Brother brings social teachings to community
Br. Steve Herro helps parishes to prioritize the issues they face
Fifth in a Bishop's Appeal series
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
|SOCIAL CONCERNS: Br. Steve Herro, diocesan consultant for social concerns, enjoys speaking to groups about social justice issues facing the church and the nation. (Submitted photo)
Br. Steve Herro, O.Praem., diocesan consultant for Social Concerns, jokes with friends about his "great job security."
"When you consider issues of social justice, there is so much work to do," he said. "There are so many directions we could get pulled. It reminds me of when I was in college trying to pick a major. I had so many interests that it was tough to choose. There are so many topics to address. From a job security perspective, it's a nice problem to have."
Br. Herro serves as a resource to parish social concerns committees by helping them implement the agenda of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Social Development and World Peace, and the social justice agenda of the Wisconsin Catholic
Conference. His work is funded in part by the annual Bishop's Appeal.
"Because there are so many issues, whether it's peacemaking, poverty or environmental concerns, there is a need to prioritize," he said. "The USCCB and WCC serve as guideposts as to what issues are most pertinent and most relevant."
Helping parishes is a privilege, he said.
"I really enjoy going out to the parishes to help them plan and to help them present to parish groups of all ages," he said. "It's a great way to meet the people of the diocese. I have a background in education and teaching. I've done a lot of conference presentations as an academic librarian, so I'm comfortable talking to groups. I welcome the opportunity when a youth minister, director of religious education or someone from faith formation calls for help in integrating a social justice program."
Br. Herro also coordinates diocesan participation in collections for Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Collection for the World's Poor, which is scheduled for March 25-26.
"It's important to contribute to these national offices, not only because they do good work, but more functionally, just to look at the message of Jesus Christ and the Christian
scriptures," he said. "John Carr, secretary of the USCCB Department of Social Development and World Peace, once said, 'We don't care about social justice because the people we serve with are Catholic; we care about social justice because we are Catholic,' The roots of the word Catholic, which means 'universal,' calls us to be concerned about our brothers and sisters."
Responses in support of the victims of the tsunami and the hurricanes in the Gulf States are great examples of people in the diocese reaching out for social justice, said Br. Herro.
"It's not only writing a check," he said. "A number of people from our diocese have contacted me asking, 'Do you know of an established volunteer program? I would really like to get a group together and help with the reconstruction.' People are immersing themselves in the experience. They want to see, smell, hear and feel the needs of these people. They are sharing their talents as Christian stewards. It's heartwarming when someone calls, looking for ways to help."
Br. Herro hopes to see the diocese move forward in particular areas of social justice. St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Newton became the first diocesan parish to implement JustFaith, an adult faith formation program based on the social teachings of the church. Jack Jazreel, national director of JustFaith, will be speaking at the Gathering, Oct. 6-7 at St. Norbert College.
"Four hundred parishes in the country have adopted JustFaith," said Br. Herro. "Now, when I see people from St. Thomas, they are so enlightened. I would like to see more parishes adopt the program."
"Another challenge is to help merge groups that have traditionally been called pro-life, and what has been traditionally called social justice," he continued. "I heard a speaker in
Washington who said, 'Do you realize how much better this country would be if we convinced our legislators they had to be anti-abortion and anti-poverty? We need to find a way to wed pro-life and pro-social justice groups."
Br. Herro also challenges families to integrate social justice into their daily lives, and calls for people to be informed voters.
"The bishops' Faithful Citizenship document calls us to hold our elected officials accountable," he said. "We need to call our candidates to be accountable on the important
issues outlined by the USCCB, which are immigration reform, world trade and world debt, elimination of capital punishment, and a reasonable, well thought out plan to end our involvement in Iraq. The President has finished the budget for the fiscal year 2007. We need to look at that budget and its effect on poor people. It's necessary for the Catholic Church to be a crying and outspoken advocate for the poor in this country."
In addition to serving as consultant for Social Concerns, Br. Herro, who grew up in Fond du Lac, is also the diocesan liaison to the Rural Life Committee.
"When I was asked by my director to work with Rural Life, I felt like Moses, 'Can't you ask my brother Aaron to do this?'" he said. "I've never lived on a farm, but I have found a rhythm and personality to rural life in our diocese that is really quite remarkable."