Monthly Catholic Social Teaching - December 2017/January 2018
NCEA is pleased to offer a series of service projects, prayers and activities surrounding the series of Catholic Social Teachings each month. The summaries and scripture references were taken from The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
December/January: Call to Family/Community Participation (March for Life Tie-in/Holidays)
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society, in economics and politics, in law and policy, directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. (USCCB 7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching)
Explanation/activity: Call to Family/Community Participation reminds us that actions taken by some (lawmakers, policy enforcers, etc.) can have a direct and profound impact on people in our local communities. It is our duty to work within the political and social systems to make sure everyone is taken care of and has opportunities to provide for themselves and their families.
In December, it would be a natural fit to focus on the family part of this social teaching, as Christmas approaches and families naturally spend time together. Families could start a new tradition — perhaps create an Advent wreath to use during Advent to aid in their reflection and prayer. Families could also dedicate time to spend together, perhaps learning about their family tree or interesting facts about the family that may not be widely known, by interviewing an older family member or doing research together.
In January, it would be a natural fit to focus on the idea of community participation. An important political hot topic could be focused on (immigration, health care, tax reform, the death penalty, etc.) and students guided in writing letters to their legislative representatives on both a local, state and federal level explaining the position of the student and how they would like their legislator to vote on the issue chosen. You could also organize a trip to the National March for Life in Washington DC, held every year around the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. This year, it will be held on January 19, 2018. See marchforlife.org for more information. Many states also have local marches in their state capitals on the same day as the national march that can be powerful for students to participate in.
Service Project Tie-in:
In December: The school could sponsor a toy collection drive, or a giving tree drive that collects toys or needed supplies for families who cannot afford Christmas gifts for their families. Students could also help deliver the gifts close to Christmas if it was appropriate.
For Elementary Students: Reversed Advent Giving. Food collection that they can do for the community.
In January: Students could volunteer with a local charity that helps refugee families or families that have recently immigrated to the US and get to know the people and their stories, putting a human face to the issue for which they are advocating.
Modern Connection: The political debates surrounding immigration, health care, the death penalty, and how we should look at them from a Catholic faith community.
Prayer Service Suggestion:
God of all creation, we know you care for all of us and desire only what is good for us. Please guide those who make policy decisions and laws that affect all of us, that these decisions will work for the good of the most vulnerable in our society. Help us to have the courage to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. We pray this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 John 4:19-21. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
If possible, a student or adult would share about their experience as a refugee/immigrant or their direct work with refugees. You could also invite an outside advocate (someone who works with refugees or immigrants through Catholic Charities or your local diocese) to share with the students about their experiences helping these neighbors and the importance of policy that will help people trying to escape dangerous situations in their communities.
In the front of the prayer space, have a series of unlit candles. Different readers read statements concerning various laws that are being debated and stories of different refugee families living in the community, and various statements of Church tradition. For each statement, a candle is lit by a member of the community.
Some potential statements from the writings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis and St. Pope John Paul II can be found online
Good and gracious God, thank you for the many gifts you have given us, including this country where we live and can express our opinions and ideas without fear of punishment. We ask that you help us to grow as advocates for the people that cannot speak for themselves, and that we are able to get your message to the people who are able to make fair policies that benefit all. Thank you for this opportunity to learn more and serve you better. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.