Today, I’m pleased to share a very special interview with Jill Raun of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. I know you’ll love their new “Two Feet” initiative!
Q: Jill, thank you on behalf of our readers for the wonderful work you are doing with the USCBB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. Please briefly introduce yourself and the department to our readers.
Thanks for the invitation, Lisa. I serve as Assistant Director of Education and Outreach for the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD). JPHD is the office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops tasked with helping Catholics live out the Gospel call to love God and neighbor. We provide opportunities for disciples to put faith in action through prayer, learning about Catholic social teaching, advocacy on issues that affect our brothers and sisters at home and around the world, and the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to help low-income people in the U.S. address community problems.
Q: I love the philosophy behind your new “Two Feet” initiative. Please explain this program and how it can be a blessing for parishes, schools and our families.
Pope Francis tells us that we are called to be “a Church which goes forth” and to have faith that is “lived out.” He is echoing Jesus, who calls us to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Mt. 5:13-16). Families, parishes, and schools all play a role in helping children understand how they are called to be disciples who “go forth,” putting God’s love in action. For example, we can help children learn about a difficult situation in our local community or world and how it impacts our friends and neighbors at home or abroad. We can pray together about the situation, and ask for God’s help in knowing how to address it. Then we can help through both short-term and long-term solutions. For many years, the U.S. Catholic bishops have used the “two feet” model to illustrate two distinct, but complementary, ways that disciples can put love in action: charitable works and social justice.
Q: What are the “Two Feet”?
Our rich Catholic tradition has long identified two basic ways that we can love others in need, in response to God’s love for us. We call these “The Two Feet of Love in Action.” The first “foot” is charitable works. Charitable works address the short-term, immediate needs of individuals or families. The second “foot” is social justice. Social justice involves working to eliminate the root causes of problems that affect many people. Here is an example of walking with “two feet.” Children concerned about hunger help make meals for a soup kitchen (charitable works). Then they learn about some of the causes of hunger and homelessness and get involved in efforts to address those causes—for example, by asking their lawmakers to put laws in place so that more people can have access to affordable housing and jobs with decent wages (social justice).
Q: Congratulations on your partnership with Loyola Press and the beautiful new books you have created together for our children. Please tell us first about “Green Street Park”. Also, what are some of the resources that are available for teachers and families to use in conjunction with this book to underscore its message?
Green Street Park is a story about how Philip, his family, and friends are inspired by the example of St. Francis of Assisi to care for God’s creation in their own neighborhood. Philip loves his neighborhood, but the local park, Green Street Park, is in need of improvement. Philip learns about how St. Francis of Assisi loved God’s world and cared for it. His teacher, Sr. Mary Clare, challenges Philip and his friends to act as St Francis would. With help from their parents, the children engage the mayor and the entire community in fixing their park. At www.loyolapress.com/twofeet, there are worksheets (called “blackline masters”) for grades K-2 to accompany Green Street Park. The worksheets include age-appropriate activities, discussion questions, and ideas to help children put faith in action in their own local communities.
In Drop by Drop, Sr. Mary Jerome’s classroom receives a visit from her nephew, Mr. Mike, who works for Catholic Relief Services in the West African country of Burkina Faso. He invites the students to “journey” with him across the world to learn about how lack of water affects a girl name Sylvie and her family. The children learn how Sylvie and her sisters are unable to attend school because it takes several hours each day to collect water for their family’s needs. Sylvie’s community becomes involved in a special Water Project, which solves the problem and allows Sylvie to finally go to school. The class of students in the U.S. decides to get involved in helping other communities like Sylvie’s have access to water. This book aims to foster awareness and reflection for children in the U.S. as they learn how lack of access to water affects children their age around the world. The book also celebrates the work and witness of the Church through Catholic Relief Services, describes actual solutions being implemented, and gives an example of how children in the U.S. can be involved in those solutions. This book is accompanied by worksheets for grades 2-4, available at www.loyolapress.com/twofeet.
Q: For families who want to truly teach their children about Social Justice and Charitable Works, what’s the best way to get started?
Parents can read the books with their children, and then go deeper. Both books include discussion questions at the end that parents and teachers can use to help children consider how God might be calling them to put his love in action in their local community or in the world. Families can also use the supplemental materials that are available at www.LoyolaPress.com/twofeet. My favorite are the “Pray Me a Story” reflection guides that go with each book. These guides lead children (and adults) to pray with the books. Children use their imaginations to think about the places and people in the stories, and then they imagine encountering Jesus, talking with him about the story, and listening to what he may want to share with them. This is a beautiful way to help the children reflect on the stories and consider how they might be called to respond.
Q: How can readers learn more about Two Feet and get involved?
Visit the USCCB webpage, www.usccb.org/twofeet, for materials on the Two Feet of Love in Action for both children and adults, including a session for teens and a session for adults. Both are geared towards helping faith communities respond to Jesus’ call to discipleship by identifying and addressing issues that impact our local and global communities.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
Since care for God’s creation is a theme in both books, USCCB will be holding a social media contest during the week of Earth Day, April 20-24, 2015. We’ll be giving away some free copies of the books to participants, and featuring videos by Bishop Jaime Soto, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. Visit USCCB’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages on April 20 for more details. We’d love for your readers to join us!
We also hope that when Pope Francis releases his encyclical on environmental stewardship this summer, these books will be a valuable resource to help children reflect in an age-appropriate way on the themes he introduces.
Finally, in early May, the USCCB will be launching a new website, WeAreSaltAndLight.org, that will include stories from around the U.S. about how communities of faith are putting love in action as Jesus’ disciples. Those who want to walk with two feet can visit the site for ideas, resources, and more.