It’s the Victoria Day holiday in Canada (a happy belated Victoria Day to all of you out there!), but this year I find myself spending the day in Riverdale, New York. Riverdale is a wonderfully green suburb, twenty some-odd minutes north of Manhattan. (I have yet to spot Archie, or Jughead, but my hopes remain high.) What brings myself, reporter Kris Dmytrenko, and cameraman Wally Tello here is a conference on Catholic social teaching held by the Holy See Mission (herein HSM) to the United Nations. The Passionists Riverdale retreat house is the residence where we lay our head after a busy day at the conference in Manhattan at the United Nations. Kris will be asking tough questions, Wally will be filming every angle, and I’ll be somewhere in between (or at either extreme), as we document this week’s events, for a documentary that will air this summer on Salt + Light Television. In the above picture, you can see Wally (or at least his hand!) filming part of our tour of New York City, while Kris, the short-haired gentleman in the background in the glasses and dark jacket, listens intently to our tour guide. And pictured below, Wally snapped this shot of me standing at Ground Zero.
The three of us are joining fifty other young people from Canada, the United States, and even Europe, who have gathered for this week’s long seminar to learn about the HSM as a permanent observer to the United Nations and to learn about the Church’s social teaching. There’s of course much more to the conference – many of these young people will return to their colleges, universities, and communities with a better appreciation of the role of the Church in the involvement of the nations of the world, and will hopefully take newly acquired information on our social teaching and share it with others; be it through word, or action.
I’m sure many of you are aware of the basic core of social teaching: upholding the dignity and value of the human person, promoting the family, protecting the poor and vulnerable, safeguarding the rights of workers and the rights of all people, and caring for what God has created.
But after a Sunday evening presentation by Luke Swanepoel, a dedicated member of the HSM, I discovered two other elements we may want to consider.
The first is responsibility. We read about the importance of rights and dignity, and other core tenets of the Church’s social teaching, but how, in my own life, have I taken responsibility to promote the importance of this? Have I only paid lip service to these notions? Do I speak of the dignity of person and helping the poor or vulnerable, but when the opportunity presents itself to help the poor, do I run away? Perhaps over the next few days I will be asking: how should my responsibilities, in the world of social justice, play out not just in my own community, but in Canada, and even in the world? What am I personally responsible for? How am I fulfilling that responsibility?
The second element that caught my attention during Luke’s presentation was solidarity. Reading John Paul II’s 1995 address to the United Nations, the then Holy Father stresses solidarity several times. Solidarity – we are a family of nations. How do we watch out for each other? Do we watch out for each other?
These are some of the thoughts that are in my head as we begin this week at the HSM. I’m also very curious to see the role the Church plays at the United Nations. How effective is the Holy See Mission? What kind of influence does it have? How do the goals of our Catholic social teaching intersect with secular goals?
I’m sure it will be an interesting week, we'll be sure to keep you posted!