black school, and he was able to learn more about racial inequality in our educational systems, criminal justice systems, and even in our own Catholic Church. One of my students is a social work major, and was able to learn more about affordable housing and the homeless population in the U.S. Another one of my students, who would be leading a group of his peers to the U.S./Mexico Border the following month, was able to learn more about immigration and the struggle of Latino immigrants. Having lived the last several years in Latin America myself, I was fascinated to hear speakers from Ecuador and Brazil, and attend presentations on Colombia and Cuba. The diversity and the expertise of the speakers and presenters was fantastic.

The final day of the conference was spent on Capitol Hill, meeting with Congresspersons and staffers, and advocating for those victimized by unjust policies and systems. This was the first time I, and most of my students, had lobbied on the Hill. Armed with the knowledge gained at the conference, and our own experiences, we united our voices to call for change.  Though it may be a drop in the bucket, civic participation is the responsibility of every citizen of a democracy, and the experience has spurred us on to continue advocating.

The CSMG conference was inspiring and eye-opening. It was an opportunity for growth, both for myself and my students, and something we will not soon forget. Let us pray that it was also an experience that will continue to move us to more action and a more authentic and lively faith.

Going Deeper!

Join us for the 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on Feb. 2-5. Registration is open until January 11, 2019!

Student leaders from colleges and universities and accompanying campus staff can participate in the Young Leaders Initiative (YLI) by filling out the YLI Interest form before December 12, 2018!

Harrison Hanvey

 

Harrison Hanvey is Assistant Campus Minister for Mission Trips and Community Service at The Catholic University of America.

Authentic Role Models for Emerging Leaders in Social Justice

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

student with professor at CSMG

Trinity student Laura Clavijo and Dr. Lynda Jackson

As a business professor at Trinity Washington University, my research and studies focus on the best ways to mentor students and guide them toward developing success factors that will enhance their careers and in turn their lives. Specifically, I like to stress the significance of becoming involved in purposeful networking, actively seeking caring mentors, and consistently identifying suitable role models.

Being involved in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) offered an environment that provided our students with direct access to all three–networks, mentors, and role models.

When we learned of the opportunity to attend the CSMG 2015 conference in Washington D.C., it appeared to be the perfect setting for our students to network with likeminded individuals, seek encouraging and caring mentors, and interact with role models who were making significant contributions toward social justice in their communities and our society as a whole.

Once our plans were set to attend, we read the brochures and watched the informative videos, and our excitement grew. But, no one could have told us how stimulating it would be to actually attend and be a part of the CSMG 2015!

My students were amazed–as this was their first opportunity to attend a conference. At first, they were a little apprehensive, but then, every group they joined warmly welcomed them and involved them in the topics of discussion. The students were given several business cards for future contact and mentoring opportunities.

The plenary sessions were “awesome” (their words) and increased the students’ excitement about the “possibilities” of one person making a major difference in the lives of many through advocacy. Students especially appreciated the rare experience to hear first-hand accounts of the works of tremendous role models such as Martina Liebsch, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Caritas Internationalis, and Sylvester Brown, Jr., Executive Director of The Sweet Potato Project.

Another advantage was the chance for the students to network with other students from all over our nation who are interested in being involved in human rights advocacy projects and social justice awareness activities. Additionally, they took advantage of the opportunity to speak and network with the friendly and informative representatives from a variety of Catholic and advocacy programs located in the Exhibit Hall. They enjoyed chatting and learning about each of the organizations and were encouraged by the representatives’ eagerness to engage them in conversations about their own future career plans.

By the end of the conference, the students were elated about the possibilities of bringing community service ideas and insights back to Trinity where we too focus on human rights and social justice. They also looked forward to sharing what they learned with their home parishes. Without a doubt, the CSMG experience exceeded the students’ greatest expectations!

At Trinity, we certainly look forward to future opportunities for our students to participate in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

Trinity student with Catholic Social Ministry Gathering registration materials

Trinity student Bruna Distincto Algaran at CSMG

All students, nationwide, are bound to be excited about the tremendous opportunity to be involved in CSMG and to gain exposure to this valuable network while interacting with excellent and committed role models and mentors. As a professor, I highly recommend this opportunity to all students and can assure them a valuable, rewarding, and priceless experience!

As Benjamin Franklin indicated, involvement is where true learning occurs!

Dr. Lynda C. Jackson is Assistant Professor of Business at Trinity Washington University


Join us at Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on January 23-26, 2016! The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering strives to recognize, encourage, and prepare young and diverse leaders of our Church’s advocacy and social ministries. We invite college and universities to participate in the Gathering through the Young Leaders Initiative. 

Special early bird registration rate ends November 13th.