Parish and Social ActionCourse Level: Advanced

Course Summary

This is an ADVANCED level course and should not be attempted without sufficient grounding in the basics of the Catholic faith.

In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel." Ensuring that our parishes reflect this three-part mission is the responsibility of all Catholics, particularly parish staff as well as catechetical and social ministry leaders. This course will explore the roots of the parish's social mission in Scripture and Catholic social teaching. Students will draw on a variety of resources to study key elements of, and learn strategies for, effective parish social action.

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

General Course Objectives

  • Understand the roots of parish social ministry in our Church.
  • Appreciate the dual roles and importance of justice and charity in parish social mission.
  • Gain practical skills to help establish or improve your parish’s social mission activitie.

Course Materials

  • Required Book: All required readings are online.
  • Optional Book: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Communities of Salt and Light Washington DC: USCCB Publishing, 1994 ISBN: 1574557645; ISBN-13: 978-1574557640

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: The Roots of Parish Social Ministry
    • To realize the importance of sacraments, prayer and worship as the foundation for works of justice and charity
    • To understand the centrality of works of charity and justice to the identity of the Church.
    • To appreciate the scriptural basis for the model the parish/Christian community as a place where Christians join in the work of justice and charity.
    • To begin the ART (Action, Reflection, Transformation) process by selecting a need, issue or concern in your community
  • Week 2: Communities of Salt and Light: A Vision for Parish Social Minister
    • To understand how the parish’s social mission complements and flows from the many aspects of parish life.
    • To learn how social mission can be fully integrated into parish life.
    • To continue the ART process by volunteering some time (a few hours) directly related to your issue: Act
  • Week 3: The Tradition of Action: Service and Justice
    • To explore the implications this teaching has for how parish social ministry efforts respond to human needs and injustices.
    • To deepen understanding of Church teaching about charity and justice
    • To continue the ART process by reflecting on the deeper causes of your issue and begin researching using secular local studies and share what the Church teaches regarding that issue: Reflect
  • Week 4: Structure Matters: Elements of a Parish Social Ministry Team
    • To deepen understanding of the implications of Communities of Salt and Light for the structure of a parish social ministry coordination team
    • To deepen understanding of the roles and responsibilities of parish social ministry leaders
    • To develop a draft plan of transformation regarding your issue considering many factors and involving relevant participants
  • Week 5: Faithful Citizenship: The Role of the Church in Public Life
    • To deepen understanding of Catholic teaching on the role of the church, including parishes and parish leaders, in public life
    • To deepen understanding of Catholic teaching on the role of individual Catholics in public life and its implications for parish social ministry activities
    • To submit and share your plan of transformation with other students for their question, affirmations, and comments: Transform