Sheila Grove

ERIE — Catholics have a long tradition of engagement in the political process as a means of putting faith into action. Well-intentioned action often breeds conflict, however, because issues are complex and multidimensional. Productive conversations can be thwarted by personal attacks rather than facilitated by responsive listening. Catholics are challenged by the Gospel to find and then model civility, love for neighbors, and community. 

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        Therefore, the Office of Social Justice and Life of the Diocese of Erie has arranged for a 90-minute Zoom conference on Thursday, Sept. 3, beginning at 6:30 pm. Register by Aug. 28 at

        The event is part of a campaign called “Civilize It!,” which focuses on the importance of constructive dialogue in both the social and political arenas. Civilize It! was developed by We are Salt and Light, a project of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

        Patrice Swick, director of the Office of Social Justice and Life, will host the conversation opened by Bishop Lawrence Persico and further facilitated by Emily Schumacher-Novak, assistant director of the Education and Outreach division of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the USCCB. A question and answer period will follow the program which begins and ends with prayer. The evening itself models the practice it espouses.

        “One of the hopes of the event is that we be reminded of what it means to 'Love your neighbor,' especially those with whom you may disagree,” says Swick. “The presentation will offer insight into honoring the dignity of all those we encounter and allow those in attendance to gain a better understanding and approach to interaction and engagement with people with differing beliefs or values. The Q & A portion of the night will be an opportunity to share where we struggle with this call to ‘Love our Neighbor’ and support each other in community going forward.”    

        At the heart of the program is acknowledgement of the dignity of all and the recognition that every person is a beloved child of God. Catholics are challenged to respond in love to that reality.

        Civilize it! is a non-partisan focus on the dignity of all people, even in disagreement, putting faith in action by bearing witness to a better way forward. More information about the program and a civility pledge are available at here.

Catholic social teaching is a central element of the Catholic faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came "to bring glad tidings to the poor ... liberty to captives ... recovery of sight to the blind" (Lk 4:18-19) and who identified himself with "the least of these," the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45).
Catholic social teaching emerges from the truth of what God has revealed: The triune God whose very nature is communal and social.

(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)