Justice and Outreach Year of Formation equips missionary disciples to put faith into action.
Supported by your gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, the diocesan Justice & Outreach Year (JOY) formation program links Catholic Social Teaching with the real-life challenges experienced by people living on the margins.
During 10 monthly weekend sessions led by coordinator Kate O’Gorman, JOY participants explore human dignity and justice issues related to such areas as international development, poverty, economic injustice, walking with Indigenous and Métis people, refugees, health and elder care, hunger and food, restorative justice, youth and family.
By visiting local service agencies and spending time with the people they serve, JOY participants broaden their understanding of the challenges in all these areas, and how the issues relate to Christian faith. They also grow in practical skills to engage in service and outreach. JOY graduates say the fruit of the program is transformation.
As a JOY participant, Paul Wheeler of St. Augustine Parish in Saskatoon was pushed out of his comfort zone — first by committing to serve as a volunteer hospital visitor, and then through encounters at Saskatoon Correctional Centre, where he witnessed the outreach provided by diocesan coordinator of Restorative Ministry Dianne Anderson and her team of volunteers. Wheeler was also profoundly affected by seeing the overcrowding and the lack of programming or training for men in prison.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to help these young men come out in society with a chance of not reoffending and not going back to prison,” he observes.
Inspired by the JOY program’s call to put faith into action, Wheeler drew upon his own experience and role as an instructor in the Culinary Arts program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic to propose the creation of a new training program for men leaving prison, enabling them to learn basic food preparation skills, earn a certificate, and have some tangible skills to put on a resume. Sask Polytechnic, the John Howard Society and the provincial Corrections department have responded positively to the idea, and the program is now being developed, and it is expected to be in place within a year.
“The JOY program has been instrumental in showing me that when you see an issue where people are suffering or people are experiencing injustice or anything, our call is to jump in there. It might not be comfortable at first, but there are little things that we can do,” says Wheeler.
“JOY, for me, has been a way to follow what Jesus has been telling us all along – you have got to get out there and get involved, show mercy, show compassion, help people who are on the periphery of society: the sick, the aged, those in prison.”- Paul Wheeler, JOY graduate
JOY graduates Jason and Rachelle Brockman of St. Philip Neri Parish describe JOY as an incredible experience — or in the words of Jason: “Humble Me 101.” Jason adds: “After the JOY program, three words resonate for me as far as faith in action: sympathy, empathy and compassion.” Rachelle points out: “Not only did we need our faith in this journey, it absolutely confirmed our faith, knowing that Christ walked on this earth and saw what we saw, probably times a thousand… He didn’t give up on us. He didn’t just sit back and say ‘it is too much, I can’t do it, I can’t do anything’. He stepped out.”