Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 8, 2002
Social Justice Institute returns
Weekend conference focuses on Catholic social teaching
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Eight years after vanishing due to lack of interest, the Social Justice Institute is back, this time with a more Catholic flavour.
The event will run from May 3 to 5 at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta and will explore a series of social justice issues in light of the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church.
Joe Gunn, director of the social affairs office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and an unidentified member of the Scarboro Foreign Missions Society, will be keynote speakers at the event.
Both will explore the state of today's world with an emphasis on the impact of globalization on people in both the developed and the developing world.
The week-long Social Justice Institute began in 1980 and ran annually until 1994, when it was cancelled due to a lack of participation. Just a couple of dozen people, most of them organizers, attended the last institute in 1994. The ecumenical event used to gather up 150 people in the early years.
The institute came as a result of the excitement for lay participation and transforming society sparked by the changes of the Second Vatican Council, recalls Linda Winski of the Social Justice Commission.
"Then I don't know whether it was a kind of cynicism that took over, or busy-ness, or just that generation of people moved on." The fact is people lost interest in justice issues and the institute closed.
But today with the thrust of the jubilee there is another "push" for Christian participation in social affairs.
"And so the institute is a bit of an attempt to give people some of the tools for participating in that renewal movement, renewal of our faith, renewal of the commitment to put our faith into action," Winski said.
The institute is sponsored by four Catholic organizations and will have "a bit of a Catholic flavour," focusing heavily on Catholic social teaching.
It will offer a choice of five workshops on issues ranging from the Christian response to violence to living counter-culturally to globalization.
In a workshop called Living Counter-Culturally: The Gospel and Young Adults, David Peacock, of St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon, will encourage young adults to think critically about the community where they live in light of the Gospel and Catholic teaching.
A workshop led by Tom Keating, acting chair of the political science department at the University of Alberta, Exploring the Christian Response to Violence, will examine Church teaching in the area of war and violence and explore the opportunities for a more peaceful and just response.
Bob McKeon, a lecturer in social ethics at Edmonton's Newman Theological College and St. Joseph's University College, will lead the workshop Local Parishes as Justice Communities.
In their workshop Living Faithfully Through Social Action, brothers Rodrigo and Alvaro Loyola will explore methods of bringing faith and analysis together to initiate social action.
Rodrigo is program coordinator for the Edmonton Council for the Canadian Organization for Development and Peace, and Alvaro is the school/youth liaison for Development and Peace.
The institute is sponsored by St. Joseph's College, CCODP, the Social Justice Commission and the Basilian Fathers' Charitable Fund. Efforts will be made to have future institutes sponsored by a wide range of Christian and organizations, Winski stressed.
"The impetus for the revival of the institute was given by the Basilian Fathers who gave some money for a social justice event," noted John Lynch, director of the Social Justice Commission.
"The Basilians and St. Joseph's College invited the Social Justice Commission and Development and Peace to work with them and put together a new institute."
Lynch said the new institute is "trying to cast to the youth and to new members to try and excite a greater sense of social justice to the wider community.
"Maybe the time is ripe with everything that is going on in the world to understand and want to know what it means to live faithfully in a troubled world and to understand the true meaning of social justice, which is to try and heal the very things that are wounding us right now."
For more information call Bob Schmidt at (780) 424-1557.