Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baptism and Social Mission

Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples was issued last year by the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As noted in the previous post, it is “for all Catholics who seek to better understand the connections between the celebration of the sacraments and our social mission as followers of Jesus and members of the Body of Christ.”

In that post, we looked at the Eucharist. Today, we look at baptism. Here are some excerpts from the document:
During the rite of Baptism, we reject sin, renouncing those beliefs, values, and choices that are opposed to Christ. We also reject sinful attitudes that degrade the dignity of others (e.g., racism, sexism, etc.) and practices that prevent other members of our human family from living in dignity (e.g., abortion, policies that hurt the poor, etc.). Baptism calls us to reject death and embrace life and dignity for all.
. . .
Christians believe that “Baptism does not take [the baptized] from the world at all.” Instead, the world becomes the “place” and “means” for the lay faithful to “fulfill their Christian vocation” (Christifideles Laici, no. 15).
. . .
The baptized work within the spheres of “work, culture, science and research; the exercise of social, economic and political responsibilities” to order them to the Kingdom (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 543).

The baptized are called to contribute to the sanctification of the world. Being “present and active in the world” is a “theological and ecclesiological reality” (Compendium, no. 543). This reality is  what leads us to work to protect the life and dignity of all people and to care for God’s creation here on earth.
What is the connection between your baptism and work to protect the life and dignity of every person?

[Next: Confirmation]

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Sacraments and social mission

Early last year, the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document titled Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples. As the introductions states:
This guide is for priests and lay ministers, teachers and students, adults and young people, and those who are preparing for the sacraments. It is for all Catholics who seek to better understand the connections between the celebration of the sacraments and our social mission as followers of Jesus and members of the Body of Christ.
As religious education classes begin around the diocese, this is a good time to review what the document teaches and look at ways it can be used in our schools and parishes.

The document features two-page handouts on each of the sacraments. These can be photocopied and distributed throughout schools and parishes to inform people about sacramental call to work for peace and justice. Today we will focus on the Eucharist. Later, we will discuss other sacraments. Some excerpts:

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church], no. 11). . . . the Eucharist is also social, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love): “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (no. 14).
. . .
St. Paul taught that the celebration of the Eucharist is insincere if there are divisions within the community based on class (1 Cor 11), status, or privilege (Rom 12), or if there are factions within the community (1 Cor 1). Partaking in the Sacrament as equals in the Body of Christ challenges us to unity as one family.
. . .
The risen Christ in the Eucharist acts as “a compelling force for inner renewal, an inspiration to change the structures of sin in which individuals, communities and at times entire peoples are entangled” (Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini [On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy], no. 73). These structures include racism, violence, injustice, poverty, exploitation, and all other systemic degradation of human life or dignity. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, our “fraternal communion” in the Eucharist leads to “a determination to transform unjust structures and to restore respect for the dignity of all men and women, created in God’s image and likeness” (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis [Sacrament of Charity], no. 89).
. . .
Filled with awe for all we have received in Christ’s self-gift, we respond with service and works  of charity. We act to transform unjust structures, policies, and laws that degrade human life and dignity.
[NEXT: Baptism]

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For love of the game

The September issue of U.S. Catholic magazine has an interview with Clark Power, founder of Play Like a Champion Today, which is described as “a national initiative that has provided education to tens of thousands of coaches, parents, and athletes. The goal of the program is to create a positive youth sports environment for all children, even as we see an increase in bullying, the desire to win at all costs, and rage from parents.” The article connects two subjects that we do not always see mentioned in the same breath, i.e., sports and justice. He writes, in part:
. . . adult coaches in youth sports culture exercise a fair amount of control over children’s play. When you play pickup games, you choose your own teams: “You’re the first baseman, I’m the pitcher, you’re the shortstop, you play left field.” These days, adults are choosing teams. Adults scout kids. They stack teams. They set the lineups. They control the strategy.

I was observing that in many ways the adults were taking children’s heads out of the game. Adults were playing against adults. From a developmental psychology perspective, that made no sense. Once adults control the game, what’s happening can no longer be called “play.” It becomes more like work. The kids are performing to please a person who has control over what they are able to do.

But psychologists think that as a child you need situations that you can control. We play games like baseball, but we also play made-up games, variations of tag and hide-and-go-seek, where we create the rules. Psychologists think that’s really, really good.

When adults set the rules, the focus is no longer on how children will benefit from play. Instead, adults seem to be asking, “How much more elaborate can this get?” because in a sense they are now playing with other adults.


. . . From a purely moral standpoint, as a matter of justice, every child has an equal right to play. That’s not dependent on whether you’re a good athlete or a bad athlete, whether you’re deaf or partially blind. Every child has a right to play and a right to play sports in our country.

There is no reason for some children to be sitting on the bench watching other children play. That, I think, is immoral. I think it’s a matter of justice. It’s not a matter of being nice to kids. It’s a simple matter of justice.
I may never look at youth sports the same way again. You can read the rest of this article here.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

To Go Forth

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD) has a new blog called To Go Forth. It takes its inspiration from Pope Francis’ challenge to go forth to the “peripheries” to share the Good News and stand in solidarity with those suffering poverty and injustice.

JPHD promotes awareness of Catholic social teaching and opportunities to live the Baptismal call to love God and neighbor.

Efforts include the anti-poverty mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, as well as advocacy in support of poor and vulnerable persons and communities, in the U.S. and abroad.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Catholics on Call in Albany

The Vocation Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany is offering a "Catholics on Call in Albany" weekend for young adults (ages 18-30) on October 10-12, 2014 at the Carondelet Hospitality Center in Latham. Register today at before the October 6, 2012 deadline, for space is limited. Call Sister Rosemary at 518-674-3818 or email for more information.

From the flier:

Quiet Time
Social networking can undermine our need for quiet time. Time alone is essential for discernment. God speaks to us at every moment. When listening to a song, my soul stirs. When in conversation with another, I may gain spiritual insight. But these unplanned inspirations are not enough.

Know Yourself
I need quiet time to know myself. There is a deeper part of me which I need to own. From this deeper place come my attitudes, actions and indicators for the choices I make. I know why I choose the things I do, think or say. I know when something is not in sync with who I am. I know why something else may exhilarate me. I ask myself "Why did I do that?" or say "I made a mistake in judgment here. What influenced me to make that decision?"

When I make quiet time a daily practice, it will also become a time of prayer. I don’t face challenges alone. God is there. God speaks to me in the depths of my listening heart. God has lots to tell and to ask me. As I make time for these sacred conversations of my life, I grow more and more in my desire to be perpetually "On Call" and available to the promptings of God's voice and will for me. I learn to hear God’s voice in the ordinary.

Missed Opportunities are Sad, but Possible
The call to selfless living as a single, married, ordained or consecrated person is challenging but "sitting on the fence" is not an option if I know the truth of what God is asking of me. In 1975 I spoke with a fifty year old woman who knew herself and knew who God created her to be. I encouraged her, but she sat on the fence of decision-making and never jumped off. Today she would be in her eighties. She had missed many opportunities to live fully, because she chose to sit on the fence. She did not allow herself to be "On Call." 

I am not the only one "On Call".
It is not all up to me. God is "On Call" for me 24/7. God will help me find my way as I take the time to listen. It is as simple as that. I am and will be sustained and guided by God’s presence in my life. God is always "On Call" to help, encourage and guide me.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

A modern day martyr

On September 20, Catholic Charities’ Commission on Peace and Justice is presenting “Rooted in Love: The Life and Death of Sister Dorothy Stang.”  It tells the story of an American nun who was martyred in 2005 while helping Brazilian peasants who were trying to protect the Amazon rainforest.

Since her death, Sister Dorothy has been widely honored for her life and work by the United States Congress and by a number of colleges and universities across the United States. She was posthumously awarded the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. Books, movies, documentaries and an opera have been developed about her. And she was formally recognized by the Vatican as a modern day martyr.

This one-woman play will be presented on Saturday, September 20 at 7 p.m. in the Chapel + Cultural Center, 2125 Burdett Avenue, Troy. For more information, or to buy tickets, call 453-6654 or go to 


Monday, September 01, 2014

Bishops' Labor Day Statement

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued their annual Labor Day statement which said, in part:
This year Pope Francis canonized Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. Both made immense contributions to the social teaching of the Church on the dignity of labor and its importance to human flourishing. St. John Paul II called work "probably the essential key to the whole social question" (Laborem Exercens, No. 3) and St. John XXIII stressed workers are "entitled to a wage that is determined in accordance with the precepts of justice" (Pacem in Terris, No. 20).

Pope Francis added to this tradition that work "is fundamental to the dignity of a person.... [It] 'anoints' us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God... gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, [and] to contribute to the growth of one's own nation." Work helps us realize our humanity and is necessary for human flourishing. Work is not a punishment for sin but rather a means by which we make a gift of ourselves to each other and our communities. We simply cannot advance the common good without decent work and a strong commitment to solidarity.

Labor Day gives us the chance to see how work in America matches up to the lofty ideals of our Catholic tradition. This year, some Americans who have found stability and security are breathing a sigh of relief. Sporadic economic growth, a falling unemployment rate, and more consistent job creation suggest that the country may finally be healing economically after years of suffering and pain. For those men and women, and their children, this is good news.

Digging a little deeper, however, reveals enduring hardship for millions of workers and their families. The poverty rate remains high, as 46 million Americans struggle to make ends meet. The economy continues to fail in producing enough decent jobs for everyone who is able to work, despite the increasing numbers of retiring baby boomers. There are twice as many unemployed job seekers as there are available jobs, and that does not include the seven million part-time workers who want to work full-time. Millions more, especially the long-term unemployed, are discouraged and dejected.

More concerning is that our young adults have borne the brunt of this crisis of unemployment and underemployment. The unemployment rate for young adults in America, at over 13 percent, is more than double the national average (6.2 percent). For those fortunate enough to have jobs, many pay poorly. Greater numbers of debt-strapped college graduates move back in with their parents, while high school graduates and others may have less debt but very few decent job opportunities. Pope Francis has reserved some of his strongest language for speaking about young adult unemployment, calling it "evil," an "atrocity," and emblematic of the "throwaway culture."
. . .
At their best, labor unions and institutions like them embody solidarity and subsidiarity while advancing the common good. They help workers "not only have more, but above all be more... [and] realize their humanity more fully in every respect" (Laborem Exercens, No. 20). Yes, unions and worker associations are imperfect, as are all human institutions. But the right of workers to freely associate is supported by Church teaching in order to protect workers and move them--especially younger ones, through mentoring and apprenticeships--into decent jobs with just wages.
. . .
Supporting policies and institutions that create decent jobs, pay just wages, and support family formation and stability will also honor the dignity of workers. Raising the minimum wage, more and better workforce training programs, and smarter regulations that minimize negative unintended consequences would be good places to start.

In doing this we follow the lead of Pope Francis in rejecting an economy of exclusion and embracing an authentic culture of encounter. Our younger generations are counting on us to leave them a world better than the one we inherited.
The entire letter is available at

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