Posts Tagged ‘Social Justice’

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 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 Says Conversion for Social Justice Springs from Engagement

Jesuit Father Thomas MassaroJesuit Father Thomas Massaro spoke at the recent assembly of the Congregation of Major Superiors of Men in Orlando, during which he offered his insights on encouraging action.

“It is just not reasonable to expect to impact lives in the most profound ways through classroom activities alone,” Fr. Massaro, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, said in an address. “If you want to change the world, you will have to contribute to transforming people, not just reshuffling the ideas in their heads.”

Massaro added, “True conversion for social justice springs from personal experience and exposure to social problems and engagement in efforts to solve them. You cannot succeed without some ideas and intellectual commitments, but principles only get you so far. At the risk of lapsing into clichés, it is a matter of hearts and hands, not just heads.”

Massaro said that while there are still unresolved questions on how to best serve the poor, it is clear the Catholic Church “will continue to understand its mission as including ample engagement with the political and economic realms. … There will continue to be a crucial role for men and women religious to play in front-line work for both charity and justice.”

For more on Massaro’s address, visit the Criterion Online.

Jesuit Discusses the Intertwined Relationship of Social Justice and Environmentalism

Within the Society of Jesus’ governmental structure, five areas of apostolic importance have been identified and given special attention. One of these apostolic sectors is Social Justice & Ecology, which is headed up by Jesuit Father Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos. Recently appointed to his role this year, Fr. Álvarez de los Mozos explains the intertwined nature of working for social justice with a connection to ecological issues during this video interview he recently conducted with National Jesuit News during his visit from his headquarters in Rome to the United States.

On this Earth Day, Álvarez de los Mozos encourages Jesuits and their partners to work toward justice, peace and environmental care.

Japanese Jesuit Offers Novena for Disaster Victims of Japan

A fresco outside Oura parish in Nagasaki, the oldest church in Japan. It depicts the encounter between a French missionary priest and the Japanese "hidden Christians".

A fresco outside Oura parish in Nagasaki, the oldest church in Japan. It depicts the encounter between a French missionary priest and the Japanese "hidden Christians".


Jesuit scholastic Stephen Pitts is currently studying at Loyola University Chicago but he spent his summer last year teaching English in Japan. He continues to communicate via email with his fellow Jesuits in Japan regarding the ongoing crisis after the terrible triple blow of an earthquake, subsequent tsunami and a threatened nuclear reactor meltdown have left the country damaged and trying to recover from the disasters.

Today, he received an email from Jesuit Father Ryuichi Hanafusa,  the director of the retreat house in Kamakura, Japan where Pitts made my retreat last July, with the following novena.

The Jesuits here and across the globe continue to pray for the victims of this disaster and for all those providing rescue, relief and support to those impacted by this crisis.

Dear Friends in the Lord,

I am a Catholic priest in Japan.  As you know, a terrible earthquake hit Japan and many people continue to suffer now.  Although the present situation is still tense and unpredictable, many of those suffering are very calm and many others are trying to help them with all their strength.  In the midst of this disaster, I can see much evidence of the goodness of people, and this fact gives me great consolation

I have asked many Japanese Christian Life Community members and Catholic friends to pray together.  We will start Novena prayer today.  If you are interested, please join us.

Today, March 17, is the memorial of the rediscovery of the Japanese Catholic Church in Nagasaki. The novena will run until March 25, the feast of the Annunciation.

We have three intentions:

1)That the victims (at present 550,000 people) may get sufficient support

2) That the deceased (at present 5,000 people and continuing to increase) may have eternal rest in heaven.

3)That the radioactive leak may stop as soon as possible.

I expect hundreds of Japanese Catholics join this Novena prayer.  Please join us, even if you cannot do the whole novena. We would appreciate your prayers for one or two days.

I will offer a brief explanation of today’s memorial. It is a very special day for Japanese Christians.  Almost 400 years ago, the Tokugawa shogunate persecuted Japanese Catholics very severely and an estimated 200,000 Catholics were martyred in heroic ways.  The shogun’s government thought that it had eliminated Christianity completely from the country, and they continued strict sanctions against Christianity.

After the Tokugawa shogunate fell, and a new modern government began about 150 years ago, many foreigners came to Japan, including some members of the Parisian Missionary Society. When a priest was praying in the chapel on March 17, 1864, several Japanese farmers entered the chapel.  They asked the priest three questions:

1) “Do you venerate St. Mary, Our Mother?”

2) “Do you respect the Pope as a leader of the Church?”

3) “Are you celibate?”

He said, “Yes”.  Then they said, “You and we have the same heart”.

A large group of Japanese Christians gathered. It was really big surprise that they had kept their faith completely in secret, passing it along from one generation to the next for the previous 250 years.  Without any priest and the Holy Eucharist, they baptized their kids, said Catholic prayers, celebrated Christmas and Easter every year.  Moreover, they survived as a group in spite of the severe oppression of the government.  That French priest thought their perseverance was surely a holy miracle in the Church.  This is the reason why we Japanese celebrate this miracle today. We Japanese never give up in difficult situations.

+ God, our Father, You are the true ruler of this World.  We praise your holy name.  Please have mercy on the miserable people in Japan who suffer from the effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and radioactive pollution.  Lord, have mercy on us.  Please give us peace, hope, and courage to overcome these difficulties. We totally trust in you. Though we are sinners, we cannot help but trust you.  You are our only refuge and safety. Please give courage and strength especially to those who are engaged in direct aid to the victims. We believe in your power to help us.  In the name of our Lord. Amen.

Fr. Ryuichi Hanafusa, SJ

Director, Japanese Martyrs’ Retreat House

Kamakura, Japan