Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Jesuit Honored for Years of Work in Peace and Justice

Jesuit Father Benjamin UrmstonJesuit Father Benjamin Urmston, founder of Peace and Justice Programs and professor emeritus at Xavier University in Cincinnati, is being honored for his lifelong efforts on justice issues. He will receive the “Keeping the Dream Alive” award from the Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati at the church’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 21.

Fr. Urmston, 87, is a veteran of World War II, and he participated in three major battles — the Rhine, the Ruhr and Bavaria — with General Patton’s Third Army in Europe. The horrors of his war experiences inspired him to make a difference in the world. He decided he could do that by entering the priesthood.

“I was not in the worst part of the war,” Fr. Urmston said, “but what I had was not a picnic. And I came out of that thinking, ‘There has to be a better way for us to solve disputes. There has to be a way to peace.’ I wanted a better world. I felt being a priest would be one way to pursue that — at least a good way for me. And that has proven to be true.”

When Fr. Urmston joined the Xavier faculty in 1971, he saw the need for student involvement in issues of peace and justice, so he founded the Peace and Justice Programs. “The notion of peace and justice is deeply engrained in Ignatian spirituality and applies to all people whether you like them or not,” Fr. Urmston said.

“I think it’s good to have ideas. I think it’s good to have ideals,” Fr. Urmston said. “I think it’s good to have a vision of the future. The purpose is never to judge individuals but to analyze structures. There are times when we need to change our structures, and that’s not easy. That’s part of the reason why there’s opposition: We don’t like to change basic things.

“I don’t have in mind heaven. But I have in mind the beginnings of a civilized earth.”

Read more about Fr. Urmston at the Xavier University website.

Jesuit Ministers to City Coping with Record-Breaking Violence

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff (right) with a cross planted for a Camden, N.J., homicide victim.

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff ministers in Camden, N.J., a city that experienced a record-breaking number of homicides in 2012. “I have learned that poverty is not pretty, nor is it romantic. The traumatic experiences of violence, abuse and endemic poverty deeply wound the people of Camden,” says Fr. Putthoff.

Fr. Putthoff founded and runs Hopeworks ‘N Camden, which trains youth in technology and helps them get back to school and away from the violence that plagues their hometown.

Among the 67 killed in Camden in 2012, 34 were younger than age 30; 11 were teenagers; one was 2 years old and another was 6 years old. Fr. Putthoff was one of the organizers of a new group, Stop the Trauma, Violence and Murder, which has a Facebook page documenting both the ongoing violence in the city and activities to bring attention to the problem, including painting and planting of crosses for victims.

“Camden is a place that is very bloody and disfigured, and it bothers us fundamentally to look at it because if we acknowledge it as disfigured, then we have to do something about it,” Fr. Putthoff told the National Catholic Reporter. “The alternative, what most do, is avert our gaze and find ways to justify it. We either make it invisible or we blame people for it.”

Fr. Putthoff and the staff of Hopeworks understand that changing lives go beyond teaching new skills. It also means they must help the youth to see possibilities that would have been previously unimaginable.

Fr. Putthoff  said that even many from the program who “succeeded,” by moving on to college or to good jobs, often sabotaged that success by acting out inappropriately under stressful circumstances.

Crosses for murder victims in Camden, NJ“What’s important is recognizing that even if we had no crosses, we’d still be saying, ‘Stop the trauma,’ because people are living an existence that is only about survival and not thriving,” Fr. Putthoff said. “They learn a whole set of behaviors to help them survive, but lamentably, those behaviors don’t help them thrive.”

The Hopeworks staff is currently undergoing a two-year training program to be certified in “trauma-informed delivery of services.”

“We believe that we’re operating more and more out of a model of trauma where our youth basically have a form of PTSD and their survival mechanism doesn’t allow them to actually move forward,” Fr. Putthoff said.

For more on Fr. Putthoff’s ministry in Camden, visit the National Catholic Reporter and the Jesuit Curia’s Social Justice blog.

Jesuits Experience Journey of Migrant Workers

Jesuits on migration journeyThis summer, seven Jesuits took part in a five-week excursion through the Migration Corridor, the Central American route typically traveled by those fleeing poverty and seeking opportunity in the United States.

“La Jornada,” or the Journey, began in Honduras and ended in Nogales, Ariz. Along the way, participants learned about the realities of the lives of migrant workers.

Matthew Kunkel, a Jesuit scholastic said, “When people make this journey, they’re desperate. They’re not doing it because they want to break the law. They’re doing it because they’re trying to survive.”

The group traveled by bus and stayed in shelters, visiting human rights organizations and parishes that assist migrants along the way.

“If the experience was extremely demanding for us, I can only imagine what it would be for the migrants themselves,” said Jesuit Father J. Alejandro Olayo-Méndez.

Learn more about their journey in the Ignatian News Network video below and visit their blog: http://themigrantjourney.wordpress.com.

Jesuit Remembered for His Commitment to the Poor

Jesuit Father James WebbJesuit Father James Webb, former Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in English Canada, died on August 9 at age 68 in Ontario, Canada. Throughout his nearly 50 years as a Jesuit, Fr. Webb was a champion of the poor and disadvantaged, and he worked for social justice, specifically in the fields of social action, education and agricultural development.

Following his ordination in 1973, Fr. Webb served in Toronto, where he took on a number of social justice projects, including leading an advocacy effort against the system of apartheid then existing in South Africa and helping found a Catholic newspaper, a health center, the Taskforce on Churches and Corporate Responsibility and the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice.

In 1986 Fr. Webb moved to Jamaica, where he served for over twenty years. There he spent most of his time working with the poor, as a pastor in Kingston, chair of the St. Mary’s Rural Development Project and founding director of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections.

Fr. Webb returned to Canada in 2008 to become Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in English Canada. In this role, he chose to live in an apartment in one of the poorest parts of Toronto, rather than the six-bedroom home in a Toronto neighborhood that had once served as home base for the Jesuit leadership team.

Jesuit Father James Webb with friends

“If you say that material things are not important but then there’s no sign of it, it lacks credibility,” Fr. Webb told Canada’s Catholic Register in 2009. “Our commitment to social justice and solidarity with the poor is very strong. In terms of vocations, I think that is one of the things that is attracting younger people to the Jesuits.”

Fr. Webb always believed there was more that could be done, however difficult it might seem, said Jesuit Father Philip Shano.

“Where others saw missions impossible, Jim was eternally optimistic about how things could work out,” Fr. Shano said. [Jesuits in English Canada, The Catholic Register]

British Jesuit Begins Scholar-in-Residence at University of San Francisco

A British Jesuit with broad experience in European and international justice issues as well as grassroots work with the poor will be the University of San Francisco’s Lane Center Summer Scholar-in-Residence this month.

During his time on campus, Jesuit Father Frank Turner will deliver three free public addresses: “Catholic Social Thought and Magisterial Claim to Authority in Ethics” ; “Catholic Social Thought’s Claim to Universal Relevance” on July 18; and “Modes of Christian Ethical Participation in the Global Discourse” on July 25.

As its general director, Fr. Turner led the Jesuit European Office (OCIPE) from 2005 until last year and is currently affiliated with its successor, the Jesuit European Social Center in Brussels, Belgium.

His work has taken him to Iraq, Colombia, Syria, Lebanon and Israel-Palestine, where he has conferred with a range of people, including community leaders, voluntary workers, cardinals, patriarchs and the leaders of several governments.

From 1997 to 2004, Fr. Turner was the assistant general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“The core of that job was to brief and represent the bishops of the 22 dioceses of England and Wales on matters of international justice: regional issues, such as relations between Israel and the Palestinian territories, or the Church’s advocacy to government about the Western allies’ path to war against Iraq,” Fr. Turner wrote on the website Jesuit Vocations: Britain.

From 1981 to 1986 and 1990 to 1994, the priest did “community-based work in the poorer parts of Liverpool and Manchester” while also teaching part-time at Manchester University, he told National Catholic Reporter.

Past scholars-in-residence have included Mary Jo Bane of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Jesuit Father A. E. Orobator, provincial of the Jesuits’ East African Province; Margaret O’Brien Steinfels of Fordham University Center for Religion and Culture; Jesuit Father James Keenan, professor of theological ethics at Boston College; and Jesuit Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

[National Catholic Reporter]