Over 1,000 students and teachers from Jesuit high schools and colleges came together in Washington DC last weekend for the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Three NETWORK staff – Lobbyist Marge Clark, BVM, Field Coordinator Jean Sammon, and Education Coordinator Shannon Hughes – were there, engaging the students in "minding the gap" and advocacy.
Each of the three of us had our own very energizing experiences with these young leaders from around the country who are seeking ways to promote justice in our world.
Jean facilitated a Mind the Gap! workshop  on Saturday night that was filled to capacity, and Shannon facilitated a second Mind the Gap! session on Sunday. The students were very aware of the wealth gap in the U.S. (and the global wealth gap) and came with questions about whether capitalism makes this gap inevitable. We talked a lot about the reasons that wealth disparity has grown so much in the past 30 years, which was a lifetime for most of the workshop participants. We saw that it doesn’t have to continue this way. Together, we identified policies that affect the wealth gap, such as tax rates, minimum wage, labor rights, and campaign financing. And we convinced ourselves that we have the power to change these policies, if we are dedicated to educating, organizing and advocacy.
Marge did an advocacy training session on Sunday for groups who were going on lobby visits to Congressional offices on Monday. Marge thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with the students, telling us she hasn’t had such a good time in a long time!
The Teach-In closed Sunday night with Mass. After such rich conversations and time spent envisioning an economy that works for all of us, it seemed ironic to hear the gospel proclaim, “For to all those who have, more will be given . . . but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Our presider, Fr. Don MacMillan, asked that we consider the behavior displayed and consequences received by each individual in the story, but wondered aloud what might have happened to each servant if they had invested and grown together.