Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hearts and Minds

"Working for Global Justice - Conference Exhibits Power of Collaboration"

Newly ordained Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York put the day’s events in perspective with one line. “We’ve seen here today the head and the heart of the Church”. At yesterday’s Working for Global Justice Conference, Fordham University and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) celebrated ten years of collaboration in a way befitting to their common interests and missions.

The Catholic Church and, in particular, the Society of Jesus have long had a role in higher education. Whether it is St. Xavier’s in Mumbai, the Universidad de Centroamerica in Managua or Fordham University in the Bronx, when one walks through the campus grounds you will see Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG) chiseled in the walls. What does it mean? Well literally it means “For the greater glory of God” but its significance is the life blood that fosters the success of both Jesuit schools and CRS.

The beauty of a Jesuit education goes far beyond commitment to academic excellence. It is cemented in the core concept of putting what you have learned into practice toward the betterment of the common good. In a previous post I commented on a lecture I heard by Jon Sobrino SJ at Boston College. Sobrino challenges Jesuit and Christian universities to produce people who have a moral obligation to the poor and a deep rooted sense of social responsibility. It is a goal that transcends religion and one that epitomizes the collaboration between Fordham’s graduate program in International Political Economy and Development (IPED) and CRS.

Students of the IPEDgraduate program put their course work into action as fellows or employees of CRS – an organization rooted in Catholic social teachings. CRS is a multinational humanitarian organization providing care and programs in countries all across the world and employs people of all traditions, religions, and creeds. Most importantly they operate with what I have come to learn is the most successful approach. They do not dictate terms. Instead there is an emphasis on conversation - taking into account cultural and religious sensitivities. Moreover, they seek partnerships with local field organizations and community leaders, which creates greater effectiveness and reach with programs. In my eyes, CRS has adopted the core teachings of Catholicism – that ours is a world tied by common humanity and shared wants, needs and dreams. Their goal is not conversion; it is development, solidarity and a shared sense of action.

The head and heart are major topics in western philosophy. The brain often symbolizes intellgence and thought while the heart passion and love. Decartes said "I think therefore I am". St. Thomas Aquinas said "Love takes up where knowledge leaves off". The majority of us hope our hearts and minds find a synergistic path that builds a vocation beyond our careers. Just as blood is the life line between our brains and hearts, what unites IPED and CRS is their shared commitment to the greater good - synergy at its finest.

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