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I am preparing this 2007 Labor Day article with some uncertainty about the possibility of an article on this Labor Guild ministry in an upcoming issue of America Magazine. I am uncertain of its exact content, but I imagine it will have its share of words of praise for the programs and the dedication that have kept this labor justice center alive. A normal reaction might be to give ourselves a pat on the back and sit back in an easy chair.
I suggest, the reaction should be far different -- in fact, quite the opposite! Since this is a reasonably easy ministry, without immense costs and utilizing interested and capable volunteers -- Why aren’t there similar organizations in every diocese in the nation?
The starting point or the basis for this reaction is twofold: an honest look at the current data on the performance of the economy and an honest look at the core values of our Christian faith. Looking first at the economy -- how would you rate its performance in regard to the average American? Good? So-so? Poor? How do you assess the evidence of the steady growth of the loss of decent well-paying jobs across the nation? The growing job insecurity among all levels of business? The massive unemployment among our young people, so vulnerable to escape into drugs and alcohol? The soaring costs of health care? The lack of affordable housing? One could go on and on. I presume your answer will be, “terrible.”
Now we look at the values of the message of Christ. His special attention to the poor and ordinary, the attention to those without shelter or clothing. The need to be a participating member of the community and a sense of belonging, etc. The ultimate sacredness of each and every individual person.
The question rings loud and clear. How can we as a Judeo-Christian country focus almost exclusively on the profits of Wall Street; the multi-billion dollar salaries of so many people (while their colleagues are raising families while earning $10, $12 or $14 dollars an hour, often required to work at least two jobs); the massive profits of our military/industrial complex, the construction of huge, expensive high rise condominiums in our central cities?
Where is the cry of outrage? Where is the push to establish organizations similar to Labor Guilds in every Catholic diocese of the nation and comparable institutions in all the other Protestant and Jewish congregations and synagogues?
In closing, my prayer is that this tough language will not offend but will stir the spirit of compassion, mercy and justice that the Lord has planted in all of us, and that we will see several new initiatives in this sphere of workplace justice and dignity launched throughout the country, and that you will find that the U.S. Bishops Labor Day Statement referenced elsewhere in this issue and available in full on The Pilot’s Web site may guide and sustain this fresh call of Christ.
Father Edward Boyle is executive secretary and chaplain of The Labor Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston.