In place of Fr. Mark’s words, the STM Social Justice Committee offers this week’s reflection.

Over the past several years, Christians have given much attention to the plight of the disenfranchised in light of our call to serve those in need.  Pope Francis has been very vocal about our obligation to care for our needy brothers and sisters.  In keeping with these teachings, the STM Parish Council and Finance Committee have both recommended that STM be more outwardly oriented.  In response, Fr. Mark asked several parishioners already active in STM social justice causes to serve on a parish committee that will help STM make this happen.  These parishioners are: Jen Dalmy, Greg Amoroso, Tanya Frazee, Jim O’Callahan, Gigi O’Shea, Sr. Mary Priniski, and Robert Weaver.

Fr. Mark charged the STM Social Justice Committee with the task of developing a comprehensive social justice program for STM that includes financial support of parish-sponsored and other social justice programs, encouraging direct service by parishioners in social justice efforts, advocacy on behalf of those who are in need, and education of parishioners regarding Catholic social justice teaching.

With regard to financially supporting social justice organizations and projects, the Committee engaged in a prayerful, careful process through much of the past year trying to decide how to distribute a substantial sum of parish money for social justice purposes.  The Committee considered a large number of possible beneficiaries.  In deciding among these, the Committee judged how much of an impact our gift would make on the organization’s ability to carry out its work, and whether the organization’s work would be sustainable even after our gift was expended.  Eventually, the Committee recommended that STM make substantial grants to several organizations for specific purposes.  We informed STM parishioners about these gifts several times over the past several months.  These gifts include money to co-sponsor the construction of a new house with Habitat for Humanity, to support four disadvantaged minority students at Cristo Rey Atlanta, to purchase urgently needed medical equipment for ServeHAITI, to finance a new roof for an orphanage in Uganda sponsored by the Missionaries of the Poor, and to resettle a refugee family in the Decatur area.  The total amount of these gifts this past year was nearly $150,000.  All this was made possible through the generosity of STM parishioners.

We hope to offer comparable financial support to local and international social justice projects this year.  To this end, the STM Social Justice Committee will invite local and international organizations to submit requests for a financial grant from STM for social justice purposes.  To facilitate the application and review process, the Committee has adopted a protocol through which charitable organizations may apply for financial support from STM.  Among other things, the protocol requires an applicant to specify the amount requested and to state how the grant will be used, to describe the organization’s mission and purpose, to assess its impact in the community, and to disclose relevant financial information.  In evaluating applications for grants, the Committee will give preference to organizations with Catholic connections.  Complete information regarding the grant application process is posted on the STM website at: http://www.stmgaparish.org/SocialJustice.

Beginning October 1, 2017, the Committee will begin reviewing the requests for financial support that STM has received. The Committee will recommend certain grants to Fr. Mark, who will make the final decision.  STM hopes to distribute grants twice a year – once at the end of the calendar year, and again near the end of the fiscal year.

We want STM parishioners to be included in this process.  An effective parish social justice program depends on the support and participation of all parishioners.  Accordingly, the Social Justice Committee invites parishioners either to invite charitable organizations with which they are familiar to submit an application for a social justice grant, or to make an application themselves on behalf of an organization or project.

STM is committed to making this grants process transparent.  The Committee will publish the grant applicants and those who receive grants.

We hope that STM parishioners are pleased with STM’s increasing commitment to honor and protect the dignity of each human life, and that you will continue to support the parish generously.  If you do, STM will be able to build on the good work the parish has been doing in our neighborhood and beyond.  We look forward to sharing with you the successes and stories we as a Parish have had in touching the lives of our brothers and sisters in need.

The STM Social Justice Committee