Director of Mission
None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice: “Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbour, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone.” (#201)
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
What is Justice?
What does it look like, feel like and sound like? How do we know if justice is achieved or if it is present in our communities both locally and globally? These questions and the way we respond to them is at the heart of a Loreto Normanhurst education. Our Mission Statement clearly articulates that we are committed to growing our students in ways that lead to justice with that definite and strong notion of being both compassionate and a person of integrity. So how do we go about this when we examine and reflect on the world in which we are faced in 2020? A world where the value and the dignity of the human person and the value of creation often takes a back seat to economics.
Catholic social teaching is a great starting point in this area; it is what we as a Catholic Christian school follow to inform our practice. Catholic social teaching addresses matters of social, economic and ecological justice in the world. It is concerned with inter-group or social relationships and it is grounded in scripture, tradition, reason and experience. There are four foundation principles which we apply.
Firstly, the dignity of the human person. This is essentially the belief where we recognise the sacredness of life and that every person has inherent dignity and worth. Our human rights and responsibilities are founded in this essential, shared human dignity. This key principle is paramount in bringing about justice. If we consider respect for the dignity of the human person is the foundation of all Catholic social ethics, then this means each person is willed into existence by God and is therefore of inestimable worth. Just by being alive each person reveals something of God’s self within in them. Nothing a person might do or that might be done to them can deprive them of their human dignity, it is God’s gift and it’s inherent. We all know that the human rights of a person or people can be abused and ignored but their human dignity always exists even if it is not respected.
The second foundation principle is common good. Essentially, we believe that humans are not only sacred, but they are also social. Our Ignatian tradition teaches us that to be fully alive and experience the ‘fullness of life’ we must be in relationship with the other. We have responsibility for one another in our life together and are called to work for the common good of all. This brings us to a essential element of justice: advocacy. Advocacy is about being active in lobbying for a just society in which all people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised, can flourish and have their needs met. Every person is also responsible for sharing our society’s resources with others, this is for the common good. This common good must extend beyond our own personal interests, and beyond national borders, to our one global human family. If we examine what is happening in societies around the world we would have to be quite critical of how this is being applied.
The third principle is subsidiarity. This principle calls us to respect the capacity and capabilities of people and communities allowing decisions to be at the lowest local level possible, sometimes called the grassroots. This principle holds the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to decision processes that closely affect them. It also means that those in positions of authority have the responsibility to listen to everyone’s voice and make decisions according to the common good.
Solidarity is the fourth foundation principle and attests that humans are social by nature and depend on one another. Depending on one another requires us to stand in unity with each other, particularly those who are powerless or disadvantaged, and recognise each persons’ rights regardless of our differences. Solidarity requires that we see another person as a neighbour. When asked, who is my neighbour? Jesus uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer this. Our neighbour is the person who shows mercy and the person who needs mercy. Jesus instructs us to be merciful. When we recognise that a human who is equal in dignity to us, then we also recognise we have the responsibility to take an active role in helping others reach their full potential. Pope Francis in his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium says “each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” (#187) It does seem a central element needed to indeed call ourselves Christian.
When you include the themes, Preferential Option for the Poor, Participation, Economic Justice and Care for our Common Home, you can see how powerful and comprehensive these principles are and if acted upon could transform the lives of millions and therefore humanity.
In pursuing these principles and committing to this mission, Loreto Normanhurst strives to provide opportunities and experiences that reflect these principles. We challenge students to See, Judge, and Act together. We expect a critical eye to be applied through our Ignatian lens. The process which we employ to do this is simple:
- Look at the social justice issues as they affect society.
- Understand what is happening and why it is happening.
- Discern the actions needed to respond.
There are many ways for this to occur. It could be through a community service activity; or while participating in the Far North Queensland Experience, Arnhem Land Immersion or India Immersion; it might be while helping out at the Exodus Foundation on a Sunday; or it could be in the classroom. Wherever the examination comes from what matters the most is that as a community we are committed to encouraging the integration of action and prayer and reflection into our approach to social justice. The action that we take will effect change and place the dignity of the other at the centre of our mission.
The student prayer about Verity this year says, “Called by Mary Ward, we seek and speak the truth: a truth that invites us to do ordinary things well, a truth that leads to justice for all.” Our desire is to accompany people. We are challenged by Pope Francis to move away from “a few sporadic acts of generosity” and create a “new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.”
Mrs Libby Parker
Director of Mission