On Friday, March 21, and Saturday, March 22, the first-ever Department of Living Justice sponsored conference was held at Silver Lake College of the Holy Family in Manitowoc, titled “Just Live, Love & Walk: Fully Engaged, Fully Alive.”
This conference was family-friendly and open to all individuals who were interested in learning more about the seven themes of Catholic social teaching (Life and Dignity of the Human Person; Call to Family, Community and Participation; Rights and Responsibilities; Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity; and Care for God’s Creation). Keynote addresses and workshops were offered to expand participants’ understanding of these themes, in particular, Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
While I could not be there for much of the conference personally, I understand it was a beautiful experience for all involved on this very first conference of this type put on by the department and hosted by Silver Lake College.
Friday evening’s keynote address, “The Stations of the Cross: Halting Places to Ponder the Passion and Death of Christ,” was presented by Norbertine Fr. James P. Neilson. He marvelously kicked off the weekend by utilizing multiple versions of the stations to ask participants to see Christ’s Passion and death in a new way.
John Donahue-Grossman presented his keynote address on Saturday morning, which echoed a similar theme from Fr. Neilson’s presentation: how do we view Christ in our world today? His portrayal of a homeless man was an unforgettable experience that challenged participants’ understanding of the dignity of each human person and Christ’s call for justice. Later that day, Fr. Neilson presented “The Catholic Imagination: Recognizing the Body of Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” which again asked participants to open their eyes and see Christ among us in our homes and communities.
Several workshops were hosted throughout the day to delve deeper into the seven themes of Catholic social teaching. They included: Fair Trade: The Sweeter Choice by Chrissy Goethel (Solidarity); How to be a Family-Friendly Parish by Dianne Vadney (Call to Family, Community and Participation); St. Francis Speaks to Creation by Franciscan Sr. Anne Marie Lom, (Care for God’s Creation); Advocacy Made Easy by Catherine Orr (Rights and Responsibilities); Protecting the Unborn by Sr. Regina Rose Pearson (Life and Dignity of the Human Person); and Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery by Franciscan Sr. Laura Zelten (Life and Dignity of the Human Person).
During my homily for the closing Mass, I spoke more about how “living justice” is a tool of the new evangelization because it is how we live out our faith within the community. By rooting ourselves in prayer and transforming our own lives, we will then be able to share that faith joyously with others. I also wanted to highlight the importance of bridging the existing gap between the pro-life and social justice communities because one depends on the other. They cannot be separated because life issues are justice issues and justice issues are life issues.