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Monday, May 07, 2012

Justice Month - The Result of Strong Collective Efforts

Representing the Office for Peace and Justice recently on the Archdiocesan radio program, Una Comunidad Catholica De Fe, I was a little caught off guard by host Alejandro Castillo’s question, “How would you assess the success of Justice Month?  Did the efforts of the Office for Peace and Justice produce the kind of results you expected?’

Since Justice Month had just finished hours before my radio interview, my answer to this important question came out quite garbled and disjointed. My body and spirit were still on a high off of celebrating the wonderful justice events over the weekend.

My mind, likewise, was still in a pre-reflective state, not ready to let go of the euphoria of hundreds of young people standing up during the Dream Act March in Vicariate IV and diving in heads first to learn about Catholic Social Teaching.  (Click either of the last two hyperlinks to see pictures from justice events).

Adequately rested, I now make my second effort in providing reflections on the fruits of Justice Month.

Any pastoral minister who makes efforts in promoting inter-parish or intra-diocesan events knows first-hand that collective efforts are both blessings and curses. Building new relationships are inevitably messy, time-consuming and taxing experiences. And yet when relationships are forged across distinct institutions and plural communities with Christ’s mission in the center, overcoming structural sins like racism and poverty become a considerable possibility.

Justice month was launched during the Year for Teens and Young Adults of the Strategic Pastoral Plan not as neutral, worn-out idea but rather as an intentional, pioneering effort to evangelize Catholic youth through social ministry and Catholic Social Teaching.

Peace and justice leaders from all six vicariates met for months, identifying the social sin most prevalent in their communities, selecting a particular strategy to respond to that sin that could capture the imagination of their youth, and then hitting the road and recruiting people to join them in their mission of applying Catholic Social teaching in current social sin.

In the end, four major events were organized by 120 adult volunteers and were attended by over 350 youth and young adults from the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Yes, nearly 500 people in the Archdiocese were significantly impacted by Justice Month!

And yet evaluating Justice Month through this result/event paradigm is, in my estimation, inadequate.

The true fruits of Justice Month will come to bear in months to come, when parishes that could not participate this year chose to step up and while parishes that did get involved welcome new parishes.

Involving youth in peace and justice efforts necessitates collective, innovative and systematic efforts by a diverse group of agencies in the Archdiocese.  In addition to the 80 parishes involved, The Office for Peace and Justice is particularly grateful this year for the strong collaboration of the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry, Office for Hispanic CatholicsDiaconate, Amate House, Catholic Relief Services, Dominican Volunteers, Loyola University,  and the Office for Mission Education and Animation.

If your agency or parish wants to learn more about Justice Month 2013, please contact Thomas Howard at 312 534 3890 or

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Thursday, May 10, 2012 3:28 PM

I am impressed by the work you are doing with the youth on peace and justice issues. It's all about passion, collaboration, and perseverence. Seems the peace and justice people in Chicago have all three! Kudos on your efforts!

Juliana H.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 5:34 PM

It is wonderful to hear of the organizing success that Justice Month has been. So often anger has been the motivation of our justice work. The kind of anger that will keep many a Chicagoan in their homes during this upcoming NATO summit! It gives me great hope that you and the relationships you helped to foster during Justice Month are seeking your motivation and energy from Trinitarian love!! Keep up this great witness!!

Van B.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 1:34 PM

Great job Tom. Insightful and intriguing blog post!

Christopher N.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 12:55 PM

Good stuff Mr. Howard. Congratulations!

luis t.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:10 AM

Thanks Terri! I know that pride is a capital sin, but having pride in our Church in the way it relates to the poor, the disenfranchise, and caring for God's creation is a good thing. The Office for Peace and Justice certainly appreciates and needs your prayers, especially as we launch of our Faithful Citizenship catechesis this fall. The U.S.C.C.B. has some great resources for parishes and we will be working with all of you to help form consciences as faithful citizens.

Thomas Howard

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:09 AM

Steve, last night we had our Vicariate IV Justice Month evaluation meeting. I was amazed to hear the group agreed that a wonderful fruit produced from the DREAM ACT PILGRIMAGE was the fact that spectators leaving it were saying to each other, "The diverse group of Christians who organized this event really loved each other!" Trinitarian love is what makes the Church so attractive to young people. Trinitarian love needs to drive our fundamental, committed relationships. Too often pride, privilege, power and profit represent the paradigms which North Americans view and understand their relationships. Our evaluation ended last night with a sense of honor and privilege of serving Christ in the building up of His kingdom. Justice month is but a glimpse of how glorious this Kingdom can be for all God's children.

Thomas Howard

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:07 AM

Thanks Nick! As you know the Office for Peace and Justice normally hosted justice day once a year. This year, since it was the year of the teen and young adult, we decided to expand justice day to justice month. Next year we plan on doing the same!

Thomas Howard

Monday, May 07, 2012 6:25 PM

Sincere congratulations and thanks for your efforts at education, action, integration and collaboration! I am very impressed with your efforts, and I am proud to be in an archdiocese that has this quality of outreach. Such heartening news! Blessings for your future, and thanks for improving everyone else's.

Terri M.

Monday, May 07, 2012 11:44 AM

The idea of each vicariate choosing one thing was wise. I always say nobody can do everything but everyone can do something!

Plus evaluations do indeed need to be based on fruits that will result more than just the seeds planted.

Steven I.

Monday, May 07, 2012 10:11 AM


Thanks for sharing this with me. What an amazing number of collaborators and participants! God bless you and all of your co-workers in the Office for Peace and Justice.


Nick L.

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