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Catholic Social Teaching

By Sarah Cahalan and Olivia Gillingham

The John Stokes and Mary’s Gardens Collection in the Marian Library contains numerous pamphlets John S. Stokes Jr. collected over the years concerning social justice issues including civil rights, labor unions, and fair housing movements. As part of his work at the Wellsprings Ecumenical Center in Philadelphia, Stokes also contributed to Input, a panel discussion on Philadelphia television from 1968-1971 that covered a number of social justice topics.

The term “social justice” encompasses the view that it is possible to create a fair and equal society. This can be accomplished by addressing systemic inequalities, supporting human rights, and creating opportunities for people to live fulfilling lives that are not dominated by crippling economic inequality. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church was concerned that the industrial revolution jeopardized social justice by putting power and money in the control of just a few people. Stokes was active in twentieth-century social justice work that built on this tradition.

As early as the 1950s, Stokes became involved in fair housing movements in Philadelphia. He attended and recorded sessions of the Catholic Interracial Council of Philadelphia, which addressed issues such as zoning laws and mortgage discrimination. In the 1960s and 70s, his work with the Wellsprings Ecumenical Center brought him into contact with local activists for improved race relations, environmental stewardship, affordable health care, and withdrawal from Vietnam, many of which became topics for discussion on Input.

Learn more about Stokes’ involvement in social justice movements through part of his collection on display at Roesch Library as part of the Mary’s Gardens exhibit. Thanks to Marion Stokes, who recorded and preserved many of the original videos, several clips from Input are also available to view.  

See the photo gallery for two of the many pamphlets currently on display in the exhibit  as well as a photo of Stokes participating in an Input session.

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