Representing the Office for Peace and Justice recently on the Archdiocesan radio program, Una Comunidad Catholica De Fe, I was a little caught off guard by host Alejandro Castillo’s question, “How would you assess the success of Justice Month? Did the efforts of the Office for Peace and Justice produce the kind of results you expected?’
Since Justice Month had just finished hours before my radio interview, my answer to this important question came out quite garbled and disjointed. My body and spirit were still on a high off of celebrating the wonderful justice events over the weekend.
My mind, likewise, was still in a pre-reflective state, not ready to let go of the euphoria of hundreds of young people standing up during the Dream Act March in Vicariate IV and diving in heads first to learn about Catholic Social Teaching. (Click either of the last two hyperlinks to see pictures from justice events).
Adequately rested, I now make my second effort in providing reflections on the fruits of Justice Month.
Any pastoral minister who makes efforts in promoting inter-parish or intra-diocesan events knows first-hand that collective efforts are both blessings and curses. Building new relationships are inevitably messy, time-consuming and taxing experiences. And yet when relationships are forged across distinct institutions and plural communities with Christ’s mission in the center, overcoming structural sins like racism and poverty become a considerable possibility.
Justice month was launched during the Year for Teens and Young Adults of the Strategic Pastoral Plan not as neutral, worn-out idea but rather as an intentional, pioneering effort to evangelize Catholic youth through social ministry and Catholic Social Teaching.
Peace and justice leaders from all six vicariates met for months, identifying the social sin most prevalent in their communities, selecting a particular strategy to respond to that sin that could capture the imagination of their youth, and then hitting the road and recruiting people to join them in their mission of applying Catholic Social teaching in current social sin.
In the end, four major events were organized by 120 adult volunteers and were attended by over 350 youth and young adults from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Yes, nearly 500 people in the Archdiocese were significantly impacted by Justice Month!
And yet evaluating Justice Month through this result/event paradigm is, in my estimation, inadequate.
The true fruits of Justice Month will come to bear in months to come, when parishes that could not participate this year chose to step up and while parishes that did get involved welcome new parishes.
Involving youth in peace and justice efforts necessitates collective, innovative and systematic efforts by a diverse group of agencies in the Archdiocese. In addition to the 80 parishes involved, The Office for Peace and Justice is particularly grateful this year for the strong collaboration of the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry, Office for Hispanic Catholics, Diaconate, Amate House, Catholic Relief Services, Dominican Volunteers, Loyola University, and the Office for Mission Education and Animation.
If your agency or parish wants to learn more about Justice Month 2013, please contact Thomas Howard at 312 534 3890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.