University of Detroit Mercy receives Grant to Advance Counseling Program

University of Detroit Mercy has recently received a nearly $1 million grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This four-year grant will offer university counseling students the opportunity to implement the Counseling Underserved Populations (CUSP) Project, “which offers specialized, enhanced training to master’s level counseling students with an emphasis on integrated health, trauma, poverty, and court-involvement.”

Nancy Calleja, program director and chair of Detroit Mercy’s counseling program, stated “this most recent funding further cements Detroit Mercy’s pivotal role as an essential partner in nationwide efforts to effectively prepare highly-skilled clinicians to work with those in greatest need.” The implementation of this grant fits with university mission of serving the most vulnerable in the local Detroit community.

To read more of this story, visit University of Detroit Mercy news.

Seattle University ‘Low Bono’ Program Makes Legal Assistance Affordable

Now in its fourth year, Seattle University‘s ‘Low Bono’ program provides assistance to people who do not qualify for a pro bono lawyer but cannot afford a full priced lawyer. Launched in 2013, the program prepares lawyers to fill this need for reduced priced legal assistance to low- and moderate-income clients.

The Low Bono Incubator offers financial assistance, continuing legal education, and mentorship to a group of graduates who commit to serving less affluent clients, assisting them with launching their own businesses. Fifteen alumni have completed the program and have begun small business handling cases in areas such as immigration or bankruptcy.

Seattle University is the only law school with a low bono program in Washington. Dean Annette Clark connects this work to their mission saying “As a Jesuit institution, we are committed to meeting the legal needs of under-served communities. As a Jesuit institution, we are committed to meeting the legal needs of under-served communities”.

To learn more, read the article on the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities website.

Nominate a Young Leader for the 2016 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award

Do you know a young Catholic leader dedicated to fighting poverty and injustice in the United States? The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) invites you to nominate individuals between the ages of 18-40 to receive the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.

The Bernardin Award is meant to:

  • Recognize new and future leadership against poverty and injustice
  • Promote young people as leaders in our communities
  • Honor outstanding young leaders and their organizations/ parishes
  • Strengthen the Catholic community’s participation in CCHD’s anti-poverty mission

In the past, the award has been given to individuals who are dedicated to fighting against injustice, fighting for immigrants, and working towards fair housing. Learn more about the award and download the nomination form here! Nominations should be submitted no later than July 31, 2016. 

Seattle University Raises Awareness of Homelessness

Earlier this month, Seattle University and the University of Washington came together to bring awareness of homelessness in Seattle to their campuses.

The two campuses jointly sponsored an event, titled “Ending Homelessness in Seattle,” featuring Edward Murray, Mayor of Seattle, along with experts on homelessness, according to a National Catholic Reporter article.

For Seattle University president Fr. Stephen Sundborg, SJ, the issue of homelessness is of paramount importance for both the University and Seattle as a whole. He noted that while three of five Seattle homeless men and women are in shelters or transitional housing in the winter, two of five are still on the street.  He says, “It is not like this is something ignored or underplayed in our region, […] but it remains a state of emergency – a shock and scandal that the problem is getting worse rather than better.”


ACCU Members Offer a “Hand Up”

Is your campus looking for a way to have a lasting effect on your local community? Partnering with a locally focused agency committed to Catholic values may provide your college or university with the vehicle it’s looking for.

ACCU member colleges and universities have a long history of partnering with community groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD is the U.S. Catholic bishops’ national anti-poverty program, which works to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families, and communities. CCHD accomplishes these goals by disseminating grants to various community organizations that reflect the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The partnerships between ACCU members and CCHD groups create lasting bonds and result in a variety of projects. This year, ACCU member institutions engaged with CCHD groups in new and creative ways.

One example of partnership is Xavier University (OH) faculty, students, and staff with Interfaith Business Builders (IBB), a CCHD-funded group in Cincinnati. IBB recently opened Community Blend, a cooperative coffee shop where employees own an equal share of the business and fully participate in the company’s decision-making processes. Xavier University students and faculty have helped with Community Blend’s business plan in the past, and this year they engaged with the cooperative by creating its communications platform.

In Wendy Maxian’s capstone class for seniors studying public relations, students conducted original research on Community Blend, and then created a strategic communications plan for the new business. Dr. Maxian, a professor of communication arts, said that her students appreciated the chance to create a real communications plan that a business will use, rather than an imaginary one as an assignment. Students enjoyed learning about the cooperative business model from Community Blend employee-owners, who also participated in the class. Dr. Maxian explains, “As a cooperative business, Community Blend’s values very much line up with Xavier’s Catholic and Jesuit values. I think it’s important for students to see those values in a context other than what they’d find on campus.”

Future projects between Xavier University and Community Blend will focus on sustainability initiatives. Kathleen Smythe, a professor of history, has been working with other Xavier faculty members, IBB representatives, and Community Blend employee-owners to create a capstone course for sustainability majors, which will focus on sustainability, democracy, economic and political opportunity, and participation. The class will include readings, discussions, and field trips, specifically working with Community Blend employee-owners to enrich students’ learning outside the classroom. Dr. Smythe noted the value of the real-world experience that the students will gain from the endeavor. “The university has a moral and educational obligation to students to teach them the skills that will enable them to go out into the world,” she explained.

Another example of partnership includes the student group Ambrosians for Peace and Justice (APJ) at St. Ambrose University (IA), working with the CCHD-funded group Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI). This relationship has been active for six years, and students from APJ assist QCI with a variety of initiatives. One student serves on QCI’s health care task force, which advocates for health equity, including access to health care for all members of the community. Another student serves on the immigration task force and spoke with the area’s sheriff about immigration procedures and customs enforcement. Last year, APJ students worked with QCI to try to pass state legislation banning the practice of shackling women prisoners during childbirth. While the bill passed in Iowa’s House of Representatives, it did not pass in the Senate; QCI has plans to re-introduce the legislation next year.

APJ’s vice president Corrigan Goldsmith advised, “It’s very challenging work, but realizing that you can change a person’s life is worth it – you can’t change the entire system in a year, but keep laying the bricks and don’t get discouraged.” Next year, APJ will continue its collaboration with QCI, focusing on topics related to restorative justice.

Partnering with CCHD groups to offer a “hand up” to those in poverty is a way for Catholic universities to educate their students about living out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. These examples from Xavier University and St. Ambrose University showcase how ACCU member institutions encourage their students to put their faith into action while using skills and knowledge from their programs of study to help the community.

Is your campus interested in getting involved with CCHD to alleviate poverty in your community? ACCU can help facilitate partnerships with CCHD groups, which offer the occasion for students to participate in advocacy, volunteering, service learning, and other educational experiences. To learn more about this opportunity, visit our webpage.

Andrea Price is a graduate student at Georgetown University and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Ending Extreme Poverty Now: Working Together with the Poor

In recognition of Pope Francis’ call to address poverty in new and substantive ways, and in solidarity with those suffering in poverty across the globe, various Catholic organizations are co-sponsoring a conference on “Ending Extreme Poverty Now,” taking place on Tuesday, April 28, at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. The conference is sponsored by the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies (CUA), United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Africa Faith & Justice Network.

This conference will engage on the vital topic of so many living in extreme poverty worldwide – including millions here in the United States. Sponsors will share the perspective of agencies serving those in extreme poverty in local communities nationwide. Featured keynote addresses include the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations and the assistant administrator from USAID. The conference is free and open to the public, and will be held at the Catholic University of America on Tuesday April 28, 4-6:30 p.m. For more information and to reserve your place, click here.

Join us in person or via live stream (available on the day of the event) here, or check out details on ACCU’s calendar.

Courageous Voices: Considering a New Perspective

The Catholic University Institute of Buea, Cameroon, graduated its first class in December 2014. CUIB, which calls itself “The Entrepreneurial University,” prepares graduates to be job creators, not just job seekers. Its aim is to train young Cameroonians to be Christian business leaders who will begin their own business in the region, thereby directly addressing – and helping solve – the problems of unemployment and poverty in Cameroon.

Over the next few weeks, we will continue to release short stories about the courageous voices of our member colleges and universities.  Stay tuned to hear about how students, faculty, and staff are responding to Pope Francis’s call to social justice and a culture of encounter.  If you are still curious about how Catholic colleges and universities are promoting social justice on campus, read the original blog post on the Courageous Voices series, or check out ACCU’s inventory of promising practices, which includes many examples of our members engaging with Catholic Social Teaching.

Modern Leprosy: Our Catholic Call to Fight Ebola

Modern Leprosy: Our Catholic Call to Fight Ebola

By Andrea Price

At first glance, the current Ebola crisis may look like simply an international health or medical issue. Go deeper than the surface, however, and the intricacies of the problem reveal a social justice issue with systemic roots.

The Ebola epidemic shows no sign of abatement, with the most vulnerable populations continuing to suffer – mostly in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. Bishop Richard Pates, the Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Catholic Relief Services president Dr. Carolyn Woo recently wrote a letter to the U.S. National Security Advisor addressing the Ebola epidemic and urging the United States to make “a long-term commitment to resolving the underlying problem of the severe lack of capacity and resilience in the health systems of the affected countries. Even after the Ebola outbreak is contained, donors will need to help reinforce, if not rebuild, health systems to prevent future outbreaks.” By making systemic connections to the underlying problems that the Ebola crisis has revealed, Bishop Pates and Dr. Woo mark it as a social justice issue.

U.S. reaction to Ebola demonstrates an extreme case of “othering” of victims in foreign countries.  While media coverage of Ebola explodes whenever a suspected victim is identified in our own country, interest in the well-being of those in other countries can be weak. As Christians, we are called to be concerned with all our neighbors, including those in the affected countries in Africa. Consider the statistics: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have recorded 15,113 cases of the disease, resulting in 5,406 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Catholics should strive to show active concern for all members of our one human family.

Why are we called to fight Ebola and support the victims of this crisis? We can find the answer in Catholic Social Teaching.

Life & Dignity of the Human Person – All human life is sacred, including the lives of those infected with Ebola. The Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs highlights the Church’s past involvement through the extensive health networks present in areas affected by Ebola, helping combat the disease and ensuring the dignity of each human life.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation – During and after the epidemic, families and communities will be fractured by the deaths of their loved ones and community leaders, spurring the need for financial and structural support. Survivors and victims will also need spiritual support in order to work through their grief. Additionally, the epidemic has halted many day-to-day events and interactions, robbing individuals of their right to participate fully in their families and communities.

Rights and Responsibilities – Every person has a right to life, and so it is our responsibility as a society to defend this right. Pope John XXIII outlined human rights in his encyclical Pacem in Terris: “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health…or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood”(#11). During the Ebola crisis, it is far too easy to forget about victims’ rights. Artist André Carrilho drew attention to the West’s dismissal of human life during the Ebola crisis through a powerful illustration.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – The poor, women, and children are suffering the most in victimized countries. Affected countries are often very poor, lacking the infrastructure needed to address the outbreak, the basic nutrition to build healthy bodies against disease, and the education to assist in preventing contamination. Additionally, the National Catholic Register reports that a Caritas adviser “suggested that many pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to spend so much money on Ebola research. Although the virus has caused ‘great damage,’ it is ‘not spread all over the world.’” This insight implies that society has no desire to offer a preferential option for the poor who are suffering from the outbreak.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers – Workers affected by the outbreak often suffered from a lack of dignity before the epidemic, and the Ebola crisis has only worsened their economic situation. A Time article explained the many aspects of Liberia’s precarious economy have been affected by Ebola, with the disease resulting in migration restrictions, high food prices, and an inability for borrowers to repay their business loans, as well as closing schools that leaves teachers out of work.

Solidarity – Despite fears of global infection, all are called to treat the victims of Ebola as part of our one human family. We can stand in solidarity with Ebola victims by praying and sending aid, and by turning away from xenophobia and a culture of exclusion. A Jesuit Post article identifies Ebola as modern-day leprosy: a disease of untouchability. The author eloquently calls for solidarity with Ebola victims and for rejection of fear, isolation, paranoia, and exclusion.

Care for God’s Creation – The Ebola epidemic will leave an environmental impact. The effects of the outbreak, including food scarcity, will play out in the environment long after the crisis has been controlled. Additionally, the epidemic draws attention away from other pressing issues regarding the protection of creation – both in the victimized countries and throughout the world.

Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, a Caritas health adviser, sums up the situation on the ground by saying, “At this point, it’s not only about preventing Ebola. We’re also called to care for the thousands of healthy people who were already poor, who have no access to healthcare for other illnesses, and whose lives have been turned upside down by this crisis.”

While the Ebola crisis calls Catholics to pray and send aid to victimized countries, it also calls us to do much more – to reflect on the systemic roots of the epidemic, to apply the themes of Catholic Social Teaching to the current issues and concerns, and then to take action in order to better protect our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.


Andrea Price is a graduate student at Georgetown University and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.