At St. Anthony, we empower parishioners to be active participants in the change they want to see within their communities. We do this through a partnership with MACG (Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good),
MACG is an alliance of faith, labor, health and community organizations dedicated to building a base of everyday civic leaders to effectively stand for change they want to see in their communities. While collective action is a critical part of what they do, MACG’s primary work is leadership development to equip members to be effective, active, civic leaders. They have trained over 2000 people since its founding in 2002. Their leadership training consists of introducing the philosophy and practices of community organizing. The parish pays to be part of this alliance so that parishioners can take advantage of their leadership training that prepares them to work with others for the common good.
Community organizing is a systematic approach and relational process to collectively address the root causes of social problems. It is a process by which people of varied socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds investigate and act together to change their communities and society. Through community organizing people build relationships across differences to work on issues they share in common. Together, they identify shared goals and learn tools to make changes that improve their lives and the society.
According to the Catechism, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person” (#1913). As the Catechism states, Catholics have the moral responsibility to participate in public life. Community organizing is one way we can live out this duty. Community organizing can help Catholics become more informed voters; participate in advocacy on behalf of the vulnerable, and join with others in public witness of our faith. Community organizing puts Catholic social teaching principles into action through collective efforts geared toward protecting the dignity of the human person, ensuring that basic human rights are fulfilled, and inviting individuals and institutions to carry out their duties and responsibilities.
A Success Story
To the uninitiated, it can be difficult to understand concretely what community organizing is and what it looks like. Therefore it helps to learn stories of people who have lived it. For example, 34 churches in Pinellas County, FL are involved in a community organizing group called Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST. When many of the community’s members began experiencing displacement because of the rising cost of housing, the churches responded by praying and forming an action plan. They invited public officials to meetings where 2,500 FAST members were gathered to challenge those officials to support policies that benefit poor people. Their efforts resulted in an affordable housing trust fund that directed $19 million toward housing for low-income persons, and new legislation to guarantee the development of 3,000 units over the next three years for families with incomes under $42,000 a year.