Hold The Onions, Please! Remembering Dorothy Day, Servant of God, On Her Birthday

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Milwaukee Journal)

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Milwaukee Journal)

Catholic Worker cooks have to be creative in the kitchen. They prepare large meals on small budgets and donated food items. Mystery soup is a regular specialty. My habit was to perform “veggie triage” on every lonely vegetable from the fridge, add spices, and create savory stir-fries. It is reported that Dorothy Day drew the line on creative cooking, however, the day a volunteer put onions in the fruit salad.[1]

Making a meal from random ingredients is only one essential Catholic Worker skill. But finding a place for seemingly mismatched people, things, and ideas is a hallmark of Dorothy Day’s life and legacy. In her early years, Day struggled with how to reconcile her social activism with her blossoming Catholic faith. Her activist and Catholic role models seemed worlds apart. When she met Peter Maurin, a French-born Catholic philosopher, she came to understand how her worlds could be united. The Catholic Worker movement was born.

Dorothy Day’s writings and her activism are often called “radical.” She supported labor movements, staunchly opposed war, and ran houses of hospitality for the poor on a wing and a prayer. Let us remember, however, that “radical” means going to the root.

When I was in college, Catholic Workers from Worcester, MA, drew me to the movement. They taught me that the root of opposition to abortion should be respecting and supporting life in all stages. This consistent life ethic, although not created by Catholic Workers, is another example of uniting issues in a way that many consider nonsensical in our society.

For Day and Maurin, Catholic radicalism was simply a call for every person to take up the Works of Mercy and follow Jesus’ instruction to do to the least what we would do to him. Pope Francis, in his address to the United States Congress in September 2015, recognized that Day’s “social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

While I still remember how to “triage” vegetables, these days you will find me balancing the demands of Religious Education Coordinator at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Washington, DC. I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the 4th grade about Dorothy Day. Their faith and curiosities are a joy. We had fun trying out the Catholic Worker skill of creating beautiful things from random donations. Using paper squares to represent donated, mismatched tiles, students created floor designs for their pretend Catholic Worker kitchens.

Dorothy Day’s cause for sainthood has been approved by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops. As we remember her today, the anniversary of her birth, let us ask how we can find more room in our lives for seemingly misfit people, things, and ideas in the name of Jesus and the good news of the Gospel. Following Dorothy’s good sense…skip the onions in the fruit salad!

sarver-cinnamon-dorothy-day-blog-nov-2016-photo-5Cinnamon Sarver has theology degrees from Boston College and the University of Notre Dame. She has worked in Catholic education for many years and is available to host seminars on Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, the Eucharist, and other topics in Catholic Social Teaching. 

 

[1] As reported by Jim Forest, cited  in http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2011/day-biography-offers-insights-into-life-of-catholic-worker-co-founder.cfm


Going Deeper!

Learn about the timeline of Dorothy Day’s life and the process of her sainthood cause.

Replacing “Clamorous Discord” With Love and Mercy

In this past Sunday’s first reading, the prophet Habakkuk, who lived in a time of “strife” and “clamorous discord” (Hb. 1:3), cries out to God for assistance. God urges him to wait faithfully, for the “the rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live” (2:4).

In the heat of this election season—with its “clamorous discord” and “rash” words—Habakkuk’s plight takes on a new meaning. When inflammatory rhetoric, uncivil accusations, and personal attacks abound, the temptation can be to turn off the news, shut the newspaper, and ignore the Twitter feed for the next four weeks.

But Sunday’s Gospel challenges us. At the beginning of the Gospel reading, the apostles implore Jesus, “Increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5). They are responding to Jesus’ challenge in the verse prior: “If [your brother] wrongs you seven times in one day and returns seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him” (17:4).

How difficult the challenge of forgiveness sounds to them! Yet, Jesus responds to their request for increased faith: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (17:6).

Clearly, prayer rooted in deep faith can make the impossible a reality.

We are called to bring this Gospel challenge to our current situation. At this long moment in our country when mercy, forgiveness, and love seem to be completely missing in the public square, we must utter the apostles’ prayer: “Increase our faith!”

When faced with the temptation to withdraw or disengage from public life, we must pray, “Increase our faith!”

When, in our conversations with others, we ourselves feel the urge to refuse to model the respect we want to see; or to attack the person instead of discussing the issue; or to use inflammatory language; we must call out, “Increase our faith!”

As followers of Christ, we are called to think and act differently, approaching dialogue with a spirit of love and respect for the dignity of others. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis offers these guidelines for dialogue within families. They would be truly transformational if applied in the public square as well.

In response to our cry, “Increase our faith!,” we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we may model love and mercy in our families, at our workplaces, and in the public square. We must also urge candidates and elected officials to engage in dialogue that is civil and respectful.

Civil dialogue means that when speaking with others with whom we disagree:

  • We should begin with respect.
  • We should decide neither to degrade the persons, characters, and reputations of others who hold different positions from our own, nor spread rumors, falsehoods, or half truths about them.
  • We should be careful about language we use, avoiding inflammatory words and rhetoric.
  • We should not assign motives to others. Instead, we should assume that our family members, friends, and colleagues are speaking in good faith, even if we disagree with them.
  • We should listen carefully and respectfully to other people.
  • We should remember that we are members of a community, and we should try to strengthen our sense of community through the love and care we show one another.
  • We should be people who express our thoughts, opinions, and positions—but always in love and truth.

 

If we can model Christ’s love in our civil dialogue, we can begin to change the negative climate in our country during this election season, and beyond.

Increase our faith!


Going Deeper

As an individual and as a family, reflect on Pope Francis’ guidelines on dialogue and consider how you can put them into practice in your own conversations.

Encourage civil dialogue in your parish. Include the civil dialogue insert in your bulletins in English and Spanish.

Show the video reflections by Cardinal Wuerl and by Franciscan Media on civil dialogue at the end of Mass, in a place where parishioners gather, or as part of scheduled parish events

Always Walking, Always Acting with Justice

“Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain? He who walks without fault; he who acts with justice…” – Psalm 15:1-2

This past Friday, Monsignor Marvin A. Mottet, diocesan priest for the Diocese of Davenport, died peacefully. He was 86.

Monsignor Mottet established the Social Action Office in the Diocese of Davenport in 1969. Later, he served as the National Director of the Campaign for Human Development, which is now known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. He was instrumental in incubating four dozen projects which were spun off as autonomous service agencies still active today. He would walk with them to the point that they could do so on their own.

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In 2012, Msgr. Mottet received the Servant of Justice Award from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.

For the past seven years, while serving as the Director of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport, I have benefited greatly from Monsignor Mottet’s wisdom, from his written words and legacy, and from his personal mentoring.

Shortly after beginning, I familiarized myself with The Two Feet of Social Justice, created by Monsignor Mottet, now known by many more in the United States as the Two Feet of Love in Action. I first learned of the combination of charity and justice as Monsignor described and was empowered to share with parishes groups across the diocese. It might seem a simple model, but it is no less powerful. And folks have shown they can go from their experiences of providing for immediate needs to looking at ways to make systemic change.

And Monsignor Mottet supported and encouraged my development as a diocesan director by encouraging me to attend week-long, faith-based community organizer training. He stated his belief that every diocesan director should go through training in order to learn how to affect change, how to empower the disenfranchised, how to teach about power so that it is understood as meaning the ability to affect change. Learning about and in turn teaching others about the benefits of mutual self-interest is at its very core a means of showing dignity and respect to the life of the other, so very necessary in pursuing peace and justice.

Even during his last years, after he was no longer joining us on legislative visits, at rallies and protests, he still attended office team meetings, still wanted to get updates over meals. He continued on with phone calls and emails to elected officials on a variety of justice issues. And most importantly, he supported us and encouraged us on our team.

During his last few days, as people came to visit him, he began to leave each individual with a similar message; as long as you are breathing, use your power and do the work. It was never Monsignor’s work, but rather God’s work walking with both feet towards justice. To honor his legacy, we now continue our walk with his/our Two Feet.

Kent Ferris is Social Action and Catholic Charities Director in the Diocese of Davenport.


 

Msgr. Marv, Friend of the Poor, Companion to the Oppressed

Last week, like many people, I paused, shed a brief tear, offered a prayer, and then found myself with a big smile. So many people were saddened to hear of the death of Msgr. Marv Mottet, my predecessor as Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. I shed a tear at the loss of such a champion for the poor who worked most of his 86 years on behalf of those in need. He was always one with quick wit and charm. But he was also one who would swiftly challenge systems that oppressed and kept poor people down. His embrace of the Gospel was synonymous with his embrace of “the other.” He could not separate the two. Monsignor had a way of correcting, confronting and instructing a person in way that neither demeaned or degraded. I stand as a beneficiary of his strong affirmations and his quick and appropriate admonishments. He had a way of doing both with Christian love. His humility led him to live in Catholic Worker houses and homeless shelters, and to eat at soup kitchens; not because he couldn’t do better but because he placed high value of encountering the poor and looked for creative ways to embrace them and understand their stories.

He once shared with me that one of his proudest moments was when he had the audacity to invite Martin Luther King Jr. to receive the Diocese of Davenport’s Pacem in Terris Award. Msgr. Marv, in his humble manner, called up MLK, told him about the award and asked him when he would be arriving in Iowa to receive it. Dr. King, taken aback, told him that despite a busy schedule, he was honored. In a cassette tape Marv shared with me of the award presentation, Dr. King remarked “Who would believe that a Black Baptist minister named Martin Luther would be receiving an award from a Catholic priest?”

Upon hearing of Msgr. Marv’s death, I also had to smile. Just thinking of Marv’s smile, I could not help myself. Smiling within my grief. I recalled the joy he shared and the contagious laughter he so often freely offered. He has been a wonderful gift to me and countless others. I had to smile because I know what has been promised to those who live lives like Msgr. Marv Mottet. Those who care for the poor, those who pursue justice, those who walk humbly. Rest in Peace Msgr. Marvin Mottet, Good and Faithful Servant.

 

Ralph McCloud is Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A Public Witness for Peace in Our Community

 

ray-kelly1

Ray Kelly

It was already 90 degrees at 9:00 am on this Saturday morning, not the ideal day for a clean-up effort. The forecast was for a heat index of 115 that afternoon. None-the-less, we were on a mission and we had a job to do. I am the Co-Director of a community advocacy group in West Baltimore called the No Boundaries Coalition. We work to break down the boundaries of race, class and neighborhood within the eight diverse neighborhoods that surround Baltimore’s (in)famous Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our coalition came about when, after serving in just about every ministry in my parish since birth, St. Peter Claver/Pius V Catholic Church in the Sandtown/Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore, I realized that while the work we were doing in faith formation, evangelization, and youth outreach was important, it wasn’t necessarily bringing faith into dialogue with the root causes of issues that face our community. And, no one really believed in themselves; our community had lost hope.
nbc-intersection
Since then, St. Peter Claver/Pius V and the No Boundaries Coalition have worked to break down boundaries and build hope. After the riots which occurred after Freddie Gray’s death, we conducted a listening campaign because in the midst of the media attention, our residents didn’t feel heard or felt forgotten. We also created the West Baltimore commUNITY Commission to document instances of police misconduct and published a report that was later used by the Department of Justice in their investigation into policing in Baltimore. Recognizing that one reason our voices weren’t being heard was because of low voter turn-out, we launched a Get out the Vote effort, which we called “Double Up 21217”—which ended up recording the highest voter turnout in the history of polling place 015-018 (Gilmore Elementary School) in Sandtown/Winchester. At the same time, the Archdiocese of Baltimore created the Racial Justice Circle, which facilitated an open conversation about white privilege and systemic oppression. The parishes involved became some of our biggest supporters and volunteers and still are to this day.

nbc-greeningWhich leads us back to our clean-up effort on a too-hot day in July. By eleven thirty, the heat index was 100 degrees, and we had been through 160 trash bags, but our volunteers, social action team members, and Archdiocese Racial Justice Circle participants were working hard. We were out together, with brooms, shovels, trimmers and mowers, being “visible” and proving we are capable of changing things for the better. When our work was finally complete, we partied together like it was a family reunion. There was music, dancing and so much love in laughter, as we picnicked in a park that a few years ago was surrounded by vacant houses, and near corners that are usually overrun with drug activity. We felt proud that this was our home.

The by-product of all of these efforts is the re-introduction of hope in a community that gave it up decades ago. Once again, the power of God is igniting the power within our hearts and our community.

Ray Kelly is Co-Director of No Boundaries Coalition, in West Baltimore, and a life-long member of St. Peter Claver/Pius V Catholic Church.

Going Deeper
Learn more about efforts for peace in West Baltimore, including the work of St. Peter Claver/Pius V with No Boundaries Coalition, and Bishop Madden’s peace walks. Watch this recorded YouTube Live event about how three faith communities, including St. Peter Claver/Pius V, in West Baltimore, are taking action.

Visit the USCCB Racism page to find out more about how communities of faith can work together for peace and racial justice.

 

5 Ways You Can Cultivate Peace and Work for Racial Justice

USCCB president, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, recently announced a Day of Prayer for Peace in our Communities, to be celebrated in faith communities across the country on September 9.

In interviewing numerous faith communities in preparation for this day about their responses to violence, racial tensions, and systemic racism, we have encountered amazing stories of deep faith, persevering hope, and effective action to build peace and counter racism.

nbc1In West Baltimore, St. Peter Claver Catholic Church was on the front lines in responding to unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray. Parishioners continue to build on efforts begun four years ago to address neighborhood safety and improve community-police relations. They also participate in Bishop Madden’s prayer walks in neighborhoods plagued by violence.

In Ferguson, MO, parishioners at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are engaging a “Lean In” listening process across cultures and raising awareness about racial issues. Children at the parish school study saints of various cultures to reflect on how they can imitate these heroes by engaging in efforts for dialogue and peace. All around St. Louis, MO, parishes are joining with congregations of other denominations so that people of faith can have Sacred Conversations on Race (+ Action), which challenge participants to encounter one another and discuss the uncomfortable topic of racism.

In Dallas, TX, Holy Trinity Catholic Church is working with other faith groups to improve police-community relations and work on racial and economic justice. Because of the interfaith group members’ long work to build relationships with law enforcement, Holy Trinity and others were prepared to respond immediately when the recent shooting of police offices occurred. They now seek to address problems with housing, healthcare access, and payday lending that are connected to racial disparity.

Other stories of hope abound—in Minneapolis, New Orleans, Savannah, Springfield, and countless other cities.

If you feel as inspired by these stories as we do, then take that as a sign of encouragement from the Holy Spirit to discern how your own community might be called to respond.

Here’s how you can get started.

  1. Pray Together. Use these prayers from the USCCB during Eucharistic celebrations. Gather to pray and reflect. Many faith communities are using the bishops’ letters on Brothers and Sisters to Us and What We’ve Seen and What We’ve Heard, as well as Bishop Braxton’s The Racial Divide, as starting points for reflection and discussion. You can access all of these on the USCCB racism page as well as a video, other reflections materials, and more. The WeAreSaltAndLight.org diversity and racial justice page also contains some excellent resources for reflection.
  2. Reach Out Together. Create intentional opportunities for members of your faith community to listen to the stories and experiences of people of ethnicities, languages, and cultures different from their own. This resource on Building Relationships, Creating a Culture of Encounter through One-to-Ones can help guide your efforts for encounter. Another fantastic resource for facilitating encounter between different ethnic groups within a faith community is PICO’s Year of Encounter with Pope Francis program.
  3. Bring what you’ve learned through reaching out to pray and reflect on the hard questions. Gather with other representatives, including decision makers, in your faith community and ask the hard questions: Does the leadership of our institution reflect the diversity of those we serve? Are the many faces of the diverse body of Christ represented in decision-making processes? How are we inviting and forming leaders? Who is missing around the table? In our worship together, and in activities of our community, do we cultivate welcome, hospitality, and participation for people of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds? How do we invite our members to reflect about and understand racism? Privilege? The dignity of all people? Whose untold story do we need to listen to? Are we preaching on, and praying together about, these difficult issues? How are we currently working to change perspectives and address the causes of racism?
  4. Learn Together. Make an effort to learn more about racial disparities and the causes of racial tension. Learn about the historical struggle for racial justice in the United States and some of the challenges that remain. In recent years, there has been ample media coverage on disparities in education, housing, employment, the justice system, and other areas. Use the Process for Group Discernment to draw from your experiences of prayer, reflection, encounter, and study to discern what action the Holy Spirit might be calling you to take as a community.
  5. Act Together. Some of the faith communities highlighted above chose to reach across faith traditions, joining ecumenical and interfaith efforts to work together on racial and economic justice. You can discover what efforts might already be happening in your community at the PovertyUSA.org website. Other communities felt called to commit to practical changes in the ways they practice hospitality, cultivate leaders, and celebrate cultural traditions. Others are just beginning, but are engaging in important encounter and dialogue that can lay the groundwork for future efforts.

What is the Holy Spirit calling you to do, together with your family, neighborhood, parish, school, or other faith community? What will be your first step?

I don’t know how I feel . . .

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Today, as usual, I stopped by my local coffee shop where the friendly, courteous barista asked me, as she does every day, “How do you feel?”

I blurted out my routine, perfunctory, usual, everyday customary response: “Fine, and you?”

I walked out and pondered the lie. . . . I wasn’t fine. In fact, I don’t know how I feel. I returned to the coffee shop and spent an hour talking with her. Neither of us was “fine.”

After the recent killing of those sworn to protect and serve in Dallas AND the killing by  those sworn to protect and serve in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Ferguson, and so many other cities… I honestly don’t know or understand this feeling. It has gone beyond sadness, gone beyond disgust, gone beyond anger, beyond sorrow, beyond fear. This feeling for me and for so many others is new, yet to be defined or given a name.

Angrily, I am prepared to answer the standard litany of questions from folks about the victims:

“Why didn’t he just not resist?”

“Did he have an arrest record?”

“Did he have a job?”

“Was he married to his children’s mother?”

“Why aren’t you as upset when it is ‘black on black’ murder?”

“If the officers are guilty, why are there never any convictions?”

“Were the officers white?”

“Was the sniper black?”

“Was he connected to any ‘terrorist’ movements?”

ENOUGH!

Sadly, more people are killed. More people not going home for dinner tonight or ever again.

Police officers who overwhelmingly help us sleep comfortably at night and are often times underappreciated were senselessly killed as they protected folk who voiced displeasure and concern about the killing of young men around the country.

Earlier this week, we witnessed yet again young African American men killed at the hands of a system that is paid for and sanctioned by our tax dollars or by society. Young lives and children of God also taken too soon. Lives that have dignity, persons who by U.S. legal standards are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, the lives of those shot dead in inner cities are just as valued, just as precious. Life matters. For urban youth, for law enforcement, for us.

… I don’t know how I feel . . . perhaps a bit guilty for still being here, as an African-American male who has also, like so many other persons of color, looked down at an un-holstered revolver during a traffic stop. For some reason, I and the persons traveling with me were spared. I don’t know how I feel.

… I don’t know how I feel as I joyfully celebrate progress while simultaneously sadly lamenting regress. Poverty, crime, unemployment, environmental racism, and despair flourish throughout the country, yet disproportionately in black and brown communities.

…I don’t know how I feel. I have so many good friends in law enforcement, mostly in North Texas, including Dallas, who are experiencing intense pain, and feeling vulnerable and exposed as they protect and serve with dignity and professionalism.

… I don’t know how I feel when folks still find comfort in asking the same old, tired questions that seem to comfort and appease their consciences and not address the problems.

I feel confused as we chalk this one up and wait for the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one. The next government sanctioned, gang related, rage-filled, terroristic, domestic violence, or mental illness caused- killing of another of our brothers, our sisters, our children . . . and then wait on the next one.

There will be vigils, prayers, protests, and screams of anguish, trials, and tons of tears but will there be change?

I don’t know how I feel . . . hopeless, in despair, weak, I just want to just sleep, but can’t. Because to use the mantra of the new movement, I have to “stay woke”. To heed the words of Pope Francis, “Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armour’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” To heed the words in Matthew 26:52: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

I don’t know how I feel, but I feel like there has to be a better way.

A retired prison warden friend of mine reminded me that on most prison yards, there are no guns. Prison guards don’t have them and yet they figure out a way to take down the most hardened criminals without shooting or killing them.

Sometimes I feel like giving up but then I remember that anti-violence and restorative justice efforts are steadfast and aren’t giving up despite overwhelming odds. Fr. Michael Pfleger and the faithful around St. Sabina’s Catholic Church in Chicago are not giving up. The California Catholic Conference is not giving up. Rev. Michael McBride and the dedicated folks in the Live Free Movement aren’t giving up. Despite all, folks aren’t giving up!

I feel encouraged by this new movement of young folk of all races that seem to have more energy, more clarity, and more optimism than movements of the past. For the most part, they are peaceful and determined.  They are not giving up.

I thank God that I can still feel … feel for Dallas AND Minnesota AND Baton Rouge AND…

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


 

Suffering With Others for the Sake of Truth and Justice

Maria Cintorino, Education and Outreach Intern

Maria Cintorino, Education and Outreach Intern

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his message to the Mexican Bishops in 2005 that “it is necessary not only to relieve the greatest needs but to go to their roots, proposing measures that will give social, political and economic structures a more equitable and solidaristic configuration.”

A few weeks ago, my fellow CCHD interns and I had the opportunity to visit a parish that has taken these words to heart. Saint Camillus serves a diverse community of around 4,500 each Sunday who come from over 100 countries.

Franciscans staff the parish and have attended to the spiritual and social needs of the community since 1984.

Just last year Saint Camillus parish made the decision to join Action in Montgomery (AIM), an organization that has received funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), and which encourages residents in impoverished or low-income neighborhoods to transform their communities. With AIM’s help, Fr. Jacek Orzechowski and a team of parishioners went door-to-door in the surrounding neighborhood to listen to the community.

They soon learned that residents of Northwest Park Apartments, a large complex near the parish, are experiencing high rent, black mold, infestations of mice and bed bugs, and broken laundry facilities. Despite complaints from the tenants, management has failed to fix any of these problems. Residents reported that if they persistently asked for any of these issues to be resolved, management threatened to discontinue that their leases. Residents fear that they will become homeless.

Many residents of Northwest Park are low-income families. Apartments there cost about $1,800 per month, or $21,600 per year. With the average family living in Northwest Park earning about $25,000 per year, two or three families sometimes share one apartment to afford the cost.

The exploitation of the tenants by the management insults the dignity of the tenant and of us all. Saint John Paul II, quoting Gaudium et Spes in Evangelium Vitae, rightly speaks of subhuman human living conditions as “infamies.” Whoever insults human dignity, he writes, poisons human society. When we neglect to care for our neighbors, or treat them in ways which degrade their inherent dignity bestowed by God, we offend God, in whose image our neighbors are created.

When the sacredness of human life is violated, our proper response should be “to suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves—these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself” (Spe Salvi). The ability to suffer with another and to become an advocate for another is part of our Christian duty.

Fr. Jacek and lay leaders in the parish seek to suffer with others for the sake of truth and justice, as they work with their tenant neighbors to improve conditions at Northwest Park Apartments. Their example recalls the words of Saint Paul: “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” Supported by Saint Camillus and other community institutions that have joined the struggle, the tenants are now standing up for their own dignity.

Hearing and seeing the work of Saint Camillus with AIM at the beginning of my internship was a tremendous blessing. Their commitment to defending human dignity is inspiring and exemplifies the complimentary roles of evangelization and social justice. The example of Saint Camillus further fuels my passion to defend and to protect man’s inherent dignity given by God, and to educate others about social justice issues in their own communities. This visit has encouraged me to learn about groups such as AIM who are making a difference in my own community and to further explore how our political, economic, and social structures can be improved in the fight for Truth and Justice.

Maria Cintorino is the education and outreach summer intern at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. She currently teaches at a Catholic school in Northern Virginia.


Go Deeper!

This year, 29 Catholic emerging leaders are serving in dioceses around the country in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) Internship Program.  Applications to the program are accepted annually, beginning in January.

Inspiring Students to Transform Themselves and the World

At Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, everything we do springs forth from a foundation of love–love for each other; love of knowledge, service, and God; and love for the world. For the past twenty years we were blessed to have a colleague, Kevin Duffy, who would often remind us, “We are not educating the girls for college; we are educating them for heaven.”

This articulates a value that we all share: we are not teaching individual subjects alone; we are always teaching, according to our mission, inspiring students “to lead and serve, through lives of purpose that integrate faith, intellect, community, social action, and personal growth.” As we think about how to form our students “in accord with human reason and the teaching of the Church,” we are guided by the call of our foundress, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, to “Repay our God love for love, heart for heart.”

Our love and faith are made manifest through the Social Action program, with twelve Wednesdays a year devoted to social justice and service. The program’s mission states, “Through preparation, action, and reflection, Social Action cultivates critical consciousness of issues of justice, inculcates a life-long commitment to service, and develops students’ potential for leadership in building and maintaining just partnerships.”

These are lofty goals for a high school, and yet through our focus on solidarity and seeing God in those we serve, we have crafted a model that works. We introduce students to real world challenges and offer them the space to apply and reflect on what they are learning.

This year’s Social Action theme is “Profiling Peacebuilders.” For our Wednesday on “Peacemaking and Poverty,” we brought in a speaker who had worked directly with Mother Teresa.  Then the students spent most of the day doing service with one of our partner organizations in the greater D.C. area. When they returned to campus, they worked in their student-led reflection groups, engage in an online poverty simulation, in which participants are asked to make the choices of those living in poverty, and reflecting in their journals. Beyond the Social Action day itself, some students participated in a county-wide interfaith coalition advocating for affordable housing and after school programs. This is one example of how through Social Action, students are able to connect Catholic social teaching to what they are experiencing in the classroom, seeing in their communities, and hearing on the news.

Our goal is to inspire and encourage students to transform themselves and the world around them. One student recently described the impact of the program stating, “Social Action forces people to think bigger, to relate to global issues, and encounter injustices that put many of our own daily struggles to shame. Most importantly, Social Action requires that we identify ourselves as agents of change in not only our immediate community, but also the global community.”

Our students are positing in their own way what Maya Angelou once wrote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Through Social Action, we empower students to be their best selves. We are educating them for heaven.

Lauren BrownleeLauren Brownlee is Director of Social Action and U.S. History Teacher at Stone Ridge School of Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.


Go Deeper!

Get Catholic Social Teaching learning activities, such as the CST Timeline Activity, the Biblical Justice Challenge, and more at WeAreSaltAndLight.org

 

Laudato Si’ at Ascension: Promoting Care for Creation

sun-hat-957895_1920Pope Francis’ visionary ecological encyclical, written to the people of the world, energized this environmental and peace and justice activist in a dynamic way. He reminds us that care for the earth and people who are poor is our duty, rooted in solidly Catholic social teaching.  Pope Francis and Laudato Si’ inspired me so much that I came back to my parish to support and lead new environmental efforts.

It’s a lot of time and work, yet there’s no work more important for the planet. Now we have a visionary encyclical to back us up!  At Ascension Parish in Oak Park, Illinois, we formed the Honoring Our Mother Earth (HOME) green team as an outgrowth of our long-standing and active Peace and Justice ministry. HOME’s vision and actions are a perfect way to care for Creation, our common home.

We scattered seeds to see what would take root and blossom. Here are some of the strategies our 27-member HOME team engaged in: Continue reading

Corpus Christi: The Eucharist Opens Our Eyes to the Body of Christ

Rev. Graham Golden, O. Praem.

Rev. Graham Golden, O. Praem.

When I was seven years old, I asked if I could become a Catholic. What captured my heart and imagination at such a young age was the Eucharist; the idea that the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ was physically present here and now in our midst. The celebration of Corpus Christi has held the devotion of the faithful since the feast was instituted in our liturgical calendar in the 13th century. Given that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our life, this should be no surprise.  However, the power of this feast to motivate us toward transforming our world is often hidden amidst the ritual of this devotion. This celebration holds personal significance for me not only as a Norbertine priest, but as a social worker as well.

Our tradition’s understanding of the Body of Christ is centered in our sacramental encounter, but it does not stop there. We speak of the mystical Body of Christ as the Church, as the assembly of baptized believers. We also see the presence of Christ clearly defined in our tradition as in those experiencing poverty, oppression, suffering, and marginalization. We hear this from Christ himself in Matthew 25: “whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.” This sense of the presence of Christ has also been strongly emphasized by saints and mystics over the centuries, from John Chrysostom to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Our sacramental experience of the Body and Blood of Christ is just the beginning. It becomes the window that moves our hearts and minds to yearn more deeply to know that same Christ who not only gave himself for us, but desires to be taken in by us so that we may come to share most deeply in Him. The pageantry, ritual, and exaltation of the presence of the Holy that we see in our liturgies, processions, and adoration surrounding this feast are what express for us the honor and dignity to be shown toward God’s tangible presence in our midst.  This should open our eyes to then want to seek that presence in all of life—in the community we know to be Christ’s mystical Body, and in those who seem to be at the peripheries.

When I find myself struggling to respond with compassion, patience, or mercy in my ministries, I come back to the Blessed Sacrament. I remind myself of what it is to encounter our Risen Lord in a clear and knowable way. From there I can go forth, and remember that that is the same Lord I am encountering in my sisters and brothers in Christ, and in those I serve—be it formally as clients in an agency, or simply those in need who cross my path.

More so than my individual interactions, to encounter the profound unity that Christ calls us to as members of his Body, inspires me to see injustices, discrimination, and oppression not just as social ills but as violence against the will of God. If we wish to live the dignity of the sacrament we celebrate so fervently, then we must struggle to overcome the divisions and fractures that exist within God’s family.

When we come to know the power and majesty of Christ in the Sacrament, we come to see more clearly the imperative to uphold that same dignity present to us through those who suffer. When we can come to respond well to one another in our needs, struggles, and injustices, we come to see more clearly the Body of Christ who we are formed to be through Jesus’ self-gift to us on the altar.

Rev. Graham Golden, O. Praem. is a member of the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey in Albuquerque New Mexico. He currently serves as the Coordinator of Program Development, Evaluation, and Research for the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.


Go Deeper!

Reflect further on Christ’s presence in the Church community, his body with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ series on Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples.