Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Fred Kammer’

Race Issues Sparked Jesuit’s Passion for Social Justice

Jesuit Father Fred KammerFor Jesuit Father Fred Kammer, the issue of race is what first sparked his interest in social justice. “Growing up in New Orleans in the late 1950s, the race issue was just beginning to open up,” Fr. Kammer recently told an audience at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania.

Fr. Kammer said he remembers, at age 9, the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 when the court declared the segregation of schools unconstitutional.

“But it really didn’t hit,” Fr. Kammer said. “The glamour of that court decision was the court said, ‘You should desegregate schools with all deliberate speed.’

“The problem is, what is all-deliberate speed? For many states there wasn’t much speed at all,” Fr. Kammer said. “States held off and resisted.”

Fr. Kammer was under what he calls “extra special pressure” being a young man attending a Jesuit school in the wake of desegregation. He said all eyes were on him as a Jesuit student who was supposed to be representing his school.

“The buses were desegregated. I was 13 [when I sat] down next to a person of color for the first time,” Fr. Kammer said. “I had grown up in a segregated world, watching other people sit down or not sit down, or a black person sit down next to a white person who got up.”

The values that drew Fr. Kammer to social justice have stayed with him. As a Jesuit, Fr. Kammer went to law school and worked in legal services in Atlanta and Baton Rouge among the poor. Today Fr. Kammer is the director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans.

Fr. Kammer says being active in social justice is not as daunting as people may think.

“If you can find one way to be engaged with people who are poor and needy – disadvantaged – and one issue that you get really interested in, even for the rest of your life, that’s a wonderful combination,” Fr. Kammer said.

To read more about Fr. Kammer’s talk, visit Cabrini College’s Loquitur website.

Jesuit Speaks on Poverty and Compassion to Notre Dame Students

The first step to aiding the poor is to stand with them, Jesuit Father Fred Kammer said in a lecture to Urban Plunge participants at the University of Notre Dame.

The Urban Plunge is a credit course offered to any student at Notre Dame by the Social Concerns Department. Its purpose is to demonstrate the problems of homelessness and poverty in the inner city. The core of the program is a 48 hour “urban plunge” during the Christmas vacation at a city near the student’s home. This plunge is preceded by several class periods and readings, and followed by another class period and a final paper.

Fr. Kammer’s lecture to the students, titled “Building Justice in the Cities,” addressed breaking the cycle of urban poverty. Kammer is currently is the executive director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute and has worked as the president of Catholic Charities USA.

“Making the invisible visible is the first step to compassion,” Kammer said. “Standing with the poor is a touchstone that gives us a wisdom that comes from the poor themselves and leads us to make judgments in favor of the poor.”

Kammer said taking a stand with the poor challenges our society’s dominant views.

“Standing with those who are poor introduces us to a new way of seeing the world around us,” he said. “This insistence on personal contact runs against our culture’s proclivity to see the poor as invisible or faceless.”

Kammer said once people make an initial commitment to stand with the poor, they might change the way they live their own lives.

“One of the first reactions that people have is to adopt a simpler lifestyle,” he said. “This choice is a stance appropriate to students.  Individuals who stand with the poor also stand with them in their career choices whether by choosing to teach in inner-city schools instead of the suburbs or doing social work in place of commercial law.

You can read more about Kammer’s lecture and the Urban Plunge program via this article in the university’s Observer newspaper. Kammer’s lecture can be found on video at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concern’s website here.