Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ask Ellen: Conclusion of Catholic Social Teachings for Middle School Students

Theme 7:  Care of God’s Creation

We have talked a great deal about caring for each other as part of God’s family.  Students also need to be aware of this requirement of our faith: to care for creation.  I would take the opportunity to ask students what environmental issues plagues us today.  Answers could include: global warming, drilling for oil, protection of wildlife etc.

I would make students aware of the need to protect the resources God has given us.  I would brainstorm ways the class could become involved with protecting their school environment.

The last thing I would address before concluding the series on Catholic Social Teachings is the responsibility of voting with an informed conscience.  Students should realize through this study of the Church’s position that no candidate lines up perfectly with the Church’s standards.  I would encourage them to ask their parents why they choose to vote the way they do.  I would explain to them that this is a life-long responsibility: to vote for people who align themselves as closely as possible to the Church’s teachings.  I would leave them with the realization of how fortunate they are to belong to a Church that doesn’t change its policies to reflect public opinion or to align itself with a particular candidate.  They have been given access to Truth and should measure all they do and support against this Truth.  That is truly a gift.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ask Ellen: Catholic Social Teachings For Middle School Students Continued

Theme 6 Solidarity

I would begin by explaining to students what solidarity means.  The dictionary describes it as “unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards”

I would ask students what groups they share solidarity with. (interests, goals, etc)  Some answers might include: families, school, class, sports teams.

I would ask them what makes them a part of these groups.  It would be great for students to focus on the fact that they contribute something to the larger group and that the group works together for the common good.

In this Social Teaching, the Church is asking us to see ourselves in union with the rest of the world, no matter our differences.  It calls us to love our neighbor on a global scale.  We do this by securing justice and peace whenever we go.  We are called, as Catholics, to work for peace in a violent and often cruel world.

I would conclude by asking students if they have ever thought of themselves in solidarity with the rest of the world.  How will this thought change their thinking?  What can you do as a class to promote peace and work for justice?  What can all of us do?  We can start with prayer and go from there.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ask Ellen: Theme 5 Of The Catholic Social Teachings For Middle School Students

Theme 5: Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers

Today I am pleased to welcome our first guest blogger. Karen Gownley.  Karen is the Assistant to Communications and Community Services, PA AFL-CIO.  She has agreed to lend her expertise on the subject with us today.  Thanks, Karen.

The Catholic church has a long history of supporting Labor Unions. The Church believes that all workers have the right to be paid fairly, treated well, and have safe working conditions. All workers should be able to support their families.

Labor Unions are formed when a group of workers stand together in unity. While one worker would likely be fired for standing up against a boss who is treating him or her unfairly, a group - union - of workers have power and a voice against unfair bosses.

Labor unions have stood up to fight for, and won, things like: the weekend, the 8-hour work day, and end to child labor.

For a quick, fun, history lesson on Unions:

Many more details, facts, & history on the relationship between Labor and the Catholic church can be found here:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ask Ellen: Catholic Social Teachings For Middle School Students

Theme 4: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

This theme is a critical one for middle school students to understand.  The key word that stands out in my mind is “option.”  Students should understand that we have the right to choose to help.  We are not compelled to help the poor and vulnerable by our society.  In fact, society tells us just the opposite.  Society tells students every day that people must fend for themselves, taking what is theirs and using it for their own personal gain.

In this Social Teaching, the Catholic Church tells us the opposite.  As Catholics and Christians we ARE compelled to help the poor and vulnerable.  We are called to help and defend those that cannot do it for themselves.  The Church tells us that we are “only doing as well as our poorest member.”  Encourage students to think of this in terms of the Body of Christ.  We are all members of this same Body.  Like a body, society needs all parts to work together to be healthy.  I may have the strongest heart in the race, but if I break my foot, I cannot run.  Have students understand this important teaching in this light:  I may be a millionaire, but if I never help the poorest person I am not healthy.  I suffer as a person due to my selfishness.  The Church suffers as a whole when any member of her Body is neglected.

Explain to students that in our fast paced technological world the divide between rich and poor goes greater each day.  Today’s students are in a unique position to address this concern throughout their lives.  In this teaching, the Church reminds them to think of the poor and vulnerable first.

Ask students to think of people who fit in the category of poor and vulnerable.  Answers might include: the elderly, immigrants, the sick, the dying, the unborn, the homeless, the unemployed etc.  Brainstorm ways the students can make a tangible difference in the lives of these people.

Being Catholic is incredible because it teaches you to have a worldview.  It is so much bigger than our individual needs and desires.  Students need to understand this universal way of thinking.  Heck, we all do.  Do something for someone less fortunate….today.