Hundreds Convene for the Common Good

Peter Sloan Around the Province

PHILADELPHIA — Province members joined people of all faiths here earlier this month in the first “Convention for the Common Good,” urging presidential candidates and elected officials to put the common good before partisan agendas. The common good is a central theme of Catholic social teaching, particularly relevant to Franciscan commitment to the least among us and to creation.

“Franciscans understand that our common destiny is tied to how we provide justice to both persons who are poor and to the rest of creation,” said Russell Testa, the Province’s director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. Testa was part of a contingent of Franciscan and Franciscan-minded delegates that included Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF, president of the Franciscan Action Network Board, and more than 20 Franciscan sisters, friars and seculars.

Five Represent the Province
Five people from Holy Name churches in New Jersey attended the July 11 to 13 event, including four from St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, and one from St. Joseph in East Rutherford.

The convention brought out 800 delegates from more than 20 organizations across the country, including Franciscan Mission Services. The delegates affirmed a platform addressing issues such as the economy, health care, immigration, environmental stewardship, war and peace, and building a consistent culture of life. More than 2,000 people from 40 states contributed to the platform over the last several months. The platform continues to garner signatures as it is sent to presidential candidates and national political parties.

Convened by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, the convention was held at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel. Many national politicians were invited, including both presidential candidates. Sen. John McCain did not attend. Sen. Barack Obama and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter sent video messages. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio gave presentations and responded to questions from the delegates.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking; John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO; and Dr. Shawn Copeland of the Boston College Theology Department were featured speakers. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. moderated a lively discussion about faith and politics.

Tired of Politics as Usual
“Catholics and all Americans are tired of politics as usual and are hungry for a new vision of governance that is rooted in a moral commitment to human dignity and social justice,” said Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Kelley is co-author with Chris Korzen of A Nation for All: How the Catholic Vision of the Common Good Can Save America From the Politics of Division.

Other sponsors included Pax Christi USA, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Center of Concern, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Ignatian Solidarity Network, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, U.S. Catholic Mission Association, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Catholics United, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, and the University of San Francisco, Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought.

— Peter Sloan is Director of Development and Communications for the Franciscan Action Network.