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High school engages students in nonviolent peacemaking

Through required courses, skills building, and a peace club, we help students develop strategies for nonviolence.
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At our high school, Gonzaga College High School, in Washington, DC, we help equip students with practical skills to become the peacemakers that Jesus called “blessed” (Mt. 5:9). In some of our required courses, on Ethics and Social Justice, we educate about the long Catholic tradition around nonviolent peacemaking and building a just peace. We provide practical contemporary examples of effective nonviolence as part of the civil rights movement, restorative justice, Amish nonviolent response to a violent attack, and others. We emphasize that loving our neighbors entails concrete strategies and we work to equip students with tools to use in their personal lives to de-escalate conflict, prevent date rape, and engage in bystander intervention.  Our Gonzaga Peace Club has brought speakers to campus from Palestine and other countries where groups of people have resisted peacefully in the context of institutionalized violence. Our club also engages students in advocacy on immigration and other issues. Our school recently participated in a joint conference on justice and peacemaking skills with other area Catholic high schools. 


 

Schools unite for life and justice

Our diocese's Catholic high schools formed a network to learn, collaborate and advocate together on issues of human life, dignity, justice and peace.
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In the Diocese of Cleveland, students and educators from our Catholic high schools learn and collaborate together on issues of life and justice through our Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice (CSPJ) network. Each October, we celebrate Respect Life Month with a Mass followed by public witness downtown around issues such as abortion, the death penalty, peace, disability, and poverty. Our annual Summit each April focuses on topics such as immigration, trafficking, refugees, and fair trade and includes opportunities for advocacy and response. High school and students collaborate on planning, and all 20 high schools in the diocese participate, with 500+ students regularly participating in our major events.  We regularly host speakers and other educational events and have brought students to the state capitol to speak with elected officials about issues of life and dignity. Since CSPJ was formed in 2002, it has become an essential vehicle for teachers, campus ministers, and students to share ideas, build relationship, and live our common Catholic mission. 



 

Reflecting on racism, affirming the dignity of all God's children

Our youth and adult formation efforts include reflection on the bishops' writings on racism, and help parishioners affirm the dignity of all God's children.
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At Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church, in Savannah, GA, we seek to be a faith community that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of all God’s children. Our catechists help our young people reflect on their own experiences of racism in light of Catholic teaching about the dignity of every person. We practice dialogue and assist students to resolve differences in ways that affirm one others’ dignity. In our youth and adult formation efforts, we use the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter on racism, Brothers and Sisters to Us, as well as What We Have Seen and Heard and Bishop Braxton’s The Racial Divide in the United States. We incorporate reflection about racism and the dignity of all God’s children into our homilies and into the Prayer of the Faithful. We encourage families to pray the bishops’ "God of the Journey" prayer. Our parish’s hospitality ministry seeks to ensure that every person—parishioner or visitor—feels welcome at the Eucharistic celebration. We also work to ensure that parishioners of any ethnicity feel at home in our parish, which is majority African American. On Pentecost, we have a multi-cultural celebration at which we share foods from many traditions important to our parishioners. In response to the recent violence in many communities around the country, two religious sisters who are members of our parish are now spearheading an "Undoing Racism" committee in the Savannah Deanery, which will help us to further engage in conversation around racial justice.

 

Parish forms green teams in response to Laudato Si'

We are forming green teams to help individuals and the institutions we belong to so that we can better care for people and the environment.

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Inspired by Pope Francis’ call to care for God’s creation in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, our parish, Ascension Church, in Oak Park, Illinois, hosted a Regional Archdiocesan Interfaith Green Team Training. With the help of community organizations, we held a training that explored Pope Francis’ message on the environment, and what the parish can do to reduce its carbon footprints and promote sustainability. We are working to create green teams in parishes and other faith institutions and educate our community on how we impact people and the environment on both an institutional and individual level. We are also involved in advocacy on legislation regarding fossil fuels and renewable energy, following the lead of the U.S. Catholic bishops. As Pope Francis noted in Laudato Si’, now is the time to change habits that harm our planet and the people who live in it, whether it is in our homes or around the country or the world.

 

Eliminating Barriers for Formerly Incarcerated Members of Our Community

After learning about barriers faced by our formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters, we entered into dialogue which led to action.

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As in many other states, formerly incarcerated persons in Ohio have long experienced discrimination when applying for jobs. When our parish, Nativity of Our Lord, learned about the barriers to employment and societal re-entry that face many of our formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters, we decided to get involved. We worked with the Vincentian Reentry Organizing Project, an effort funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and the Archdiocesan Dismas Journey Task Force, to arrange a dialogue between parish members and formerly incarcerated members of our community. As we learned more about the difficulties they face, and inspired by Christ’s vision of mercy and forgiveness in the U.S. bishops' statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration, we focused our attention on “banning the box” in the state of Ohio. The “box” refers to a question on job applications about prior convictions—a question which makes it almost impossible for formerly incarcerated individuals to find work. Having learned so much from our own community dialogue, we arranged a luncheon where formerly incarcerated community members shared with elected officials about their experiences. We are pleased to report that as a result of our work and that of others, Ohio has now become the 17th state to ban the box for state-level jobs! We’re hoping to have it expanded to all local governments by the end of the year.

 

Art in action! Youth use art to fight landmines

Inspired by Pslam 34:15, we created a student club that works to end the use of landmines and cluster bombs.

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In 1999, our art teacher gave students an assignment to create an art project which educates about a global issue.  Inspired by Psalm 34:15 (“Seek peace and pursue it.”) the students chose “landmines” and learned about how children—often the most vulnerable in society—are victims of landmines and cluster bombs. The students created a student group called PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs. Over 15 years later, students at our school are still working to educate other students and the larger community about the dangers of landmines and cluster bombs and prevent future casualties. We make posters, hold awareness days and do presentations in our school, community and state on this issue. We believe that our faith calls us to seek peace and to advocate on behalf of children who suffer around the world because of landmines.

 

Teens put Catholic social teaching in action at youth retreat

Teens in our diocese gather at a retreat to do service and explore the root causes of problems facing the community.

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The Catholics in Action retreat program in the Diocese of Davenport helps our youth share God’s love with others. During three-day retreats, teams of high school students from parishes in our Diocese pray, learn, and
reflect on the Church’s social mission. We explore the root causes of social issues, learn what is happening in our own communities, and participate in service projects. For example, participants learned how one local agency assists workers who have been victims of wage theft. The retreats help us get to know teenagers in other parishes as we put our faith into action.

 

St. Vincent de Paul Society empowers people in poverty to collaborate and advocate

We empower people living in poverty to change the systems that keep them in poverty.

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Inspired by the vision of the founders of the Vincentian lay movement, our local chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the St. Francis Conference, pursues not only direct service to those who are poor, but also advocacy to root out the systematic causes of poverty. We recently helped organize and sponsor the Newark Think Tank on Poverty.  At the Think Tank, people who are living in poverty come together to talk about the issues in the community which are keeping them in poverty. Together we discuss the problems and their causes and plan local advocacy efforts to address issues such as discrimination towards those who have been convicted of felonies and deficiencies in services offered to those in substance abuse recovery. People involved with the Think Tank are welcomed into our community and empowered to change the systems that keep them in poverty. We are also learning the true meaning of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ, working together to live our Gospel call.

 

University helps students address community-identified needs and initiate social change

Our students integrate their learning about Catholic social thought with local and global participation in social justice initiatives that support community-led solutions to local and global problems.

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By integrating classroom learning with community-identified needs, our students at St. Thomas University have been able to enhance their learning while putting Catholic social thought into action for a better world. Through our Center for Community Engagement, the university’s teaching and research resources help support social-justice initiatives in a concrete way. Locally, students take ethics, theology and social science classes that provide research assistance to People Acting for Community Together (PACT) a group that receives funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Regionally, our students apply Catholic social thought to immigration and farm labor issues through courses partnering with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Finally, our relationship with Catholic Relief Services has led to students working internationally through internships and courses that support long-term, locally-led economic development projects in Miami’s sister-diocese of Port-de-Paix, Haiti. These projects and more help students realize their Gospel-inspired ability to initiate social change.

 

Practicing solidarity and sustainability through CRS Rice Bowl

We used CRS Rice Bowl to pray and learn about global poverty, and a Rice Bowl grant to create a parish garden.

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Our parish uses CRS Rice Bowl during Lent to engage our community—including our youth group, religious education programs, and families—in praying and learning about global poverty and then practicing almsgiving as an expression of our solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world.  And in praying, learning, and giving, we were also able to act. We used a grant from the CRS Rice Bowl program to create a parish garden which produces fresh, organic vegetables. Our parishioners work in the garden and share the harvest with St. Vincent de Paul programs which help those in need.

 

Dayton students do social analysis, theological reflection

Our students learn and serve in our local community and reflect on Midwest urban social issues.
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Every Fall Break at the University of Dayton, fifty to sixty of our students spend four days learning about and serving in the city of Dayton. We meet our community neighbors and learn about the assets in Dayton (such as arts/cultural, parks, athletics, neighborhoods, and social services) and how, with students' help, those assets are helping solve the city's typical Midwest urban problems. Dayton's civic leaders come in the evenings to speak to the students, which provides rich opportunities for the students to engage in social analysis and theological reflection.

 

Solidarity festival connects students with workers' rights

Our students helped plan a Solidarity Day to educate about workers' rights and economic justice.
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Our university’s multi-year relationship with the Don Bosco Workers, a local organization funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, has helped our school, Saint John’s University (SJU), live out our Vincentian charism. By connecting with this ground-up community organizing group that advocates for worker and economic justice, we have brought our commitment to charity and justice into the classroom. Workers visit with theology students, engaging them around issues of wage theft and worker justice. In 2016, students and workers participated in a full day  Solidarity Festival, including a panel on wage theft, social justice artwork, fair trade, SJU CRS Ambassadors, and GLOBE, SJU’s academic program on microfinancing.  The day ended with a Mass for worker justice. 

 

Teens educate parish, sell fair trade products

Through a fair trade coffeehouse event and music artist contest, we educated our parish about fair trade and offered just purchasing choices.
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During Advent, our parish, Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, FL, offered a fair trade coffeehouse event for the whole parish and wider community utilizing free materials found at ethicaltrade.crs.org. The day included a sale of fresh-brewed and bagged coffee, chocolate and handcrafts, all fair trade certified, and all of which make great Christmas presents. We taught teens ahead of time about fair trade, and had them run the program from the stage, educating those present on Catholic social teaching, fair trade, and Catholic Relief Services. We used many CRS resources, including videos and presentations (“From Crop to Cup” is a great demonstration of how fair trade works and why it matters). We hosted a Catholic music artist concert the same night to encourage people to learn about and buy fair trade products.

 

Refugee simulation helps students encounter, learn, and advocate

Our students created a simulation to learn about the experience of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America.
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Our Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors developed a program called Refugees Seeking Safety to help our Cabrini University community learn about the experience of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. As participants take on the background of a young refugee attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, they experience the difficulties faced. Throughout the simulation we discuss the causes of current youth migration, and we explore the reality of detention, deportation, and family reunification. After the simulation, using a Catholic social teaching framework, we invite participants to reflect on and pray for the young migrants and for wisdom on how to respond to the complex situation. Finally, we offer participants opportunities to advocate for policy change to assist Central American countries to improve socioeconomic conditions, and to create more just and dignified treatment of unaccompanied minors in our own country. We have also begun using the simulation model to educate our community about climate change and Syrian refugees.

 

Students support worker-owned coop, gain hands-on experience

Our university community assists a local cooperative, offering an  important venue for students to put faith in action.
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In a neighborhood near our university that was experiencing high rates of unemployment, Xavier University professors worked with a local organization, Interfaith Business Builders (IBB). One of IBB’s projects was a worker-owned cooperative coffee shop, Community Blend, that opened in May 2014 near our campus, which is in Cincinnati, OH. The Catholic bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development helped fund the shop's opening. Since then, we have continued to build on this relationship by providing  assistance to an important community effort, while also providing valuable hands-on experience to students. For example, as part of a capstone course for seniors studying communications, students created a strategic communications plan for the new business.  Sustainability professors also created a new capstone course that met in the community and integrated Community Blend workers into the course work. For their projects, students assisted cooperative initiatives, including Community Blend, with market research, understanding the customer base, and developing marketing strategies. This involvement provided opportunities for important classroom discussion about Catholic social teaching, race, class, African-American economic history, and local-global connections.

 

Helping Clergy Protect Workers' Rights

We are working to help clergy respond to labor issues in the contest of Catholic social teaching.
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In our Archdiocese, a group of eight priests who have been active in labor issues, along with lay leaders, have formed a committee to help equip clergy to respond to labor issues in the context of Catholic social teaching. The committee focuses on issues that affect our parishioners in the Archdiocese of Portland, such as minimum wage laws, wage theft and the right of workers to organize. These “labor priests” and lay leaders have created parish resources on these issues, and lead continuing education sessions for clergy and the faithful. They also participate in the planning of the annual Faith-Labor Breakfast, and our committee priests will soon begin regularly speaking at Vicariate meetings to help ensure that clergy have the tools to respond to Catholic teaching on work.  At our Archdiocese’s October Clergy Convocation, the committee priests will share the Church’s teaching on labor and the ways in which the dignity of workers is violated in our communities. Some of our priests have mediated between employers and employees; our team of priests is available to act as mediators to help our parishes and fellow clergy.

 

Training future priests to be witnesses of Christ's justice

Our seminary has a social justice committee and an annual social justice theme, and works to form priests for mission in a variety of ways.
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Our seminary helps our seminarians become leaders who work for social justice. With the help of spiritual and other resources of the Sulpician order, which runs Theological College, our seminarians created their own student-led Social Justice Committee (SJC). The SJC meets once a month to discuss the social justice issues of concern to the seminarians and to plan events and action to address those concerns. Each semester, we also bring in a speaker to inform our seminarians about current social injustices and call them to action. Additionally, each school year, we have a social justice theme for the seminary. One recent year, the theme was "Intercultural Communion and Immigration" and we sent two seminarians to a Mass on the U.S.-Mexico border to pray for greater compassion and hospitality in our country, and for immigration reform. The seminarians had the opportunity to encounter and walk with people on both sides of the border who have experienced suffering because of our broken immigration system. When they returned, they shared their experience with the whole Theological College community so that we could take part in the experience of solidarity as well. Our seminarians participate in a variety of other activities for human life and dignity. For example, seminarians participate each year in the National Vigil for Life and the March for Life. Theological College strives to form priests who will preach and witness to the Christ’s call to care for the most vulnerable.

 

Youth put faith in action through global solidarity

Our bilingual youth event included prayer and activities to help youth reflect on the challenges for people their age in other parts of the world.
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We coordinated a bilingual “Live Faith”/”Viva la Fe” event for 275 middle school students in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. We used activities from Catholic Relief Services to challenge the youth to grow in their awareness of life and challenges for middle school youth in other parts of the world. One activity allowed for quiet reflection and response; another was a giant global solidarity board game; another allowed youth to progress through decision making that led to hypothetical life outcomes; and the most popular session focused on the difficulty many global populations have in obtaining water for family life. Lunch was also a learning activity in which students were assigned one of three lunch menus based on ratios of people in poverty worldwide. In response to a challenging talk by Archbishop García-Siller, parish youth groups then worked to plan future activities for action. The day ended with adoration and prayer.

 

Catholic institutions bring faith to the public square to help communities confront pay day lending

We engage community organizations in advocating for pay day lending reform in the state of Texas.
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After hearing from Catholic Charities agencies in our state that predatory payday lenders were wreaking havoc on many low-income communities in Texas, we at the Texas Catholic Conference (TCC) convened leaders from parishes, Catholic Charities agencies, and community organizations to respond. We first conducted listening sessions, interviews, and surveys with people impacted in order to better understand the problem. Next, we developed a “Pay Day Road Show” to educate and engage those at risk of being victimized by payday lenders. Implementing the show helped us to develop a strong state-wide coalition. Coalition members were able to bring our findings and stories to a roundtable discussion with the director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is now in the process of issuing rules on payday and auto-title lenders. We also engaged in advocacy around payday lending throughout the state, which led to the passage of ordinances in dozens of cities and towns, including Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. We continue to work to engage and educate legislators in our state about payday lending and its harmful impacts.

 

School engages community in fair trade

With help from CRS, we educated our community about fair trade, solidarity, and respect for human life and dignity.
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Through Legacy Leaders, a student-based service group at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we were able to partner with CRS to establish a fair trade program in our school. First, staff and students worked together to host an assembly that included skits describing the harsh working conditions that farmers and other workers experience throughout the world, and how fair trade can help. We sold fair trade products, such as Christmas decorations, crosses, and jewelry, at our school and parish during our annual holiday craft show. Our teachers used the weekly materials and prayers provided by CRS to incorporate fair trade education into lesson plans in our religion classes and engaged students in conversation about solidarity and respect for the life and dignity of the human person.


 

Students form relationships to humanize justice issues; learn about charity and justice

Our international and domestic spring break trips emphasize prayer, learning and the need for both charity and justice.

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At the University Parish Newman Center at Kent State, our students participate in international and domestic alternative spring break trips that help us discover the need for both charity and justice. During the weeks before our trips, we have six biweekly preparatory meetings. During these gatherings, we discuss the history, culture, and current events of our destination. We also pray together, reflect on the life and writing of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and explore the seven themes of Catholic social teaching. On the trip, we learn the importance of direct service as well as the call to address reasons why people are in need. We realize the need to build relationships that humanize otherwise intangible issues. Putting a face and a name to an issue such as situational or structural poverty allows us to not only understand that person’s struggles, but also gives us a better understanding of the issues as a whole and how to respond as people of faith.

 

Inspiring our Archdiocese for a year of social ministry

We host an annual convocation that energizes and inspires social justice ministry in our Archdiocese for the whole year.

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We sponsor an annual Social Ministry Convocation that prepares the community to answer Jesus’ call to respond to social injustices. We coordinate with organizations such as Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, St. Vincent de Paul, and ethnic diversity ministries in the Archdiocese to host a keynote speaker, workshops, and a social justice information fair. Up to 500 social justice committee members, religious educators, parish staff, and parishioners attend this one-day event each year. The Convocation includes a Spanish-speaking track, which features translated keynotes and workshops in Spanish. Each year we pick a theme to spur discussion and action on relevant issues. For instance last year our focus was Care for the Earth, Care for the Poor: Listening to Pope Francis and this year we chose the theme The Joy of the Gospel: The Call to Celebrate and to Serve. We hope these convocations will inspire all participants to go forth on mission and give them the resources and the connections they need to involve our parishes, our Archdiocese, and the wider community in this important work.

 

Seminarians work for human life, peace and social justice

I'm Fr. Desmond Drummer. During my priestly formation, I participated in the Peace and Justice/Gospel of Life Apostolate.

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I’m Fr. Desmond Drummer and I’m a recently ordained priest in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I completed my formation at Mundelein Seminary, where I was active in the Peace and Justice/Gospel of Life Apostolate. The Apostolate engages the seminary community in work for human life and the dignity of the human person through educational lectures, service events, and advocacy opportunities.  The Apostolate encourages seminarians to follow Christ’s example of care and concern for those who are vulnerable and to overcome the misconception that there is a gap between life issues and social justice.

 

At retreat, teens see the real impact of fair trade on families

A weekend retreat can immerse high school students in service, solidarity, and learning about the real-life impacts of supporting fair trade.
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We offered a weekend retreat, "Just Like You: A Fair Trade Leadership Retreat," to immerse high school teens at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, FL, in the long tradition of Catholic social teaching, and to introduce them to many saints, blesseds, and holy men and women who have lived those principles, especially Dorothy Day. After putting in a hard day’s work with some hands-on service at a local farm, we also visited a CRS fair trade coffee roaster partner to learn about fair trade and how buying fair trade products helps support farmers and their families who do--all day and every day--the type of back-breaking work we experienced earlier in the weekend. We were able to create a real sense of solidarity with people living in poverty in other countries, and offer tangible, real-world ideas for supporting economic justice in our everyday lives.

 

Students lead social action days, learning and advocacy

Our students plan and lead social justice assemblies, brown-bag lunches, and Congressional advocacy.
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We work to empower our students to be passionate leaders with life-long commitments to service and justice. Here at Stone Ridge High School, students lead our Social Action program on every level. Our Social Action Student Advisory Board of thirty-five students prepares and directs bi-weekly Social Action Days, which include an assembly on social justice, service by the entire student body, and reflection and consciousness-raising activities. Students plan and organize quarterly awareness-raising brown bag discussions about compelling current issues, such as racial justice and religious extremism. Students gain leadership skills through these experiences and have even started their own initiatives. For example, students have planned and led all-school assemblies on social justice topics such as domestic violence and the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls. Our students are eager to speak truth to power and have reached out to Congress in both letter writing campaigns and phone-banking for causes such as disability legislation and peaceful foreign policy. Students also formed a Pax Christi club that lobbied Congress on immigration reform and participated in a national rally for justice.