I was at a national convention of human rights activists. Many were young people fired up about doing something to improve the quality of human life on the planet. They represented numerous causes, issues, and every group imaginable. People spoke from first hand experience with candor and fervor. Every religion as well as no religion was represented. To see 500 plus young people animated about doing something to alleviate the immense gap between rich and poor, workers and managers, made me come alive with our own Catholic Tradition of Social Justice. I see hope for the future. This goes way back beyond Vatican II, but the Council brought it together and gave it new life. So many other groups, religious and secular, freely acknowledge the influence Catholic Social Teaching has on their particular issues.
This is partly why I get up in the morning. Another piece is Mississippi. We chose Mississippi precisely because it is the poorest state in the Union. It has a hoary history of oppression. It has a sparse population of Catholics (2%). At the same time it has a Christian culture. The Catholic population has been here from the beginning. The people are friendly and very appreciative of whatever talents we bring. The needs are huge. The enthusiasm is strong.
Katrina brought young volunteers from all over the country, and they still come. Many groups share our hospitality and encouragement at our priory-in-the-woods. I dream of some of them staying longer to do more to help us raise the quality of life, and the spiritual energy of all our people.
Those who want to work with immigrants, there are plenty of opportunities. Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese. All with long Catholic histories. African Americans, Catholic and Protestant, offer a wide range of opportunities to serve from our religious tradition. Catholicism among people of African descent go back to the very beginning of this region. Those interested in Native Americans, the Choctaw Nation with its resorts and enterprises has been here before anybody else. Many are Catholic, but we can serve all. Everybody is called to be God’s child.
All these groups offer a wide range of social justice, human rights, religious formation areas to energize those dedicated people who pass through here. There is a strong social justice community, Catholic, Protestant and other, working in harmony to make this new century a century of rebirth and hope.
Norbertines are social workers and teachers, parish priests and chaplains in hospitals and prisons. Opportunities are limitless and the support is strong.
It all comes from Jesus, “When I was hungry, you fed me, thirsty you gave me a drink, naked you clothed me, homeless you gave me shelter, in prison you visited me, sick you healed me.” This is the core of Catholic Social Justice. Join us!