In Your Midst


Sept. 2009

Five years of exploring the riches of Catholic social teacing

JustFaith is a program in which participants can grow in their commitment to care for the vulnerable and to become advocates for justice.  It provides a lively and challenging format in which participants read, discuss, pray, and experience situations that allow them to be formed in the Catholic social justice tradition.  JustFaith involves a substantial commitment:  thirty weekly sessions, two retreats, and four hands-on experiences.  In addition, participants are expected to do two to three hours of reading per week.

The program is now in its fifth year at St. James. We’ve asked some past participants to share what the experience has meant to them.

Joyce Mork-O’Brien:  “I was a member of the first class of JustFaith at St. James.  I admit I was initially daunted by the commitment of time, but I was also intrigued by the idea of exploring an aspect of Catholicism that was, I’m ashamed to say, new to me. JustFaith was a revelation.  Before JustFaith, there was a chasm between my faith and my commitment to social justice.  As a result, my faith all too often felt self-centered and divorced from ‘real life,’ while my social justice work lacked depth and resonance.  JustFaith provided a perfect link between these two strong forces in my life, giving new meaning to both.  The experience was challenging, and sometimes somewhat uncomfortable, but exploring Catholic Social Teaching in the company of trusted fellow pilgrims was a rich gift indeed. I cannot recommend JustFaith highly enough.”

Matt Zemek:  “This present age demands of us the ability to take scattered threads of human ambition and weave them into our lives. Individual hopes and longings don’t mean much unless they can be explored and reshaped in a communal context. JustFaith allows these vital processes to begin, unfold, and continue.”

Therese King:  “I came to the fall 2008 JustFaith class with high expectations and was not disappointed.  I’ve always cared about social justice issues but was radically changed by this experience and it has affected my walk with God and with my fellow travelers on earth in a positive and much more committed way.  Our class formed a family.”
Elizabeth Winder:  “We learned to value silence. We shared our spiritual struggles, practices and challenges.  We learned something more about spiritual companionship, to care about, be more tolerant of each other’s unique paths.”

Christine Henderson:  “JustFaith is true to our Catholic Social Teaching, which is the focus of the program. JustFaith taught me how to advocate for the poor and vulnerable. Moreover, it inspired me to continue my work pertaining to social injustices. One thing that is for sure—I learned a deep compassion for others that I will carry with me throughout my Catholic life. JustFaith is an invitation from our Father to join Him in the outpouring of His love for the poor and vulnerable—making an option for the poor.”

Marcia Ditter:  “Participating in Just Faith gave me a chance to come out of my shell. I was able to open up and talk about some difficult issues. I made some great friends. I volunteer at a homeless referral center and I am able to put my JustFaith experience to good use.”

Jennifer Ibach:  “One of my favorite things about the program is that it meets you where you are.  If you need to deepen your prayer life and spirituality, it will help you to do that.  If you are looking to broaden your understanding of issues and your engagement in the world, it can help you do that as well.  It really does offer something for everyone.  My experience these past two years has been that you will come in as a stranger needing growth in your life and you will leave as part of family, transformed in ways you never expected!”

Angela Leland:  “Beyond learning so much of Catholic social teaching and the care of all of human life, we as a group have become a wonderful family. I truly encourage this process – it is such an important step in our journey of faith.”

Mark Schoen:  “Many of our JustFaith sessions were intense and stressful. I often found myself despondent that any of us could have a meaningful impact on our world. The poverty and brokenness we saw in our readings and videos were simply too large for me to grasp. What conceivable difference could I make with the limited time and resources I had to give?”

Mary Brown:  “My eyes were opened to the ways my personal behavior and choices impact people around the world, and how many opportunities are out there to make the world a better place.  Best of all, I met a group of people I would probably otherwise never have met, and my life is very much the richer for it!”


Patty Bowman is the Director of Outreach Ministries at St. James.  If you would like to be a part of this year's JustFaith group, call 206-382-4515.


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