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Collaboratives and Catholic social justice

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'Service has been an important component in both parishes; it brings folks together and puts one's faith in action.'

Susan
Abbott

The annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocation took place at the Pastoral Center on Oct. 24. The event sold out and there was a waiting list -- a tribute to its reputation for excellence. The convocation was well covered by Pilot reporter Mark Labbe and details about speakers and topics can be found elsewhere in this issue.

Social justice is part of our rich Catholic heritage. Rooted in Scripture, it has been promoted consistently and unambiguously in Church documents for over a century. Several Phase I Local Pastoral Plans have components of Catholic social justice in their priorities. Collaboratives from all three phases were represented at the convocation.

The Phase I Belmont Collaborative, New Roads Catholic Community, was one of the many exhibitors. They had an impressive display about their Forum on Homelessness. The presentation chronicled the steps from the initial proposal in the summer of 2014, to the actual event in April 2015. Their display described their process in three stages: "Building the Team," "Designing the Event," and "Delivering the Message" -- the forum itself. Two photographs dramatically showed the benefit and fruitfulness of strategic planning. The first was of a parish hall set up with tables and chairs, but no people. The caption: "We went from this..." The second photo was the same hall, the same tables and chairs, but filled with people. The caption, "To this...."

The Phase II Medfield/ Norfolk Collaborative is in the process of writing their local pastoral plan and this is their draft purpose statement: "The Collaborative of St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Medfield and St. Jude Parish, Norfolk exists to know, love, and serve God." Mary Sheedy, pastoral associate/ministry manager, and member of the writing team, said that the convocation was "an eye opener ... it provided a different perspective on how we must serve the poor. Everyone is connected to each other and we are responsible for each other. If one part of the Mystical Body of Christ suffers -- we all suffer."

She is proud to report that, "Service has been an important component in both parishes; it brings folks together and puts one's faith in action. Both parishes are involved in a number of service programs at the present time, reaching out to the local food pantries as well as conducting seasonal food and clothing drives."

Mary advocates intergenerational service opportunities for families wherever possible in the collaborative, "We are in the process of gathering together youth and adults, particularly families, who will participate in the Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands Project." She adds that the collaborative is also investigating the possibility of getting involved in prison ministry.

Deacon Joe Flocco, a member of the staff of the Phase III, Plainville/Wrentham Collaborative of St. Martha and St. Mary Parishes, has attended the Justice Convocation in the past and says of this year's gathering, "As usual, the conference was amazing." Deacon Flocco has already spoken with Father Joe Mozer, pastor of the collaborative, and they plan to sit down soon to discuss how to implement in their collaborative some of the suggestions and ideas that he heard at the convocation.

Betsy Clifford, pastoral associate for Phase III collaborative of St. Albert the Great and St. Francis Xavier Parishes in Weymouth, also attended the Justice Convocation and expressed the universal feeling that, "Father Hehir and Dr. Woo were outstanding." She and Father Charles Higgins, pastor of the collaborative, have spoken about the possibility of offering the small group faith-sharing program "Creation at the Crossroads" during Lent. Another "action item" they are considering is reactivating a Peace and Justice Commission in the collaborative and, although they use CRS Rice Bowls in Lent, Betsy thinks it may be helpful to work more closely with CRS going forward. She is optimistic about the future, noting that, "We have many, many, folks who respond generously to our service initiatives." She is "so pleased that Pope Francis is calling us to this work," and, with a play on words, she looks forward to having the Holy Spirit lead them in this area of Discipleship in Mission.

SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.

Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.

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