BY CHRIS KERR | September 25, 2012
During a recent visit to Milwaukee to meet with Jesuits and lay staff who support Jesuit parishes throughout the U.S., I had a chance to spend some time at Church of the Gesu. Gesu is a Jesuit parish located just a few blocks from the downtown area and right in the middle of Marquette University’s campus. This might be a surprise to many people, but there are over fifty Jesuit parishes across the U.S. that are engaging the charism of St. Ignatius of Loyola through parish life, including the integration of meaningful social action.
During our meeting we had the chance to learn about the work of Gesu’s Social Ministry Director, Eileen Ciezki. The mission of Gesu’s “social ministry and twinning ministry” is to “bring people closer to God by bringing parishoners closer to their neighbors, the poor, strangers, and each other.” With more than twenty-five service and social justice education and action projects they successfully live out this mission that demonstrates the integral relationship between Christian faith and social justice.
Eileen described the various project and education committees as “becoming small faith communities, serving, praying together and enjoying each others’ company and welcoming new people.” She also noted that by offering a “diversity of direct services, events, collections, justice education, advocacy, international missions and interfaith collaborations,” everyone can become engaged at some level. Ciezki noted that Gesu’s strong commitment to service and justice draws many Jesuit high school and university graduates who come to Milwaukee to become part of their parish community.
Learn more about parishes at the U.S. Jesuit Conference website.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.