The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG), organized by the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, took place last week in Washington, DC.
Under the theme “Blessed are the peacemakers,” 500 leaders of social ministry from the United States participated in the event. With an active agenda, they dealt with a wide range of topics related to human dignity in the social field, such as labor issues, disability, climate change, food shortages, conflict resolution, violence in schools, peace, gun control, healing after abortion, welcoming and supporting migrants, racism, and the broad meaning of being pro-life.
On the last day, congress participants visited their representatives in the U.S. Congress to advocate for the people in need and for the most important social issues related to specific districts.
Closing Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gregory
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, celebrated the closing Mass of the meeting. His words powerfully summed up the prophetic spirit of the congress, which was a committed journey for the most important social issues to be analyzed by the Church’s social pastoral agents in order to seek solutions in community.
By serving the needy, you help preach the Gospel
In his homily, Cardinal Gregory mentioned the fields of action: “When life is destroyed in the womb and on death row, on the streets of our cities or in the Holy Land, in villages in Africa and in Iraq, you help us preach the Gospel and share Catholic teaching. On work and wages, on housing and health care, on agriculture and the environment you help us preach the Gospel and share Catholic Social teaching. On war and peace, on the contributions of immigrants and people with disabling conditions, on issues of discrimination, human dignity and human rights, you help us teach the Gospel and share Catholic Social teaching”.
Unfortunately, he felt the need to clarify something obvious: that “this is not about politics, it is about faithfulness. This work is rooted in the Scriptures, shaped by Jesus’ witness and words and based on the teaching of the Church”.
Pope Francis, our model
And he continued: “A model for us is our Holy Father, Pope Francis. We remember him today as he visits counties in Africa who have known only war and poverty. He does so as an frail man filled with hope. But his vision and call to us have never changed. Today, we join the Holy Father in his appeals for a just peace in the Holy Land, his insistence that war is not the answer in The Republic of the Congo or Sudan, his defense of religious liberty and his advocacy of debt relief and greater development for the poorest people on earth”.
If we don’t take the social mission seriously we are not complete Catholics
Regarding the unavoidable social action of Catholics, Gregory expressed that “this mission is fundamentally a work of faith, clearly anchored in this Eucharist and shaped by Catholic Social Teaching. But it must be the work of the whole Church. A Catholic community of faith, which is not serious about our common social mission, is not truly and completely Catholic. This includes our families, parishes, schools, colleges and universities, and other institutions. This social mission is integral to who we are and what we believe. It is not optional or fringe, but at the heart of what it means to be Catholic.”
Calling all U.S. Catholics to social engagement
Acknowledging the importance of the social commitment of those in attendance, the Cardinal said he was honored “to be with you in prayer this morning. You are carriers of the mission, articulators of this vision, and builders of this ministry. I thank you for your service and sacrifice, your commitment and your hard work. In these difficult days, we need to reach out more broadly, to make our case more effectively and call the entire Catholic community in the United States to a renewed and more urgent sense of social mission.”
Bishops must also raise their voices
Calling attention to the need to continue to bring these issues into the public arena, Gregory expressed that ”despite our many problems, despite our challenges, our principles need to be shared more unambiguously and consistently in the days ahead. Some may see the voice of bishops as perhaps understandably diminished or compromised, but our voice and the voice of the entire Catholic community is needed more than ever. You must continue to help us educate, enable and empower Catholic believers to act on issues of human life and dignity, justice and peace”.
The vocation of the pastoral agent is holy
Regarding pastoral agents, the archbishop pointed out that “yours is a worthy and holy vocation, and a sign of faith, hope and love coming alive. It is ‘good news’ which brings us together around this altar this day. I ask you to continue to pursue this mission with creativity, persistence, and fidelity. Remember the promise of the Lord is never abandoned even when the crowd thought that the little girl was dead.”
And he continued: “Thank you for the service and sacrifices you make to preach the Gospel and share Catholic teaching in these discordant times. May these remarkable days together be a source of healing, solidarity, and renewal, a time for advocacy and action in the name of the one who went about ‘preaching and casting out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.’”
Washington is our Galilee “for these days together”
Emphasizing the power of the Lord through the Eucharist, Cardinal Gregory closed by saying that ”this Nation’s Capital is our Galilee for these days together. This is our time for preaching and casting out demons. This Eucharist and these readings assure us that the Lord heals our broken hearts, binds up our wounds and sends us forth to preach the Gospel – now perhaps more than ever.
Archbishop shocked by the killings with weapons of war: “we are a disgrace”
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller, Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, was part of the panel that addressed the topic “Hope for Tomorrow, Building Peace, Healing Today’s Pain.” He began by saying that “everything begins with humility. We do not have all the answers, nor all the resources, nor all the possibilities.”
Regarding the mass shootings taking place across the country, the Archbishop lamented: “it is difficult to reconcile weapons of war with life.” He continued: “We are killing each other for no reason.” And with deep emotion and a broken voice, as he has been personally consoling numerous victims of massacres and their families with his pastoral closeness, he expressed: “We are the ‘best country in the world’, and we are killing each other. We are a disgrace. This is a pro-life issue. All people have the right to live from the beginning to the end, with dignity,” motivating the attendees to collaborate to find common ways to face this tragedy, for which he received a powerful ovation from those present.
The next CSMG Congress: 2025
The members of dioceses, parishes, institutions, and movements took away from Washington an empowerment in the passion for social commitment for their suffering brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord. The next CSMG meeting will take place in 2025. More reports and images about CSMG 2023 can be accessed through the hashtag #CSMG23.