St. John’s Students Virtually Attend Social Ministry Gathering

 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering
February 24, 2022

Last month, 15 St. John’s University students attended the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG). Held virtually, the theme of this year’s conference was “Justice at the Margins”—spotlighting that as communities emerge from the pandemic, some find themselves more marginalized than ever.

Sponsored by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, as well as 20 national Catholic organizations, the event connected hundreds of young people across the nation through prayer, learning, networking, and advocacy to create communities of justice where all can thrive.

For more than 30 years, the CSMG has brought together participants whose faith and goodwill inspire them to address pressing, current, domestic and global challenges affecting those most vulnerable at home and around the world.

St. John’s University student Margaret Scott was selected to serve as speaker for the session, “At the Intersection of Climate Change: Voices of Young Adults.” A senior Biology student on the preveterinary track, Margaret was co-leader of a workshop exploring the impacts of climate change on different communities in our country and at our borders.

“For me, the combination of climate change issues and my Catholic faith is a perfect union,” Margaret said. “As Christians, we are called into a stewardship ethic, and I really feel that it’s not only a good thing to do, but that it’s our responsibility to protect the natural world.”

In a display of collaboration between areas, University Career Services accepted an invitation from Campus Ministry to sponsor a session for all national participants of the Young Leaders Initiative (YLI) on how to navigate and be successful in virtual networking. YLI participants were then able to apply those skills to the many networking opportunities scheduled for the four-day gathering.

The final day consisted of advocacy visits with elected officials on Capitol Hill. This year’s virtual visits focused on several issues, including the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Students urged Congress to pass appropriations immediately and support the highest level of funding for poverty-reducing programs and aid, and support legislation that provides legalization with pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and other long-term residents.

Holly Gola, a junior studying Global Development and Sustainability, met with elected officials from her home state of Pennsylvania, noting, “CSMG offered me the amazing opportunity to connect with people of all ages to advocate for the rights of our global neighbors and to hear from working professionals about efforts for justice currently underway.”

Julianna Bondi, a Biology major, enjoyed hearing about the work and experiences of her peers. “I am so happy to see young adults be included in the conversation of social justice and know that our voices are being heard and acknowledged. The presentations were informative and raised issues that need to be further discussed.”

She added, “I have a lot of advocacy experience from high school but have not participated in much during my college experience due to the pandemic. Getting to revisit my passion for advocacy through CSMG felt empowering and inspiring.”

Emily Wenke, a Childhood Education major, noted that as a senator for Student Government, Inc. (SGI), she advocates for students and tries to make a difference for them. “At CSMG, I learned more about the advocacy process and the role of state senators in the legislative process. I will take the skills I learned back to my role in SGI, so I can better serve the students I represent.”

For University members seeking to take part in CSMG in the future or to collaborate on similar events, please contact Victoria O’Keefe, Residence Campus Minister for Social Justice, at [email protected] or 718-990-8075.