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Reections on Mission

Mission and Catholic Social Teaching

Susan Engle, MSW Catholic Charities Kansas City, MO

he fourth in the Catholic Charities USA Reections on Mission series, this resource is designed to help you explore the intimate relationship between mission and Catholic social teaching which undergirds and serves as the guiding light for our ministry of service to people on the margins. This series is meant to be practical to give information that will further your understanding of the relationship of mission and Catholic social principles (teaching) and to provide questions that will stimulate you to think about how you are a living witness of this mission by who you are and what you do at the agency.

Opening Prayer
Leader: Let us recall that we are in the presence of God. A brief moment of silence Reader 1: Thus says the LORD: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; Clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your world shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the aicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like mid-day. (Isaiah 58:7-10) A brief moment of silence Reader 2: Jesus said to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:13-16) A brief moment of silence Leader: You will hear the readings a second time. Please attend to the words that resonate with you. During the silence at the conclusion of the readings you are invited to speak your word/words aloud. A brief moment of silence Leader: You are invited to voice aloud those words or phrases that touched you in some way. Moments of sharing Leader: We conclude our prayer with the song We Are the Light of the World by Jean Anthony Greif (Gather Comprehensive Song Book No. 353)

Leader: You are being given a copy of our mission statement. Please take a few moments and answer these questions for yourself write some notes on your paper for later reference.

Questions What are the mission and value statements of our organization? What is the rationale for including certain words or values in these statements? Allow time for responding When thinking about mission we must rst consider identity. The mission of Catholic Charities is part of the larger mission of the Catholic Church. The foundation for the mission of our agency is found in the values expressed by Jesus whose example teaches us that He valued each person. Jesus expressed this value through compassion, love, respect, healing, service, and giving of life. Jesus had a preference for the poor and marginalized of his society. The Catholic Church continues to live these same values of Jesus in todays world. We will now explore how our mission is lived out through implementing Catholic social principles in our agency.


Catholic Social Teaching

Reader: Catholic social teaching generally refers to seven key themes or principles that guide us in building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. These principles are articulated in social encyclicals (documents) written by popes and bishops over the last 120 years. These teachings seek to translate faith into the social dimensions of our world, giving us a practical framework for the fulllment of our social mission. First we will consider the core principle life and dignity of the human person. Then we will consider other principles of Catholic social teaching relevant to the mission of Catholic Charities.

Human Dignity
Leader: Human dignity is the foundational principle of Catholic social teaching: We are created in the image of God and therefore human life is sacred. Every person is precious. This inherent dignity demands that people come rst and that each person has the means to a decent life becoming of a human being. All other principles seek to promote this dignity. At the center of all Catholic social teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human person. The human person is the clearest reection of Gods presence in the world; all of the Churchs work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reects God, but is the expression of Gods creative work and the meaning of Christs redemptive ministry. (The Challenge of Peace, #15)


Process Leader: Questions How do we honor/express the value of human dignity in our direct services? How does the value of human dignity impact the development and administration of programs? In what ways can we name and promote the principle of human dignity in our communications and relations with the wider community? Group discussion Please answer these three questions for yourself. After a brief time, we will build a list of our responses to each question.

Common Good
Leader: Reader: We now look at a second principle of Catholic social teaching common good. Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulllment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family. (The Church and the Modern World, #26) It is imperative that no one ... would indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulll ones obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good according to ones means and the needs of others, and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life. (The Church and the Modern World, #30) Please think about your answer to the following questions. Then share your answer with the person on your left.


Process Leader: Question: When have you helped to alleviate the needs of your unknown neighbor at the expense of your want? Discussion in pairs

Preferential Option for the Poor

Leader: We examine another Catholic social principle the option for the poor and vulnerable. A basic moral test of our society is how our most vulnerable members are faring. The common good can only be achieved by each person in society reaching their fullest potential. Most often the most vulnerable members lag behind. The most vulnerable require greater attention in the fulllment of the common good. Poverty and powerlessness wound the whole community. Showing compassion, charity, and justice to the poor does not diminish the real needs and value of all persons, but rather it ensures the dignity of all. Reader: In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others. (A Call to Action, #23) If someone who has the riches of this world sees a brother [sister] in need and closes his[her] heart to him[her], how does the love of God abide in him[her]? (1 Jn 3:17) How strong were the words used by the early teachers in the Church to describe the proper attitude of persons who possess anything towards persons in need. To quote St. Ambrose, You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him[her] what is his[hers]. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich. (On the Development of Peoples, #23) Process Leader: Please answer these questions. After a brief time, you will be asked to share your answer to the second question with three other sta members. After this sharing, I will invite you to share in the large group and we will create an inventory of practices for our agency.


Questions What is your personal reaction to the notion that your possessions belong to the poor? In what ways do we, as sta of Catholic Charities, live this preferential option for the poor? Discussion in group of three Large group discussion

Leader: Reader: We examine another of the Catholic social principles participation. As social beings belonging to families, communities, and as citizens in our country, we have a right and responsibility to participate in the life of these groups. It is a fundamental demand of justice and a requirement of human dignity that all people be assured participation in the community. We are called to fully participate in the economic and political structures and to advocate for justice. In order that the right to development may be fullled by action: (a) people should not be hindered from attaining development in accordance with their own culture; (b) through mutual cooperation, all peoples should be able to become the principal architects of their own economic and social development. (Justice in the World, #71) The social order requires constant improvement: it must be founded in truth, built on justice, and enlivened by love: it should grow in freedom towards a more humane equilibrium. If these objectives are to be attained there will rst have to be a renewal of attitudes and far-reaching social changes. (The Church in the Modern World, #26) Legislation is necessary, but it is not sucient for setting up true relationships of justice and equality ... If, beyond legal rules, there is really no deeper feeling of respect for and service to others, then even equality before the law can serve as an alibi for agrant discrimination, continued exploitation and actual contempt. Without a renewed education in solidarity, an over-emphasis on equality can give rise to an individualism in which each one claims his[her] own rights without wishing to be answerable for the common good. (A Call to Action, #23) Lets take some time to respond to the rst question together. Think for a moment about how we advocate for social change. Please do not repeat an answer already given. Ill call on you as we move on ... (develop a list). What could we do to be a better advocate for social change? (develop a list). If time permits, explore the second and third questions.




Process Leader:

Questions How are we- Catholic Charities- a catalyst for social change in the public arena? How can we be better? How can the persons we serve be invited into more participation in shaping a just society? How do we create opportunities for relationships to form between those we serve and those who support our eorts? Large group discussion

Leader: Let us revisit the comments we made about our mission and values at the beginning and consider the following questions (review of material on the ip chart).

Questions What is the relationship of key words in our mission statement to Catholic social teaching? How is our mission grounded in the principles of Catholic social teaching we considered today? Large group discussion

Closing Prayer
Leader: We conclude our valuable reection and sharing with the same song we used at the beginning, a song that reminds us that we are the light of the world. We Are the Light of the World by Jean Anthony Greif (Gather Comprehensive Song Book No. 353)

Providing Help. Creating Hope.


About the Reections on Mission Series

Reections on Mission is developed by Catholic Charities USA to assist you agency sta with understanding the concept of mission and with integrating mission into your work. These resources are meant to be practical. They are designed to provide information that will further your understanding and incorporation of what you do in your agency as a means of living mission. They oer questions that we hope will stimulate you to think about how you are living your agencys mission. Each reection in this series is designed to be user-friendly and to allow for your imaginative self-expression.