Catholic Social View: Option for the Poor and Solidarity

by Sister Julie Ann on March 10, 2011

Sister Kathryn  Klackner summarized the Church’s position on helping the poor and solidarity with the community and the world in March Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Discussion material used in all our convents. Here is a brief outline of some of this material.

Franciscan Care Services, West Point, NE, sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, is in the midst of a construction project hoping to address the health care needs of all the people of the local area.
  • 1891: seminal writing of modern Catholic social teaching, The Condition of Labor, Pope Leo XII responded to the plight of urbanized industrial workers in the throes of the Industrial Revolution.
  • 1971: 80 years into the modern Catholic social doctrine era, Pope Paul VI in A Call to Action directly urged all Catholics to accept personal responsibility for justice.
  • 1971 World Synod of Bishops statement Justice in the World focused on the critical social needs of the day and the urgency for structural changes that incorporate justice into societal life.
  • Social documents placed social justice at the heart of the mission of the Church and brought political action into the realm of Christian discipleship.
  • 1986 Economic Justice for All extended the Christian charitable obligation to an evaluation of social and economic activity from the viewpoint of the powerless in order that no one is marginalized or denied rights and that justice is served.
  • 1987 On Social Concern Pope John Paul II advanced the consistent theme of preferential care for the poor to include a global dimension.
  • 1998 Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions American Bishops named Option for the Poor and Vulnerable as one of seven Catholic Social Principles
  • Pope Benedict XVI in God is Love reiterated that charity is an essential activity of the Church.

Discussion Questions: In this Lenten season, how do we meet the needs of the poor among us? How can we give a “voice” to the powerless in our local community? In what ways can we give an option for the poor beyond material giving? What charitable and just actions are we called to during this Lenten season?

6 thoughts on “Catholic Social View: Option for the Poor and Solidarity”

  1. Srkathleenosf says:

    During our monthly discussion here at St. Francis, Greenwood, we agreed that the option for the poor is woven into the very fabric of our daily lives and ministry. We also reflected on the reality of the challenge involved in naming the most powerless in our community. They wear so many faces–Black, Hispanic, elderly, addicted, abused child and adult, neglected child and adult, uneducated and on and on. We also shared some of the models we each treasure for their example in not just giving service to the poor, but truly being servant to them, being in solidarity with them. Among these servant-hero figures are Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa, John Bosco, Katherine Drexel, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and our own sisters who pioneered in the Arizona desert as well as Sister Margaret in her loving care of the Hmong people. May they be our guides as we strive to offer Christ's face and hands to those around us this Lent!

  2. Aware of the powerful earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan triggering tsunami warnings around the Pacific Rim, Sister Kathleen's thoughts that 'the option of the poor is woven into the very fabric of our daily lives and ministry' couldn't be more true. Praying for the people already suffering from this natural disaster, one of our Franciscan Sisters serving at St. Theresa School, Kekaha, HI had this to say today:

    “The Hawaiian Islands have been very blest to dodge significant damage due to this tsunami. We had to evacuate to higher elevation around 11 p.m. Thursday until this morning Friday 8 a.m.. The people we stayed with were very kind. This is my third evacuation in two years. This time around I did not panic. We didn't sleep much last night. “

  3. May our hearts and lives be open to the needs of those struggling this night; may our prayers and resources bring peace.

  4. Ssharon says:

    In our Health Care facilities we strive NOT to turn anyone away who is in need of healthcare because of lack of payment. This is truly serving one who is in need.

  5. Smaryfrances says:

    In our discussion we talked about the many ways we can be aware of the poor among us. Even in our own houses, we have people we can assist with a listening ear, a kind word, or a smile. We also talked about our many blessings that we have and our reasons to share them with others.

  6. Sister Anne Marie Lom says:

    Sister Pam and I just completed our March discussion. We discussed the need for anonymity for the poor when people “press” us to give names or want to deliver things to people's homes. Sometimes it is necessary to give without seeing a happy face or hearing a “thank you”… we encourage people to give charitably without “exposing” the needy to the gaze of others.

    We are motivated to work for justice for the poor because of our parents' example of giving generously and because Sr. Pam grew up with her parents reminding the children of how much they had: food, clothing, a home and how they needed to be generous. I am moved by images, by personal connection with the poor and by the Gospel mandate, “Whatever you do to the least…”

    Some people we stand in solidarity with are: immigrants, undocumented, unemployed, underemployed, people in nontraditional families, workers whose collective rights are being violated, the unborn, and the elderly. We are especially mindful of children who are neglected or abused.

    Some “saints” of social justice are Romero and Dorothy Day but also parents caring for challenged children, people caring for aging parents as well as growing children, and those who suffer “shunning” because of their work on behalf of others.

    We are grateful that any sacrifice we make to save money is pooled into community funds and sent to help the poor, those stricken by disasters and those in war torn countries.

    We concluded that standing in “solidarity” is no small adventure! It is daily and it requires consciousness of others.

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