BY CHRIS KERR | September 8, 2015
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on 9/19/15 to reflect the increased number of Watch Parties and participants.
Over 30,000 people across the country will be participating in “Pope2Congress” watch parties when Pope Francis makes his historic address to a joint session of the United States Congress on Sept. 24.
The Pope2Congress campaign was created by the Ignatian Solidarity Network to generate excitement about Francis’s address to a joint session of Congress, the first ever by a pope. Individuals and institutions that registered with ISN to host watch parties have received a party-planning toolkit from the organization that includes discussion questions, live-tweeting instructions, giveaway prizes, and even BINGO cards.
More than 300 parties have been registered in thirty-four states across U.S. and as far away as Rome, Italy, according to ISN program director Kim Miller. She says an estimated 30,000 people are expected to attend parties as of September 10, 2015.
Participants will gather in auditoriums, classrooms, churches, and living rooms to hear Francis speak on a wide range of moral issues, including poverty, the global migrant crisis, environmental issues, and the family.
“Pope Francis will illuminate Catholic Social Teaching when he addresses Congress. His message will serve as an invitation to Catholics, members of Congress, and all Americans to respond to the realities of the world with compassion and a spirit of solidarity,” said ISN executive director Christopher Kerr. Kerr continued, “We look forward to inviting watch party participants and others inspired by Pope Francis’s message to join us as advocate for human dignity on key human rights issues including immigration reform, U.S. policy in Central America, and climate change.”
Media observers are watching closely to see what effect the Pope’s visit might have on a Congress of which approximately 30% of members self-identify as Catholic, and nearly 15% attended a Catholic college or university. 56 members of Congress were educated at Jesuit universities or high schools, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who issued the invitation to Pope Francis to visit Congress.
MEDIA NOTE: Watch party locations and convener contact info for a particular geographic area are available upon request for video and photographic coverage. A map of watch party locations can be found at here. Watch party participants will engage on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) at the hashtag: #Pope2Congress.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) is a national social justice network inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. ISN was founded in 2004 and is a lay-led organization working in partnership with Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes, along with many other Catholic institutions and social justice partners. More information can be found at: www.ignatiansolidarity.net.
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.