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Church's social justice ministry uses 'two feet' approach

By Carol Spurling

Francy Pavlas Bose considers that social justice has “two feet.”

One foot is direct service, such as donating food to food banks, operating homeless shelters, and other service programs that allow us to “pat ourselves on the back.”

The second “foot,” the more difficult one, is to reflect on why the needs exist, and then work to change the conditions that have created those needs.

“I believe that if I don’t actively work for change, then I’m contributing to the problem,” Francy said.

Francy Bose
Francy Pavlas Bose

Her commitment to social justice began when she heard a priest at a conference several years ago refer to God’s Spirit as a “she.”

“When she speaks, things change,” the speaker said.

“That ‘she’ was like a thunderbolt, a whirlwind,” Francy said. “For me, it makes such a difference, thinking of the spirit—the word is ‘Sophia’ in the Bible—as feminine.”

Francy has been a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pullman the 12 years she has lived there.  A lifelong Catholic, she has been involved in Sacred Heart’s social justice ministry for a decade.

Their ministry has included Lenten series, weekly meetings, participation in events like the CROP Walk, providing soup for the Community Action Center’s Soups On! program, as well as regular bulletin notes on themes related to issues of hunger, poverty, the death penalty, workers’ rights, environmentalism and other issues.

How has Francy stayed inspired to continue working on problems that have existed for millennia and show no sign of abating?

That “she” caused Francy to think more deeply about what moving faith into action is about.

“I realized that God isn’t going to fix the world, but Jesus came to show us we can change things,” Francy said, “and the Spirit works with us in the world for change.  I—we—don’t have to do it alone.

“For me, the sweeping changes in the Catholic Church because of Vatican II in the 1960s couldn’t have happened without the Spirit,” Francy said.  “Through Vatican II decisions, men from an old tradition did some new things, moving people in a new direction. I think the Spirit was definitely at work.”

One new direction the Catholic Church has taken is focusing on church members’ responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation—to be, that is, environmentalists.

“We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations,” she quoted Pope John Paul II as saying in 1990 in “The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility.”

Francy noted that the Pope’s entire statement on peace and the environment was fairly “in your face” in 1990, but she read it recently and thought it was “amazingly” relevant and necessary today.

In 1992, the United States Catholic Conference issued “Renewing the Earth,” a pastoral statement on Catholic social teachings and environmental ethics.

Another more recent example of the Catholic commitment to environmental responsibility is an expansive pastoral letter entitled “The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good,” written by the Catholic bishops of the region and published in 2001. The document is a comprehensive examination of the environmental challenges faced in this region, and an expression of how people of faith can try to meet these challenges in the future.

“Care of creation—instead of dominance of creation—is, for me, one of the major themes in Catholic social teaching,” Francy said.

Her long interest in and commitment to the care of creation has deepened in the past few years.  She appreciates the widespread attention it is now receiving.

“The environment is not something outside of us, it’s part of us,” she said. “What we do to the environment, we do to ourselves.”

Most recently, Francy worked with Sacred Heart’s social justice ministry to sponsor an October 2006 showing of Al Gore’s documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which focuses on global warming and the need for immediate action in order to prevent future environmental catastrophe.

Eco-Justice Ministries prepared a discussion guide to accompany the film, which is available on-line at www.eco-justice.org/TruthGuide.asp.

“Afterwards, we talked about how we can make a difference, to take the next step,” Francy said.

The next step is always the most challenging part, she believes.

For information, call 332-5114.

 

The Fig Tree - © February 2007