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Inspiring People to do Faith Justice

May 19, 2011

By David and Sharon, JustFaith Ministries

For eight weeks, 10 members of Mary Queen of Peace parish in Sammamish, WA, looked long and hard at the world’s use of energy, our dependence on oil, and our consumer-based economy that is built on throw-away goods. The overarching question they asked was: what kind of humans will we be as we go through the ecological crisis?

They worked with an educational module, “Faith Encounters the Ecological Crisis,” produced by JustFaith Ministries, whose aim is to transform people and expand their commitment to social justice.

The module identifies those ways in which humans are already living beyond the bio-capacity of the planet. Participants view films, engage in small and large group discussion, and meet with several guest speakers. Participants discuss their own spiritual values and ways to “live beyond the end of this world” with a rich and vibrant Earth community still intact, still able to support life.

Over the past 10 years, more than 25,000 people have completed one or more JustFaith Ministries programs such as this and have put their hands and feet into serving our marginalized sisters and brothers.

From the outset, this “transformational” ministry has stood on the shoulders of courageous and committed communities of women religious around the country. Whenever we receive a group registration from a far-flung or surprising location, we ask ourselves, “How did they hear about JustFaith Ministries?” Often the answer lies in a dedicated sister or a religious community hard at work to promote the Gospel vision of peace through justice.

JustFaith offers a range of programs for varied interests and ages, and women religious are finding them helpful in many settings:

• Engaging Spirituality (ES) was launched two years ago to bring the wisdom of our contemplative tradition to bear on the crises of our time. In addition to retreats, spiritual reading and heart-sharing, participants practice centering prayer, prayerful listening, journal keeping and “engaged contemplation” – how to “be still” and “still be” in the storms of life that surround us. This 21-session spiritual intensive features the voices of contemporary “spiritual pathfinders”: activists, monastics, ministers, authors in this country and beyond. Some of these voices include Fr. Richard Rohr, Dr. Jean Vanier, Rev. Elias Chacour, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Kathy Kelly, Jean Stokan (Director of the Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team) and Scott Wright. In several cases, ES has been introduced to religious communities or facilitated by women religious. The focus and tone has a particular appeal to those involved in spiritual direction, pastoral care and retreat ministry. Some religious communities are investigating the potential of using ES as a way for their elderly to stay prayerfully connected to the struggles of the world. Others are looking at ES as an enhancement to the formation of lay associates.

• In parishes, JustFaith Catholic has resulted in stories of powerful personal transformation as people wrestle with poverty in their local communities and internationally and look at how they are called to respond to those needs. Parish communities that have used the JustFaith program for several years in a row soon discover that they have a growing group of people who are on fire to offer their time and energy to outreach ministries or to start new ministries to address pressing needs. JustFaith participants from a parish in Greenville, SC, worked with local nonprofits to buy houses in their neighborhood and convert them into stable housing for chronically homeless people in their midst. A parish in Bellingham, WA, conducted a week-long, 120-mile pilgrimage to the immigration detention center in Tacoma to draw attention to their concerns about immigration.

• Communities of women religious have supported JusticeWalking (for high school youth) and College JusticeWalking by providing grants, coordinating and co-facilitating groups on high school and college campuses, supporting groups in parish settings, and helping other interested communities get these groups started. As a result, youth and young adults are hearing about the Church’s social teaching and the Gospel call to justice early in their lives.

All of these stories point to the significant changes that can happen when people look at the world through the lens of faith and open themselves to the question, “What is God calling me to do to respond?” The staff at JustFaith Ministries provides support to new groups who wish to bring this experience to their communities. You can find out more about all of the programs and resources at JustFaith Ministries’ website, or by sending an email to info@justfaith.org.

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