I was sure I wasn’t to going to make it but I prayed anyway. When she told me my flight had been cancelled again, I groaned inwardly and sighed aloud. But let it be known, that the answer to our prayers is sometimes yes! The travel lady told me there was one flight yet that hadn’t been cancelled. Hours later and I was landing to the start of Blizzard 2016 and the most snow I’d ever seen in my California-valley life.

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) was an incredible conference, unbeatable by neither wind nor snow. Guest speakers unable to come due to flight cancellations skyped in and those organizing the event who were present adapted to the changes by providing extra or substitute workshops.

How uplifting to be among people who not only share the same faith values, but are also working toward the same ultimate goal: fulfilling the Mission of the Church.

There were tables throughout the East Wing of the Omni Shoreham Hotel featuring various groups’ information, such as Water with Blessings, or fair trade goods, such as those provided by Catholic Relief Services.

Speakers talked about the stories of those they’ve worked with, the people they’ve helped and how hope was brought to those who had none. In a society that constantly promotes bad news, sad stories, and incredible tragedies, hearing good news, joyous stories, and amazing gains was uplifting for the spirit and mind.

At CSMG, we learned about the challenges others faced in their respective areas of work, and we let others know what we faced in ours. USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development provided fantastic resources on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship and how to not just pray and reach out and learn together, but also how to act together. We Are Salt & Light also provided our Environmental Justice Project (www.ejstockton.org) an opportunity to relate how we have been spreading Laudato Si’ to the parishes in our Diocese. Catholic Rural Life allowed EJP director Katelyn Roedner Sutter to share successful examples of our program during their pre-gathering luncheon as well shared their insight on Laudato Si’ and how this encyclical is connected to agriculture.

Also importantly, CSMG allowed USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA to provide resources on advocacy, in which we planned to visit Capitol Hill on the last day of the conference, to ask of our congressmen and senators their support on three major issues: criminal justice, the Green Climate Fund, and refugees. Unfortunately, due to the weather causing the closure of government and federal offices, most were unable to visit the Hill, but CSMG organizers provided additional workshops in place of the visits. Thankfully, those from California, myself included, were able to meet with Senator Feinstein’s representatives to discuss these issues, in which we received assurance of her support (a miracle!).

I cannot overstate how glad I was to be able to attend this conference. The ideas, the encouragement, and the refreshing of motivation, is something we all need from time to time, so that we don’t forget what it is we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and who we’re working with, because ultimately, we’re not alone in this mission.

As Pope Francis says in his encyclical, “We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.” (LS 212).

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