“A Shoot Shall Sprout”

November 26, 2019

Justice and Peace in the Province of St. Joseph

Justice and Peace work can be like a tender shoot. It sprouts from the soil of our common life—sometimes distracted from the Church’s social mission by practical concerns or even ideologies — and begins to take root. The example of prophetic figures of the past and the joyful interior logic of the work draws us onward. We pray the “bruised reed” not be broken but strengthen and grow. (cf. Mt. 12:20) Several tender shoots have sprouted within the life of the Province of St. Joseph.

Opportunities in Campus Ministry

Campus ministry affords rich opportunities for preaching and living out Catholic Social Teaching. Students are open minded, idealistic, and often instinctively see the tie between faith and the call to justice. The friars at Providence College have accompanied students on a mission of solidarity for many years, journeying with them to developing nations to see and answer needs. Recently Fr. Peter Martyr Yungwirth, the College Chaplain, traveled to Guatemala with students to help build houses. He recounted the beauty of forging relationships with local people amidst arduous labor. All were, in the meantime, inspired by the incredible witness of the American priest and martyr for social justice, Bl. Stanley Rother, who is so deeply venerated in the region where the PC students went. 

Experiences in Initial Formation

Many in initial formation have powerful encounters with the poor. These interactions sow seeds of compassion in the hearts of young friars and invite the challenge of critical social reflection. Why are so many people in such straits? Bro. Elijah Dubek is one of many brothers from the Province who has served with the Missionaries of Charity in New York City, going out on the streets to feed and pray with the homeless. A prevailing lesson for him was the tragedy of dehumanization: “Many of those with whom we spoke expressed despondency at how easily so many people ignored them.” These precious engagements can lead to a systematic reflection on how society can better distribute the moral values, economic opportunities and family structures so that all of God’s children share in the blessings of our country.

The Community Preaching in Baltimore

Our communities are themselves a witness of the possibility of fraternal love. Several times when he was Master, Timothy Radcliffe pointed to the powerful example of Dominicans in Burundi, where there had been a genocidal inter-tribal slaughter in the 1990s. Communities of both friars and nuns were a witness to reconciliation, by the very fact that they were comprised of rival tribes.

In less dramatic circumstances, the Dominican Laity chapter that meets at the Friars’ parish in Baltimore is likewise a sign of fraternity in a time of social upheaval. Baltimore suffers from violence and many racial tensions, as well as division between the city and the more prosperous surrounding county. The chapter, which takes its name from the Marian title “Joy of the Just”, exhibits a marvelous diversity: with members of different races, economic backgrounds, education levels, and neighborhoods — urban and suburban. Having been nurtured by several friars, including Frs. John Paul Walker and David Mott, the chapter continues to grow. It is truly a joyful sign of the justice of God’s reign. “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.” (Isaiah 11:1)

The Messianic kingdom starts small and grows. May these shoots of justice and peace, sprouting within the garden of our Province’s life, grow into mighty trees, offering witness and societal transformation. Contemplare aliis tradere: surely the way forward is to ponder Jesus’ message of universal love and righteousness, guided by the Church’s social magisterium, and proclaim it boldly in these trying days.

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