For several months we, the Parish Pastoral Council of St. Noel, have been researching and discussing the Social Justice Teaching of the Catholic faith.
Many of us were unaware that our Church envisions two aspects to our response to Christ’s teaching: charity and advocacy. Charity is the action of offering immediate help to those in need. Advocacy is the action towards eliminating the structural causes that allow such needs to continue. To draw upon a famous image, charity is giving a hungry person a fish; advocacy is teaching that person how to fish.
Following Jesus, then, calls us to work for change in our society. Our faith includes efforts to make our world conform more closely to God’s will. This is what Jesus means when he talks about building the Kingdom of God. Engagement for justice in our world has been a part of Catholic teaching since the time of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). It has been affirmed by subsequent popes and has been given particular emphasis by our present pope, Francis. In his recent exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (#180), he states:
“Reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. . . . The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society. We are seeking God’s kingdom: “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33). Jesus’ mission is to inaugurate the kingdom of his Father; he commands his disciples to proclaim the good news that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 10:7).”
The council has worked to develop an understanding of the importance of both charity and advocacy as part of our Catholic tradition. St. Noel has a long and vibrant history of support for charity. Our Food Pantry and yearly Christmas project are actions of charity that help many in our area. Actions of advocacy are also important to create the proper balance in our parish life.
St. Noel Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines express the purpose of the Pastoral Council “to promote the spiritual growth of the parish community and to plan ways for the parish to carry out the mission of the church.” In light of this purpose, the council is calling the parish staff and the social justice committee to explore ways to highlight the advocacy aspect of Catholic teaching. We wish that our parishioners understand more clearly the essential call to work for justice in our world as a response to the teaching of Jesus.
Although advocacy is clearly a part of the gospel, particular strategies of advocacy can be open to discussion and debate. Some of these strategies can actually divide members of our parish. Therefore, the council asks the staff and social justice committee to prepare for any action of advocacy with sufficient education and discussion. In this way, action on behalf of justice will be seen not as a personal or political agenda but as an essential aspect of the gospel of Christ.
The council suggests that the staff and social justice committee research an effort of advocacy that may serve our parish as a focus of our faith commitment. Such an effort can highlight the importance of advocacy and invite parishioners to participate in it. The council asks that once an effort of advocacy is determined, that effort be brought to the council for its input and discussion. In this way such an effort will be presented to the parish with the widest level of support.
We, the Parish Pastoral Council, believe that a focused effort of advocacy will highlight the essential nature of action on behalf of justice and deepen our parish life as followers of Jesus.
St. Noel Parish Pastoral Council
- Keith Brandt
- Mary Busch
- Joe Daprano
- Bob Gahr
- Mike Hackett
- Sr. Kathleen Heer
- Chad Hudock
- Jennifer Kasprisin
- Barb Mills
- Candice Minello
- Eleanor Reilly
- Mary Schneider