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Catholic social teaching, Justice Convocation, and collaboratives

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"Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ."

Susan
Abbott

Several threads to weave together: Catholic social teaching, the Annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocation, and collaborative local pastoral plans.

First: Catholic social teaching.

This is often called the Church's best kept secret. The Catholic Church has always taught and championed the dignity of the human person. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says, "Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ."

In his 1972 World Day of Peace message, Blessed Pope Paul VI made a statement that endures, and, in today's parlance, has "gone viral": "If you want peace, work for justice." Catholic social teaching has seven themes: Life and dignity of the human person; Call to family, community, and participation; Rights and responsibilities; Option for the poor and vulnerable; the Dignity of work and the rights of workers; Solidarity; and Care for God's creation.

Second: The Annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocation.

The key organizer for the first convocation in 2009 was the Social Justice Committee of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. In recent years, it has been organized by a dedicated committee of representatives from across the archdiocese, and held at the Pastoral Center. Last year, it sold out early and it was obvious to planners that a larger venue was needed. The convocation this year will take place at Boston College High School on Nov. 5, and is open to all. The keynote speakers will be Dr. James J. O'Connell, founder and president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless and author of "Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor" and Father J. Bryan Hehir, Archdiocesan Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services.

More information about the Annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocation is available on the Spiritual Life Office page at BostonCatholic.org.

Last: Local pastoral plans (LPP).

Much has been written about the process and the plans that the collaboratives in Phases I and II have written and are implementing. Plan writing is a tough process that calls collaboratives to spend time thinking about why they exist, where they want to be in five years, the values that guide their actions and decision making, and the priorities that will help them reach their goals. The average parish (if there is such a thing as an average parish) is busy, short staffed, and over extended. Planning beyond the end of the fiscal year is a luxury that many cannot afford. Working on the LPP forces prayerful, deep, productive, conversations and provides a road map for short term and long term goals. Many parishes that are living out the LPP included social justice in their purpose or vision statements, among their values, or as one of their priorities.

The Blue Hills Collaborative of Most Precious Blood, St. Pius X, and St. Ann parishes, lists "service to one another" as part of their purpose. The collaborative is hoping to start a social justice committee and parochial vicar Father Charles Madi-Okin is working on this. Stephen May, director of Ministries, will be attending the Archdiocesan Justice Convocation and hopes that others in the collaborative will join him.

St. Mary Parish, Brookline, names "respect" and "justice" among their values, acknowledging, "our responsibility as Catholics to uphold the dignity and integrity of every person ... . We hear Pope Francis' call to minister to those on the peripheries of society." They have been promoting the convocation to parishioners and they, too, have a social justice group with an online meeting option.

In 2015-2016, Catholic Relief Services selected Boston as one of three dioceses in the country to begin the Parish Ambassador Corps. The 20 ambassadors from the Archdiocese of Boston include clergy, staff, and parishioners from several collaboratives. CRS reports, "It was a successful first year, bringing together 20 ambassadors from the Archdiocese of Boston ...(from) the Cranberry Collaborative (Middleborough, Rochester, Lakeville); Blessed Sacrament, Walpole; St. Jude and St. Edward Collaborative in Norfolk and Medfield; and St. Albert the Great and St. Francis Collaborative, Weymouth." With the blessing of their pastor, ambassadors seek to help strengthen the parish's outreach ministry by organizing global discipleship activities in their parishes.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy closes next month. The Justice Convocation can encourage, inspire, and energize us to keep a merciful heart beyond November 27. "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:36)

More information about the Annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocation is available on the Spiritual Life Office page at BostonCatholic.org.

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

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