Since our founding in 1982, our parish has been committed to the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church. We have taken seriously the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document Communities of Salt and Light that says, “The pursuit of justice and peace is an essential part of what makes a parish Catholic.” Our parish’s current mission statement exhorts us to be people of hope for those hungering for human dignity. Indeed, we are called to reach out to those who hunger and thirst for human dignity: the poor, suffering and oppressed people in our community and in our world.
Along the way, rooted in the witness of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan friars have led us through their preaching and witness. In the early years as pastor, Fr. David McBriar, OFM formed a social concerns committee that helped nurture many of our parish’s earliest commitments to living out our social mission. In these early years, the parish was very active around homelessness and housing issues in Raleigh, prison ministry and death penalty advocacy, and ministries of solidarity with those in Central America through a Sister Parish relationship and delegations abroad. From early on, the parish has also pledged a 10% tithe of the annual offertory collection to help us live out our mission for justice and peace. Our support has even assisted the founding of several non-profits in our community; examples include Justice Theater Project, Passage Home, and Witness for Peace Southeast – all three founded by and still led by St. Francis parishioners.
Today, through a number of vibrant ministries of service, education, solidarity, and advocacy, hundreds and hundreds of parishioners continue to serve the social mission of the church. We have a small staff to support and coordinate these efforts. Currently we also are assisted in living our our mission by two advisory groups: The Justice & Peace Tithe Stewardship Committee (JPTSC) and the Justice & Peace Advisory Council (JPAC). The purpose of the JPTSC is to assure good stewardship of the tithe to Justice & Peace (10% of the parish offertory) for the sake of the parish’s mission and strategic direction. Bill Laxton chairs this committee. The JPAC assists the Director of Justice & Peacein in developing annual goals, objectives, priority activities, and strategic plans, as well as providing assessment of the office’s service, advocacy, and educational ministries within the context of the mission and strategic initiatives of the parish.
The following paragraphs are from the above-mentioned USCCB document Communities of Salt and Light that summarize well the reason for St. Francis’ commitment to Justice & Peace.
We preach a gospel of justice and peace in a rapidly changing world and troubled nation. Our faith is tested by the violence, injustice, and moral confusion that surround us. In our streets and neighborhoods, violence destroys the hopes, dreams, and lives of too many children. In our local communities, too many cannot find decent work, housing, health care, or education. In our families, parents struggle to raise children with dignity, hope, and basic values. Our faith stands in marked contrast to these grim realities. In a time of individualism, we stand for family and community. At a time of intense consumerism in a “throwaway culture,” as Pope Francis calls it, we insist it is not what we have, but how we treat one another that counts. In an age that does not value permanence or hard work in relationships, we believe marriage is forever and children are a blessing, not a burden. At at time of growing isolation and apathy, we remind our nation of its responsibility to the broader world, to pursue peace, to welcome immigrants, to protect the lives of hurting children and refugees. At a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, we insist the moral test of our society is how we treat and care for the weakest among us.
In these challenging days, we believe that the Catholic community needs to be more than ever a source of clear moral vision and effective action. We are called to be the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” in the words of Scriptures (cf. Mt 5:13-16). This task belongs to every believer and every parish.
In order to find your way in Justice & Peace here at St. Francis, we’ve provided a list of our ministries of outreach here, ways to learn more about social justice and the Catholic tradition here, and opportunities for legislative advocacy here. We do a number of international mission trips of solidarity, and they can be found here. And finally, there’s so much going on, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s a list of current opportunities to serve in the parish, some of which are Justice & Peace ministries. But please do not ever hesitate to give us a call or email us so that we can make sure you find a place where you can be a minister of Christ’s mercy, “salt” and “light.”