Vincentian View: Education within an education

Fr. Patrick J. Griffin, CM, Special to the Torch

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One of the advantages of attending a large metropolitan University rests in the number of opportunities, educational in many different ways, which the institution provides to a student beyond the classroom. At St. John’s, we can point to the variety of sports that form part of our identity. During the course of the year, the arts appear in the form of theater performed by the Chappell Players and music played by a variety of talented students and educators. The campus boasts a variety of organizations, opportunities for prayer and worship and calls to service. Perhaps, however, the most frequent offering on our campus arrives in the number of talks, lectures and workshops which take place. The attentive member of the SJU community can usually find something, and often more than one thing, to keep him/her amused without cost.

On this coming Saturday, Jan. 30, from 10:30-4:00 in the DAC Ballroom, the University will sponsor a program arising from Pope Francis’ encyclical dealing with ecology and the crisis which now faces us as a result of the poor stewardship of our planet’s resources. And, Pope Francis would insist that the marginalized among us feel our jeopardy much more acutely than the privileged.

The SJU event is the Biennial Vincentian Chair of Social Justice Conference. This convocation happens every two years and focuses our University and local community’s attention on a particular aspect of poverty. In this year, the topic is: “Care for Our Common Home: The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Thus, the theme of our environment holds center stage. The keynote speaker, Fr. Bryan Massingale, is a well-known theologian and author. His particular area of expertise is racism. He will bring that prowess to our gathering as he speaks about “The Evidence of Things Unsaid: The Silence about Racism in the Care for Creation.” Fr. Massingale holds the first place in a list of recognized and informed experts who will address the issue of the abuse of our planet from different points of view. Yet, all will draw our attention to the impact of this direction on the least powerful.

None of us can be unaware of the dangers which threaten our blue planet. Not just the land, air and climate suffer, but also the water. A dominant story in the news of these days deals with the lead found in the water supply of the people of Flint, Mich. In an effort to save money, proper safeguards were eliminated. As a result, children as well as adults suffered lead poisoning. Now, the people must drink rationed bottled water at one case per family per day. Is it any surprise that this is a very poor city with a majority African-American population?

And so, I am going to the Poverty Conference this Saturday. St. John’s offers me this opportunity and I am going to take it. I hope that many members of our University community do the same. (Registration information and more can be found at stjohns.edu/povertyconference.)

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