Our modern society makes a demand on individuals to participate with others and the society for the common good. The social justice teaching of the Church is embedded in the very fiber of our Christian faith. In the very beginnings of the Catholic Church, we find the Apostles establishing the order of deacons in order to serve the needs of the community. Deacons were established to meet the fledgling Church’s social responsibilities. Throughout the ages, the Church, directed by the teachings of scripture and church pronouncements, made known their obligation to serve the poor, respecting the dignity of the individual.

The social teachings of the Church have addressed the problems faced by the society and articulated the Christian response. In the modern age as political communities progressed, the teachings were developed to offer guidance to the faithful. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical (an authoritative letter containing teaching) entitled Rerum Novarum (concerning new things). These new things were questions, which affected human labor, the right of private ownership and a right to organize in order to provide protection and assistance to workers. This was the first of the so-called social encyclicals, which would be followed by a number of popes guiding the faithful enmeshed in the difficulties of living responsibly in the world.

The Church participates in the world and takes to heart Matthew 25 wherein Jesus tells us that we will be judged by the manner in which we treat our brothers and sisters. “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you? Or naked and clothe you? When did we see you in prison and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply: Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine you did for me.” (Matthew 25: 37-41)

In the 26 years of St. John Paul II, he developed the social teachings of the Church and refined the discussion for the problems posed by our modern age. Perhaps it was his formation in Poland having to deal with oppressors that allowed him to craft arguments in defense of individual dignity. But it was obvious that he was building upon the thought embodied in the social encyclical tradition of his predecessors.

A wonderful opportunity to hear the social teaching of the Church applied to the business world will be offered Oct. 19 at Divine Savior Holy Angels Catholic High School, 4257 N. 100th St., Milwaukee. Michael Naughton, Ph.D., and William Bowman, MBA, will discuss how faithfulness to the Church’s teaching affects professional business practices.

There are certain principles that direct the thought of social responses the virtue of justice, subsidiarity, common good, human dignity and solidarity.

The recent natural disasters caused by hurricanes and an earthquake devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. As Christians, we identify with the plight and suffering of our brothers and sisters. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Pius XII: “An error today abundantly widespread is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father on behalf of sinful humanity.” (CCC1939)

The principle of human solidarity reminds us of our oneness. We extend charity because we are members of the same human family despite our locations. We approach socio-economic problems through our responsibility to share our goods, especially with those in need.

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we are blessed to have two organizations created to remind us of our responsibility toward our brothers and sisters in need: Catholic Charities and World Mission Ministries. There is sometimes confusion with the names and their functions. All domestic (everything that takes place within the confines of our country) actions of charity are handled by Catholic Charities. All foreign actions (those outside the country) are handled by World Mission (La Sagrada Familia in the DR) or Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Fr. David Reith is the Vicar for Catholic Charities, and Antoinette Mensah is the director for World Mission Missionaries. Rob Shelledy is the liaison for CRS.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has a proud tradition of supporting both domestic and international charitable actions. We realize that in the past there were those who assisted us with monetary, personnel and religious assistance. It helped to establish us as the Catholic community of today. Now it is our responsibility to help others who are in need, not because of payback but because we are family made in the image and likeness of God.