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Catholic Social Thought is Theme of Fall 2004 Convocation

Speakers at the Mount’s All-College Convocation on Thursday, August 26, 2004, discussed the influence of Catholic social thought worldwide on issues such as the economy, health care and affordable housing, and faculty learned about new opportunities to involve students in community change.

President Jacqueline Powers Doud began the day by highlighting the Mount’s longevity in the community as a vibrant Catholic institution. The College has stayed relevant over the past 15 years as numerous other colleges with a primary enrollment of women faded away, Doud told faculty and staff gathered in the Doheny Campus Lecture Hall.

President Doud attributed the College’s survival to enhanced revenue and enrollment stemming from the introduction of popular programs during the 1990s including Weekend College, which allows adult professionals to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees on weekends.

“We embraced improved and expanded services and strategies for admitting traditional students as well as adult students, resulting in the remarkable doubling of the College’s enrollment,” she said. In 1990, the College counted 1,179 students. In 2003, enrollment soared to 2,127 students.

The Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J., a social values professor at Loyola Marymount University, called social Catholicism a distinguished tradition of bringing about change in government policy that does not fit easily into political categories. Human rights and lifting people into better life circumstances form the core of Catholic social thought, he said.

“Social Catholicism is rooted in a strong understanding of the common good, rooted in the flourishing of individuals,” Coleman said. “Human dignity does not exist if you don’t have adequate food and housing.”

Coleman said Catholic institutions such as the Mount must help communities organize to identify solutions to important issues including violence, poverty, and unemployment.

Tom Chabolla, associate director for programs at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in Washington, D.C., said the campaign teams up with colleges and universities to create stronger neighborhoods.

“The church has a responsibility to be in the world protecting human dignity,” said Chabolla. His project funds community groups nationwide working on immigration rights, finding decent paying jobs for low-income residents, and turning residents into leaders in their neighborhoods.

Three panelists from Los Angeles community groups joined the discussion, offering opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience by helping residents throughout the region.

Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles, described substandard living conditions for many of the residents her center helps. She said Filipinos who were doctors, nurses and lawyers in the Philippines have a hard time translating their skills in the U.S., and often live in “curtain shanties,” one-bedroom apartments divided into separate living quarters for 10 people or more.

Consuelo Valdez, program director at Proyecto Pastoral at Dolores Mission in Los Angeles, said she wants to bring in Mount students to support programs fighting gang violence in Boyle Heights. Lizette Hernández, coordinator of the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Justice, invited Mount students to work as interns on projects including identifying slumlords, tracking evictions of residents, and preserving USC University Village as a resource for the community.

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