By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When and why did you join St. Patrick Parish and how has the parish enhanced your spiritual life?
Lynn: My husband Tom and I have been members of St. Patrick Parish in Farmington, CT ,since we married in 1986. I was involved in many parish ministries over the years. I started as a Catechist, and then became involved in the Human Needs Committee. During my involvement with the Human Needs Committee, I organized several parish based social ministries. Later I went on to initiate more social justice oriented activities such as hosting educational events and engaging the parish in Fair Trade by connecting the parish to Catholic Relief Service’s Fair Trade program and organizing an International Bazaar. After participating in an immersion trip to Haiti in 2012 I joined our Haiti Ministry Team of which I remain a member. It was during my time on the Human Needs Committee when I first connected with our diocesan social justice office – The Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry.
I am thankful to my parish for the opportunity to connect with so many others through ministry. This faith-based connection with so many people has enhanced my spiritual life. Ministry offers me the opportunity to be in communion with others as I share, pray, reflect, and serve with others beyond the Mass.
Gordon: When were you appointed executive director of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry and what are your primary responsibilities?
Lynn: In 2004 I participated in a program at our parish called “JustFaith”. The program launched several ministries in our parish. It also helped me personally in my discernment to pursue a career in ministry. I saw the opportunity to work for the archdiocese as an extension of my ministry involvement at St. Patrick Parish. After working for the Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford for five years, I was appointed to Executive Director in 2012.
My responsibilities include administering on a local level the national programs: Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the U.S. Bishop’s Justice for Immigrants (JFI) program, and implementing and providing on-going support for Parish Social Ministry. I supervise a small staff and several volunteer committees who work to help the parishes engage in social justice.
Gordon: Please share with our readers and overview of what Social justice is and what our responsibilities we have as Catholic to address social justice in our daily lives
Lynn: Social justice is rooted in the Gospel and based on the principles of Catholic Social Teachings. Social justice calls each of us to ensure that all people, especially the poor and vulnerable, have access to our God-given rights necessary to live a life in dignity: education, employment, food, healthcare, housing, shelter, and rest. By our Baptism we are all called to this mission – to be participants in Christ’s life and mission of love, justice and peace. We are called to live our faith in the world. It is in our daily lives where we will have the greatest impact through how we raise our families; participate as “faithful citizens”; and use our gifts and talents to serve others. Our everyday choices, from how we treat each other to the purchases we make, are ways in which we address social justice in our daily lives.
Gordon: How does Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry educate and prepare parishes to work for social justice?
Lynn: The Office’s mission is to advance Catholic Social Teaching by preparing and educating parishes to work for social justice. We do that by providing formation opportunities including conferences, workshops, in-service training and consultation for parish leaders, particularly parish social ministry committees, in the areas of Catholic social teaching and effective parish social ministry as outlined in Communities of Salt and Light (USCCB, 1993). We work closely with the ordained and lay leadership. We put special focus on developing parish social ministry leadership among Hispanic Catholics in light of their growing numbers. We use social media and organizing strategies to encourage advocacy by parishes and individuals on international peace objectives of the USCCB and the CT Catholic Advocacy Network. We collaborate with offices and agencies of the Archdiocese, other Catholic organizations in the state and CCHD grantees in the Archdiocese in order to expand our parish social ministry constituency and integrate the ministry of justice and peace into their work. We also administer a grant program called Cooperative Parish Sharing to help low-income parishes meet the needs of their communities.
Gordon: Approximately how many people attend your annual Social Justice Conference?
Lynn: As a diocesan office we are able to provide an annual Social Justice Conference. The conference provides networking opportunities and training, and education in Catholic social justice, Catholic social teaching, social policy, and leadership development. Over 200 individuals attend the conference. It’s a mixture of individuals already involved in ministry, those looking to get something started in their parish, or individuals who come for personal faith formation.
Gordon: If a parish is considering launching a social justice initiative what recommendations would you give them?
Lynn: Check to see if there is a Social Action Director either through the diocese or through Catholic Charities who can help you get started. A Director can provide you with resources, training, and best practices – and connect you to other parishes which may be doing similar work. A Diocesan Social Action Director can help you assess the need for a social justice initiative and provide you with tips to engage the parish community in the activity. If you don’t know if there is a director, or if there is no director, the Roundtable Association of Catholic Social Action Directors can help you.
Gordon: What is the Roundtable Association of Catholic Social Action Directors?
Lynn: I am grateful to be a member of the The Roundtable connects me to other diocesan social action directors and provides me with networking opportunities and best practices in the ministry. The Roundtable is a non-profit association which provides professional support to Catholic diocesan social action directors and their staffs and parish social ministry coordinators through education, formation, and professional relationships.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview and helping us better understand Social Justice and our obligation to help those in need.