This is the fifth in a series of “Best Practices” posts that will cover various aspects of Life & Justice Ministries. (To see the all the entries in the series, click here.) Today, Cheryl Mrazik and Katie Kernich of Catholic Relief Services’ Mid-Atlantic regional office in Radnor, Penn., offer five tips for building global solidarity in your parish.
As Catholics, we are blessed to be part of a truly universal Church that connects us to others around the world. The Catholic social teaching principle of solidarity beautifully expresses the universal nature of our Church: “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching). But how can we live out this profound challenge in our parish communities? Here are some practical tips to consider:
1. Include the 6 o’clock news in your prayers at Mass. Often, we can feel very overwhelmed by the various conflicts, natural disasters, and other “bad news” around the world. It is easy to feel helpless and removed from these situations. But as Catholics, we are called to pray for and take action to assist those in need both in our own local communities and in our global community. Consider relating one intercession during the prayers of the faithful each week to a global issue that has been in the news lately. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) often has intercessions available on their website. Here is a recent example from CRS:
For communities around the world living in fear of war and violence, especially those in the Central African Republic, that the God of peace and justice will comfort and protect them in these dark hours, we pray to the Lord.
2. Create a visible reminder of your parish’s commitment to our brothers and sisters around the world. Your parish could start a chalice program, through which individuals or families in the parish can sign up to take a chalice home for a week and spend that week praying for people in another part of the world. Your parish might also display a “world prayer map” on which parishioners can place pins to indicate people or parts of our country and the world for which they are praying, inviting the rest of the parish community to join with them in prayer.
3. Invite speakers to your parish who address global issues. Many parishes have missions during Advent or Lent that include speakers. This would be an opportune time to invite a speaker who can share with the parish community about a particular global issue, or about the Church around the world. Many Catholic religious orders with missions overseas have speakers available for parishes. You may also invite a parishioner or someone else from the local community who has immigrated to the U.S. to share stories from his or her home country. CRS Global Fellows are priests and deacons available throughout the year, at no cost to the parish, to speak at parish masses about the global work of the Church and CRS’ projects overseas.
4. Celebrate members of your parish community who are living out our call to global solidarity. In your parish bulletin once a month, spotlight a parishioner or group of parishioners who has volunteered, advocated, or shown other types of support for global solidarity. At Mass, have the parish community bless parishioners who are traveling on mission trips overseas. When members return from trips, invite them to share their experiences in some way with the rest of the parish.
5. Commit as a community to a particular global issue. Many Catholic parishes “twin” with other parishes overseas. Consider “twinning” as a parish for a certain period of time with a specific global issue. Select an issue theme and then try to consistently include that theme in the life of the parish through liturgy, faith formation, community activities and events, and so forth. Create a parish prayer related to the issue, place prayer cards in the pews, and pray the prayer together at every mass. Hunger is one issue example that has both local and global implications. Your parish could also take action to address hunger locally by serving food monthly at an anti-hunger organization in your community, and could address global hunger by participating in CRS Rice Bowl during Lent.
There are countless ways to demonstrate your parish community’s care and concern for our brothers and sisters around the world. Get creative, and remember to integrate global solidarity into the activities and events already going on at the parish! As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas Est, “love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” May we all continue to be inspired as we together live out our Gospel call to global solidarity.
Katie Kernich works for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in its Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regional office in Radnor, PA. In that role, she works closely with the Diocese of Camden and seven other Catholic dioceses in the region to engage Catholics in the global mission of the Church through CRS. Katie has a bachelor’s degree in theology from The Catholic University of America, and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame. Prior to starting with CRS, Katie worked in a parish in Fort Worth, TX, and as a campus minister at St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC.
Cheryl Mrazik also works for CRS in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regional office, liaising with nine dioceses in the region, including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Before coming to CRS, Cheryl worked at Romero Center Ministries in Camden, and in the campus ministry office of St. Augustine High School in San Diego, CA. Cheryl has bachelor’s degrees in English and Philosophy from the University of Scranton and a master’s degree in International Development from the University of Pittsburgh.