Go, be justice
At the beginning of the semester, I found myself in Zoom meetings with federal legislative aids as our group of Ohioans advocated for COVID-19 relief legislation, international assistance and comprehensive immigration reform … all from my UD house.
This semester, I participated in the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The virtual gathering took place Feb. 6-9 and allowed hundreds of participants to reflect on current issues and disparities under the lenses of faith and Catholic Social Teaching. To end the conference, state delegates met with their senators’ offices.
Usually, the event is held in Washington, D.C., but the pandemic forced the gathering to be remote. Fortunately, the switch to the virtual conference allowed for more students and campus ministers to participate. Although I am disappointed I was not able to travel to D.C. and physically gather with like-minded people from all over the country, there was something to be said about the convenience and accessibility of a virtual conference.
Naturally, this year’s CSMG conference focused on disparities related to COVID-19 as well as new approaches toward solidarity and inclusion. The presentations and mini-sessions we attended ultimately helped prepare us to advocate for inclusivity and action on behalf of Catholics to our state and federal representatives.
As a follow-up to the four-day conference, my peers and I completed projects related to Catholic Social Teaching.
Here are a few of the takeaways from the conference that resonated with me:
One session focused on members of the population who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 regulations. The deaf community, for example, is struggling to communicate with others due to how masks prevent them from reading lips. In another example, migrant workers are labeled as essential workers but do not receive health care or safety protections.
From a Catholic perspective, we reflected on the ways in which we could be more inclusive and accommodating for all members of our global community during the pandemic.
While most sessions were centered around action and measurable progress, a particular phrase that stuck out to me was “toxic positivity.” The speaker explained that prayer is powerful and can provide comfort in times of distress and uncertainty, but framing every negative situation in a positive light is not always beneficial.
In regard to recent conversations around race in the United States, for example, leaving situations “in God’s hands” can prevent necessary action and change from occurring. It was reiterated that as Catholics, we should be actively working toward a more equitable and harmonious society. Prayer alone will not fix issues such as systematic racism.
Catholic experts and panelists emphasized that there should no moral qualms as people weigh getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Not only do bishops and Pope Francis want people to get vaccinated, but the Church is responsible for making sure that all members of the population have equal access to the vaccine and other health care necessities.
I am grateful that UD provides opportunities such as CSMG that educate and inform political, cultural and religious beliefs. We learned so much, but now, it is time to act.
UD Campus Ministry is grateful for donors to One Dayton One Dayton, UD’s giving day, who helped make this conference possible. To hear from the participants themselves, watch this video courtesy of the Center for Social Concern.