A month into the Ramonat Seminar I am awed by our scholars’ enthusiasm and thoughtful contemplation of Dorothy Day’s life and philosophies. Ramonat scholars dove into Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness, and introduced themselves to each other and the internet by relating Day’s Catholic social teachings to contemporary Catholic activism in Chicago and globally. Readers of their blogs learned about the Poor Clares‘s cookies, the Sisters of Mercy who work for vulnerable immigrants in Chicago, and a variety of vital local fights for food justice, with traditional soup kitchens and also local access and sustainable food practices. Scholars saw how Chicago-based catholic activism is personal, spiritual, and political, like the Students for Worker Justice advocating for improved labor conditions for Loyola’s Aramark workers, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a group that a young Barack Obama worked alongside in his early career as a community organizer.
These themes of Catholic social teaching, local activism, and global networks persisted in our exploration of Dorothy Day’s Chicago. With a guest lecture by Dr. Elliott Gorn, a walking tour of the Back of the Yards by Chicago resident and scholar Dominic Pacyga, and a visit to iconic south side eatery Stanley’s, scholars imagined a 19th-century Chicago, examined the relationship between built space and social justice, and connected historical and ongoing segregation in Chicago.
Through readings on the Catholic Worker Movement and Appalachian Bishops’ Pastoral letters, this week we begin to explore the necessary marriage of social and environmental justice. Scholars noted that the Church’s stance on climate change is rooted in notions of global stewardship and a concern for the poor that echoes the 19th century debate on Darwinism and eugenics. This weekend, we’ll see this marriage of economic and environmental justice in action, as we visit the White Rose Farm and experience Maurin and Day’s Land Movement as it has evolved into the 21st century. We will continue to immerse ourselves in the deep history of Catholic social teachings and evolving notions of social justice, a history filled with such radical ideas that “it looks like new”.