Exploring equity and social justice – Adelante Mujeres hosts immersion experiences for JustFaith groups

Look at the values statements on the websites of Adelante Mujeres and the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, and you will see very similar language – family, community, dignity and stewardship are just a few of common themes between the two.

This is not surprising, as both Adelante Mujeres’ organizational history and many of our participating families are closely tied to the Catholic faith.

And, for many years we have counted on the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development for grant funding to run a number of our programs.

Recently we formed a new type of partnership with the local Archdiocese – a partnership based in cultural immersion and community service. We have formed this partnership with a few local parishes participating in the “Just Faith” Program.

Just Faith takes groups of 10-15 people on a 30-week tour of social justice issues. They commit to meeting each week to discuss various topics around community development and social justice, led by a volunteer from their parish who helps frame the conversation topics in the context of their faith. Groups enhance their learning with biblical readings and additional books and videos. They also complete a handful of “Immersion Experiences”, donating their time to organizations with missions related to the themes they have learned about.

Adelante Mujeres hosted our first Just Faith immersion event last October, when members of St. Anthony Church in Forest Grove came to a volunteer work day at La Esperanza Farm. The goal of the day was to tie the Just Faith group’s learning to the personal experiences of Adelante Mujeres participants. The Just Faith members—along with many other community volunteers—pitched in to ready the farm for winter. It was truly a day of justice in action, giving the Just Faith members a chance to work side-by-side with Adelante Mujeres farmers; and giving the farmers the extra help needed to do what would have taken them a month to do on their own.

In February we hosted another Just Faith group, this time from St. Juan Diego in Portland. We decided to do a new kind of activity with this group: a community tour of a few agencies working with Latino families in Washington County. We began our day looking at the big picture, discussing the background and histories of Latino families in Washington County and the broad-level policy issues that affect them today. Then we toured the Adelante Mujeres facilities and continued on to Centro Cultural in Cornelius and Bienestar in Hillsboro to learn about the programs and services at those organizations.

To break up the heavy discussion of the day, the group completed two service projects: preparing materials for the Early Childhood Education class at Adelante, and making tissue paper flowers for Bienestar's upcoming 30th-anniversary celebration. The group delighted in the interactive arts-and-crafts!

Hosting these Just Faith groups and has reinforced our philosophy that our efforts to build community are strongest when they involve people from all walks of life. As one Just Faith visitor, Ken David, put it:

We keep learning that what we have in common always transcends our difference in belief, culture or background.

We look forward to hosting another Just Faith group on Saturday, April 28th – and to any of your requests to put together a similar experience for your family, church group, or civic/professional association!