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Catholic Charities empowers community leaders to advocate

We offer services and also empower community members to advocate on issues that affect them.
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We offer many services that meet the immediate needs of our community, and we also seek to empower our community through Unity Square, our community organizing and development initiative. We use a comprehensive approach that includes integral change and empowering the community to be the leaders and drivers of change. Catholic Charities is our organizational backbone, but the effort and work comes directly from the community. We have a core team of 50 neighborhood leaders who are directly affected by the issues at stake. Together we have succeeded in influencing legislation at the local level around immigration rights, housing, employment, and other important issues. We fought for an anti-wage theft law in our city which now safeguards worker’s rights and just payment by prohibiting the renewal of business licenses for corporations with pending wage claims. We also secured a local earned sick leave which guarantees a minimum number of sick days for all workers. We successfully advocated for a city I.D. program which allows our families and neighbors to access vital services without having to reveal their immigration status. With 85% of our community renting, we also work on tenants’ rights. At Unity Square, we empower our community to resolve the problems, whether big or small, that affect our own families and neighborhoods.



 

Immigrant women get empowered, create change

Our ministry helps immigrant women create relationships and strengthen community and civic participation.
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Thirty years ago, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word created our ministry, called ARISE (A Resource in Serving Equality). Located in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley colonias of Hidalgo County, we seek to promote the development and empowerment of the immigrant community, especially women, children and youth, through educational programs that strengthen their organized community and civic participation. ARISE is a place where the Gospel is lived daily and where Catholic social teaching is witnessed.  The woman who is welcomed at our doors is asked what change she wants to see in her community. Through the personal encounter of home visits, we create relationships with women leaders who organize for change. Women leaders raise awareness and champion concerns such as safety, lighting, voting rights, citizenship pathways, infrastructure and drainage, and education for themselves and their children.  Along with empowering women, we invest in engaging, empowering, and organizing youth. Our youth have played a key role in drawing attention to the issue of environmental racism, resulting in city officials agreeing to update a faulty waste water treatment plant. ARISE women believe, with spirit and compassion: “if there is a need, there is a way.” Adelante, ARISE!



 

Encountering our Muslim brothers and sisters

When a new mosque was built near our parish, we set out on a journey of mutual encounter.
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When a new mosque was under construction near our parish, St. Dominic Savio, near St. Louis, MO, we decided to extend a hand in welcome and friendship. We invited our new neighbors to our rectory, praying together, engaging in dialogue, and sharing a meal together one Wednesday afternoon. We also engaged in education within the parish, preaching at Sunday masses about how we are called, as Catholics, to encounter the “other,” to look beyond stereotypes, and develop a truer, fuller understanding our Bosnian Muslim brothers and sisters. Following our initial encounter, clergy and parishioners accepted an invitation to visit the mosque, which deepened our relationship. Pope Francis reminds us that “Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world.” We are engaging in the work of encounter because we want to be part of this peace-building process, and to deepen our understanding and relationship with Muslims living in St. Louis, the wider American community, and the world, in a time of growing assumptions and misunderstandings about Islamic faith and practices. By dedicating a time and space to relationship building, we have been able to get to know our visitors beyond these stereotypes and to recognize our commonalities as children of Abraham, sons and daughters of one God, and seekers of peace in our world.


 

Faith transforms violence and racism in West Baltimore

Our parish is a sacred space for conversation and action to address violence and work toward peace and racial justice.
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We see our parish of St. Peter Claver as a refuge—a sacred space for conversation—where faith encounters the problems and realities that face the Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore. Four years ago, we helped form the No Boundaries Coalition (NBC), which has helped bring our faith into conversation with the realities around us. NBC now receives funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. We began to open our parish doors for conversations about violence, community-police relations, and other issues we face. We began regularly joining Bishop Madden and other faith groups on prayer and visibility walks, to stand against violence and crime. Our most recent walk drew 150 people to witness and pray at the seven latest murder sites. After the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, we served as a meeting place for 150 faith leaders and community members to gather and plan our response. We helped distribute 10,000 pounds of food and supplies and mobilized 1,000 volunteers to clean up the community. After the riots, we interviewed residents in the area where the Gray incident had occurred, documenting their testimonies about police misconduct. When the Department of Justice later became involved, our report assisted their work. With Catholic Charities, we implemented a Safe Streets Program to train “violence interrupters”—trusted people within the community—to de-escalate tense situations that could turn violent. We regularly assist in a racial justice circle process, which includes participants from within and outside Sandtown and seeks to explore oppressive systems and privilege. Finally, our pastor, who is heavily involved in our work for peace, preaches often on our call, as Catholics, to be involved in this work. Following the Gray incident, Fr. Ray helped form “Clergy United to Transform Sandtown,” which brings together clergy from churches across the neighborhood, to work to address these issues together.

 

Hispanic encuentro for formation, leadership and response

Our diocesan encuentro process aims to listen, learn, and respond to the pastoral needs of Hispanic Catholics in the areas of formation, youth and social justice.

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In response to the constantly changing face of our Church in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, we launched an encuentro process to listen, learn, and respond to the pastoral needs of Hispanic Catholics in our diocese. To do this, we began by training our Hispanic Assembly which includes representatives from over 35 parishes and from a variety of ministries and organizations, from youth and young adult ministry, to Legion of Mary, to Talleres de Oración y Vida (Prayer and Life Workshops), to Schools of Evangelization and more. These newly trained leaders will bring back to their parishes the materials and tools to replicate the encuentro process in their parishes and to help their faith communities as they reflect on their successes, challenges, and recommendations in the areas of formation, youth, and social justice. In the area of social justice, we hope that this process will serve to provide information that will help us strengthen social justice programs, strengthen the Hispanic Catholic voice in the political process, and promote the participation of undocumented persons in the life of the parish and society. Through our encuentro process, we are walking together, training leaders to be missionary disciples, and investing in the future of our Church.

 

Uniting a community through reaching out

We live the unity of the Body of Christ through reaching out in the community that surrounds our parish.
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Our parish created Aquinas Center, a ministry of Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Community in Philadelphia, PA, as a way to be a living example of the unity of the Body of Christ. We opened in January 2013 with a mission to build unity in diversity, support learning, and inspire thoughtful action. Our center is home to urban immersion experiences, counseling services, a legal clinic to help immigrants (regardless of documents), community organizing and advocacy efforts, English and literacy classes, and urban revitalization projects, such as a community garden. We are passionate about engaging people of all ages in overcoming the cultural barriers and injustices which can often divide our communities.

 

Parishes Have Sacred Conversations on Race (+ Action)

With other local congregations, we participate in dialogue about race which leads to faith-inspired action for racial justice.
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Following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, our parish, St. Charles Borromeo, sought to encounter our African American brothers and sisters in nearby congregations to listen and learn about their experiences. We had four rewarding encounters but were unable to sustain the effort. Then we heard about Sacred Conversations on Race (+ Action), an innovative parish-based program that facilitates encounter and challenges participants to examine the uncomfortable topic of racism. The conversations are a program of Metropolitan Congregations United, an organization which receives funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. We joined with 15 other congregations in our county to reflect, together with participants of other races and ethnicities, to learn about how racism occurs on both the individual and systemic levels. The conversations led the group to identify specific areas where policy changes are needed, including education, housing, and the justice system. Small groups are now working to meet with local officials to draw attention to changes needed in these areas. For example, we have met with the superintendent of schools in our city, and will meet with presidents of district school boards, to talk about the negative consequences of out-of-school suspensions for children in K-3; increasing minority participation in Advanced Placement courses; and increasing hiring of minority staff as teachers and administrators. The Sacred Conversation process has provided an avenue for us to encounter one another across racial barriers and then work together for important policy changes for a more just community.

 

Seminarians visit farms, learn about rural challenges

As part of a Rural Ministry Practicum, seminarians visit farms and learn about the issues rural communities face.

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Each August, we team up with Saint Paul Seminary to offer a week-long Rural Ministry Practicum course. We begin by introducing seminarians to Catholic social teaching on agriculture, rural communities, and care for creation. We hear from guest speakers on rural pastoring experience and Hispanic ministry.  Then seminarians visit a farm. The experience provide future priests with a new awareness of the rich and unique life that exists in rural communities, as well as the challenge that rural communities face.

 

Young adult group creates space for dialogue, unity and peace

Our cultural nights help foster unity in diversity. We share food, music, art, and customs and engage in discussion prompted by a movie about or from a specific culture.

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Our young adult group has worked to create a space for dialogue, unity and peace by holding cultural nights at our Focolare Center in Chicago.  We have celebrated five cultural nights so far:Chinese New Year, Italian Night, African Night, South American Night and Middle East Night.  At each night, we invite participants from diverse backgrounds to gather to share food, music, art and customs from a specific culture. We watch a film together (for example, we watched Life is Beautiful for Italian Night, Mandela for African Night, and Captain Abu Raed for Middle East Night) and then discuss it together.  We have found that coming together to share our traditions and engage in one-on-one and small group conversations has helped us to grow in awareness, understanding, solidarity, and friendship. We believe that this experience of encounter will provide a strong foundation for future work for peace together.

 

Medical mission leaves a lifelong impact

Our parish medical mission helps us encounter the people of El Salvador and make lasting lifestyle changes when we return.

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Every year, members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church journey together on a 9 day mission to provide for medical, optical, and dental needs in Berlin, El Salvador. While one would think the first goal of our mission is medical, our primary aim is to encounter every person we meet and to share and receive the love of Christ. We return transformed by the experience and touched by our encounter with the reality of global poverty and the presence of Christ in each of the people we met, and in one another. The relationships and experiences have prompted us to make lifestyle changes upon our return. For example, our parish now buys and sells fair trade coffee because we know that fair trade products benefit workers who are paid a fair wage and their families and communities. Our encounter with the face of Christ in the people of El Salvador leaves a lasting impact on our lives.

 

Sant' Egidio helps children become socially and globally aware

Our Community of Sant' Egidio in Boston runs a children's afterschool program which organizes educational activities aimed at overcoming social barriers and pursuing peace.

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Where we live, the challenges of immigrant families can be many, and the environment the children grow up in can often be blind to their needs. To respond to this, we created a School of Peace, a free, after-school program that serves mainly Hispanic children in grades K-8. Our community gives them the academic and personal support they need, and the educational activities we organize with the children encourage in them a more socially conscious and globally aware thinking, and a greater awareness of peace.  Worldwide, the Community of Sant’ Egidio runs many Schools of Peace. The schools help families in their efforts to raise their children and propose an educational model open to people of all kinds, promoting solidarity with the less fortunate and enabling children to overcome social barriers and discrimination.

 

Our youth encounter their brothers and sisters with disabilities

Our youth ministry visits a gym to play sports with young women with disabilities.
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Our parish high school youth do direct service that leads to encounter with the “other” and provides a foundation for them to reflect on social justice. Some of our youth at St. Louis Parish visit an open gym to play sports with young women with disabilities. Before going to the gym, we discuss how our faith calls us to recognize and respect the dignity of every human person. We also speak about the importance of using language carefully to recognize people’s humanity first and avoid labeling people by their disability. This experience has led our youth to recognize their peers who are disabled as brothers and sisters in Christ, to develop friendships with them, and to speak in ways that respect the dignity of others.

 

Reaching across cultures to seek immigration reform

We work together with the leaders of Hispanic movements and communities active in our parishes to work for immigration reform.
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In the Diocese of Orange, we seek to bring Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics to work together to improve the lives of immigrants and the U.S. immigration system. Our Life, Justice and Peace office fostered education amongst clergy and worked on a multi-diocesan strategy with others in southern California. We realized the importance of building relationships with the leaders of Hispanic movements and communities active in our parishes, such as Renovación Carismática Católica, Jóvenes Para Cristo, Neocatechumenal Way, and partnered with our Office of Hispanic Ministry. Many of the leaders from these groups became key to planning, developing and implementing our diocesan actions on immigration. Our collaboration led to participation by over 2,000 people in a procession from one of our parishes to a legislator's office. Next, we held a successful gathering at the cathedral to pray and act for immigration reform with over 3,000 faithful. Last summer, Orange County sent 30 buses, in addition to other carpoolers, up to the regional Mass for Immigrants in Los Angeles. Parishes are actively educating immigrants on the new drivers license law and preparing potential applicants for the DACA/DAPA programs. Through Catholic Charities of Orange County, we now have a hub parish in each deanery to help expand the capacity for processing potential applicants. As the Catholics in our diocese have gotten more involved in putting faith in action on this issue, our clergy have also responded by preaching from the pulpit about our faith response to immigration.

 

Parish celebrates diversity, forms leaders of many ethnicities

We ensure that leadership of our parish mirrors the diversity of our community, and coordinate opportunities for everyone to pray, learn and act together.
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St. Katharine Drexel Parish is rich with cultural and ethnic diversity, largely because of a parish merger in 2001. Since then, our parish has worked tirelessly to forge one community united in Christ. Our parish and finance councils have a special nomination process so that the leadership of our parish mirrors the diversity in our community. We offer training for all of our parishioners to identify and prevent racism and the systematic ways it keeps people poor. Several dozen parishioners have participated in this training. Through our local CCHD-funded group, our parishioners also receive leadership training around organizing. Besides leadership and training, we coordinate many opportunities for our diverse parishioners to pray, learn and act together. We participate together in our social ministry and faith formation program, which teaches how social justice is grounded in our faith tradition. We also celebrate our unique cultures at social and liturgical events such as our intercultural fiestas where parishioners from over 12 countries share their native dishes and discuss needs and concerns as members of the parish. Finally, members of the Hispanic Legion of Mary at the parish lead important outreach efforts to help their fellow immigrants get driver’s licenses, make doctor’s appointments, get legal assistance, and feel welcomed into the community. Our experiences together witness to our unity as brothers and sisters in the family of God.

 

Reaching Out to Protect Community Health and Care for Creation

We spent years building relationships with other faith communities, neighbors, and civil leaders, which helped us protect community health and the environment.
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In many communities, the practice of fracking contaminates air, water, and soil, with the most vulnerable people, including children and elderly persons, often affected the worst. Fracking involves injecting large quantities of water and chemicals deep into the ground in order to extract natural gas. Our parish, St. Margaret, in Homer,  NY, worked alongside other faith communities to seek a local moratorium on fracking. We worked together through Moving in Congregations Acting in Hope (MICAH), a faith-based community organization which receives funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Over the course of two and a half years, we worked to build relationships, educate and organize residents in affected areas, and train volunteer leaders. We reached out to public officials and held rallies and actions. Our pastor spoke with decision makers about being responsible stewards of God’s creation. Our work ultimately led to a six-month moratorium on fracking in our town. This was followed by a ban on fracking across the state of New York, due in part to the work of MICAH and many others across the state concerned about how fracking can impact the lives and well-being of people.

 

Empowering victims of human trafficking

With help from the Amistad Movement, we are working to educate and fight against human trafficking.
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When we met a survivor of human trafficking and learned that a quarter of all people trafficked into the United States come through Texas, our parish, the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, decided to take action. We joined the Amistad Movement, an initiative of USCCB Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which seeks to empower immigrants to raise awareness and work to end human trafficking. With MRS’ help, we created and implemented a program to educate local parishes in our diocese on the issue of human trafficking. This training helps parishes gain the information and skills they need to educate parishioners and to reach out to vulnerable populations that might be at risk. We also provide direct services to victims of human trafficking, helping survivors adjust to normal life and participate in our Catholic community, if that is their wish. Our hope is for them to be successful, which starts with addressing their basic needs and supporting them emotionally and spiritually. Together, we are striving to shine light on the issue of human trafficking and to empower its victims.


 

Schools facilitate encounter for Catholic-Muslim pen-pals

We responded to Pope Francis' call to build a culture of encounter by starting a pen pal relationship between our students and students at a local Muslim school.
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At St. Mark’s Catholic Elementary School in St. Paul, MN, we strive to incorporate Pope Francis’ invitation to create a culture of encounter in the formation of the minds and hearts of our students. So, we enthusiastically accepted an invitation from the local private Muslim school to bridge cultures and cultivate real connections between our 5th grade students through letter writing.  In their letters, our fifth graders shared about their faith and cultures and discovered new things about their friends at Al-Amal private school, including the fact that they both loved soccer! Meanwhile our principal taught a class to our fifth graders about the Abrahamic religions, reflecting upon the unity and diversity of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions and Jesus’ prayer that we may all be one. After several weeks of exchanging letters, the two 5th grade classes met at a local park where they encountered their pen pals and introduced each other to their friends—and played a quick game of soccer. For our fifth graders, the students at Al-Amal are their friends. We hope that this encounter and the continued openness and acceptance of our brothers and sisters helps us to respond to the call to love our neighbors. 





 

Catholic and Muslim youth share faith, witness to unity

Developing a relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters at a nearby mosque has strengthened our own faith and led to important new collaboration.
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When the Muslim community in the greater-Milwaukee area announced plans to build a new mosque in Brookfield, which is home to our parish of St. John Vianney, we were proud to invite our Muslim brothers and sisters into our parish hall for a neighborhood meeting. Since then, our relationship with the community at Masjid Al-Noor mosque has blossomed. Through our joint participation in an interfaith group called Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network, or BEGIN, we have welcomed members of one another’s faith communities to our respective places of worship on numerous occasions.  Youth from our parish and from Masjid Al-Noor participate in an interfaith youth program that our youth minister helped start. During Ramadan, the youth leaders planned a Food! Friends! Faith! event which welcomed 75 youth to the mosque for shared prayer, presentations, and a simple meal. The youth are now planning an intergenerational, interfaith April Food’s Day trivia night on faith and pop culture. This past Fall, our parish hosted BEGIN’s interfaith Thanksgiving prayer service, where a variety of faith leaders shared prayers from their traditions, including Masjid Al-Noor’s young imam. Youth from our communities together created a moving video about faith as the common thread which unites the youth with God and with one another. We see our parish’s participation in these efforts as responding to the Second Vatican Council’s call for Christians and Muslims “to work sincerely for mutual understanding” and to together seek “social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom” (Nostra Aetate, no. 3).  We believe that our relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and with people of all faith traditions, strengthens our own faith and is an important witness of Christ’s call to love our neighbors.

 

University focuses on global refugee crisis, builds relationships 

We are drawing attention to the global refugee crisis through educational events, relationship-building opportunities, and advocacy.
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We launched the advocacy and education effort In Solidarity with Syria in 2015 to coordinate and encourage participation throughout The University of Scranton with the broader goal of bringing attention to the global refugee crisis. Through this program we provided a wide range of activities to involve students, faculty and staff including film screenings, webinars, a refugee simulation, round-table discussions and prayer vigils. Our efforts have taken us outside the University and into the wider Scranton community where we greeted immigrant families at the Scranton airport and shared meals cooked by Syrian and Congolese refugees at a local restaurant. The expansiveness our advocacy and education was made possible by the collaboration of a variety of University groups including the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Student Ambassadors, Campus Ministries, and Community and Governmental Relations. 

 

Strengthening the community through restorative justice circles

Inspired by our own experiences working with incarcerated children and their families, our religious community began a ministry of reconciliation that uses restorative justice circles.
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When priests and sisters in our Precious Blood religious community sat down to speak of their experiences working with incarcerated children and families of incarcerated children, we decided to create a ministry of reconciliation. Our ministry works to bring about peace and reconciliation in neighborhoods that are affected by violence. One such way we do this is through our restorative justice circles. Based on Jesus’ example of love and encounter we bring together victims and offenders to provide an alternative way to heal the wounds caused by crimes in the communities which we serve. Our restorative justice circles help restore peace by empowering communities to choose alternatives to retribution that can stop the cycle of violence, such as mentorship, education and job training. The circle process is restorative, increases community ownership for all involved and makes communities safer.


 

Parish facilitates discussions that encounter

Ten years ago, we began hosting discussions to form relationships and dismantle racism.
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Over ten years ago, we began hosting Discussions That Encounter (DTE) at our parish, St. Olaf Catholic Church, in Minneapolis, MN. The discussions bring people together from the parish and the surrounding community to form relationships and learn about and dismantle racism. The discussions occur twice a month, once at our parish, and once at a local community center. Through these discussions, which also include speakers, films, and study materials, we work to raise awareness, facilitate encounter, and provide education on historical and current topics related to racial and economic justice, such as housing discrimination, education and employment opportunity, criminal justice, and other issues. The discussions complement other efforts in our parish. The Year of Encounter with Pope Francis program has helped to increase our parishioners’ awareness about our participation in systemic racism. The experience of encounter through parish social services, and our involvement in a community coalition around homelessness, have helped us to recognize the connections between racial and economic justice. We are now working to help our homeless brothers and sisters engage in advocacy around issues that affect them. At the level of parish administration, our staff participated in a four-hour training on understanding our biases and white privilege. This helped us to consider how we could adapt our ministries to ensure that people of all cultures and ethnicities feel welcome and have leadership opportunities within the parish.

 

Parish builds leaders, addresses issues, through house meetings

Our parish engages parishioners and builds leaders through weekly “house” meetings. 
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Our parish, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Parish, in Arlington, TX, engages parishioners and builds leaders through weekly “house” meetings. Because our parish has over five thousand parishioners who speak five different languages, we help them to connect with one another on a more personal level. At these house meetings, parishioners connect as members of the body of Christ by voicing personal concerns and identifying the problems that are affecting their lives, such as lack of employment, financial pressures, isolation, and lack attention to the needs of children and the elderly. Talking about these concerns leads to action as parishioners rise up as leaders and together address the issues that they care about. Parishioners also receive training to gain the skills needed to become effective leaders. Because of this process, parishioners have been able to establish a new day care center in the church, and organize a ministry for seniors.

 

Yakima seminarians take on "the smell of their sheep"

Our seminarians learn to take on "the smell of the sheep" through a ministry to accompany migrant workers in the fields.
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In the Diocese of Yakima in Central Washington, we respond to Pope Francis' call to take on "the smell of the sheep" through a special ministry with migrant workers. Throughout the season when migrants are laboring in the fields, our seminarians accompany them, working beside them in the fields six days a week and nine to ten hours a day, earning money for their own living expenses. On Sundays, they celebrate Mass with them. Not only does this provide seminarians an opportunity to live and experience daily life with those whom they will one day serve, it also has a deep impact on the seminarians as they experience the migrants’ deep faith, learn about their way of life and the challenges they face, and expand their sense of the community of the Body of Christ.

 

Sister parishes create joyful international friendships

Our parish partners with a parish in an impoverished region of El Salvador and forms bonds of friendship and solidarity.
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Our parish, St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco, experiences the joy of friendship and solidarity through our joint social ministry with Parroquia San Antonio in Soyapango, a poor suburb of San Salvador.  Through our joint ministry, Las Vecinas de El Salvador, we pray together, share ideas, advocate for peace and social justice, and serve those in need. We share the life of the Holy Spirit through material support (such as scholarships, disaster relief, and support for a job training program), learning and advocacy about issues that impact our brothers and sisters, and the friendship, understanding and love we cultivate through visits, prayer and ongoing communication.

 

We fight poverty in Nicaragua as parish partners

We learned an important lesson in solidarity when our partner parish in Nicaragua raised $300 to help us rebuild our own parish after Hurricane Katrina.
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Our parish has encountered Jesus Christ through its global partnership program. We have a partner parish in Nicaragua and tithe a percentage of our monthly collections to help reduce poverty there. A group from our parish has visited Nicaragua several times to strengthen relationships face-to-face. We learned a powerful lesson in solidarity in 2005 when our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters raised $300 to help us rebuild our own parish in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This program also has fueled our interest in other issues such as immigration reform and taught us to act with Christ’s love as our guide.

 

Diocese trains rural leaders for discernment, leadership, evangelization and social justice

We responded to issues facing our rural communities by launching a leadership development institute including training in discernment, servant leadership, evangelization, and parish social ministry.

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Recognizing the many issues affecting the rural faith communities in the Diocese of St. Cloud—such as fewer priests and parishes, shrinking towns, aging populations, immigration and cultural issues, and declining economic activity—we launched The Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative. Our initiative provides year-long training for select leaders in rural parishes around discernment, servant leadership, evangelization, and parish social ministry.  The training includes listening sessions in each parish to engage our leaders-in-training in community conversations with other leaders, marginalized persons, and civic and business leaders focused on community needs.  So far, we engaged ten parishes in our first year and nine parishes plus a religious community in our second year. We are already seeing the fruits of our labor through greater engagement in evangelization, charity, and justice, and the development of parish teams that can engage the entire faith community in this work. 

 

Seminarians follow the path of migrants

Our religious order invites men in formation as brothers or for priesthood to participate in a summer immersion experience focused on migration.
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Migration is a worldwide priority of the Society of Jesus and an advocacy priority of the U.S. Jesuit Conference.  Our migration immersion experience usually consists of a group of six Jesuits in formation from the U.S. and Mexico who are guided by Jesuits engaged in ministry to migrants along the corridor from Central America to the southern U.S. border.  For five weeks, the group travels by local modes of transportation, visiting and volunteering at shelters for migrants, talking to human rights organizations, and discussing migration issues with congregations at different parishes.  Our men in formation gain a better understanding of the complex causes of migration, the dangers migrants face on their journey, and opportunities for ministry among migrants.

 

Catholic-Muslim dialogue leads to respect, understanding

We collaborated with our Muslim brothers and sisters to host a dialogue and recitation of a covenant of respect, brotherhood and mutual love.

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Our Focolare community in New York collaborated and dialogued for over a year with Muslim friends at a Harlem mosque to plan a joint meeting at Fordham University called “Our Journey Towards the Excellence of the Human Family.”  Around 200 participants engaged in dialogue and recited a covenant of respect, brotherhood and mutual love, which showed our commitment to our shared journey for the service of the human family. There are more than 40 mosques and Focolare communities in the U.S. today involved in regular meetings which lead to collaboration to benefit their own cities and neighborhoods.

 

Rural parishes educate and serve together

After our parishes became a region, we worked to educate and involve parishioners in social justice, service and relief.
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After our parishes, located in a rural area of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, became a "region" (similar to a cluster), we decided to build community and learn, share and grow together by forming the Petersburg Parishes' Social Justice Commission. Recognizing the unique gifts that each of our parishes bring, we invited people from all the parishes to join the commission, which has been developing over the ensuing years. Our activities and projects have been many! For example, we have a Justice Corner in our weekly bulletins and monthly newsletters and a yearly 4-page insert with opportunities for parishioners to involve themselves in social justice. To educate, we host speakers on the themes of Catholic social teaching and formation opportunities in Catholic social teaching. To give back, we contribute to global relief efforts such as CRS Rice Bowl and our new inter-parish fund which benefits a CRS project to construct and stock fish ponds in the developing world. To serve, we organize various community initiatives such as knitting/crocheting prayer squares for local hospitals, making dresses and shorts for children in the developing world, and hosting campaigns for local food banks. Together, we are united in faith and in our desire to make a difference in our communities and in our world.

 

Students support DREAMers

Our students imitate Christ's example by welcoming and supporting DREAMers
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The Gospel compels us to “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15:7). Our students at St. Mary's University, TX, seek to imitate Christ by welcoming and supporting DREAMers (undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children) in our campus community, which is predominantly Hispanic. Once a semester, our student organization, the Social Justice League invites the campus community to a gathering of solidarity called el D.I.A. (the DREAMers In Action). We listen to DREAMers share their stories, learn about the immigration process, sell t-shirts to fundraise for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application costs, and enjoy live music and free food. We also create a tangible sign of our solidarity by inviting everyone to put their handprint on the "Support our DREAMers" banner. The students’ participation at this event expresses authentic solidarity and support of our DREAMer community.

 

Celebrating the Diversity of All God's Children

We celebrate the diversity of our Church through cultural events, celebrations connected to popular cultural days, a leadership formation institute, a professional mentorship program, and a March for Immigrants.
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In the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, we live and celebrate the diversity of all God's children. We have undertaken a number of initiatives to call attention to the gifts and needs of immigrants in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. To celebrate our many cultures, we hold an annual Latino Family Day that includes a Mass, blessing of quinceañeras and quinceañeros, and celebration. We also participate in a Cantaré program which pairs Mexican cultural artists with parishes to work with children to keep the culture alive and share that culture with others. In the area of leadership development, we have Formation Institutes to provide pastoral leadership development for Spanish-speaking Catholic leaders in our Archdiocese. In the area of social justice, we established Community Engagement Teams to improve immigrant communities' relationship with the police. Second, one of our CCHD-funded groups created a network of professional mentors to teach immigrants how to navigate the system of starting a new business, transforming a whole neighborhood. Finally, we held a March for Immigrants attended by 44,000 people.

 

Students stand in solidarity with migrants 

We engaged our campus in a variety of activities to understand migration and advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.
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In response to Pope Francis’ call to welcome migrants and to build bridges instead of walls, our university, Mount Mercy University, in Iowa, has formed a partnership with the Columban Mission Center in El Paso, Texas. To learn more about the various difficulties and hardships migrants have to face, we spent four days interacting with migrants in El Paso, learning about violence, human trafficking, and poverty. We took part in a variety of cultural activities, such as visiting parks and shelters, and talked with migrants and formed relationships with them. To raise awareness on our university campus as well, we hosted a speaker to educate our students about the issues surrounding immigration in the United States, and held a day of prayer and reflection. We also wrote letters to lawmakers to encourage immigration policy reform. We are now considering how we might be further called to act in solidarity with our migrant brothers and sisters.