San Francisco’s Bishop McElroy on “A Church for the Poor” | Benedictine College

San Francisco’s Bishop McElroy on “A Church for the Poor”

Keynote Speaker for Benedictine College Social Justice Week

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The annual Social Justice Week at Benedictine College drew attention to important social issues, offering a platform for student groups like the Benedictine College Hunger Coalition, the Sociology Club, Ravens Respect Life and the Knights of Columbus.

This year, the week featured a special keynote address from Bishop Robert W. McElroy, the auxiliary bishop of San Francisco who will soon take over as the Bishop of San Diego. He spoke about “A Church for the Poor” to a packed house in the O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium on the college campus in Atchison, Kan., on March 16.

Dr. Richard Coronado, chair of the Department of Economics at Benedictine College and faculty sponsor of the school’s Hunger Coalition, invited McElroy to campus and convened a faculty panel to discuss the bishop’s remarks the day after his address. Other events included a presentation on human trafficking by Kristy Childs, and a talk by Gianna Jessen, who survived an abortion attempt.

In his keynote, Bishop McElroy echoed Pope Francis’ call to serve the poor.

“It is hard to be compassionate. It is costly to be compassionate. It is painful to be compassionate,” he said. “But if we give up on that effort to truly have that empathy for the suffering of others, then we have lost one of the most crucial battles in our discipleship.”

He said that we need to do more, both individually and as one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, to help those in need. He stated that it was an illusion that the United States was spending a large part of its budget on foreign aid. He said the reality was that as a country only .2% of the GNP went to foreign aid (outside of military aid), so it is actually a very small part of the budget.

Bishop McElroy earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University, a master’s degree in history from Stanford University, a doctorate in political science from Stanford, and a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood April 12, 1980, and became vicar general for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1995. He was pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo for 14 years prior to his appointment as auxiliary bishop. He was recently appointed to be bishop of San Diego, a position he will take over in April 2015.

The faculty panel recommended living Pope Francis’ call to service to the poor by being personally committed to Jesus Christ, then to building up the family, then to building small communities which radiate that love in service to others.

Theology professor Dr. Jamie Blosser spoke of the necessity of keeping the person of Jesus Christ at the center of concerns for the poor. He described the way the early Church shared its goods.

Philosophy professor Dr. James Madden spoke about how, for Aristotle, the common good was based on friendship and love, and described the need to build small community “buffers” against the encroachment of an aggressive market and an overweening state.

Coronado summed up their recommendations in the person of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

“All Catholic social teaching begins with personal spirituality,” he said.

Childs, a former prostitute who founded the non-profit Veronica’s Voice in 2000 in order to help others break free from a life of prostitution, spoke about "Prostitution and Trafficking: Understanding the Dynamics of Oppression."

"I’ll never forget the dark pit God reached into and pulled me out of,” says Childs. “Even after I was out, my heart was pained for my sisters that were still lost, trapped, tricked, or caught-up in ‘the life.’ So I started Veronica’s Voice to be a light for these wonderful women still surviving in the darkness."

The presentation by Jessen had to be cancelled due to illness.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.