Workshop to explore impact of racism on the poor

VALPARAISO – The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Voice of the Poor Committee is inviting people in  the Diocese of Gary to attend a free workshop on “Understanding Poverty.” This event will focus on inequality and the income gap, taking place on April 13 at St. Paul.
Tricia Massa, member of the SVDP Gary Council and chairperson for the Voice of the Poor Committee, said the St. Vincent de Paul Society welcomes the opportunity to share with everyone in the diocese the wisdom of its founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who affirmed the dignity of every human being and Jesus' particular identification with those who are excluded by society.
“Since the founding of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833, Vincentians have been concerned not only with alleviating poverty but also with identifying and addressing the unjust structures that cause it,” she explained.
In beatifying Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1997, Pope St. John Paul II called him "a precursor of the social doctrine of the Church." Blessed Frederick Ozanam recognized that to affirm the dignity of every human being, charity and justice must go hand in hand. 
“Blessed Frederic and the founders of our society recognized in the 1800s that there were unjust laws and structures that made it difficult for hard-working people to lift themselves out of poverty,” Massa said.

These same ideas, she pointed, out are represented in the society's Rule 7.7 which states, "The society strives, with charity, to foster new attitudes of respect and empathy for the weak, so that all are able to understand, recognize and defend the right of each person to be responsible for his or her own life."
“Over the years, policies and structures have been implemented in our country that many people have never heard about,” Massa said, “but which have hindered the ability of the working poor to lift themselves out of poverty.”     
The interactive workshop, led by guest speaker Sister Emily Telkoste of NETWORK Advocates for Catholic Social Justice, will help participants learn how institutional and structural racism has resulted in inequality and an income gap between Americans of all races, and how to assist neighbors in need. Thoughtful insights will be shared through the lens of Catholic social doctrine. 
“We hope that attendees will have their eyes opened to many of the federal policies that were implemented in the past and how they have affected, and continue to affect, hard-working people trying to lift themselves out of poverty,” Massa said.
She continued, “We also hope participants will learn ways to answer Pope St. John Paul II's call to ‘build a more fraternal society’, to help people to move out of poverty and to begin to explore solutions that will help to create a more just and equitable world for everyone.”
Another member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Pat Deering, believes many people who volunteer to help in pantries don't understand what people have to go through to get help.
“There are many causes of property,” Deering said. “Knowing some of the causes will give people a better perspective on ways they can help.” 
To RSVP for the workshop or get more information, contact Deering at 378-8856 or send an email to