by Deacon Bill Scholl
pluribus unum” is our nation’s motto.
It means, “Out of many, one,” and yet, recent electoral turmoil and the lingering pandemic have greatly eroded unity.
Profound policy disagreements abound in a climate that isolates us into divided camps that talk past one another.
As citizens and Catholics, we struggle with how, with integrity, we can — in the words of St. Paul — “pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another” (Rom 14:19). However, with Christ as our model, we see a path forward.
In the Gospels, Christ always sought encounter, and as Pope Francis observed, “His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity. Unity grows along the way; it never stands still. Unity happens when we walk together.”
Consequently, the archdiocesan office for social justice is sponsoring two new justice ministries — the Wyandotte justice ministry and the Johnson County justice ministry — as an opportunity for our parishes to walk with other communities of faith to be unified in identifying and taking action around issues that harm the poor and vulnerable in our community.
Catholic social teaching takes two approaches to the church’s mission of charity: mercy ministry and justice ministry.
Mercy ministry tends to the person in their need, e.g., feed a man a fish and teach a man to fish. Justice ministry tends to circumstances that cause the need, e.g., stopping corporations from killing the fish by polluting the rivers.
While mercy is primary and tantamount, justice is crucial for the perfection of the church’s charity.
Mercy helps the homeless; justice asks why we have the homeless and what can be done to find homes.
Thanks to funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and organizing efforts facilitated by the Direct Action Research and Training Center, justice ministries have been established in Topeka and Lawrence.
Their successes and lessons learned have motivated clergy in Wyandotte and Johnson counties to enter into the same conversation process.
They will discern how parishes, congregations, synagogues and other communities of worship can identify the problems of the poor and hurting in their community, and to organize to take direct action to solve at least one of these problems each year.
Clergy from both counties — Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Jewish, Baptist and more — have all been engaged in leadership, but there is room at the table and a yearning for a diversity of perspectives.
This diverse collaboration is tempered by a commitment to respect the integrity of belief for each community as we seek consensus on the issue and the actions the ministries will organize around each year.
Just imagine if the people who worship God, as diverse as their worship and theologies may be, can be unified in solving problems. Imagine how by example that unity might spread.
If you are interested in learning more or want to get your parish involved, please contact me by email at: social firstname.lastname@example.org.