The Path to Peace Foundation's annual Catholic Social Teaching Seminar took place last week in New York City with fifty hand-selected students from across the United States participating. Salt and Light's Sebastian Gomes was at the seminar and sat down with one of the students to talk about her experience and the work of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations.
Sebastian: What brought you to the Catholic Social Teaching seminar at the Holy See Mission?
Emily: I am a Catholic Studies major at DePaul, and the faculty of the department nominated me to come because of my interest in Catholic Social Teaching and my involvement with political and international work. Catholic Social Teaching took hold of my heart when I lived in the Vincent and Louise House, an intentional community on DePaul’s campus. Every year, ten students are selected to live in the House and dedicate their time to the tenets of faith, service, social justice, simple living, and intentional community. During this year, the social message of the Gospel transformed my world view and left my heart vulnerable to be broken by those who were poor in my community. Catholic Social Teaching also taught me how to recognize the poverty within my deepest self and the importance of mutual relationships. It didn’t take long before the values of Catholic Social Teaching were a core part of my faith life. With this new passion for “Church’s best kept secret,” I participated in service immersion trips in Kenya and El Salvador and began advocating in senators’ offices to maintain international poverty assistance funds. When the Catholic Studies department saw that the Path to Peace conference was so focused on the role of Catholic Social Teaching in international relations, they said that they thought it was the next step on my journey.
Sebastian: What was your impression of the seminar, and can you share one of the highlights with us?
Emily: Overall, I was impressed with the seminar. I appreciated that it was rooted in faith and that it was full of people who aren’t afraid to find God at the core of justice. The speakers came from a diverse background; however, I wish there would have been a larger focus on some current international issues. I often come to seminars such as these wearing my critical thinking cap, so a highlight was meeting people who are equally willing to ask questions and have challenging conversations.
Sebastian: What have you learned about the work that the Holy See Mission does at the UN?
Emily: I learned a lot about the logistics and the mission of the Holy See Mission at the UN. I never knew that the Holy See was a permanent observer state or that the UN and the Holy See shared such a similar view on human dignity. Hearing different delegate speakers and touring the UN was a great way to clarify what the UN actually does.
Sebastian: What role should Catholic Social Teaching and social action play in the lives of Catholics today, particularly young Catholics like you and me?
Emily: Catholic Social Teaching should be more prevalent in the Catholic education system. I can’t count how many times in college I thought, “Why has it taken me so long to hear about this?” Young people today are thirsting for change and justice. What better way to do this than to seek the Kingdom? The Gospel message is a unique one, in that our God is incarnate, He has skin. His gift of the Eucharist calls us to become what we receive, recognize Christ in each human person, and be Christ for others. It is our Christian responsibility to follow this radical message and uphold the dignity of every human life. In Luke 4: 16-21, Jesus reads from Isaiah that we are called to bring good news to the poor, set captives free, give sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free. This message is often lost amidst the strong emphasis that many Christians place on sexual and familial ethics. I think young people are yearning for another side of that, namely, Catholic Social Teaching and have the passion and zeal to bring it to life.