Lessons learned from the 2012 CSMG
Sitting in the airport as I prepare to leave Washington, D.C., I have a few moments to reflect on this week’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. A few final thoughts/observations to wrap up the week:
1. Civility and charity go a long way: In my job, controversy is commonplace. It usually makes for a good story, or gets people interested in reading about a topic they might otherwise pass over. And writing about controversial issues can often put you right in the middle of them. But even when people get together and discuss hot button topics, the value having a civil discussion and being charitable to those you disagree with can’t be understated. I saw cases where people disagreed with one another at the gathering this week, but never did I see anyone forget this important principle. And that certainly makes for a more pleasant lunch.
2. We’re all pro-life: Catholics sometimes have a tendency to separate one another into two groups—the “social justice” Catholics and the “pro-life” Catholics, as if these are two incompatible and mutually exclusive categories. Having spent four days with a crowd of hundreds of “social justice” Catholics, I can’t count how many times I heard affirmations of the church’s teaching on human life. Yes, there may be a difference in how much emphasis some Catholics put on the issue of abortion compared to other social concerns (including life issues like the death penalty, poverty, etc.), but no one wants, likes, or encourages abortion. Some may think a conference on “social ministry” doesn’t have anything to do with being pro-life, but the two are not just compatible, they’re inseparable.
3. We’ve got a lot of work to do: This one goes without saying. Economic issues, poverty at home and abroad, immigration reform, hunger, education—the list of social concerns is a long one. These aren’t just issues for Catholics, they are critical concerns for every member of our society, no matter where they fall on the political or economic spectrum. But…
4. We’ve got some great people on the job: I met a number of inspiring, passionate individuals this week representing parishes, ministries, religious orders, and other organizations that are dedicated to serving their communities and improving the lives of others. Some focus on specific problems on that list of concerns while others try to tackle a big chunk of them. All of them have a strong commitment and will hopefully return home filled with good ideas and an inspiring message that will recruit others to join their work.
Maybe someone in your parish or diocese was there. Maybe they could use a hand with the ministries or programs they run. It doesn’t hurt to find out, and no matter what your interest, ability, or experience, there’s sure to be some way that you can help.