Faith-Justice Institute Teaches Relationship Building, Reciprocity
Peter Brady, S.J., was at the epicenter of the seismic events leading to the 1977 founding of the Faith-Justice Institute (FJI) at Saint Joseph’s University. Amid the decade’s crucible of political, economic and cultural shifts, the Society of Jesus declared in 1975 its overriding purpose, “the service of faith,” must also include “the promotion of justice,” particularly in higher education.
In 1976, Fr. Brady heard Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, preach “we have the right and duty to demand true freedom for men and for peoples” at the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia.
Fr. Brady combined that message with the Jesuit mandate to become FJI’s founding director. Nearly 40 years later, Fr. Brady’s creation remains beholden to its original mission.
“We serve as a focal point for critical analysis and thought in considering active responses to inequality and injustice in the world,” said FJI Director Virginia Goulding Johnson, Ph.D. Through the now-20-year-old service-learning experiences at nearly 50 city schools and community nonprofits and coursework, students transform into men and women who contribute to more just communities and focus on relationship building and reciprocity.
In 2014, the FJI service learning program benefitted from the generosity of Joseph Klein, Esq. ’67. Klein, who passed away in 2013, honored his parents by establishing the Joseph William and Madeline Eberle Klein Fund through a bequest. The fund will be used to support educational events and activities which foster greater inclusion in the SJU community.
“Service learning opens the door to consider other perspectives,” said Associate Professor of Sociology and FJI Advisory Board Chair Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Ph.D. “The stories they encounter are so compelling – a mom feeding kids on little money, the executive who lost it all and is now homeless.”
Students develop kinships with the individuals at the community partner organizations and begin to comprehend systemic injustices. The relationships are a two-way street, where both parties give and receive. Empathy, not sympathy, is the key word.
FJI students reflect on their service in the classroom as another book for understanding their coursework.
As Greg Boyle, S.J., aptly puts it, “service is the hallway that leads to the ballroom … of kinship.”
Some students continue volunteering at their community partner site. Others enter post-graduate volunteer work, non-profit advocacy and community organizing.
“It’s really a lifelong connection to community our students make for others and themselves,” said Johnson.