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Comfort and Joy: Finding Joy in Social Justice


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Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, Programs Associate Katie Rotterman shares the joy she has found through attending Mass at a parish community that deeply resonates with her.

I fell in love with the parish community at the Shrine of Sacred Heart in Washington, DC on March 21, 2015 – ten days after Pope Francis had announced that Oscar Romero would be beatified that coming May and in the midst of celebrations at Sacred Heart following this announcement.

A procession before the Spanish Mass was held on March 21, walking through the streets of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood singing songs, shouting “Vive Romero!”, and talking with others who were just as excited. The procession started late, was a little disorganized, and captured everything I’ve learned to seek and love in a parish community. It was real and enthusiastic, inspired by our Catholic faith and the call issued to make the kingdom of God here on earth.

A procession for the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe earlier this month

A procession for the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe earlier this month

My experience of Church and of God at Sacred Heart fills me with joy each Sunday, in contrast to times in my life when I have only found discomfort settled deep in my heart.

The time in college when someone in one of my classes spoke up advocating for drug testing for all people experiencing poverty and homelessness before they could receive any kind of support. When I see posts on Facebook and Pinterest advocating to keep out Syrian refugees, or when another member of my Catholic community comes out in support of the death penalty, that sense of discomfort becomes more real and settles a little deeper in my heart.

Then I go to Mass on Sunday, and per usual, something special has been added. A few weeks ago, to invite parishioners to attend breakfast with Santa, Santa appeared at the end of Mass, venerated the altar, and processed out of the Church. And as everyone laughed in surprise at Santa’s presence at 10am Mass, that discomfort was lessened. When the only person clapping during the closing song is the priest, I am comforted. When we installed a painting of Blessed Oscar Romero in the church this fall, I was filled with joy.

Newly installed portrait of Blessed Oscar Romero at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart.

Newly installed portrait of Blessed Oscar Romero at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart

No single element of this parish explains my love, because it is in every element. It is the chance to be a part of a parish community that so effortlessly blends faith and works as equally valuable pillars of the community that brings me comfort and joy. Each Sunday I am reminded that I am part of a Church that asks us to have faith and act in our world because of it. And each Sunday when I leave Mass, I can’t stop smiling because Christ is present in all of it, holding me close in comfort and asking me to go out in joy to proclaim the Good News.

Question for reflection: What draws you to a community? Where or with whom do you feel most comfortable? 

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Katie served as the programs associate from fall 2014 to spring 2016. From the Buffalo, New York area, Katie graduated in 2013 from the University of Scranton where she majored in Theology and Women’s Studies. Prior to joining the FMS team she served for a year with Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries where she helped organize and lead retreats for different Catholic groups. Currently she works for the USCCB in the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.