Helping people address social issues as a community organizer led Louis Jones to Ferguson during unrest and back to his Catholic faith.
Jones grew up in the Catholic Church and attended St. Ann School in Normandy before moving to Illinois in middle school. He drifted away from the faith. But, witnessing the divisions that were so apparent in Ferguson, he started reading the Bible again and was drawn back to Catholicism.
“I was trying to understand how to incorporate my desire for a more just social order and other aspects of my faith,” Jones said. “I came across Catholic social teaching. I never heard about all the detailed aspects. I read the Catechism and the Compendium for the Social Doctrine of the Church.”
He was struck by what the Church teaches versus what people perceive.
Soon after returning to the Church, he saw an item in his parish bulletin about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development internship, and he applied. The campaign is the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program. CCHD-funded groups work to change social structures and policies which undermine life and dignity, especially for the poor and powerless.
Jones is in his second year as an intern, having served in the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, last year and now is working in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. His position began in June and runs through May. He also is a student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville studying social work.
While serving in Belleville, he said, Jones often was the face of the Catholic Church in areas such as East St. Louis with few Catholics. “I would talk about what we do at CCHD and about Catholic social teaching,” he said. “Here, I’m working with the Catholic Student Center at Washington University to help people engage with Catholic social teaching, both in practice and theology.”
Jones cited the diversity of organizations funded by the campaign in St. Louis, calling them “dynamic organizations, especially around aspects of the Church’s teaching.”
As an example, he cited the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “They’re doing dynamic programs around sustainability, urban agriculture, connecting rural farmers with new markets in the city,” Jones said. “So, the type of environmental justice work they are doing is lining up perfectly with our interests in community development, economic development and our environmental concerns in general.”
The previous intern in St. Louis, Ingrid Herrenbruck, said the program added to her passion for justice within the Church. “It forced me to face the challenges that come with engaging and mobilizing the Church,” Herrenbruck said.
Herrenbruck completed her internship in June. She is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis pursuing degrees in organization and strategic management and in marketing, with additional studies in philosophy.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development “opened me up to the work of community organizers and nonprofit groups that extend aid and giving beyond charity and immediate-need service,” said Herrenbruck, a native of Salina, Kansas, where she attended Sacred Heart High School.
Charitable giving and a day of service/volunteering are important and valuable efforts, she said, but “they do not encompass the totality of our call as Catholics. We are all called to acknowledge and work to amend the structural and institutional injustices in our country that perpetuate these areas of need.”
>> Catholic Campaign for Human Development
PURPOSE: The Catholic Campaign for Human Development
(CCHD) helps groups of low-income people in the archdiocese and across
the country provide access to affordable housing, health care, jobs,
employee-owned businesses and rights for immigrants. The campaign
allocates funds to community projects that address policies and
structures that perpetuate poverty while adhering to the moral and
social teachings of the Catholic Church.
Parishes take up a
collection for the campaign at Masses in November the weekend before
Thanksgiving. A fourth of the contribution funds groups within the
archdiocese and the rest is used for national grants. Two groups within
the archdiocese receive national grants.
Visit www.usccb.org/cchd for more information.
CCHD internships are open to Catholics who have leadership abilities,
community service experience and effective writing and communication
skills. Openness to the CCHD values of solidarity building,
participation of people who are poor and Catholic social teaching is
essential. Low-income people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds
are especially encouraged to apply. For information contact Louis Jones
at [email protected] or visit bit.ly/344KRm7.