woman with work sign labor day statment 2014

In the Catholic tradition, work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continued participation in God’s creative action. As we mark Labor Day each year, we are invited in a special way to reflect on the persistence of low wages and inequality in our workplaces. In your own experience of work—in an office setting, serving others, as a student, or working in the home—how have you experienced work as a form of participation in God’s creative action? How are persistent low wages a barrier to full participation in that creative action? What can you do to support workplaces built upon justice and dignity?

On this page, you can find prayers and resources for individual and group reflection on the dignity and rights of workers. To begin your reflection, read the annual Labor Day statement from the Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

Read the current and past Labor Day statements from the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Reflections on Catholic Teaching on Work
  • Catholic teaching tells us that not only are workers due a “just wage” with which they can provide for their families’ needs; they also deserve opportunities for rest and dignity-affirming benefits such as quality health care and paid time off.  In addition, work should be something that enhances one’s human dignity (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nos. 284, 287, 301, 302).
  • The experience of many workers in low wage jobs tells us that we must give serious consideration to how we can address areas of inequality in our economic systems. We are called to prioritize the well-being of the human person over the capital they produce (see St. John Paul II in Laborem Exercens, no. 12, on “The Priority of Labor”). In our country today, corporate consolidation of wealth and power in monopoly organizations has led to lower wages for workers. Lower wages mean many workers cannot sufficiently provide for their families or fully participate in the economy and society (see St. John Paul II in Centessiums Annus, no. 48).
  • How can we empower workers whose dignity and rights are not fully recognized? One way to do this is by supporting those organizations and businesses that promote employee ownership. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development funds several cooperatives and other employee-owned projects that help low-wage workers to achieve fair wages, stable employment, job training opportunities, and better benefits.
  • Catholic teaching holds that central to promoting the dignity of work and rights of workers is building solidarity with and among workers. The Church has long looked towards the important role played by labor unions in the effort to protect the needs and rights of workers in situations of inequality and injustice (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 305). As we seek to build greater solidarity with those workers in our community fighting for their rights, how can you show greater support of and involvement with the work of these labor unions?
  • Where in your local community or around the world do you see the dignity of work or the rights of workers eroded? 
How Can Catholics Respond?
  • In the workplace, if we are business owners, managers, or supervisors, we can help ensure that our businesses and organizations are offering family wages and the dignity-affirming benefits that our long Catholic tradition affirms should be available for all workers and their families.
  • As we listen to the needs of those in our community, we are challenged to support those organizations that are empowering their employees to be owners and decision-makers. Find a local CCHD funded group that supports employee ownership in your community and get involved in creating a more just economic system.
  • We can also join local efforts to support a just wage/family wage, which is a wage at which workers and their families can have access to what they need to fulfill basic needs and thrive.
  • We can use our purchasing power to help protect human dignity. We can be educated consumers, support local businesses and ethically-produced products, and let companies know when we are unhappy with their labor practices. 
  • Learn about efforts in your parish or local community to assist workers and their families, or to support their needs through advocacy or other efforts and get involved.

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Prayers and Resources

Prayers for Work and Workers

Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

Lord God, Master of the Vineyard,

How wonderful that you have invited us
who labor by the sweat of our brow
to be workers in the vineyard
and assist your work
to shape the world around us.

As we seek to respond to this call,
make us attentive to those who seek work
but cannot find it.

Help us listen to the struggles of those
who work hard to provide for their families
but still have trouble making ends meet.

Open our eyes to the struggles of those exploited
and help us speak for just wages and safe conditions,
the freedom to organize, and time for renewal.
For work was made for humankind
and not humankind for work.
Let it not be a vehicle for exploitation
but a radiant expression of our human dignity.

Give all who labor listening hearts
that we may pause from our work
to receive your gift of rest.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit
that you might work through us to let your justice reign.
Amen.

Find more information and PDF version.

Prayer for Work

Creator God,
thank you for providing us
with the gift to share our talents.

Provide our community, our nation, our world
the fortitude to provide work for all
which is decent and fair.

Make us faithful stewards
of your creation
to enhance the human dignity
of our global family.

We ask this in the name of Jesus,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit
now and forever.

Amen

(From Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice, USCCB, April 1998)


"Lord God look down upon us! Look at this city . . . Look upon our families.  

Lord, you were not without a job, you were a carpenter, you were happy.

Lord, we have no work. 

The idols want to rob us of our dignity. The unjust systems want to rob us of hope. 

Lord, do not leave us on our own. Help us to help each other; so that we forget our selfishness a little and feel in our heart the "we", the we of a people who want to keep on going. 

Lord Jesus, you were never out of work, give us work, and teach us to fight for work and bless us all. In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Pope Francis, Meeting with Workers, Sept. 22, 2013

More information and PDF Prayer

Pope Francis’ Prayer for Workers

Lord God lookdown upon us! Look at this city, this island. Look upon our families.

Lord, you were not without a job, you were a carpenter, you were happy.

Lord, we have no work.

The idols want to rob us of our dignity. The unjust systems want to rob us of hope.

Lord, do not leave us on our own. Help us to help each other; so that we forget our selfishness a little and feel in our heart the "we", the we of a people who want to keep on going.

Lord Jesus, you were never out of work, give us work and teach us to fight for work and bless us all.

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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Covid-19: A Prayer of Solidarity

For all who have contracted coronavirus, we pray for care and healing.

For those who are particularly vulnerable, we pray for safety and protection.

For all who experience fear or anxiety, we pray for peace of mind and spirit.

For affected families who are facing difficult decisions between food on the table or public safety, we pray for policies that recognize their plight.

For those who do not have adequate health insurance, we pray that no family will face financial burdens alone.

For those who are afraid to access care due to immigration status, we pray for recognition of the God-given dignity of all.

For our brothers and sisters around the world, we pray for shared solidarity.

For public officials and decision makers, we pray for wisdom and guidance.

Father, during this time may your Church be a sign of hope, comfort and love to all. Grant peace. Grant comfort. Grant healing. Be with us, Lord. Amen.

More information and PDF of prayer.

Sample Prayers of the Faithful

Possible Responses:

  • Lord, hear our prayer.
  • In your mercy, hear us Lord.
  • In your compassion, answer us God.

Possible Prayers:

We pray for a renewal of spirit for the men and women who must work in jobs that ignore the dignity of their personhood. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the men and women who are not able to find jobs. We pray for their continued perseverance and determination as they continue to seek ways in which to participate in God’s creative work. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all essential workers who work in the agricultural, manufacturing, and public service sectors. That they are provided safe working conditions and access to affordable healthcare. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the men and women who have recently lost employment. We pray for their continued perseverance and determination as they continue to seek ways in which to participate in God’s creative work. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the men and women who own companies, who lead companies, and who make decisions regarding safe work conditions and adequate wages. We pray that these leaders will act in the b
est interests of their laborers. We pray to the Lord.


We pray for union leaders, national and local, who are responsible for speaking for workers. May they be guided by the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to be servant leaders. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for men, women, and children who experience a lack of solidarity and support in their daily struggle to survive. May we be aware of our responsibility to listen to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the world. We pray to the Lord. 

We pray that as we are reminded that it is right and just to receive a fair wage for work, we may strive to promote dignity and respect for all in the workplace. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have lost their lives while working, and especially those who died from COVID-19, that they might be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom; and for their families, that they might be comforted and find security. We pray to the Lord.

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Activity Suggestions

CST 101: The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers

CST 101: The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers

CST 101 is a 7-part video series by the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services on Catholic Social Teaching. In this video, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Msgr. Ray East, and Joan Rosenhauer discuss the dignity of work and the rights of workers.

Catholic Campaign for Human Development Organizations Supporting Workers

How can we empower workers whose dignity and rights are not fully recognized? One way to do this is by supporting those organizations and businesses that promote employee ownership. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development funds several cooperatives and other employee-owned projects that help low-wage workers to achieve fair wages, stable employment, job training opportunities, and better benefits. Below are just a few examples of the many CCHD-funded organizations working to support workers throughout the country. Find a CCHD-funded group near you and get involved today!