The ripple of Social Justice Week

Change starts with an idea. One little ripple of an idea – that’s all it takes. The idea touches people and inspires them. It offers a chance of a better life and a better future. Ultimately, it offers a chance of a better human existence. This small ripple of an idea transformed into an entire wave of hope and change on the St. Kate’s campus during Social Justice Week.

Social Justice Week took place during the week of Monday, April 28, and followed one theme per day. These themes fell under Catholic Social Teachings, and included “Love of God and Dear Neighbor Without Distinction,” “Solidarity,” “Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable,” “Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” “Rights and Responsibilities” and “Call to Family, Community and Participation.” Sponsored and ran by Campus Ministry and other various groups around campus, this year marked the first Social Justice Week. Each day brought a new way to participate in acts of social justice.

“Campus Ministry wanted to highlight the ways our community is committed to social justice,” Campus Minister of Social Justice Joe Kolar said. “We thought a week’s worth of events, including events sponsored by groups outside of Campus Ministry, would be a great way to do that.”

Monday: Love of God and Dear Neighbor Without Distinction
To kick off the week, Catholic Katies hosted a morning prayer session, which took place at 7:30 a.m. in the chapel. The prayer sessions follow daily prayers for an entire calendar year, known as the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.

“Some people don’t want to get up, but morning prayer helps me through the day,” Hillary Lor, a Catholic Katie member, said. “I don’t just think about myself, but I think about others too.”

For the next event, Sodexo and Peace Coffee provided free Peace Coffee for students in the Coeur de Catherine (CdC), and the last event of the day was a shake it up with the CSJ’s, which was in part sponsored by the CSJ Student Alliance. At this event, students were served shakes and personal stories from the CSJ’s. Sr. Bridget protests war every Wednesday, Sr. Ann Redmond worked with sex trafficking victims, Sr. Jane shared her experiences with racial discrimination, Sr. Rosita was a grass-roots organizer in Kenya and Sr. Florence spent time in Jerusalem under occupation.  Each sister brought a different perspective to working in social justice and loved seeing the commitment to social justice that is here on campus.

“It’s very important that St. Kate’s engages in social justice,” Redmond said. “We don’t have many young people coming into the convent, so it’s encouraging to see all the students here, carrying out what we see needs to be done.”

Tuesday: Solidarity
Tuesday began with a mock vigil and protest done by the School of America (SOA) group of 2013. The SOA, recently re-named to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), is a military school in Georgia that is sponsored and paid for by the U.S. Government. WHINSEC brings in soldiers from countries all around the world and trains them how to strategically kill people. These killing techniques are then taken back to the home country, where they are used to oppress citizens whose ideas differ from the ruling government. The U.S. sponsors WHINSEC in order to create an ally with other countries. For the past couple of years, St. Kate’s students have been driving to Georgia during fall break with St. Thomas and Macalaster in order to protest these repressive trainings. In standing together with the other schools, as well as hundreds of other protesters, the goal of the SOA trip is to create a movement of solidarity that will end the training.

A simple supper and food insecurity reflection was also held on Tuesday. The final solidarity event was a Residence Life sponsored trip to Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). FMSC is a non-profit Christian organization with a goal of eliminating the world-wide starvation of children. It depends on volunteers to keep costs low and impact high. Volunteers put together what FMSC calls a “MannaPack,” which is a food pouch that consists of rice, soy, vitamins and vegetables. Each pack provides enough food for six children to eat healthily.

Wednesday: Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
For the second and last time of Social Justice Week, the Catholic Katies held a morning prayer session. The Catholic Katies meet regularly on Monday and Wednesday mornings in the Chapel for prayer session, and will continue doing so until the end of finals’ week. The sessions will resume for the 2014-2015 school year and will possibly be held more than two times a week.

The 2014 Denver Immersion Trip group also had a part in Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable day, as they tabled from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They discussed the trip itself, engaged passerby’s in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) challenge and explained the importance of restoring dignity through person first language. Person first language is the act of consciously putting the person before the adjective, describing them as a human before anything else. For example, one would say ‘person who is experiencing homelessness’ rather than ‘homeless person.’ The trip also carried many other valuable lessons.

“It was, honestly, chilling to see how anyone really can end up homeless,” Katie Bowden (‘16, journalism) said. “You think you’re protected in the world but other people probably thought so too until they became one paycheck away from homelessness.”

The final activity of the day was sockless soccer, sponsored by the Wildcat Soccer team and the Athletics Department. Designed to collect socks to be donated to Peace House Community, the group played a game of soccer as well.

Thursday: Life, Dignity and the Human Person
From 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., the St. Kate’s Activities Team (SKAT) hosted a day brightener in the CdC atrium in honor of Social Justice Week. Students made May Day baskets for the women housed at Sarah’s…An Oasis for Women. The oasis is sponsored by the CSJ’s and gives a home to women who are in transition. The goal of the home is to provide an environment where women can restart their lives and begin a healing process.

The final event of the day was a showing of the documentary “Beneath the Blindfold,” which highlights the stories of four torture survivors who explain the impact that torture has on their physical and psychological health. The screening was followed by a discussion.

Friday: Rights and Responsibilities
Rights and Responsibility day consisted of an ice-cream social that explained the upcoming Alternative Break Immersion (ABI) trips. Campus Minister Joe Kolar presented a PowerPoint on a Twin-Cities ABI trip, a Denver ABI trip, an El-Salvador ABI trip and the WHINSEC experience. Each trip carries its own lessons and has a unique social justice aspect to give. The ABI trips offer a glance into a life of poverty, while the WHINSEC trip has a social justice for social change environment.

Saturday: Call to Family, Community and Participation
The final day of Social Justice Week offered a Social Justice Scavenger Hunt hosted by the Resident Hall Association (RHA). Participants arrived in teams of two at Dew Drop Pond to begin the search at 2:00 p.m. Seven RHA members scattered around the campus, and each had a social justice issue that related to the specific area of where they hid. The issues ranged from animal rights (found at Mendel), to the achievement gap (found at the playground) and even extended to sex trafficking (found at public safety). The first five teams to find all of the RHA members won a bucket of goodies, and two grand prizes of a kindle HD and a Fitbit were drawn for.

St. Kate’s Social Justice Week hit a variety of huge issues that affect the lives of people every day. As students of a social justice orientated college, we have chosen to face these issues straight on. We will not be scared by the immensity of horror in the world, but, rather, be fueled by it. We, the students of St. Kate’s, will create ripples.

Jaimee can be reached at jrleibfried@stkate.edu.

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