Stories inspire hope for church's future

(Barrie Maguire)

Edited by Lacey Louwagie and Kate Ward
Published by ACTA Publications, $9.95

Hungering and Thirsting for Justice: Real-Life Stories by Young Adult Catholics collects 10 short memoirs from Catholics in their 20s and 30s, sharing their experiences of and their yearnings for justice. Editors Kate Ward and Lacey Louwagie explain that these 10 contributors were not provided with instructions or guidelines for writing their vignettes, yet one quickly finds common threads woven throughout each of these unique stories.

The contributors "are ten dialogue partners on the search for justice ... [who] strive to find their place within a church and in a world that does not always hear the voices of those who cry for justice." These authors invite us to be a part of their communities, and to hunger and thirst with them, in community, as they work to co-create the kin-dom of God here on earth. The writers are not vowed men and women religious, nor are they official church missionaries, ministers or evangelists. They are members of the faithful who are creating sacred space in their communities and living out the Gospel with their actions.

One of the book's greatest strengths is the contributors' variety of perspectives. They hail from various parts of the United States and diverse cultural backgrounds. Their passions and professions are very different, and their search for justice covers a wide range of causes.

Some of the writers are raising families, working on doctoral studies or volunteering abroad. All of the contributors are living out their vocations as Catholics, whether as teachers, students, chaplains, community organizers, reporters, parents, midwives or advocates. They are "ordinary" Catholics doing extraordinary work because they have been touched by an injustice in their communities that has left them inspired and called to witness the Gospel in new ways. Whether it was by seeing discrimination against a loved one because of an illness, or accompanying a pregnant woman to a clinic in the midst of protesters, all of the contributors named the powerful moment in their journeys when they were moved to act with love and were forever changed.

A deep faith in Jesus and a sense of community, love, solidarity and prayer are apparent in each vignette. Each author exhibits bravery in taking the risk to reveal a powerful story of her or his own journey. They are incredible witnesses of what it means to be human beings and Christians with vulnerabilities, struggles and questions about their own faith and their beliefs. Each story reads like a prayer.

Hope is also embedded in these pages. The future of our church will be carried on by men and women like these Catholics who are living for others, craving justice, and forming communities as members of a living church in both new and traditional ways. They are practitioners of radical love. Each one of these writers has demonstrated that all Christians are called to yearn for justice. Their experiences suggest that even our stumbling blocks and our increasing awareness of injustice will ultimately lead us into communion with one another.

With each vignette, I felt close to the God of justice, the God who stands in solidarity with us as we struggle, suffer and face injustice, the God who resurrects us. As I was welcomed into the lives of each of the 10 contributors, I felt as though I had befriended each of the writers and was welcomed into their communities. Many of the stories had sections that resonated with the lives of my peers, contemporaries, colleagues and friends, all hungering and thirsting for justice in their own ways. This collection reveals the need for young Catholics who work for justice to come together for dialogue, and to support one another as co-creators in the same vineyard. A presentation of a collective conversation among these 10 contributors would have further strengthened the book.

This collection is intended to inspire us to hunger and thirst for justice in our own lives, our own church and our own communities. We are all invited to share our stories with one another. It's not unlike the Gospel, which is a collection of stories and a big invitation to come and follow Jesus. Ultimately, each writer, in her or his own way, asks, "Are you ready?"

[Jocelyn E. Collen received a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. She is a campus minister for social justice and international immersion trips/pilgrimages at Fairfield University.]

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