St. John’s Partners with Catholic Charities in Social Justice Lecture Series

St. Thomas More Church
July 2, 2024

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ), St. John’s University is producing a series of social justice lectures with the Brooklyn, NY-based social services organization.

The webinar series A Time for Renewal is presented in collaboration with the Vincentian Center for Church and Society. The lectures present issues relevant to Catholic Social Teaching, whose principles animate both organizations.

Prior lecturers from St. John’s include Meghan J. Clark, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Assistant Chair, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Charles M. Clark, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Economics and Finance, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business; and John M. Conry, Pharm.D., Clinical Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  

A fourth lecture, presented by C. Mario Russell, Executive Director, The Center for Migration Studies of New York, is planned for September. The lectures lead into the University’s biennial poverty conference, scheduled for November.

“We have a good relationship with Catholic Charities; they’re always doing work around service of the poor,” said Rev. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M. ’13HON, Executive Director, Vincentian Center for Church and Society. “So they fit in easily with the ministry of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society and their orientation toward social justice is an important value for us. It was a natural thing.”

Dr. Meghan Clark, an expert in Catholic moral theology, began the lecture series April 5 with a discussion, “Vision of Catholic Social Teaching,” which detailed the Church’s commitment to the dignity of every person regardless of social or economic conditions. Dr. Charles Clark followed on May 3 with an economics-based lecture, “Building Community: Envisioning an Inclusive Economy through Catholic Social Teaching.” Most recently, Dr. Conry discussed “Changing Lives: Mercy and Dignity in Care of the Sick, Isolated, and Aging” on June 7. 

Mr. Russell’s lecture, “Changing Lives: Welcoming the Stranger and the Common Good,” will tackle immigration policy from a Catholic perspective. It is scheduled for September 6 and will be available on the CCBQ website. Prior lectures can be viewed there as well.

Taken together, the lectures present a dynamic view of the scope of Catholic social thought including reflections on economic policy, access to health care, and more.

“Catholic Charities has its roots in the theology of St. Vincent de Paul,” said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. “That when you serve, you create a great expression of the risen Christ. Catholic Social Teaching is part of the lifeblood of a worshipping community.”  

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been serving the needy of all religious denominations in the Diocese of Brooklyn since 1899. It sponsors more than 160 social programs and is one of the largest faith-based providers of affordable housing in the United States.  

Other CCBQ services assist seniors and young people, those coping with mental illnesses or addiction, pregnant women, migrants, and others who are isolated. The organization services more than a half-million people in all, providing more than $4.2 million worth of meals annually through its 60 parish-based food pantries.

“Nobody is as widely committed to the service of the poor in Brooklyn and Queens as Catholic Charities is,” Fr. Griffin said. “They work with every kind of marginalized population and do a very good job.”     

The Vincentian Center’s 13th biennial Poverty Conference, scheduled for Saturday, November 16, will feature a keynote address from Sabina Alkire, Ph.D., Director, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University in England. An expert in welfare economics, Dr. Alkire is codeveloper of the Alkire-Foster Multidimensional Poverty Index, a tool that uses indicators such as years of schooling, nutrition, housing, and more to identify the extent of poverty in a population.

“We wanted to do something around the broad question of the extent of poverty and we thought it would be good to bring Sabine in to discuss the poverty index,” Fr. Griffin said. “It fits in with our work with Catholic Charities and the alleviation of poverty.”