The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its founding by looking at how to further achieve their mission of peace and justice. Recently, five members within the Kroc School gave a “TED-style talk” at the USD Institute for Peace and Justice inaugural innovators event. The talk sought to inspire hope, engage in discussion, and “provide the audience with an understanding that making the world a better place requires everybody’s contribution.”
Ev Meade, director of the Trans-Border Institute, gave a talk that examined the U.S.-Mexico border and all the complexities that go along with it. He sought to educate and “provide opportunities for people to come together to build connections” in order to better serve those in marginalized situations on the border. Each speaker offered the audience a message of hope, positivity, and encouragement to continue on the mission of peace.
To read more about this event hosted by the Kroc School visit, USD news.
Spring has almost sprung! With the first day of spring and the celebration of Easter just around the corner, the time for renewal and revival is upon us. As the academic year comes to a close, it’s also a great time to take stock of all the peace and justice initiatives your campus has participated in over the course of the year. But just because the year will soon end, those efforts don’t need to stop. Catholic colleges and universities across the nation are finding interesting ways to maintain momentum and keep their work moving forward.
In Iowa, St. Ambrose University is committed to fostering interest in service and justice on campus. One of its ministries is Ambrose Women for Social Justice, which seeks to identify and assess the ways that injustice affects women and men and devise interdisciplinary solutions that are responsive and sensitive to both genders. The female-led student group was created in recognition of women’s need to be more involved in issues that touch their lives. For 14 years, the group has hosted the Women for Social Justice Conference, an annual lecture series to highlight important social and economic justice issues affecting women and girls. Katy A. Strzepek, director of women and gender studies at St. Ambrose, said much of the conference’s success lies in its Catholic identity by showing how students “can enact Catholic Social Teaching, most particularly by standing in solidarity and asking what they can do to help.” She advised students to remember that “no one is voiceless and to go to the uncomfortable places … to foster fruitful and honest dialogue.”
Last year, the conference focused on how gender affects globalization and what students can do to advocate for better policies. Keynote speaker Catherine Tactaquin, co-founder and executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, discussed the effects of migration by describing how immigrant and refugee women are often forced to leave their families and work abroad to be able to send wages to their families back home.
Saint Louis University is another Catholic institution that values continual engagement with the world and advocating for global change. Students at the Jesuit university attended the 20thIgnatian Family Teach-In for Justice gathering in November, to learn, reflect, pray, network, and advocate for solidarity and social justice issues. Members of the Jesuit body around the country meet annually to be supported by a like-minded community linked by faith and justice. The gathering also gives them an opportunity each year to honor their Jesuit companions who were martyred in El Salvador in 1989. Last fall, the conference focused on pushing students out of their comfort zones to heed the call that Pope Francis described as the “fire, the fervor in action, awakening those who have become dormant.” Students were encouraged to return to campus with a newfound passion to make a difference in the world and not to accept the status quo. They were urged to participate in the next Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in February by sharing what they had learned with their elected officials and asking for more just policies. To watch speakers and plenaries from the conference, visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network. And be sure to mark your calendars for the 2018 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, which will be held November 3-5, in Washington, DC.
SAnother annual occurrence that helps Catholic colleges keep their fervor going is the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering -Young Leaders Initiative in Washington, DC. In February, students from 24 Catholic colleges and universities attended the gathering, with the theme, “Building Community: A Call to the Common Good,” which stressed the significance of acting in solidarity with our marginalized brothers and sisters at home and abroad.
The four-day youth conference was an “opportunity for U.S. leaders in Catholic social action to network, advocate for social justice, and form emerging leaders in service to the Church and society,” according to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, which organized the event. Topics ranged from how climate change is affecting those in the Amazon, to the history of racism in the Catholic Church and how to combat it today.
About 500 people participated, with more than 100 college and university students in attendance. The students expressed gratitude for having the opportunity to be empowered to bring change back to their campuses. Senior theology student at CUA Julia VanConas observed, “Having the opportunity to listen and discuss issues with my peers on topics ranging from immigration to environmental justice, gave me space to develop a greater desire to advocate and bring what I learned back to campus.” Catholic colleges and universities are continuously discovering ways to reinvigorate their campus communities with fresh peace and justice initiatives because it spurs action. Students are investing time in conferences that emphasize peer-to-peer collaboration, keeping abreast of topical issues, and obtaining the necessary tools and resources for advocacy so that they return to campus ready to share the knowledge and make a difference. As the academic year comes to an end and spring begins, this rebirth period offers an opportunity for fruitful examination of what you can do on your campus to revive those around you and advance the work of peace and justice for everyone.
Every year Lourdes University hosts their “Annual Week of Service.” During this week more than 270 students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni participate in various community service activities that benefit the local community. In 2017, Lourdes volunteers completed 685 hours of community service at 15 different non-profit agencies around the area. The 2017 Week of Service was held the same week as the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities National Service Initiative, which is held in recognition of St. Francis.
Sr. Barbara Vano, OSF, Director of Campus Ministry and Service Learning said that, “during the Week of Service, we enjoyed spending time with some of our long-standing community partners, serving and hopefully brining attention to the needs of the homeless and marginalized., the populations that Sr. Francis so frequently challenged us to remember.”
To read more about Lourdes Week of Service, visit Lourdes University news.
Iona College recently concluded their annual Peacemaking Week. The 2017 Peacemaking Week centers on the theme “Self + Other + Earth = A formula for Our Future.” The Week of the Peacemaker begins with “Hope and Healing in the Anthropocene.” The event featured a day of contemplative inquiry with a “host of healers, teachers and spiritual practitioners who look to guide those in attendance into informative and transformative dialogue on the challenges of being well and offering wellness-of body, mind, and spirit-to an ecologically, socially and spiritually suffering planet.”
The keynote presentation was given by Karenna Gore, the director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Gore’s keynote will focus on her experience working in the legal center of Sanctuary for Families, which serves victims of domestic violence and trafficking and as director of community affairs for the Association to Benefit Children (ABC), which provides early childhood education and other services for families living in poverty in New York City.
To read more about Iona College Peacemaking Week, click here.
As we enter the Advent season, we are reminded of our continual call to direct our hearts and minds to the coming of Jesus Christ. As we do so, we reflect on his eternal sacrifice and his life on earth. Christ came to us a “light to the nations” and was a true example of how to give yourself to those in need. As Catholics we are called to do the same, for “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 21:1-2).
For Catholic colleges and universities, partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers the opportunity to lead by example and follow Christ’s example to be a light in the world. CRS uses the message of Jesus to defend the dignity of all human life through charity, justice, and living out Catholic Social Teaching. CRS offers these university and college partnerships as a way of “joining in solidarity with the global poor through education, prayer, and action.” Campuses have the opportunity to partner with CRS in three ways: through CRS Student Ambassadors, CRS faculty learning commons, and as a CRS Global Campus.
Villanova University is using their partnership with CRS through the Student Ambassadors program to advance its mission of awareness and solidarity for those in need. According to CRS, student ambassadors “are trained by CRS to mobilize their peers and bring to life the mission of solidarity, [which then] allows for chapters to connect and build across the nation.” At Villanova, student ambassadors are bringing awareness to their peers of modern-day slavery. In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, student ambassadors set up a table in a popular campus building in order to engage as many students as possible. Ambassadors gave students blue duct-taped ribbons to wear throughout the week in order to spark questions and discussion among peers.
The table also provided pamphlets with information on quick ways to help human trafficking victims. These tips ranged from how to identify possible victims to how to become a conscientious and informed consumer. Human Trafficking Awareness Day concluded with a screening of the documentary “Indifference is Not an Option.” According to CRS, the film “chronicles the lives of three escaped slaves spanning three countries and calls people to fight and stop hiding behind the excuse of ignorance.” The screening ended with the audience signing 80 advocacy letters. “These letters urged senators and representatives to pass the Supply Chain Transparency Act, which would help combat forced labor by forcing companies to reveal steps in their supply chain,” noted CRS.
Professors at The Catholic University of America are using resources provided by CRS Faculty Learning Commons to put a human face on issues learned in the classroom. CRS explains how faculty learning commons “provides opportunities for faculty members and other academic leaders to enrich student learning experiences by tapping into CRS’s expertise in global development and humanitarian response through the world.”
Professor Maryann Cusimano Love leverages CUA’s partnership with CRS in her politics courses by using the CRS faculty learning commons materials as required readings that deal with issues such as war and peace, refugees, global poverty, climate change, human trafficking, fair trade, and moral responsibilities to global challenges. Students then have a chance to answer written questions, she explains, and use the materials as an “example of how a general topic discussed in class manifests in a specific circumstance.” She also invites students to use CRS materials for projects and gives them the “opportunity to partner with CRS to bring in a speaker to campus or engage with CRS programming.” Love recalled how one student group chose to look at the issues faced by Iraqi refugees and invited Hani El Mahdi, director of CRS Iraq, to speak at CUA.
Dante Orlandini, senior politics major at CUA, recalls that “through the implementation of studies, documentation, and techniques, Dr. Love effectively incorporated Catholic Relief Services’ mission into our Global Issues course at Catholic, which provided me with valuable lessons.” Dr. Love explains that by partnering with CRS, “students are taken out of their comfort zone and grapple with the real world consequences of global trends, and reflect on whether and how they are contributing to global problems or to global solutions.”
Love notes that “CUA, with its Washington, DC, location, is blessed to live and work at the intersection of Church and state. CRS works on this same intersection, bringing our values of faith to the global problems of the world.”
The final way that campuses partner with CRS is by becoming a global campus. Through this institutional partnership, CRS engages with the campus through all three core constituencies: students, faculty, and administration, with the support of campus ministry and social justice staff. As a global campus, the college or university participates in both the Student Ambassador Program and the Faculty Learning Commons Program and establishes an interdisciplinary CRS advisory group. Sherri Walker, the program coordinator at Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking, explains that “as a global campus, Marquette University contributes to and also learns from CRS’s work in peace building” by using CRS’s work and examples as a way to “help form men and women who can be instruments of peace building and champions of a more equitable world.”
Because Marquette is a CRS Global Campus, its faculty have the opportunity to engage with CRS by using “collaborative methods of teaching, learning, and research that connect Marquette classrooms with CRS’s world-class teaching resources and research that addresses world problems,” Walker adds. For instance, Marquette faculty and administrators participated in the Ghana Faculty Enrichment Program. Walker notes that this program “served as a pilot project aimed at creating a model for partnering with the CRS country program in Ghana, as well as local universities. This partnership was expected to lead to joint research programs and closer collaboration between the in-country program staff, local university professors, and U.S. professors.” During this immersion experience, participants “studied the integral human development framework that CRS uses to design its programming, and the country-specific academic research that leads to development programming decisions.”
Walker explains that as a Catholic institution, Marquette recognizes that “God’s love is not restricted to a select few, but is extended to all.” From this perspective, “students from all faith traditions understands CRS’s engagement with populations where the majority are not Catholic.”
The month of December is the perfect time to learn about how Catholic colleges and universities are seeking to empower others to fight for peace and justice throughout the nation and world. By partnering with CRS in a variety of ways, institutions are given the opportunity to enrich the classroom experience and foster a community willing and ready to serve
The Cassandra Voss Center (CVC) at St. Norbert College recently received a $5,000 grant from Campus Compact’s Fund for Positive Engagement for the 2017-2018 academic year. The grant is meant to help the CVC in “piloting a new initiative called the Olive Branch Initiative, aiming to bring the community together to share stories from, and engage with, different perspectives.”
St. Norbert was selected from a pool of more than 300 grant applicants, making St. Norbert’s selection even more honorable. Applicants were assessed by the following criteria: “the project must engage with divergent or unfamiliar perspectives to foster empathy and understanding; the project must develop positive relationships across differences to lift up our common humanity; and the project must engage in collaborative problem-solving to strengthen social times and civic vitality.” Grant submissions we assessed by how well a project would address the challenge named by the institution and lead to positive change. Congrats to St. Norbert College!
To read more about St. Norbert’s recent grant, click here.
St. Vincent College welcomed Bob Votruba, founder of One Million Acts of Kindness. According to Votruba, One Million Acts of Kindness is a goal for each person to perform one million acts of kindness in their lifetime. It is meant to be a mindset that is lived out every day of one’s life. Votruba had the desire to create a safer, more inclusive environment and did this in a unique way. He bought a bus and recruited friends and family to help him paint it. From there, he began his journey across the nation visiting different “college campuses across the country hoping to convince as many people as possible about this much needed movement for the world.” Votruba also works with educators to create a curriculum for school children K – 12 in order to help “create programs for teaching kindness in the classroom with emphasis on incorporating into everyday life.”
Vortuba brought his “Kindness Bus” to the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College on October 6. Fred Rogers had a major influence on Votruba’s message so he met with many of the students who are Fred Rogers students to spread his message of kindness for all.
The College of St. Scholastica’s Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice hosted Marion Küpker, a leading German peace activist and advocate for nuclear non-proliferation. She is the “international coordinator against nuclear weapons for the German Peace Society of United War Resisters.”
Her speech focused on her work with respect to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, the new UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, and on the 180 nuclear weapons (gravity bombs) still deployed in five European countries. She is “Hamburg’s international coordinator on nuclear weapons for the German Peace Society of United War Resisters, the country’s oldest anti-war organization.” Küpker’s work on direct non-violence is a mission supported by St. Scholastica, which advocates for peaceful resolution to conflict. Hosting Küpker reflects the university mission of providing “intellectual and moral preparation for responsible living and meaningful work.”
Registration has opened for the 18th Annual Global Youth Justice Program. This year’s Program will be from January 23-25, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Global Youth Justice, Inc. “champions volunteer-driven strategies and low-cost innovations which alleviate some of the world’s more pressing and costly societal problems. Global Youth Justice strives to improve the quality of life for humans through reducing high juvenile crime rates and historic-high incarceration rates of adults locally and globally.”
This three day program “will harness positive peer pressure and utilize it in a peer judgement setting to help address the anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior of youthful offenders.” If this is a program you would like to attend, more information can be found on the Global Youth Justice, Inc. webpage.