Social justice education program available to parishes

BRIGHTON -- Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston will get the chance to test drive a social justice program that has taken off in hundreds of parishes across the country when JustFaith Ministries offers an introductory workshop for parish leaders at Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton April 5.

Funded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities U.S.A., JustFaith is a leading provider of adult education and justice formation programs for lay Catholics. More than 10,000 U.S. Catholics have completed its programs in scores of dioceses nationwide.

“The Church’s social justice teachings are a jewel of our Catholic tradition,” said Sister Mary Corripio, SND, a member of the archdiocesan Social Justice Committee, which is hosting the event.

“JustFaith helps parish communities better understand those teachings, enrich their faith lives and enhance their response to the Gospel call to justice,” she said.

Three parishes -- St. Joseph’s in Kingston, St. Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill, and Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton -- piloted the program in the archdiocese in 2006-2007. Nearly 50 adults completed the program in parish-based small groups that combined study, faith sharing, immersion experiences and weekend retreats over a 30-week period. Shorter programs are also offered.

“JustFaith provided us with a structured way to deepen our understanding of the social justice teachings of the Church,” said Maritzie Rudden, a member and co-facilitator of the St. Ignatius JustFaith group. “Every topic and theme -- whether poverty, racism, simple living, immigration, nonviolence -- was covered with thought-provoking readings and engaging videos.”

Rudden pointed out that “our ‘border-crossings’ balanced the talk and the study with action.” These personal encounters with the vulnerable “took our book learning and showed us the reality, the faces, the lives, of what we were discussing,” she explained. “They made the topics come alive. Even if we may forget some of what we read, we remember the people we met.”

The early adopters of the program claim it is already bearing fruit in the social justice ministries of their parishes. At St. Ignatius, new ministries to visit the homeless, sick, help resettle refugees and provide meals for low-income Catholic middle school students have all resulted.

“Everyone was changed in some way by the JustFaith experience,” said Rudden. “I am more deeply aware of my responsibility toward the poor and the vulnerable in the world. I have also become more cognizant of the ways God touches my life through others, especially those I try to serve.’’

The workshop on April 5 will be led by JustFaith facilitator Dan Driscill and is open to all parish staff and lay leaders in the archdiocese. Online registration is available at http://www.catholicsocjustice.org/. The JustFaith Web site can be found at http://www.justfaith.org/. For more information, contact Sister Mary Corripio, SND at 617-746-5818 or sister_mary_corripio@rcab.org.

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