JustFaith aims to revitalize social ministry
By Rich Heffern
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY - "In order to grow spiritually we need to put ourselves in grace's way," said Jack Jezreel, director of the nationwide JustFaith program, explaining the JustFaith concept at an introductory workshop attended by more than 80 people March 12 at the chancery.
Rich Heffern/Key photo
About 80 people attended a JustFaith workshop March 12 at the chancery. At left is speaker Jack Jezreel.
Sponsored by the Diocesan Peace and Justice Office, Catholic Charities and the Diocesan Office of Youth Ministry, the workshop's aim was to recruit new participants and potential facilitators.
JustFaith is designed to revitalize social ministry in parishes. It's in use in almost 500 parishes in 85 dioceses in the United States. The program offers "an opportunity for parishes to experience the spiritual journey into compassion," said Jezreel.
The program consists of weekly meetings, and employs books, videos, lectures, discussion, prayer, retreats and border-crossing experiences. "The intent," Jezreel said, "is to provide a tapestry of learning opportunities that emphasize and enliven the remarkable justice tradition of the Catholic Church."
Jezreel began his day-long workshop with what he called the "parable of the parish," a story that dramatized the problems many parishes face in their attempts to engage parishioners in social ministry.
"On a dangerous seacoast there was a lifesaving station whose members constantly watched and searched for lost seafarers. The station became famous for its good work, but over time many members lost interest in saving shipwrecked people and, as a result, the station became more of a club.
"There was even a ceremonial lifeboat around which the members congregated. When a large ship foundered on the nearby rocks, the members hired people who brought in survivors, but members noticed that this muddied up the place. It was an unpleasant hindrance to the normal activities of the club."
Jezreel concluded, "Shipwrecks were still as frequent but over time the station had lost its original courage, vision and generosity."
Catholic social teaching is the best kept secret in the church, Jezreel said, and "that teaching is a continuation of the original vision and generosity of our founder, Jesus Christ. The Second Vatican Council was a return to that original vision as well. Yet even in the most vibrant parishes we have found that only 1 to 5 percent of parishioners are familiar with Catholic teaching about justice and peace."
"Peace and justice work is a core element of being a Christian," Jezreel said. "For example, when we acknowledge in the Creed every Sunday that God is our creator, we are really making an economic statement. We're saying creation is a gift to be shared by all. A fracture of God's hope, a great sin, occurs when this mandate to share is ignored, when those who have more than they need refuse to share."
Jezreel said he found in his own experience as a parish social minister that the best way to prepare people for justice ministry in the parish is through an ongoing process similar to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, "a long immersion in a fertile soil that fosters spiritual growth." The JustFaith program is designed to be such a process.
Linda Zeorlin, assistant director of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Office, said that there are already two JustFaith groups in the diocese, one at St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Maryville and one at Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Lee's Summit, and that the sponsoring groups want to expand that number within the diocese.
"The next step," Zeorlin said, "is for those who attended the workshop to go back home and propose a JustFaith group to their pastors and parish councils. Our office will be there as a resource for any parish who wants to start this journey."