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Fr. William J. Ferree Chair of Social Justice

Into the Deep: Social Justice News

Learn about programs and initiatives that help to form the Catholic approach to social justice at local, national and international levels. 

Economic Justice

This year's World Meeting of Popular Movements created a document called "The Economy of Francis," highlighting five main themes: Integral ecology and common goods; economic democracy; land, shelter and labor; education, health, communication and technology; sovereignty, human mobility and peace.

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The "Economy of Francesco" imagines an inclusive and sustainable world.

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The "Economy of Francesco" Conference released a final statement.

Read the statement online >

Environmental Justice

In Louisiana, Sharon Lavigne, a black lay Catholic, is protesting against the construction of a plastic plant. The 2,400 acre complex could increase pollution and cancer-enhancing chemicals in the area.

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In November 2020, 42 Catholic institutions agreed to divest from fossil fuels.

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Panelists David Ragland, co-founder of the Truth Telling Project in St. Louis, MO, Tabatha Thompson from the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Eli McCarthy, co-founder of the DC Peace Team discussed several types of nonviolent activism, particularly those currently challenging racial injustice and building new models of community security. This was the first event in an ongoing initiative to encourage engagement with traditions of nonviolent activism, especially among Catholics.


The Truth Telling Commons: "It's Time To Listen"

United States Institute of Peace: "Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding, An Action Guide"

United States Institute of Peace: "Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding"

Yes Magazine: "David Ragland"

counterpunch: "Re-Envisioning Policing in America"

Metta Center for Nonviolence: "Alternative Community Security Brief," Members of Shanti Sena Network

America, The Jesuit Review: "Transformation at Gunpoint," with Antoinette Tuff

DC Peace Team Web site

"Give your imagination permission to dream," is an interview with Eli McCarthy, DC Peace Team.

Read this article (pdf) >

Graduate students Ashley Klesken, Jessica Hoelting and Maureen Anderson, along with faculty Martha Hurley (Criminal Justice Studies) and Kelly Johnson (Religious Studies) attended the Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity Conference which brought together scholars and practitioners of restorative justice.

Read a discussion of their experiences at the conference (pdf) >

Racial Justice

From Dr. Johnson’s introduction of Ms. Purvis:

“Fr. William J. Ferree was a Marianist scholar of Catholic social thought who held that the work of social justice is building networks of people who can together change unjust systems. He spent years training Marianists to think about social structures as matters of the faith, to recognize the profoundly spiritual character of work for the common good.

“I think Fr. Ferree would be excited about this event. Our speaker this evening, Ms. Gloria Purvis, stands, with grace and boldness and in a spirit of prayer in the midst of powerful crosscurrents within the U.S. and the U.S. Catholic community. That someone who advocates for the dignity of all life would speak eloquently, thoughtfully, and powerfully about white supremacy and the beauty of blackness shouldn’t be surprising. And yet, for many of us, it is. She has that rare voice that speaks the faith not as an abstraction but as a saving truth, here and now, that calls people toward full life.”

Ms. Purvis began her presentation with the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.


Highlights from the full-length video

About Gloria Purvis

Gloria Purvis is a graduate of Cornell University. She worked for nearly two decades in the mortgage industry before becoming a risk management director at a major financial services company. She served on the National Black Catholic Congress' Leadership Commission on Social Justice, and as an Advisory Board Member on the Maryland Catholic Conference's Respect for Life Department as well as the Archdiocese of Washington's Pastoral Council. Gloria also taught Natural Family Planning and helped prepare engaged couples for marriage as a member of a Pre-Cana team in the Archdiocese of Washington.

She has appeared in various media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS Newshour, Catholic Answers Live, and EWTN News Nightly and hosted "Morning Glory," an international radio show. Her strong on-air support for Black lives opened up controversy among many of her listeners. She is Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic of the Year for 2020. Currently, Gloria is a full-time stay-at-home mother and consultant for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Religious Liberty To hear Ms. Purvis' new podcast with America Media, click here. 

We stand at a moment of significant opportunity to make constructive social change. In particular, this summer, we’ve seen renewed energy in campaigns around the country for racial justice. In our first session, we focused on nonviolent action that disrupts and challenges the violence of racism. In this second, we talk with Catholic activists. The tradition and global network of Catholic Nonviolence offers creative, spiritual paths for making constructive social change. Join us to learn from black Catholics in the U.S. and Kenya on how their Catholic faith shapes and inspires their nonviolent activism for racial justice. We will also learn about the global Catholic Nonviolence Initiative accompanying BIPOC voices from violent conflict zones, engaging the Vatican, and working to develop Catholic Social Teaching to focus more on nonviolence. Finally, we will learn about how a U.S. Catholic peace organization, Pax Christi USA, integrates an anti-racism lens to their work.


Eliane Lakam is an experienced community organizer and trainer who believes in the power of education in nonviolent peacebuilding and reconciliation processes. Her training sessions offer ways to cultivate daily practices for living a nonviolent life and are rooted in practices that restore the dignity and humanity of those affected by violence. She is a recent graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard University.

Teresa Wamũyũ Wachira (IBVM) is a Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies at St. Paul’s University, Nairobi, Kenya. She specializes in the education of young women and training them for nonviolent peacemaking and reconciliation work. She is a contributor to the book Just Peace Ethic Primer: Building Sustainable Peace and Breaking Cycles of Violence.

Marie Dennis is on the Executive Committee of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and former co-President of Pax Christi International. She edited the book Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence.

Johnny Zokovitch is the Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace and justice movement. Previously, he lived at and co-directed the Gainesville (FL) Catholic Worker House. He holds an M.A. in theology with a concentration in biblical studies from the University of Notre Dame.


Rachel Kleinfeld, “The US shows all the signs of a country spiraling toward political violence.”

“Pope Francis on training the next generation of peacemakers”

Pope Francis World Day of Peace Message 2017

Michele Alexander, The New Jim Crow

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

Pax Christi USA

Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

“It’s not who we are meant to be”

Fall Semester 2020 Reading Group: More than sixty members of the University's faculty and staff joined conversations on Catholicism and racism. The groups convened to pay attention to voices crying out for the Catholic community to come to terms with its past and continuing racism.

Read participants' reflections (pdf) >

Bibliography of readings (pdf) >

Lima, Eduardo Campos. “Answering Letter from Black Brazilian clergy, pope sends anti-racist message.” National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 30, 2020.

Abstract: Pope Francis responds to a letter about racism in the Catholic Church, sent by black Brazilian clergy. In the initial letter, clergy members brought racist sentiments during their formation and lack of black bishops in Brazil to the pope’s attention.

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In Louisiana, Sharon Lavigne, a black lay Catholic, is protesting against the construction of a plastic plant. The 2,400 acre complex could increase pollution and cancer-enhancing chemicals in the area.

Read this article online >

The Pandemic

A four-week series to engage faculty, staff and students with evidence-based information and perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications, striving to engage students in learning, understanding and action. The series promoted collaboration across the University in being responsive to the challenges posed by the pandemic. A partnership of the Fr. Ferree Chair of Social Justice and the Human Rights Center.

Watch our recorded sessions

Food for the Soul

Dorothy Day

Vibing with the Venerables, featuring Kelly Johnson, Part 1

Vibing with the Venerables, featuring Kelly Johnson, Part 2

Petitionary Prayer

On Aug. 20, four faculty from Religious Studies discussed petitionary prayer with students in a far-ranging conversation about the relationship between prayer and work for justice, human freedom and God's action, and providence and history, with a special shout-out to Doctor Who mixed in. Among others the following questions were touched upon: What is the point of praying for those who are sick or suffering, for an end to injustice or for safety on the road? Promises that "our thoughts and prayers are with them" may ring hollow, but believers continue the traditional practice of praying for each other's needs. Why? What do Christians think they are doing when they pray that God does good for us?


Fr. Ferree Chair of Social Justice

St. Joseph Hall
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1442