By Steve Vivona
On October 18 the Vincentian Center for Church and Society will hold its third biennial conference on Poverty and Social Justice on the Queens campus. Accoring to Mary Ann Dantuono, Associate Director of the Center, the conference, which is organized by the Research Fellows of the Center, is not designed just to examine the present situation with poverty but to come up with positive, concrete solutions.
"The conference really came from ideas that were generated through the Fellows," Ms. Dantuono noted. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII's letter on peace, and the conference will emphasize the methods set out in the letter for building social and economic solidarity and use it as a framework. She added that the document has a special relevance for this conference. "You can't have peace until you deal with the economic and social needs of most people."
Initially discussions will center around putting a face on the poor, Ms. Dantuono noted. "We'll be looking at the stories of the people who are poor," and speakers examine poverty through the viewpoint of the political structure, the educational and the corporate and try to formulate a response.
There will be workshops designed to get people involved in conversation and dialogue on topics such as facets of educational success which focus on high-achieving schools in low-income areas and citizen-centered community building. "If people have found solutions then people can talk to them about it to get a sense of how it might apply to their own situation."
Ms. Dantuono stressed that the concept of this conference is to be proactive about dealing with poverty. "Being Vincentian means you come to solutions. You don't accept things as they are, but look for ways to make them better. As much as we want to infuse the conference with good academic research and thinking we want to involve practitioners who are out there doing it. Many of our workshop speakers are people who have put concepts to work for the poor and they've worked."