Discover how local parishes and communities are learning about issues of poverty and coming together to respond to the needs and struggles in their own communities and around the world.
Saint John the Baptisit in Collegeville
During the Lenten season this year the Social Justice and Ministry committee of Saint John the Baptist parish in Collegeville offered a four-week Lenten series on Wednesday evenings. The purpose of the series was to provide information on social justice issues and foster an awareness of how parishioners can be involved in those issues while also working to reduce prejudice. Each evening event included a soup supper, a speaker, and concluded with the Stations of the Cross.
The speakers during the series included:
Ann Cofell of St. Cloud Area Legal Services presented on “Judging Poverty” which focused on her own subtle and not too subtle prejudices and the “realness” of local poverty.
Larry Hosch, parishioner and local legislator, spoke on immigration and dispelled some myths about immigration particularly in regards to welfare and social security. He also spoke generally about GMAC and other legislation within state government.
Deb Schroeder of Anna Marie’s Alliance addressed the prevalence of domestic violence and the work of Anna Marie’s to assist victims and educate the community.
Two workers and recipients of assistance from Place of Hope presented on behalf of Place of Hope’s director, Pastor Carol Jean Smith. They spoke from the heart about the assistance they had received from Place of Hope and also the great need that exists for this kind of support.
The attendance throughout the event held steady at about forty people. Participants noted among other things that the presentation shed light on how often we really do judge others and how judgment and misconceptions contribute to the plight of those struggling. After evaluating the program the Social Justice and Ministry committee determined it was a success and plans to sponsor another series next Lent.
St. Francis Xavier
The second JustFaith group has formed and is meeting at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell! The first group, from mulitiple parishes, completed the program in 2008. Just faith looks at social issues of the day through the lens of the Gospel and Catholic social teaching. It uses the structure of a small-group community. The St. Francis Xavier group
consists of two facilitators (including Weyrens) and five participants who meet once a week for thirty weeks, with each session being two hours long. The three components are education, transformation, and spirituality. Beginning from a foundation of compassion, the group moves through Catholic social teaching and into current issues. They will read parts of 12-15 books, watch DVDs, and welcome speakers. Participants attend opening and closing retreats. There JustFaith at St. Francis Xavier–Sartell are also four immersion experiences. The group visits different social service organizations to
learn about the services offered and why those services are needed. Everything is done with a heart open to transformation and in the context of prayer. Topics covered include domestic poverty, homelessness, charity v. justice, racism, capital punishment, and voluntary simplicity.
Molly Weyrens chose to initiate JustFaith at her parish because she hopes it catches on and other parishes will start a JustFaith group as well. According to Weyrens, it is very user-friendly, and any parish interested in implementing the program should do it.
St. Peter and St. Paul Parishes
St. Cloud, MN St. Peter and St. Paul parishes in St. Cloud are using Bishop Kinney’s pastoral letter in a number of capacities. The parish councils have used it during their joint meetings, youth in faith formation studied it during Lent, and some parishioners are using it at home for self-study. Parish staff are invited to a soup lunch each Wednesday to discuss one chapter of the letter, and leaders of parish groups related to service and justice meet to discuss the letter in relation to their ministries. Faith Formation Director Geralyn Nathe-Evans coordinates most of these activities and estimates that over 200 parishioners are using the letter in some way at this time. She explains, “It is good to have so many groups, ages and individuals centered on the same topic. It is providing us with a sense of grounding in what we do and why we may do it.”
We are seeing some great work going on in the Wadena area in collaboration with A Minnesota Without Poverty Micro-Enterprise Catalyst Partnership. This is a new micro enterprise program that is being launched in Wadena County to help individuals living in poverty start their own businesses. This initiative is unique in several respects: The target audience is precisely people who do not have access to start-up capital and business loans from traditional resources. Another unique benefit is that technical business training and advice will be provided as well as the establishment of a circle of support for each entrepreneur. The objective is to help individuals launch a business, and develop the track record and credit history so that traditional financing can be readily available when expansion of the business calls for additional capital. The difference between a normal Micro-finance initiative and this one is that the people given this opportunity are living in rural areas versus an urban setting. With support from many local churches and organizations the organizers are confident in their efforts.
Congratulations Wadena organizers!
Making Solidarity Ties at the Church of St. Mary
The Church of St. Mary's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee (JPIC) in Alexandria, Minnesota is educating the parishioners about solidarity and the importance of this virtue. In April they hosted a speaker to address global solidarity with about 150 people in attendance. Much conversation resulted with some unanswered questions and concerns. In a second attempt to address global solidarity in a truly comprehensible manner, the committee held a workshop on the Anatomy of Prejudice. This workshop concentrated on the participants examining their own perspectives on prejudice as well as examining ways to deal with and work to minimize myths about various minority groups. This prejudice workshop was well received by the community, and the committee felt the need to keep the ball rolling, so they invited Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota's Executive Director, John Keller, to come and answer questions about laws and create a better understanding about the reality of immigration law.
Breaking biases is an arduous task, but JPIC shows us how successful a succession of presentations can be! Wow! It is awesome to see the spread of global solidarity in our communities!
Christ Our Light Parish- Princeton and Zimmerman
"In early spring of 2011, our pastor, Fr. Kevin Anderson, recommended that our parish Social Concerns Committee consider developing a sister parish relationship. As a group, we decided that creating a relationship with a parish within driving distance would be a good choice in order to develop a closer bond. Fr. Jerry Rogers, pastor of St. Mary's Mission in Red Lake, MN, welcomed the idea.
In October, a planning session was held to coordinate a joint retreat. Later that month, five elders from St. Mary's and six parish representatives from Christ Our Light, as well as both pastors, met at the Franciscan Life Center in Little Falls for a two-day retreat.
The focus of our sister parish relationship is one of mutual benefit, not merely one church helping out the other.
During our retreat, it was clear both parishes have much to offer each other in areas of understanding cultural differences, shared experiences, and spiritual support. Spending time sharing with a partner from the other parish was definitely one of the highlights of our time together.
Following that, thoughts for continued collaboration were shared, resulting in a paper-covered wall filled with ideas. From that, we decided on several goals:
Working together on a service project (that doesn't benefit either community).
Supporting (and visiting) each others parish festivals.
Creating opportunities to meet through joint social events, including parties and family events.
Creating a network for students of elementary school age to become "pen pals."
Supporting each other spiritually through petitions at Mass and using each others Parish Prayer Chains.
Setting dates for the pastors to have a "pulpit swap."
Publishing articles from each others bulletin.
Since then, the exchange of letters and Christmas cards has strengthened our bonds. It has been a profound learning experience to discover that, despite the differences in our cultures, we are unified by that which we share, our Catholic faith."
Submitted by Mary Beth Barder