Here I Am, Send Me

My life reveals that the relationship between faith and justice is fluid, fragile and unbalanced while simultaneously strong and beautiful. Although I have been involved in social justice work for several years, it wasn’t until very recently that I was able to make the connection between my innate call to justice and my questionable faith. Moreover, the relationship between justice and faith has been increasingly apparent in all facets of my life (academics, personally, in my job). My thesis research brought me to Mexico where I discovered that the Church is one of the only actors providing much-needed humanitarian aid to Central American refugees and asylum-seekers stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border. My father, a self-identified Catholic who is full of faith but can’t recall the last time he attended mass, recently took up volunteer work with the Diocese of Oakland as a result of his newly found free time in retirement. And lastly, I surprisingly found myself in a new job as a research assistant at the University of San Francisco to aid a professor in her research surrounding churches practice of sanctuary in the San Francisco Bay Area in the effort to present the practice of sanctuary as a way for churches to express who they are or announce who they are becoming. Eventually, it was abundantly clear: the fruitful and extraordinary relationship between faith and justice is manifest in my life and the life of others around me.

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Consider Isaiah, standing in the presence of the Lord. There Isaiah was, just a simple, ordinary man surrounded by divinity. Yet, when the Lord called out for a willing heart, Isaiah did not hesitate. He knew he was the most qualified for the job. Throughout my life, I have oftentimes felt like Isaiah. I hope the Catholic Church continues to embrace and reflect the essence of Isaiah’s message today and in the years to come.

-Melissa Balliet

An Invitation to Inspiration

“Make heaven crowded” is a little Pinterest inspiration that I saw online and it got me thinking – am I living my life in a way that promotes dignity and puts me in solidarity with all people? It felt really easy to get involved when I was a student at USF because it seemed like the right thing to do as a member of the St. Ignatius Institute. I graduated in December 2019, and it’s been a process to realize that my faith life is something personal that I am completely in charge of. There aren’t necessarily going to be activities that are going to hold my hand. To my surprise, there was when I got an invitation to talk to women my age and religious women who were living out the mission of social justice and were interested in talking about that call for justice and the women’s role in the Catholic church. These were topics that I had spent some time reflecting on but not nearly enough I realized after gaining so much insight on other people’s ideas and opinions. 

I brought up a question – how do you approach people who think it’s contradictory to be a woman and a Catholic? I was kind of initially confused by the first response. The religious sister talked about how women have played such a key role in providing relief through their social justice movements. It wasn’t really answering my question but follow up responses made me realize that I was ignoring the massive role that religious women and lay women have also played in the Catholic Church. These women, through their actions, were sending a message of hope to the world. Although sometimes it feels like women are unjustly held back in the church, I have found comfort in hearing about and also personally participating in acts of service. Justice can’t happen without faith. This is because without faith you don’t have hope that things are going to change and without said hope, you will burn out. After this dialogue, I felt deeply called to participate in Catholic ministries that serve the poor because it reminded me of the joy of service that I had experienced in my undergraduate years. The connector between faith and justice is hope – “Dwell in hope.” -Psalm 16:9. I encourage you to pray and discern where God may be calling you to a mission of hope through acts of social justice.

-Mariah O’Grady