by Tim Rives
As Catholic disciples of Jesus, we believe that people have a right and a duty to participate in civil society, seeking together the common good of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
For as we hear in Scripture, “Our faith is dead if we ignore others in need” (Jas 2:14-17). Certainly, we help the needy with acts of mercy, but we are also called to organize around the issues that cause people to be in need in the first place.
The archdiocesan office for social justice has been accompanying parishes in engaging with other local faith communities to identify and address together the causes of problems people here face. But how exactly do we identify those problems and lift them up so that laity and clergy may be inspired to develop solutions? We listen.
Over the past few months, parishioners in Wyandotte, Douglas and Shawnee counties have joined in listening sessions facilitated by affiliates of Direct Action and Research Training (DART) designed to surface the issues troubling their communities.
Archdiocesan social justice staff conducted both one-on-one interviews with individuals as well as group conversations. Participants were asked: What keeps you up at night? What are you most in prayer about?
Numerous issues emerged during the discussions, but a core of concerns soon became evident — affordable housing, gun violence and elder care dominated the conversations.
Churches United for Justice (CUJ) is the Wyandotte County DART affiliate. Our Lady & St. Rose and St. Patrick parishes, both in Kansas City, Kansas, are the first two Catholic churches in the region to join CUJ.
In just two years, CUJ has persuaded the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, to create a community benefit ordinance to help fund an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, adopt Group Violence Intervention protocols to reduce violent crime escalation, and raise the standard of care and support for seniors.
CUJ is just the latest example of success in uniting Catholics with other voices in support of community betterment. The Justice, Unity and Ministry Project (JUMP) of Topeka began in 2012. Most Pure Heart of Mary, Mother Teresa and Christ the King parishes are among the 20 congregations that compose JUMP.
Current JUMP campaigns address mental health, predatory lending, affordable housing, homelessness, and violence reduction. Justice Matters formed in Lawrence in 2014 with the help of St. John the Evangelist Parish. Justice Matters also champions housing and eldercare.
Are there unvoiced concerns in the community that need to be heard and redressed? The office for social justice is eager to engage more parishes in meaningful conversations about the concerns of your community.
“The Lord hears the cries of the poor” (Ps 34:7) and we are here to help you listen.