A Catholic’s Call to Vote
This year has been rife with challenges, from a global pandemic to a heightened awareness and media coverage of our country’s many injustices. All of this has happened against the backdrop of the upcoming presidential election.
Activists on both sides of the political spectrum, including many Catholic leaders, are engaged in efforts to amplify the vote. While the daily deluge of political information can be exhausting and confusing, it is important to remember that the act of voting is an essential component of what the USCCB describes as “faithful citizenship.”
According to the guiding document “Faithful Citizenship,” “bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.” By electing specific candidates, a Catholic is recognizing the moral quality of their decision, which further shapes the community in which they live.
While voting is necessary, it is not always easy. As Cardinal Joseph Tobin stated in a recent panel discussion: “Neither political party fully represents the Catholic moral tradition … The problem is that we have to vote. We should vote.” It is natural to feel as though certain issues are not being discussed with the weight and seriousness they deserve. But just as voting helps further the formation of one’s conscience, it helps to further the formation of one’s community as well. By voting, Catholics can express which issues are important to them, and can therefore change policy – and one’s community – for the better.
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Continued Success for NeXt Level
Even during these uncertain times, CFJ’s newest intiative, NeXt Level, continued with great momentum! Created in 2019, NeXt Level is a parish-based initiative for high school youth along with adult mentors to create and implement “passion projects” in response to social issue(s). Under normal circumstances, this program includes community gatherings, interactive retreats, and a weeklong service immersion experience in Trenton, NJ called Level Up.
Of course, 2020 has been far from “normal” in most respects and CFJ had to cancel most of its traditional programming. NeXt Level is unique enough, though, to allow us to improvise and innovate. We were able to modify the Level Up immersion to instead incorporate small parish-based experiences for youth and their mentors. Each retreat focused on leadership development, Catholic social teaching, community building, deepening of faith, responding to social injustices, and the importance of adaptability in difficult times.
“One year after our first immersion retreat, Next Level was another transformative and eye-opening experience. Our mentors challenged our team to step out of our comfort zones in all the best ways. They encouraged us to use our voices, equipped us with new servant leadership skills, and strengthened our bond with each other; all of this growth will continue to improve our passion project for the community and we cannot wait for what is to come!” — Angela, youth delegate, St. Augustine of Canterbury (Kendall Park, NJ)
“I am the most excited about the relationships that will be nourished during the next year. The plan to serve, grow, and replenish our community with love, hope, and justice.” — Alan, mentor, Christ Our Light (Cherry Hill, NJ)
“Peace of Mind (NeXt Level passion project) is extremely important in my life. I feel I’ve grown in many things, including speaking, connecting with others, and formulating ideas and teachings and sharing them with others. This has changed my life for the better, and I am so blessed to be a part of this awesome group. I’ve become a better person, a better Catholic, and a better leader!” — John Michael, youth delegate St. Augustine of Canterbury (Kendall Park, NJ)
Stay tuned over the next few months to hear highlights from our eight NeXt Level parishes to see what they are doing to meet the needs of their respective communities.