How do Catholics contribute to a just society?

IN 2004, Cardinal Angelo Sodano wrote a letter to Pope John Paul II presenting the Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine, which contains the Church’s timeless teachings on human dignity, the common good and solidarity. Over the years, various Catholics have imbibed these guidelines.

Some have invigorated them through honest work and social initiatives. In the Philippines, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have sprung up to serve the weak and needy.

The Laura Vicuña Foundation (LVF) is run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. It aims to rebuild the lives of children who need special protection and runs community programs in different cities to prevent hazardous child labor and child exploitation. It operates a vocational and technical dual training institute in Victorias City, Negros Occidental and an agricultural school and educational program for the poorest youth in Palawan.

LVF also runs a shelter in Metro Manila for sexually abused and trafficked girls. It helps girls heal, recover and prepare for an independent life. At the LVF home, girls have a safe space, relish family life, and transform. Janet — one of the girls — said, “Wish ko mas dumami ang kabataan na matulungan nila. At saka sa future, kami na rin ang benefactors (My wish is that they help more young people and that in the future we became the benefactors).

Some Catholic professionals promote efforts initiated by nuns and clergy by joining the board of directors of NGOs to contribute their expertise.

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Moreover, some are working there to continue advocacy. Educational Research and Development Aid (ERDA), for example, was founded in 1974 by Father Tritz, a French Jesuit. Upset by the high rate of school dropouts, he mobilizes the registration of street children in public schools. Despite the death of Father Tritz in 2016, ERDA continues to provide educational support to indigent and street children and livelihood assistance to families.

ERDA children participate in Barangay Children’s Associations (BCAs), which are led and organized by elected officials.

Beneficiaries are empowered to form opinions, express themselves and help others.

Tony, a teenage BCA officer, shared, “Para sa akin, ‘yung role ko ay maging lider at boses sa kapwa ka-ERDA para matuto din sila na maibahagi nila kung ano ang gusto nilang masabi (For me, my role is to become a leader and the voice of my fellow ERDA recipients so they can learn to share what they want to say).

Other lay people collaborate to establish service-oriented NGOs. Inspired by the teachings of Saint Josemaria Escrivá, some professionals and housewives formed the Foundation for Vocational Training Inc. It aims to contribute to national development by strengthening the capacities of women, especially the disadvantaged. Punlaan School, its flagship project, offers a work-study scholarship program in hospitality and culinary arts registered with Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority).

Amy, an abandoned child, landed a job at a five-star hotel where she did her on-the-job training. Ria, who has a sick father, has become a kitchen secretary in a prestigious hotel. She testifies that the school developed her personality and allowed her to send her brothers and sisters to school. She exclaimed, “I am now able to support my family!

These NGOs and others have helped millions of marginalized Filipinos and reduced inequality. Unfortunately, many are still illiterate, hungry and oppressed. Catholic social teachings are a beacon of hope.

Responding to the call of the Church will contribute to a just society.

(Names of recipients have been changed for this article.)

Maria Adiel Aguiling is an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Candidate in Business Administration at De La Salle University Manila. It can be emailed to [email protected]

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