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August 4 - 17, 2013

Organizing Catholics for justice

By Michelle Martin

Staff Writer

Somewhere in a parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago, there is one person who is doing her best to advocate for affordable housing. Three parishes over, there’s another, and maybe a small group down at the other end of the archdiocese.

And none of them knows what the other is doing.

As Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.”

Surely, they could get more done — and maybe recruit a few more workers along the way — if they joined forces.

Organizing Catholics for Justice aims to remedy that, harnessing the power of both social and personal networking to help Catholics from all over the Archdiocese of Chicago speak with one voice on a variety of social justice issues.

The effort, which is being spearheaded by the Justice Education Commission of the Office for Peace and Justice, offers Catholics a way to connect with others who share their interest in social justice and to learn more about the social teachings of the church.

The website, organizingcatholicsforjustice.org, is up and running, but the effort will formally be kicked off on Aug. 17 at an event called Day ONE, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Holy Family Church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Road.

Ashley Collins, a program assistant for the Office for Peace and Justice, is leading the social networking side, which includes a “Marketplace for Justice” where people can find out about groups working on issues from domestic violence to respect for life, and a way for people who give their name and email address to connect with others.

Volunteer Mitch Gaynor, a member of the Justice Education Commission, is working with leaders on developing personal connections among the people who express an interest, and Anthony Suarez- Abraham, director of the Office for Peace and Justice, is making sure that all of the efforts have a sound theological basis in Catholic social teaching.

“We want to emphasize that we are one body, one voice on these issues,” Collins said. “We’re doing this to bring people together, to show they’re not alone.”

To that end, there is at least one person in each vicariate who will contact the people who sign up, and will remain in touch. That way, if there is a petition to be signed about, say, anti-violence efforts, or a bill coming up in the state legislature about the rights of the disabled, the vicariate leaders will know who to call who is likely to actually take action, Collins said.

Some of those people could become leaders in their own parishes, extending the network further.

However, signing up does not commit participants to serve on any committees or make any financial contribution. The website says, “We want your voice, not your money.”

For more information, visit organizingcatholicsforjustice.org.