SOUTHINGTON — In a world that seems to be at a critical tipping point, an attitude of compassion, caring and gratitude may be the answer, said Sister of Mercy Kathleen Erickson. It is a time to look deep within to find love for ourselves and others.
Sister Kathleen drew upon her 18 years of experience working as an educator and advocate for immigrants at the U.S./Mexican border as she spoke to almost 400 fervent advocates of social justice at the 49th annual Social Justice Dinner on Oct. 24 at the Aqua Turf. The dinner was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Hartford's Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM.)
Sister Kathleen, the keynote speaker, talked about what immigration teaches us about who we are.
“We are living in a world that seems to be on the verge of crisis,” she stated, noting that words like "catastrophic" and "‘unprecedented" are being used more and more today to talk about acts of racism, violence, and death from wars.
She observed that with 440,000 people currently being held in detention centers, “We are living in times of extremes” that are leading to division and polarization. The result has been a political climate that has rallied a “punishment view of those entering the country illegally.”
But, she offered, there is another extreme: "The extreme of caring, compassion and gratitude.”
Noting that this is a time of both moral and spiritual crisis, she urged, “We are called to look deeper within us for strength” and to find ways to “love ourselves and our neighbors.”
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair congratulated the social justice ministry for its work and for the 49th dinner of its type.
“This is a great treasure of the Archdiocese of Hartford … a sign of the life and the vitality of the Church, ” he said. He also noted that that this year is the 25th anniversary of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Lynn M. Campbell, executive director of the Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry, presented three social justice awards.
Attorney Peter G. Kelly was given the Most Reverend Joseph F. Donnelly Individual Award for his local, national and international social justice work. He is among the founders of the Malta House of Care; served as a director of Holy Apostles College and Seminary and at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center; and served at the federal level under two U.S. presidents.
Deacon Paul Idarola accepted the Most Reverend Joseph F. Donnelly Organization Award for the 40-year-old St. Vincent de Paul Mission of Waterbury, which is dedicated to eliminating the root causes of homeless in Greater Waterbury. The largest homeless shelter in the state, the mission also manages a soup kitchen, food pantry, thrift store, group home, mental health facilities and supportive housing.
St. Augustine Parish in Hartford received the Dr. Charlie Schlegal Award for Cooperative Parish Sharing for its St. Monica Women's Support Group. The support group helps low-income women gain the confidence and skills to become active members of their community through weekly meetings and other events.
In a separate presentation, Arturo Iriarte, the office's parish social ministry/education coordinator, received the 2017 Catholic Relief Services Diocesan Award for Hispanic Leadership in the Northeast Region. The new award, presented by Maria Barboza, CRS relationship manager of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region, was given in recognition of his dedication to the poor and disadvantaged oversees as demonstrated by the annual Rice Bowl Program.
The office also used the occasion to launch a new Parish Ambassadors Program, a three-step initiative for parishioners who are interested in creating, strengthening and leading social justice programs in their parish.
The Office of Catholic Social Justice Ministry provides leadership development, education and faith formation for parishes and schools, all rooted in Catholic social teaching. It works with parish communities to enhance the quality of life by addressing concretely the needs of the poor and vulnerable through parish-based outreach.