The Young Leaders Initiative at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering was created to give a voice to the emerging leaders doing important works of justice around the country. The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering recognizes the critical role young leaders play in shaping the future of the Church and thus wants to provide both space and a training ground for the next generation of leaders to hone their skills, make connections with others, and deepen their understanding of the ways Catholic Social Teaching informs anti-poverty work in the Church.
As a campus minister at The Ohio State University, I brought a group of students to the Young Leaders Initiative at the 2018 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. My students and I were able to leverage that experience to have a profound impact on their work back on campus. Check out some of the ways the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) can be a touchstone for you, your students, and your leadership organizations to move from passionate understanding to concrete action.
1) Deepen your commitment to justice: Finding and connecting with peers from colleges and universities across the country is a powerful motivator for students. It’s helpful to know that they aren’t the only ones struggling to make their voices heard or make a difference in their community. Right then and there at CSMG students are empowered to make their voices heard in the halls of Congress to protect and support people suffering the impacts of poverty and injustice. Mary Chudy, a 2018 Young Leaders Initiative (YLI) participant from The Ohio State University wrote, “CSMG showed me that a student's voice mattered to legislators. I had never done a full legislative visit before (especially not in D.C.). Being in Columbus, it especially showed me how imperative it was for me to be more involved with advocacy and legislative visits, and that my story mattered. It was also a great opportunity to interact with and advocate alongside inspirational advocates of peace and justice from both the national and international spheres. It gave me lots of creative ways to approach further programming on my own campus, through being part of the leadership team for the CRS Student Ambassador Chapter on Ohio State's campus. CSMG gave me the tools and connections I needed to create impactful programming for entire Newman Center community, including a social justice-centered Stations of the Cross, Simple Solidarity Meals, and a Candlelight Vigil on the evening of Holy Thursday in solidarity with migrants and refugees.”
2) Making connections is key: CSMG provides opportunities to make long-lasting, professional connections that can go on to benefit both students and campus ministers alike. Because of the wide variety of Catholic organizations all present at CSMG, students have the opportunity to see the many ways there are to put faith into action and effect real change in local and national organizations. Learning about the breadth and depth of the Catholic Church’s commitment to putting Catholic Social Teaching into practice is like adding fuel to the fire for students already committed to justice. Introducing the systems and organizations by which we put the Gospel call into action, is a powerful tool in connecting the teachings of Jesus to the work we do every day.
3) Engage in our call to ADVOCACY: This one is so important it warrants ALL CAPS. Doing the work of charity and direct service is obviously important. But we are called to more. The invaluable advocacy training that happens at CSMG puts a frame around the Gospel call to justice. Justice requires we speak out against systems of oppression. At CSMG our voices are awakened and re-energized to utilize this opportunity to share the stories we’ve heard and the experiences of poverty and injustice we know firsthand. We are given both the tools to lobby and the time to meet with our legislators and implore them to make some important changes. Despite the cynicism about government today, constituent visits and calls still make up the most important factors for legislators making a decision on a bill. This is a real tool where students can learn by doing and a central part of CSMG is mentoring others into this role. Imagine the impact you could have on your local legislators after opening the door to advocacy.
4) Takeaways for your ministry: Do you have a project you want to launch this year? CSMG will give you the space, time, and tools to craft the why and how of launching a new project. On Ohio State’s campus, we saw several new initiatives grow out of the work we started together at CSMG. Cella Masso-Rivetti, an Ohio State student leader states: "Sending several of our Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering as part of the Young Leader Initiative bolstered our chapter's confidence and dedication to bringing social justice to campus. Through Lent of 2018, our group worked to bring our Newman Center and Ohio State campus community to a close encounter with our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. After Holy Thursday Mass, our chapter led a Vigil Walk, in which we held placards with the message ‘We Stand With Our Brothers and Sisters who are Refugees and Immigrants’ and carried candles through the dark in a solemn procession around campus. CSMG gave our chapter the social justice expertise, tools, and support to carry out this event and other events aimed at Lenten Encounter through the semester." Interested in learning more about YLI and CSMG 2019 in general? Check out this webpage learn more and complete the interest form. Scholarships are also available for students from diverse communities through our Diversity Outreach Initiative. Contact Emily Schumacher-Novak (email@example.com) for more information!
Austin Schafer serves as Pastoral Associate for Campus Ministry at St. Thomas More Newman Center on The Ohio State University’s campus. He is also the co-chair for the Young Leaders Initiative at the 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. Austin wrote about how influential attending CSMG was for his student leaders on campus.