Youths delve into social-justice issues - Catholic Courier

Youths delve into social-justice issues

At age 15, Emily Carlock has already formed a sensitivity toward the
less fortunate.

“I have very strong opinions about making sure everybody has the
same basic rights,” stated Emily, a parishioner of St. Patrick’s in
Mount Morris.

Recently, Emily got to share her opinions with teens from other
parts of the country. She was one of six young people from the
Rochester Diocese who took part in a Youth Congress on Social Justice,
held during the National Catholic Youth Conference in Houston.

Four members of the Diocesan Youth Committee represented Rochester
at the congress that took place Nov. 14, the NCYC’s second day. Joining
Emily were Matt Bukowski, from Guardian Angels Parish in Henrietta;
Jamie Farley, from Holy Cross in Charlotte; and Mark Thiell, from
Christ the King in Irondequoit. In addition, two people from this
diocese served as New York state regional Scouting representatives at
the congress: Liz Hohl , from St. Rita’s in Webster; and Paul
Kurtenbach, from Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece.

The daylong congress involved small groups of youths along with
adult facilitators. Many bishops, including Rochester’s Bishop Matthew
H. Clark, joined the discussions, which were based on quotations from
“A Place at the Table,” the U.S. bishops’ document on social justice
that was released in 2002.

Matt, 16, said the most interesting talk at his table was on
workers’ rights — “how to have human dignity as workers; the right to
participate in unions; fair wages … to make sure they weren’t just
workers, but also individuals,” he said.

Liz, 16, said her group concluded that “the most vulnerable people
are those that should come first; that we should stand for those who
have been stood on; and that we do not live for ourselves but for those
around us. The group, she said, also agreed that “one of the most
important ways to make changes in the world was to educate.”

Preparation for the Youth Congress began earlier this fall under the
guidance of Ruth Putnam, diocesan Catholic Charities’ Works of Love
program coordinator. Rochester’s delegates met with Bishop Clark and
Jack Balinsky, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, and also
interviewed people involved with social justice in their parishes and

Youth Congress members were also required to study “A Place at the
Table,” which details how we as Catholics are called to action in the
face of such chilling numbers as: more than 30,000 children die every
day from hunger, deprivation and their consequences; more than half the
world’s population lives on less than $2 a day; more than 1.2 billion
people live on less than $1 a day.

“I was very surprised by all the statistics. I didn’t really realize
there were that many people in poverty,” Emily said.

Matt said he liked the document’s emphasis that four institutions —
families and individuals, community organizations and churches,
businesses and government — must all serve as legs supporting the
table at which all humans deserve to sit.

In addition, congress delegates did a required service project Nov.
9 at Sanctuary House, where they interacted with the homeless women and
children that the program assists. “Being a hands-on experience, it
allowed each representative to understand what had only been reiterated
in words to us before,” said Liz, 16, who belongs to girl Scout Troop
505 in Webster.

Actually, Liz is quite familiar with hands-on service. She belongs
to the Rotary Club at Webster Schroeder High School, collecting canned
food, making holiday stockings for underprivileged children and
assisting at nursing homes. She is also active in STARS (Students
Teaching Assets equals Roads to Success) and SABAH (Skating Association
for the Blind and Handicapped).

Emily, who attends Mount Morris Central High School, participates in
drives at her church to help the poor and donates to the Salvation
Army. She said she’s “very thankful that I have everything I need, and
more,” and would rather focus on service than the priorities conveyed
in television commercials.

“The media does a lot to portray how a teen should dress, do their
makeup and do their hair with all this big brand-name stuff. But I
really don’t think it is necessary,” she commented.

She added that in the years ahead, “I know that whatever I do, I
would always find the time to on the side to go help wherever I’m

Matt, a student McQuaid Jesuit High School, is eyeing a career in
social services or education — but he said anyone can practice social

“It just seems like having a focus on helping everyone is something
you can bring to almost every career,” he remarked.

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