BY CHRIS KERR | May 12, 2015
What do you get when you put President Barack Obama, Catholics and evangelicals together to talk about poverty in America? We will find out today when President Obama visits Georgetown University’s Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty, which began last night. The summit, organized by Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and the National Association of Evangelicals, seeks to address key questions related to the moral, human, and economic costs of poverty in the United States.
Luke Russert, NBC’s Capitol Hill correspondent interviewed E.J. Dionne, the well-known columnist for the Washington Post and NPR personality, yesterday to discuss the summit and Catholic engagement with poverty. Both are Catholics and have connections to the Jesuits, the perfect mix to create lively debate about Church and society. They mentioned Catholic personalities ranging from Paul Ryan to Pope Francis as Russert invited Dionne to reflect on the Church’s response to poverty.
Russert and Dionne touched some important points, but let’s not forget that our Church’s response to poverty is much more likely to be experienced via those served by lay and religious persons who work at schools, shelters, soup kitchens, anti-gang programs, serve in prison ministry, assist migrants, work for community based advocacy organizing organizations, and the list goes on and on. Our Church has the potential to work best when strong statements are ministry that walks in solidarity with people in their struggles with poverty. The Gospels were more than just stories about what Jesus said about the poor, they were an invitation from Jesus to act in solidarity with the poor.
When President Obama and Catholic and Evangelical leaders talk today, I hope they recognize that taking a stand against poverty in our nation will not only require strong statements but also bold actions by people of faith as well as politicians.
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.