JustFAITH participants put on a Picnic in the Park for inner city residents.

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JustFAITH participants put on a Picnic in the Park for inner city residents.

September 12, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON — For the third straight year, St. Theresa Parish is offering JustFAITH, a U.S.-based formation program to foster commitment to social justice ministry.

For the first time, St. Theresa's is opening the program to anyone in the archdiocese who may have an interest in social justice, regardless of education or experience.

JustFAITH is an extensive, conversion-based process that enables participants to grow in their commitment to care for the poor and vulnerable and to become advocates for a more just society.

"It's not just an introduction to the Christian faith; it's specifically around a Catholic approach to social justice," said Bob McKeon of the archdiocesan Social Justice Office. "The primary goal is to make the social justice dimension of the gospel to become more a part of our lives."

This year the Social Justice Office and St. Theresa Parish are teaming up to offer the program. McKeon will lead some of the sessions. JustFAITH consists of 30 weekly sessions on Thursday evenings beginning Sept. 22 at Newman Theological College.

IMMERSION EXPERIENCES

The program includes books, videos, guest speakers, discussion, prayer, two weekend retreats and four immersion experiences that provide face-to-face contact with people living on the margins of society.

The program has been run in many dioceses in the United States as well as in Winnipeg and Calgary. The parish team at St. Theresa's picked it up the last two years.

"We want to make people aware of the social justice teaching of the Church and of the fact that so few have so much and so many have next to nothing," said Maria Lupul, one of the program's coordinators.

"The idea is to get them involved in social justice projects."

In the past two years participants were taken to the inner city as part of their immersion experience.

Once participants had met with people who minister to inner city poor, "we went out into the street and just walked around in pairs and talked to the people on the street and found out all kinds of things about life in the inner city that we didn't know," explained Lupul.

One thing participants learned is that in the summer homeless people want water more than anything else.

"There is no place to get water in the inner city, so we gave them all the water we had," Lupul said.

The first time 12 St. Theresa parishioners participated in the program; the second time eight. "People look at 30 weeks and get scared but the truth is that people in both groups were sorry to see it end," Lupul said.

One participant, Cathy Pidhirney, liked the program so much she is taking it again this year.

"JustFaith changed my life," Pidhirney said. "From the JustFaith program I obtained a better understanding of Jesus' teachings on poverty, on who our neighbours are and on how to help people and treat everyone as our brothers and sisters."

TRANSFORMATION

Most who have participated have been transformed and are involved in social justice projects, Lupul said. After the first program finished "we created something we call Picnic in the Park."

The project involves taking a truck loaded with tables, chairs, barbecues, food, fruits and drinks and driving down to the inner city to feed the poor.

"We set up like an outdoor café and we barbecue about 450 burgers once a month (in the summer)."

Now participants are involved in a letter-writing campaign on child poverty.

Registration is $100 plus an additional $150 for materials, mainly books.

For more details, call Maria Lupul or Stephen Dufresne at St. Theresa Parish, 780-463-8646.