Wednesday was the best day yet of the Path to Peace Foundation’s 2009 Catholic Social Teaching Seminar. Let’s just say it was an emotional day that increased our desire to change the world. Here was the line-up of activities:
- Three speakers in the morning about being witnesses for social change in Israel/Palestine and developing countries
- A presentation on food crises, credit crises and financial meltdowns
- Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- A reception with supporters and benefactors of the Path to Peace Foundation
My favourite talk of the day (and maybe even the week) was a joint presentation by Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lloyd (Religious Teachers Filippini) and Joe Donnelly (Caritas Internationalis). Sr. Mary Elizabeth wowed us with her passion for children in Africa orphaned by AIDS. She kept stopping her powerpoint presentation to share heart-wrenching details about the life of each suffering child. I honestly felt I should buy a ticket to Africa right away and throw myself into the mission!
Joe Donnelly is from Caritas Internationalis, which responds to emergency situations in 201 countries and territories. Joe followed up Sister’s presentation so well by energizing us into action. He really brought back the theme of love as being at the heart of Catholic social teaching. He talked about one of the directors in the field who died in action and about another staff member with a child whose leg had to be amputated. What are we willing to sacrifice to do what’s right? How are we going to be heroes in our everyday lives?
Finally, last night's reception was very special: it was our “last supper” together, joined by supporters and benefactors of the Holy See Mission. I'd like to share three moments from the event:
1. I hoped to speak with as many of the guests as I could to show my appreciation for all they’ve done. I had a wonderful conversation with one such supporter, Theresa Salameno, who recently joined the Board of Directors of Thomas Aquinas College, my alma mater. Having spoken to her at length about both the Holy See Mission and the college, I felt like I had found a kindred spirit.
2. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, asked us to share our experiences from the week with our guests. I spoke on behalf of the Canadians in the group--all two of us--and said that the greatest thing I learned "is that love is at the heart of Catholic social teaching. If we’re not transmitting love in our work, then we have forgotten the essence of Catholic social teaching.”
3. Finally, I felt like I witnessed a little miracle. I’ve been praying throughout the week for students who were struggling to accept Catholic social teaching. During the reception, I talked with one of the more vocal critics who shared that she now has a more positive view of the Catholic Church and its leadership. It made my night.
This morning we spent our final hours together, evaluating the program and saying our goodbyes. When I return to Toronto, I'll bring you some of the final thoughts from the students who attended the seminar.