Greetings to the Austin Catholic New Media Community. I would like to do a brief introduction of myself before I begin my post on social justice. First off, I am very blessed and honored to be able to partake in this form of new media in the church. I am a recent Texas A&M University graduate with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Business Administration. After three years of discernment, I am officially a seminarian for the Diocese of Austin and will be taking classes at St. Joseph’s Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana. My posts will entail various subjects that highlights aspects of our faith from a seminarian point of view. Once again, I am humbled to begin this journey and excited to share my life with you all as The Savvy Seminarian.
“Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?'”-Luke 24:32
Last week I participated in a 3 day long retreat for middle schoolers in our diocese. The retreat was called Servus Dei. It was a beautiful retreat that dealt with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. The retreat allows teenagers, aged 11-13, to experience different aspects of Social Justice. I was blessed to part of the staff and was able to help lead a small group with Matt Rice, who is currently the Youth Minister for St. Joseph’s in Bryan, Texas. I was blessed to be part of this retreat in numerous ways. One experience in particular was the realization of the future of our church embracing the faith in such a tangible way. To see these kiddoes go out into the streets of Austin, with supervision of course, with such faith and selfless service was truly inspiring. Even though this age group can get a little rowdy at times, they managed to prove us adults wrong by serving their community and each other. Not only were the children able to learn more about Catholic Social Teaching, which is a bejeweled treasure of our church, but I found myself learning a lot about the different aspects of social justice. I will provide more information below.
The retreat has a beautiful way of providing information and applying the information that was learned. Small groups were able to have discussions about the social teachings in a more intimate way and thus were also divided to participate in various service projects throughout the city of Austin. The first service project our group participated in was helping out at the food pantry at Catholic Charities. The group helped pack and bag meals for the homeless and those who were struggling to provide in our area. Every day many of our brothers and sisters go hungy without food. To see these kids provide a lending hand by just bagging a canned vegetable or speaking to a brother or sister in spanish was truly amazing. In these simple acts, Christ was present among the children. It was great to also hang out with my brother seminarians, Joe Daheim and Brian Phillips, who were working at Catholic Charities that week.
Day 3 started off with a service project with Micah 6.
The mission of Micah 6 of Austin is to work together to identify and meet the needs of the homeless and the impoverished in the University of Texas campus area. Micah 6 Coalition is a network of faith communities within the University of Texas area that answer the call of Micah 6:8 to do justice through education, dialogue, and advocacy. To love kindness by compassionately serving those who come to us for assistance. To walk humbly with God by providing opportunities for the spiritual growth of those we serve, our congregations and other community partners.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8
At this service project, our group had to simply be baggers for those who were going through the line. A simple example of our service was what grocery baggers do at the end of an H-E-B line or supermarket line. The clients that went through the Micah 6 line had gone through a shopping line of various food items and everyday necessities and eventually needed to bag all of their items at the end. Our group was there when it was most needed through the grace of God. The director was very thankful for the children’s presence because during the summer there is a shortage of volunteers and an increase amount of clients that need help. If you would like to volunteer please click here. Micah 6 will need more volunteers for the rest of the summer simply because of the demand. Even though the work may seem meaningless, it was very meaningful for those that needed help. By being in that type of environment makes one truly appreciate the gifts God has given you and to take every day and every moment as a blessing.
One of my favorite memories from the retreat would have to be the reaction and action that was witnessed right after I gave the Prayer and Reconciliation talk. During the retreat on the night of day two, we held a prayer service. Not only do we physically have to help our brothers and sisters, but there is a spiritual component as well to social teaching. I was blessed to give the prayer and reconciliation talk that evening and discussed aspects of the faith to these middle schoolers. Of course I added an activity that gave the children an analogy to water and reconciliation. It was an activity that expressed the importance of water to our physical bodies and how it refreshes and brings us life. Since water renews our bodies, reconciliation renews our souls and cleanses us with God’s unending mercy. As my talk wrapped up and I was finishing the explanations of the different prayer areas, the kids were so eager and literally ran to the confession line. I had to get back on the microphone to encourage those who did not get in the line fast enough that the line will continue to be there and that there were many other prayer areas to check out first. It was beautiful to see the childlike faith those kids had and the openness to the sacrament. May their example and their faith teach us how to be more like children in the eyes of God with the same openness and trust. The retreat was an overall success and another humbling experience. I will wrap up this post with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and a prayer.
The Principles of Catholic Social Teaching are as follow:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The human person is the clearest reflection of God among us. Each person possess a basic dignity that comes directly from our creation in the image of God. Through our actions we must express that each person is precious and the lives and welfare of all people are priorities. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.
Rights and Responsibilities
People have a fundamental right to life and those things that make life truly human: food, clothing, housing, health care, education, and security. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
We realize our dignity and rights in relationship with others. The first community is the family, where we learn and act on our values. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test of our society is how our most vulnerably members are treated. Those with the greatest needs require the greatest response.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Work is an expression of our human dignity. It is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.The economy must serve people, not the other way around.
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and idealogical differences. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that loving our neighbor has global dimensions in an interdependent world.
Care of God’s Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation
Prayer for those who are hungry…
Sharing the loaves and fishes, You gave us an image of solidarity with the hungry, O Lord. Sharing yourself in the Bread and Win, You called all to the table, O Lord. Give me the hunger to be part of the feeding and the healing of this world. Nourish me with your Grace, so I may walk with joy to serve your children. Open my eyes and my heart to recognize those in poverty. Increase my awareness of the structures and systems that need to be changed so we may all break bread together. Amen.