COC

efj/history

History

The Center of Concern has focused on education for justice since its founding in l971, through a wide range of strategies and directed at a variety of audiences, including ecumenical, interfaith, and secular networks as well as the U.S. Church, Bishops, religious communities, and the laity. Center Focus and public presentations and workshops by staff have been a constant means of educational outreach and have presented resources for transformation for over thirty-six years.

Since the founding of the Center, staff have developed workshops and programs to provide education and information on a wide range of justice issues. From 1983 to 1991, the Center held a summer institute, bringing together lay and religious leaders to explore timely concerns. CoC symposiums were also an important means of educational outreach on the development of Catholic Social Teaching; a series of symposiums helped the Center celebrate 100 years of Catholic social thought in 1991. The Center's 25th Anniversary in 1996 was aptly celebrated by an international conference at Marquette University on Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization, co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Books, occasional papers, audio and video tapes, and workbooks for group processes have also been a central part of the Center's educational outreach. One of the earliest CoC publications, Quest for Justice, was directed toward a popular audience; almost 100,000 copies were distributed in the 1970s. Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret has been a staple with parish groups and in classrooms since its publication in 1985 (revised in 1988, l992, and 2003). Joe Holland and Peter Henriot's Social Analysis, first published by the Center in 1980 is the classic text on this subject. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Phil Land's articles and books provided stimulating commentaries and critiques on CST. Since the 1980s, Maria Riley's writings on women, gender and justice have helped to define the agenda for the international women's movement and to develop a gender lens on development work.

The current Center of Concern's Education for Justice (EfJ) Project is charged with reaching a wide popular audience among the 60 million Catholics in the United States. The project was shaped by the reception of two CoC workbooks, each responding to teachable moments in the late ‘90s. The 1998 workbook, Catholic Social Teaching and Human Rights, which was hailed as "an outstanding resource on Catholic Social Teaching," by the Ave Maria Press at Notre Dame University, was developed for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights. Celebrate Jubilee and Justice!, cited as "the single best catechetical resource for the Jubilee Year," by Stephen Privett, SJ, President of the University of San Francisco, was published in 2000.

In 2001, the Center developed the Education for Justice Web Site and membership network to share current resources for teaching Catholic Social Teaching in schools and parishes, in formal and informal educational classes and group settings. Thousands of pages of curricula, interactive resources, fact sheets, prayers and prayer services, In the News reports, reflections and group activities are now available on the EfJ Web Site, which has been hailed as an “essential resource for educators.” One EfJ member has commented: “I look to the Education for Justice Web Site to help ground me in presenting CST to my students, to develop and deepen my own understanding of CST and to support my commitment to live out the Gospel through my work as a Catholic educator.” EfJ members include teachers and educators, campus and youth ministers, social justice parish groups, diocesan offices, and others dedicated to social justice education; members come from all U.S. states and from 14 countries. Selected materials are available in Spanish, and current material is posted several times a month on the EfJ web site.

The Education for Justice Project also develops and offers a wide variety of workshops and seminars for educators. In 2006, EfJ members from around the U.S. spent a week at the Center, engaged in a seminar/retreat on Spirituality and Solidarity. In 2007, teachers and service ministers spent several days working together at the Center in an extended workshop focused on better integrating teaching and service in Catholic high schools. EfJ staff also present workshops at a wide variety of conferences and meetings, including the National Catholic Education Association national conference and the NCEA Summer Institute for Religion Teachers at Notre Dame. In the summer of 2008, the EfJ Project will convene a dialogue with educational leaders to explore the impact of the 1998 Bishops’ Statement on the Teaching of Catholic Social Thought during the last decade and to discuss the challenges of transformative religious education.