Justice and Service

The Ministry of Justice and Service

Our faith calls us to work for justice; to serve those in need; to pursue peace; and to defend the life, dignity, and rights of all our sisters and brothers. This is the call of Jesus, the urging of his spirit, the challenge of the prophets, and the living tradition of our Church.

Our efforts to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the sorrowing, console the bereaved, welcome the stranger, and serve the poor and vulnerable must be accompanied by concrete efforts to address the causes of human suffering and injustice. We believe advocacy and action to carry out our principles and constructive dialogue about how best to do this both strengthen our Church and enrich our society. We are called to transform our hearts and our social structures, to renew the face of the earth (see A Century of Social Teaching).

The ministry of justice and service nurtures in young people a social consciousness and a commitment to a life of justice and service rooted in their faith in Jesus Christ, in the Scriptures, and in Catholic social teaching; empowers young people to work for justice by concrete efforts to address the causes of human suffering; and infuses the concepts of justice, peace, and human dignity into all ministry efforts.

The Church increasingly views itself as a people set aside for the sake of others—a community that stands in solidarity with the poor, that reaches out in service to those in need, and that struggles to create a world where each person is treated with dignity and respect. We are called as a Church to respond to people's present needs or crises, such as homelessness or hunger. We are also called to help change the policies, structures, and systems that perpetuate injustice through legislative advocacy, community organizing, and work with social change organizations. Direct service needs to be coupled with action for justice so that adolescents experience the benefits of working directly with those in need and learn to change the system that keeps people in need. Justice and service are central to who we are as God's people and to how we live our faith at home, in our communities, and in the world.

The central message is simple: our faith is profoundly social. We cannot be called truly "Catholic" unless we hear and heed the Church's call to serve those in need and work for justice and peace. We cannot call ourselves followers of Jesus unless we take up his mission of bringing "good news to the poor, liberty to captives, and new sight to the blind" (cf. Lk 4:18) (Communities of Salt and Light, p. 3).

The ministry of justice and service with adolescents has several distinct features that give direction to programming and action. Specifically, justice and service with adolescents

  • engages young people in discovering the call to justice and service in the Scriptures, in the life of Jesus, and in Catholic social teaching;
  • involves adolescents, their families, and parish communities in actions of direct service to those in need and in efforts to address the causes of injustice and inequity;
  • develops the assets, skills, and faith of young people by promoting gospel values in their lifestyles and choices; by increasing positive self-esteem, self-confidence, and moral reasoning abilities; by building leadership and social skills; by helping them discover their personal gifts and abilities; by helping them learn that they can make a difference in the world and receive recognition by the community for their contributions;
  • incorporates doing the right thing with attention to why and how we do what we do (Four elements guide adolescents in moving from awareness to action on issues of justice. Involvement helps adolescents connect with justice issues personally and experientially. Exploration helps adolescents understand the causes, connections, and consequences of justice issues—expanding their knowledge and moving them toward action with a stronger background and motivation to work for real change when faced with injustice. Reflection helps adolescents utilize the Scriptures, Catholic social teachings, and the lived faith of the church community to discern a faith response to justice issues. Action helps adolescents respond to injustice through direct service or actions of social change—locally or globally, short term or long term.12);
  • involves a supportive community that builds a sense of togetherness, nurtures a life of justice and service, works together to serve and act for justice, and provides support and affirmation;
  • nurtures a lifelong commitment to service and justice involvement (This includes providing opportunities, support, and follow-up to help the young people reflect on their experience. People who learn to serve when they are young are more likely to be service oriented throughout their lives.).