Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Monday, June 25, 2018

Bishop-Peter-002An attendee talks to Bishop Peter A. Rosazza. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

BRISTOL – Enthusiasm ran high at the inaugural Bishop Peter Rosazza Social Justice Conference, where 250 parish leaders from throughout the Archdiocese of Hartford immersed themselves in Catholic social teaching, while also honoring the bishop for his service, passion and commitment to Catholic social justice.

"We wanted to honor Bishop Peter on the occasion of his 75th birthday, while promoting the work of our office to help parishes engaged in social justice ministry," said Cori Thibodeau, executive director of the Archdiocesan Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry, the event’s sponsor. "Today is an opportunity to provide them with the skills and tools to do that."

The keynote speaker for the event, held June 12 at St. Paul Catholic High School, was Father J. Bryan Hehir, professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston, who outlined basic Catholic social teaching, which emphasizes the dignity of the human person and the social and ethical perspective each person brings to that agenda.

"It’s rejuvenating to be around so many people who are powered up about social justice," said Andrew Rowe of St. Bridget Parish in Manchester. "As Catholics involved in social justice, health care and human dignity, … the potential for making an impact is large. This is part of who we are as Church."

Participants had the opportunity to choose from among 14 workshops on subjects ranging from engaging people in parish social ministry to care of creation and the environment, pro-life issues, immigration, human rights, the death penalty and more.

"It’s wonderful," said Evelyn Kiley of St. Anthony Parish in Prospect. "I’m here to learn and get different ideas, and there’s just so much information to capture." Added fellow parishioner Camille Hartman, "The conference is very well -organized with great information and speakers. You can tell that a lot of thought went into planning for it."

Jeff Korgan from the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., spoke about building social justice ministries in parishes, and noted that most of the major world religions encourage support for those in need. But, in the Catholic Church, he said, "Jesus says, ‘I am the poor, and how you treat me is essential to your salvation.’"

To achieve that, he said, the Church emphasizes that we "preach the Word, celebrate the sacraments and engage in works of charity."

Carlos Velazquez, 18, of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Hartford, said the conference inspired him to rethink his interests as he prepares to enter college this fall. "It opens up avenues where we can give back to our community."

Looking for new ideas to bring back to her parish, St. Joseph in Winsted, Cathy Malczynski said, "I’m here to listen to what they’re saying so we can become better equipped to help those who need our help in the pews, in our neighborhoods and in the community."

After beginning the day with prayer and music in English and Spanish, conference participants browsed through exhibits with information about social justice ministries and a book store.

"This is a wonderful conference because it’s about the topic of social justice, and it’s a way to honor a man who has dedicated his life to social justice," said Frances D’Amico, of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford.

Echoed Mary Beth Stewart, president of the Connecticut Council of Catholic Women: "It was a wonderful celebration of Bishop Peter and an expression of how much we appreciate him."

Overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection, Bishop Rosazza repeatedly expressed his gratitude in Spanish and English during a closing ceremony and prayer. "I find it extremely affirming," he said.

Explaining his devotion to social justice, Bishop Rosazza quoted Saint Irenaeus: "The glory of God is the human being fully alive." Therefore, given the struggles of daily life, he said, "The Church must be aware of the threats to human life."