Representatives from parish social justice teams around the diocese came together Oct. 14 at Seven Dolors Church in Albany to share stories and ideas about bringing communities together to focus on social concerns. The annual event, called Parish Social Ministry Gathering, is hosted by the Catholic Charities Department of Social Concerns.
Outgoing director of social concerns Kathy Langer talked about her transition to retirement and introduced the social concerns staff, including her replacement, Brian Jorgensen. Jorgensen facilitated a welcoming and closing prayer.
“I appreciated the zeal of the participants I saw in our Saturday gathering and was touched by the energy and commitment they had,” Jorgensen said.
“I really strive to have everything I do be rooted in God, and so to begin and end in prayer is for me my way of reminding me that I am called to do God’s work, not my own.”
Langer also introduced Brianna Rimas, social concerns intern and student at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph; JoAnn Braegelman, rural life coordinator for the western region of the diocese; Barb Ryan, rural life coordinator for the eastern region of the diocese; and Abdirizak Jama, refugee community organizer.
Langer noted that the search is ongoing to fill the newly created position of immigrant community organizer to work with the Hispanic/Latino communities. Both of the community organizer positions are funded by a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
A panel discussion at the gathering focused on the social ministry challenges and successes that some communities have experienced as well as activities they have tried. Panelists included Franciscan Sister Elise Saggau; Benedictine Sister Bernadette Weber; Dianne DeVargas of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph; Christy Kallevig and Colleen Borgerding of the parish cluster of Belgrade, Brooten and Elrosa; and Rhonda Dingmann of the parish cluster of St. Martin, St. Anthony and Albany.
Among some of the activities the communities have engaged in are:
- Hosting a “green” fair supporting environmental awareness
- Holding a dialogue on the Muslim faith, informal interfaith gatherings
- Visiting detained immigrants
- Participating in jail ministry
- Creating birthday bags for the food shelf
- Letter-writing campaigns to state and national government officials
- Starting a Facebook page; using social media platforms to seek or offer help to people in the communities
Attendees enjoyed a shared meal of Somali cuisine .
“This gathering is important because it brings people from across the diocese together to share ideas and to learn from one another and from speakers,” Langer said.
“It is also a time for reflection and prayer,” she added. “Often, as we listen to ways that people are helping others, it is inspiring and motivates us to do the work of Jesus, who was always reaching out and being with people of his day who were forgotten and marginalized.”