Each Sunday, we join together as a parish in prayer for people struggling with poverty, refugees and immigrants, an end to violence, and many other social justice concerns. This moment of communion with our fellow Catholics seeking the common good is always heartening, but also bittersweet. The Prayers of the Faithful, after all, can only go so far without concrete action to address these same issues.
Catholic teaching compels us to pray AND act. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says, “The word of the Gospel, in fact, is not only to be heard but also to be observed and put into practice.” We evangelize as a church by living in ways that reflect our Gospel and have a direct impact on society. “This is not a marginal interest or activity, or one that is tacked on to the Church’s mission” the Compendium explains, “it is at the very heart of the Church’s ministry of service.” We are called to put our faith in action through activities that promote both charity AND justice.
There is a distinct advantage to answering this call. The most vibrant, faithful Catholic parishes across our country are those that embrace the full breadth of Catholic teaching and make space for prayer and acts of both charity and justice. Many of our local parishes excel in both prayer and charitable service. But what about acts of justice? Take a moment to think about your parish. Are parishioners also Catholic advocates?
Admittedly, acts of justice are more complicated than charitable works, so providing parishioners with these opportunities requires some diplomatic skills. Before inviting parishioners into advocacy, a parish must first understand what it means. Catholic advocacy is not partisan or “political” in the usual sense. Yes, we engage in the political process, but our approach to all issues is grounded in our beliefs, not partisan politics. Thus, we do not claim to be experts on a particular policy, but we do demand that our elected representatives ground policy in what is best for the common good.
In other words, we attempt to practice what we preach. Doing so in effective, inviting ways isn’t difficult, but does require some planning and knowledge.
Fortunately,the Roundtable offers an excellent opportunity to gain that knowledge: the 32nd Annual Roundtable Association Social Action Summer Institute (SASI).
Among the many incredible presenters will be Tom Ulrich from Ignation Volunteers Network who literally wrote the book on developing a Parish Social Ministry and Jack Jezreel, founder of Just Faith Ministries, whose latest book is A New Way to be Church: Parish Renewal from the Outside In.