CSMG Day 2-3: Solidarity & Encounter

There was so much happening over the course of CSMG and I made the most of my time in Washington.  It’s taken me a few days to process.  Here’s the recap from the 2nd and 3rd days of the conference.

Day 2: Solidarity in our Common Home

The day began with an over-the-top breakfast.  I thought that the irony of the three course meal the night before at this event would fade.  Nope! We had this super fancy breakfast put on by Catholic Charities USA.  Is it just DC?  When we’re looking at systemic change and the inter-relatedness of all… why are we indulging in this form of gluttony?  The keynote would later go on to talk about excess- so let me get into that.

“The greatest poverty is isolation.”  This statement led to the call to missionary discipleship, to build the culture of encounter, and to invite people into the call to radical discipleship.

A question was posed… “Where’s the next generation of people willing to give up high salaries to do this work?”  The presenter had asked this question before and shared a remarkable response that resonates with me, “I wouldn’t phrase it like that. I didn’t give up anything. It is a privilege to do this work.” Amen!

We were reminded that the love of God comes to us as pure grace.  How? Contemplation.  Again, AMEN!

We were encouraged to recapture the beauty, awe, and mystery of creation…

We were reminded that we all have this capacity to experience mystery, everything is interconnected.  We live in a broken world and that can by a hurtful reality.  There was a lot of talk about sin, particularly social sin.  So many times in our lives when we do an examination of conscience, we focus solely on our personal sin.  There are a great deal of social sins that we either actively contribute to or are complicit in.  There were many “the biggest sin is…”  At this point the keynote shifted to the biggest sin being inequality.  Globally, enough food is produced to feed 1.3 times the number of people on the planet and 800 million are starving.

This was attributed to a lack of will.  I can’t disagree and I struggle with how to have that will collectively to make the change.  The problem seems overwhelming.  Is that what evil does when it seeps in?  Does it tell us that the problem is too big? That we’re not able to impact change?

The next point made was that we’re using 1.4 times the resources of earth currently.  We’re using more than we have.  This leads us to risk the next generation and calls us to respond.  We were posed with the question of will there be justice for the next generation?

There were then two words for us to focus on metanoia and alterity.  Here are the definitions that were given… Metanoia- radical conversion of heart. Alterity- recognizing the other.  The questions then posed were can we recognize the earth as other, as a sister needing protection?  Metanoia and alterity are essential to Pope Francis’s call to action- that we have an ethical imperative to act.

Then moving into the panel discussion: What are the most important opportunities for us to respond to challenges regarding the environment? Do I live in harmony with creation and nature?  What am I doing to care for our common home?

We were reminded that care for our common home begins with us and what we do impacts others. What happens to one happens to another, defend Mother Earth!

Our panel consisted of people from all over the world with different experiences of the exploitation of the resources of our planet.  They were asked what the greatest concern is for each of them:

US- Imminent domain. Congo- peace. Columbia- process for peace (current policies go against peace) and displacement for palm oil industry. Amazon- Indigenous rights, particularly of un-contacted peoples.

Pope Francis has called for a synod for the Amazon and Amazonian region.  There is more information at http://www.justresponse.faith.

Bishop George V Murray, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio is on the new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism from the USCCB.  One of the points that has stayed with me is that this shouldn’t be an Ad Hoc Committee, it should be a Committee.  He spoke about racism being America’s most persistent sin.

He seamlessly talked about slavery in the Church and addressing racism. Way back in 1435 a Papal Bull was issued by Pope Eugene IV (needs a citation).  Anyway, this Papal Bull apparently said that Catholics were not to own slaves under pain of excommunication! WHAT?! Way back in 1435?! Why have we not gotten that memo??  Bishop Murray threw down some serious Church history that I need to learn and humbled me.  One of the things that stays with me is the idea of silent complicity.  He talked about the important role that progressive Catholics play.  He made sure to that progressive is defined as being a force for good, NOT liberal.  He reminded us that progressive means being a force for positive change and justice. Again, AMEN!!

Day 3: Domestic and International Policy- Moving Towards Encounter

I can gratefully say that on the third day we had a very simple breakfast of oatmeal and coffee sponsored by CRS.  This was a welcome sight and honestly touched me.  We weren’t served, it wasn’t extravagant, and it spoke to the words that were being shared.  CRS walking the walk helped me personally as I work with Lewis University’s CRS Student Ambassadors.

Our opening session focused on Moving from a Throwaway Culture to a Culture of Encounter.  We were reminded that we are called to utilize our resources of our faith to move to encounter.  We, particularly in the US, suffer from a great polarization where social media amplifies this polarization and distracts us from what we  should be focused on.  In this context, how do we move the discussion to encounter, dialogue, and solidarity?

I took 10 pages of solid notes and there is no way to condense them.  All I can really say is that the conversation was incredibly stimulating and at times very challenging.  There were several quotes that had the word WHAT?! written next to it and furiously circled.

I will share the 5 ingredients for Just Peace:

1- Participation, not exclusion (especially by most marginalized numerically, WOMEN!)

2- Restoration

3- Right Relationship

4- Reconciliation & Healing with one another

5- Peace that is sustainable

The greatest encouragement was to keep at it in a polarized world! AMEN!

We are the voice for the voiceless and we need to take that responsibility seriously as Christians.

Later we had the legislative issues briefing.  While this conference was going on, I was blissfully unaware of what was happening in the minute to minute of our news cycle.  What I will say is that following our visits to the Hill, when we had all returned home, Nancy Pelosi held the floor advocating for Dreamers (1.8 million vulnerable young people of which approximately 800,000 currently receive temporary protections under DACA).  This 77 year old woman stood and spoke for EIGHT STRAIGHT HOURS. No matter your political affiliation, that is totally impressive.  As the House Minority Leader, she was speaking truth to power.  She was doing what we had been encouraged to do, which is to bring the human faces of consequences of delay and what it is doing to individuals and families.

I encourage you, if you’ve gotten this far, to check out justiceforimmigrants.org.

My next post will be about my time on Capitol Hill.  I do have to say how incredibly blessed I was to spend Sunday evening with one of the greatest young men I’ve ever met and future Secretary of Energy.  Monday evening, as plans fell through with one of my college friends, I got to check out the monuments and encounter the moment like the young girl in the rain.

Here are some pictures!

Peace & All Good!

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