April 17, 2009

JustFaith program empowers love of God and neighbor

By Susan McCarthy (Special to The Criterion)

In 1988, Jack Jezreel, hired as a parish social justice minister in Louisville, Ky., tried to recruit parishioners to come to meetings or events—with dismal results.

Having witnessed remarkable conversions using the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, he decided to create a process that would duplicate some of the features of RCIA.

“I wanted to prepare participants to become prophets and dedicated servants of God’s compassion,” Jezreel said, so he developed a program that he named “JustFaith.”

This biblical-based program works in partnership with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and Bread for the World.

Throughout the country, he said, Catholics have found parish JustFaith programs to be tools of empowerment.

In the Terre Haute Deanery, planning is under way for JustFaith programs at parishes, which will begin in September.

An information session will be held at 7 p.m. on May 4 at the Terre Haute Deanery Pastoral Center, 2931 Ohio Blvd., in Terre Haute.

JustFaith Ministries aspires to enable people of faith to develop a passion for justice, Jezreel said, to express this passion in concrete acts of social ministry, and to expand the work of social ministry in their faith communities.

JustFaith provides a multifaceted 30-week program in a small community of about 15 parishioners, he said, that supports and challenges each participant as they read and discuss books, pray, listen to guest speakers, go on retreats, watch videos, and are immersed in programs where the means to walk with Jesus becomes more apparent.

Very busy people have found the JustFaith program desirable and doable, he said. The program cost of $145 may be paid in installments, with some partial scholarships available.

Through a Total Catholic Education grant of $695 from the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education, the Terre Haute Deanery Center was able to pay for the user fee for JustFaith Ministry programming as well as purchase DVDs, videos and one set of books for the deanery center, according to Providence Sister Mary Montgomery, director of the center.

The JustFaith program creates and supports faith formation processes and resources, Jezreel said, that emphasize the Church’s teaching about social justice, the Gospel messages of peace and justice, and the intersection of spirituality and action.

JustFaith helps people learn how to better love God, he said, as well as their neighbors.

The first JustFaith program produced powerful results, Jezreel said. Participants became the “movers and shakers” of social ministry, such as the chairperson of a parish hunger and poverty committee, a volunteer on the Habitat for Humanity board, and an organizer who initiated a relationship with a parish in a developing country or started a women’s issues committee or formed a Pax Christi group.

These JustFaith participants became experts on a variety of subjects ranging from deforestation to the causes of revolution in Latin America and more, he said. JustFaith participants expanded their worldview and began to change the world around them for the better.

As these parish programs were started, he said, other parishioners wanted to volunteer with these social ministry groups.

“It was a great time to be Church,” Jezreel said. “As the word got out and other parishes became interested, it struck me that we had stumbled upon something that [members of] the Catholic parish [were] hungry for. We had not only come upon a strategy for increasing the ranks of those committed to social ministry, but we had also unwittingly discovered at least one way to make parish life more vital, to make liturgy more compelling and to make Christian community more life-giving. To live as Jesus lived was indeed new life!”

(For registration information, contact the Terre Haute Deanery Pastoral Center at 812-232-8400 or director@thdeanery.org. Catholics who live outside the Terre Haute Deanery should contact their parish to find out if JustFaith is available in that area. For more information about the JustFaith Ministry, log on to www.justfaith.org.)

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