Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 10, 2008
Social Justice ethics and principles spill into all aspects of life
By VIRGINIA BATTISTE
Special to the WCR
Calgary’s Diocesan Social Justice Conference this year was different from the usual information-driven conference.
Rather than having the “big gun” presenters flown in, conference organizers decided to rely on local expertise and use a more interactive format.
Themed Faith in Action, the Nov. 1 conference at St. Gerard’s Church drew close to 70 participants from across the diocese.
Antal Prokecz, diocesan director of social justice, asked the group to reflect on the breadth of activity already going on that falls within the range of social justice ministry.
Heart of the Gospel
Prokecz said Church social teaching puts social justice and social action at the heart of the Gospel.
Quoting from John Paul II, he pointed out a person’s participation in the Eucharist can be judged by how they live out their encounter with God, especially in their social lives.
Justice is being in right relationship, having relationships that are life-giving and that recognize we are all made in the image of God, he said.
We are called to be Christ-like in encounters with one another. Social justice, it follows, is being in right relationship in society by relating in ways that bring others fully alive.
The Gospel message brings us into contact with God, and Jesus, and we then bring that into our social relationships, he said.
Prokecz suggested that if believers see themselves as being like God, they will act differently. They will see others as also made in the image and likeness of God, and worthy of respect. Because we become who we ought to be in a community, community relationships need to be healthy and life giving, focused on the common good.
According to Prokecz, human rights and responsibility go together.
“My rights are the other person’s responsibility, and their rights are my responsibility. If I only pursue my rights, I become self-centred. We are responsible for what is happening to us, as a community. I have to look after you.”
Participants were invited to list a range of activities that show the principles of social justice at work in their personal lives, their work environment, and their community and/or parish lives.
Once participants recognized the breadth of social justice possibilities, Prokecz suggested two possible options to bring action to a parish level.
One can pursue the establishment of a social justice committee or one can foster the collaboration of existing parish groups already involved with some aspect of social justice.
Social justice ministry
His recommendation was that instead of creating new structures, a social justice ministry creates synergy for action.
The focus must be on the people of God in the diocese, including those who are non-Catholic, and on meeting the needs of the poor and suffering, he said.
Promoting the interests of one more organization is often counterproductive, leading to competition for resources.
Being focused on building the people of God, through whatever means are at hand, can alleviate that competition.