Living Out the Love to Which Jesus Calls Us

by Mary Ellen Foley

How do you define love? No dictionary can capture the essence of love. The same is true of our understanding of words like justice, solidarity and compassion. Before I experienced JustFaith, my understanding of justice and my definition of solidarity were dictionary definitions. So inadequate! Such understandings must be formed in relationships. For me, solidarity and justice came to life through our small group sharing and the relationships we formed during the JustFaith program.

In this program, we reflected on the lives of those who hunger for justice, compassion and understanding. We struggled with our preconceived notions; we challenged conventional wisdom. We visited with people in need, “the least of these.” We began to view their situation through their eyes. Through these experiences we began to develop the compassion that Jesus wants us to have for the poor. And we learned how justice and charity, the two aspects of love in action, go hand in hand.

The JustFaith program explores the long-standing social doctrine of the Catholic Church. From the early church fathers right up until our present time, the church has expressed concern for the poor and the laws and social conditions that lead to poverty. Pope Leo XIII responded to the working conditions of the Industrial Revolution with his famous 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Since that time the popes of the 20th and 21st centuries have responded to the conditions of their times with major messages concerning social justice. It is now up to us, the people of God, to read, experience and reflect on the principles of justice proclaimed by the Church for the last 130 years.

St. Joseph Parish, Shreveport, will offer the JustFaith experience this coming fall and spring, on Thursday evenings, beginning September 19, and ending in April. This experience uses the adult learning model to help us fully understand the principles of justice that the Church holds dear. We dialogue as a faith-sharing community to deepen our faith and our solidarity with our neighbors. We will explore today’s issues and engage in dialogue around those issues in the light of Catholic social teaching. The program is open to anyone who would like to participate.

“Thirteen years ago I participated in the JustFaith program. The program was a great learning experience in Catholic Social Teaching. The program challenged me to become more active in my faith. It allowed me to form deeper friendships with the other participants. Since that experience we have all been involved in more actively living out the love to which Jesus calls us.”  – Fr. Mark Watson.

“In 2007, St. Joseph Church offered the JustFaith program to people in our community who were interested in learning more about social justice in a small community setting. When I joined, I had no idea how powerful this experience would be for me. I learned to view the world with new eyes, seeing it from the heart of those who were less fortunate than me, and responding in a new compassionate way to those who are different from me. The JustFaith experience was truly life changing.” – Jane Snyder

For more information, contact Mary Ellen Foley at me.foley@comcast.net, or 318-869-1120.  •

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