Catholicism and Advocacy with Social Justice and Advocacy Assistant, Kara Callahan

As college students, I think it’s a shared experience that we dread the usual holiday “interview” questions that family members who we barely see ask us. It’s hard to walk into a room without a choir of questions like What’s your major again? What do you want to do with that? Does it make money? How old are you again? Are you dating anyone? I’ve always especially dreaded answering when I’m asked, “Do you have a job?”

This year, I attended a virtual Thanksgiving Zoom celebration with my extended family.  While this looked a little different than normal holiday gatherings pre-Covid, I still was bothered by the same standard catch-up questions. Except this time when a family member asked if I had a job, I was genuinely excited for the opportunity to brag about my amazing team at CCM and the work we do. As the Social Justice and Advocacy Assistant at Catholic Campus Ministry, I work alongside an enthusiastic team dedicated to linking our Catholic identities to modern issues of justice today. Our team plans virtual programs for students to attend that are educational and offer practical solutions to addressing social justice movements.

            After giving my family members my usual work-spiel, my uncle asked me another question. “Do you find conflicting views in your faith and involvement in activism?” he asked. When I hear this question as a Catholic, it fuels the passion I bring to my position here at CCM. I believe that to be immersed in the Catholic faith is to take up matters of social justice. The work that both being a Catholic and social justice advocate require is one and the same. Our faith tradition is beautiful in that its essence is to honor human dignity in everyone to fight for social change — no matter a person’s race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. It is important to embrace the complex identities God gave humanity. In doing so, we must acknowledge the sometimes-negative systems that strip away at our human dignity and instead fight for change that uplifts all people, particularly those who are marginalized by society.

Furthermore, it is important to recognize the context in which I get asked this question about if my faith conflicts with social justice movements. Though Christianity has made a lot of progress over the years, it was used oftentimes in history to justify harmful views that try to take away a person’s dignity. Using Christianity is never an excuse to dismiss social concern. After all, as the Bible says “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:1-2).” Dismissing social concern through religion is straying away from the true message of the Gospel. In my position, I strive to use my Catholic faith to drive me to action. I encourage you all to do the same.

Working in this position allows me to deepen my understanding of the Church’s true teachings on matters of social justice. I explained to my uncle how through the Gospel and Catholic Social Teaching, the Church supports the views I hold concerning human rights. I have always been dedicated to advocating for social change, but this position helped me grow as a leader and as an advocate. It gave me a community and a space to collaborate with students who share my vision for a better, more just world that God would like to see. I invite everyone reading this article with a passion for activism to join our online community on Facebook at CCM: Social Justice and Advocacy. There, we regularly share posts and promote events that share resources about how to support different social causes through a Catholic, Vincentian lens.

By Kara Callahan, Social Justice and Advocacy Assistant