ACCU recently released the fall edition of Update, our quarterly newsletter. Read Update in full here. Peace and Justice highlights include:
Global Solidarity Grants Increase Awareness of Catholic Social Teaching at Benedictine University, Cabrini College, Dominican University, St. Norbert’s College, and the University of St. Thomas (TX).
Catholic Colleges Bring Higher Education to the Incarcerated: Saint Francis College, Donnelly College, Holy Cross College, University of Notre Dame, and La Salle University implement programs to bring higher education to those incarcerated.
Spring Hill Alumni Participate in Inaugural Service Trip to Belize where they worked building homes.
Loyola Chicago Students Donate Care Packages to Soldiers serving in Iraq through a partnership with Aramark by using the remaining balance on meal plan to purchase care package materials
Loras Student Wins Interfaith Leadership Award- Recent graduate Samantha Eckrich was awarded the Mike Hammer Interfaith Leadership Award, which recognized her effort in promoting interfaith cooperation on campus.
With the 2016 U.S. presidential race already underway, candidates are discussing their ideas regarding the social, economic, and political issues facing America, many of which are of great concern to the Catholic Church. One of most prominent issues is immigration. Shortly after launching his presidential campaign in June 2015, for instance, Donald Trump made controversial statements about Mexican immigrants, characterizing them as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists, ending with, “Some, I assume, are good people.”
Such harsh statements about people who seek a better life in the United States come from an unfortunate public misconception and general lack of knowledge regarding the complexity of immigration. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains in Strangers No Longer Together on the Journey of Hope that the decision to migrate is strongly influenced by factors such as poverty, injustice, religious intolerance, and armed-conflict in other countries. The Catholic Church has spoken strongly regarding the importance of welcoming immigrants who pursue the American dream of safety, opportunity, stability, and freedom, while also working to address the root causes of migration. Recognizing the need for reform of both political policies and individual hearts, Catholic higher education, along with the Catholic Church, provides students with the information and experiences to learn more about migration.
As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis frequently speaks about the importance of respectful treatment of migrants. In his message on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2015, the pope asserted, “Often … migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesial communities, prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution. In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need.” The Catholic Church affirms the importance of standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, regardless of immigration status, as we are all part of one human family, created in the image of God. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains in their public policy statement on immigration reform that we must welcome the foreigner and show respect for every person as part of their inherent human dignity, following Jesus’ prophetic proclamation, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).
Guided by Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic higher education stands in solidarity with migrants, educating students about the reasons why migration occurs and supporting communities through service and advocacy for immigration reform. Catholic colleges and universities have undertaken activities to support immigrants and immigration reform such as establishing scholarships for students from immigrant backgrounds, welcoming undocumented immigrant students, and promoting educational opportunities for students to encounter the experience of migrants and the difficult journey they face. One example of a powerful educational opportunity is Cabrini College’s project titled, “#RefugeesSeekingSafety.”
Funded by the Global Solidarity Grants program sponsored by ACCU and Catholic Relief Services, the #RefugeesSeekingSafety project led participants through an innovative 25-minute simulation of the experience of unaccompanied minors fleeing from violence in Central America by coming to the United States. The simulation was originally designed by a freshman social justice course, “Our Interdependent World.” The grant from ACCU and CRS helped students from the class, Cabrini Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors, and members of the Cabrini Mission Corps edit and expand the draft of the simulation and create a website to promote and share the simulation. The students debuted the final simulation in spring 2015, when more than 75 participants got a glimpse of the situations and options that minors face at the U.S.-Mexico border. The group reflected on the root causes of migration; learned about advocacy programs, ranging from social media tags to petitions to Congress; and gathered for a solidarity prayer-walk. These participants gained a better understanding of the issues that refugees seeking safety face and learned how they can support change and take action on immigration reform.
Similar to this Cabrini program, another example of a powerful educational opportunity is Mount Mercy University’s project, “Standing in Solidarity with Migrants.” Also funded by the Global Solidarity Grants program, this project engaged students, faculty, and the community in educational opportunities to learn, reflect, and take action on immigration issues. First, Sr. Kathleen Erickson, RSM, spoke about her personal experiences with immigration, both as an assistant at a center for immigrant women and as an immersion coordinator. The lecture helped students understand the causes and effects of migration. The following day, the community came together to pray for migrants in an interfaith service and participated in a workshop to reflect on their experiences. The group wrote letters to their representatives advocating for comprehensive immigration reform centered on the fair and just treatment of humans. Lastly, staff, faculty, and students were given the opportunity to experience the lives of migrants through a four-day immersion trip to the U.S.-Mexico Border in El Paso, TX. While staying in a migrant shelter, participants discussed immigration with U.S. Border Patrol representatives, listened to stories of migrants and refugees, met with human rights activists, and visited historical and cultural sites. The four-day immersion trip to El Paso brought together faith, reflection, and action, connecting the complex discussion of immigration to the participants’ spiritual beliefs.
Prior to experiencing either of these initiatives, many of the participants had little to no knowledge about migration. At the completion of these projects, participants had gained invaluable insights, grown spiritually, and developed skills to advocate for solidarity. Both institutions plan to continue their advocacy for migrants. Cabrini College designed a website to share the simulation experience with other students, campuses, and the public to inform them on the perilous journey that refugees face. The #RefugeesSeekingSafety website is also intended to broaden the opportunity for visitors to recreate the experience, learn how to advocate, and take action on immigration reform.
Mount Mercy student Katelyn Bishop explains that after participating in her university’s project, her “eyes are opened to the harsh reality that many immigrants face in the world today.” The Mount Mercy Social Justice Club, a student group, plans to continue advocating for solidarity and educating fellow students on the topic of immigration next year. Upon returning from the immersion trip to El Paso, Mount Mercy student Abby Herd reflected on her life-changing experience and her plans to continue advocating for immigrants: “I am raising my voice for the thousands that can’t, the thousands of people suffering, the thousands of people that are dying because of a fence that cages people in. I am a voice for the voiceless. Will you be?”
Kathryn Roarty is a 2015 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. She interned with ACCU in summer 2015.
Earlier today, Pope Francis released his long-awaited encyclical letter, Laudato Si. We at ACCU are sharing resources and best practices to help our campuses pray for commitment to care for creation, learn about the encyclical and our call to stewardship, and act upon our beliefs to work for the common good.
ACCU member institutions have acted upon their call to care for creation through a number of sustainability and environmental justice initiatives.
29 Catholic colleges and universities have taken the St. Francis Pledge, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Covenant, committing to living out the value of care for creation through reflection, action, and advocacy. These campuses include: Aquinas College (MI), Cabrini College, Chestnut Hill College, College of Saint Benedict, Creighton University, Gonzaga University, John Carroll University, Lewis University, Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, Mercyhurst University, Mount St. Joseph University, Neumann University, Rosemont College, Saint Anselm College, Saint Francis University, Saint John’s University (MN), Saint Joseph’s College (IN), Saint Mary’s College of California, Saint Michael’s College, Salve Regina University, Seattle University, St. Thomas More College, Stonehill College, University of Notre Dame, University of Portland, Villanova University, Viterbo University, and Xavier University.
The Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability at Seattle University lives out a core tenet of the university mission. The Center has undertaken a number of initiatives, including supporting faculty and student research through fellowships. Dr. Trileigh Tucker, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Seattle University, and one of CEJS’s first Faculty Fellows, developed a teaching resource on environmental justice, compiling syllabi, assessment methods, and foundational documents used frequently in courses on environmental justice.
Benedictine University in Illinois has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the state to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the campus cafeteria and other buildings.
In spring 2015, Cabrini College held a conference, “Faith, Climate, and Health”, to examine how climate change affects the health of the most vulnerable citizens.
At the University of Portland, professors Dr. Russell Butkus and Dr. Steven Kolmes, teach a course entitled “Theology in Ecological Perspective”, exploring Catholic and Christian teaching and environmental science.
Read more ways ACCU member campuses have undertaken sustainability initiatives on the ACCU website. Check back frequently as we will post new updates and ways that ACCU campuses react to the Laudato Si to the blog!
Catholics Confront Global Poverty, an initiative of USCCB and CRS, recently interviewed Dr. Jerry Zurek. Dr. Zurek is the chair of the Communication Department at Cabrini College, an ACCU member. He has participated in various initiatives for social justice and action at Cabrini, including the institution of a unique curriculum requirement based on CST values, a university partnership with CRS, and facilitating advocacy work among his students.
Additionally, his students developed the immigration simulation that has been featured on ACCU’s Peace and Justice blog before, and which won a Global Solidarity Grant from ACCU and CRS. Because of students’ engagement with social justice through his classes and through advocacy work, Dr. Zurek says, “Global solidarity has become real for them.”
As the release date for Pope Francis’s new encyclical draws nearer, researchers from various fields and interests share their predictions and hopes for the care of creation. A recent National Catholic Reporter article features thoughts by theologians and other experts from 10 ACCU members: Fordham University, Duquesne University, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, University of Dayton, Boston College, Loyola University New Orleans, Mount Saint Mary’s University, Loyola Chicago University, and Georgetown University. Both ACCU member academics and activists from partnering organizations voiced their expectations regarding the connections Pope Francis will make between care for creation and other themes, such as option for the poor and vulnerable, solidarity, and answering the call to family, unity, and participation.
Academics are also engaging the topic of climate change in other ways. Last month, Cabrini College hosted “Faith Climate and Health: Creation Care for a Greener Future,” a half-day, interfaith conference focusing on care for creation. The keynote speech by Dr. John Burke treated predictions and hopes for the upcoming encyclical, especially focusing on care for creation through a lens of social justice. Additionally, an address by Rabbi Arthur Waskow compared the current environmental situation with other histories of oppression. The conference was also an ideal time for everyone to share their efforts toward sustainability. Learn more about the conference here.
Cabrini College faculty and students have been very busy bringing awareness to issues of human exploitation. Students in a class called “Our Interdependent World” have developed a simulation that shows participants what it is like to cross the U.S.-Mexico border as a unaccompanied minor refugee. They were awarded a Global Solidarity Grant from ACCU and CRS in order to expand their program.
Read news articles about the #RefugeesSeekingSafety simulation here and here. Read a reflection on the simulation by a Cabrini student here.
Additionally, Cabrini is hosting a conference called “Human Exploitation: Ending the Demand” in order to educate about the connection between the demand for pornography and human trafficking. The conference will be on Saturday, April 11, and it will feature a documentary and various speakers.
Are you interested in how faith and climate intersect? Consider attending Cabrini College’s conference: Faith, Climate, and Health: Creation Care for a Greener Future on Friday, April 17, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The conference is free of charge and it invites concerned citizens to gather to examine the perils of climate change and how it effects the health of our most vulnerable. The conference will also discuss how we as a society and as a people of faith can address these issues.
Gaudium et Spes was the only document from Vatican II which focuses on the relationship of the church to the world at-large. This document has deeply affected the way that the church has responded to social justice issues, and it is still highly relevant today as Catholics continue working in the larger world. Join Cabrini College on Wednesdays during Lent to revisit the revolutionary implications of this document and to examine the challenges it still poses today.