Have you always lived in Chicago?
In 1983, Old St. Patrick’s Church had only four registered members. And the story goes, two of the four were the rectory housekeeper and her dog.
So how did you get into the construction business?
Tell me, where did you two meet and how did you get engaged?
Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed what was to become Google while working on a research project at Stanford.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…
I guess I am kind of a Genesis guy, that category of folks who love origin stories. For me, it is always fascinating to listen to people talk about where they came from, how they met and became a couple, or how they found their calling and got started in their life’s work. There is just something inspirational about beginnings.
In my time at Old St. Pat’s Ihave been lucky enough to have been around the beginnings of many amazing projects, events, organizations, and initiatives. And it has been inspiring.
If you will indulge me I would like to share with you one of those remarkable Old St. Pat’s origin stories. Right around the turn of the millennium (sounds impressive when you say it that way!), a small group of Old St. Pat’s members, all of whom were very involved in volunteer service work, gathered together because they had been asking themselves the same questions: how can we learn to act in ways that get at the root causes of poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, and other social problems? What can we do to create greater peace and justice in our world? Wow, not exactly lightweight material!
Before long the conversation expanded to include more and more Old St. Pat’s members and friends. As the group worked to develop a formal social justice ministry at Old St. Pat’s two things became crystal clear. First, they wanted to acknowledge that many people at Old St. Pat’s were already involved in the work of social justice, either in their professional lives or as volunteers, and that we have much to learn from them. Second, they did not want to limit the work of social justice at Old St. Pat’s to a committee structure. Their hope was that the Biblical call for social justice would rinse through all the life and activity of Old St. Pat’s. This planning group would then serve as advocates for social justice, assisting and supporting new initiatives as they came along. In order to reflect that sensibility, the planning group chose to name our peace and social justice ministry, The Justice Initiative.
The Justice Initiative was established and contributed a great deal to life at Old St. Pat’s but at the same time was always exploring new ways to be more effective advocates for social justice. One of their breakthroughs took place in 2006, The Justice Initiative made a great observation. Liturgical seasons really work! Who knew?
But seriously, let us consider Advent. These four weeks do a great job of preparing us for Christmas. The prayers, music, readings and preaching at our liturgies are all directed to help us grow more deeply into the mystery of God becoming human, the Incarnation. Our programs, concerts, and events all bring our attention to Christmas. It’s the season for the Giving Tree, Deck the Hall, and a variety of Advent/Christmas lectures. And when Christmas arrives, perhaps we have inched our way to better understanding what it means to live Christmas all year long.
It is similar with Lent. Leaning on our liturgies, programs, and practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; we aspire to grow more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Paschal Mystery. And when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, we hope to have a deeper understanding of what it means to live our lives as an Easter people.
So back in 2006 the thinking went along these lines; we know liturgical seasons are a great way to engage our religious imaginations and our community. We know we cannot really create our own liturgical season (I wonder how that would go over in the home office?). But if we cannot create our own liturgical season, we can pretend we did. Thus was born, the Old St. Patrick’s Season for Social Justice.
Each September the Season for Social Justice mimics the rhythm of a liturgical season. Focusing on a principle of Catholic Social Teaching, we aim to integrate prayer and programs in ways that help us appreciate more fully the gospel call to social justice. And, as with Advent and Lent, our engagement with peace and justice issues does not cease with the end of the season. This is the work of our lives. The season serves as a time of learning, inspiration, reflection, and hopefully, as an impetus to action.
Starting next week, we look forward to the seventh year of our Season for Social Justice. The Dignity of the Human Person will be our focus. And just like the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent, let’s hope it will once again serve us well.
Bob Kolatorowicz serves on the staff of Old St. Patrick’s Church.