Mercy Mondays

Become a Channel of God’s Mercy

By Maria Ralenkotter | Monday, February 22, 2016

Although I did not know it at the time, my struggle against injustice began the day my little sister entered school for the first time.  Julia, who is deaf and has other learning and motor disabilities, went in on the first day excited to learn, but left that same day crushed because she did not understand what was going on. My family learned later that the school had only hired one interpreter who had to be shared with another student for half of the day.

I remember my parents marching into the school’s office to confront the administration, demanding that they hire another sign language interpreter so my sister could learn. While we won that battle, this was only the beginning of many years of fighting for my sister’s right to a quality education. Oftentimes, my sister feels like the world is turning against her as her educational opportunities become increasingly limited. With budget cuts to special education programs and teaching staff and weak educational standards, the quality of education for thousands of kids with disabilities across Chicago becomes increasingly imperiled. Seeing how this lack of services has affected my sister over the years, I became passionate about working toward a world where everyone has an equal chance at the services and opportunities they need to succeed.

This is what led me to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, where we are working with community organizations to overcome systemic injustices so all Chicagoans have the opportunity to live in the fullest dignity God intended for all of us. Last semester, I visited Catholic elementary and high schools across the Chicagoland area to teach them about poverty and how we can use institutional change to hold our leaders accountable to ensure that our economic and political systems operate for the good of everyone. In an age where many of us feel powerless against all of the evils in the world, I have become passionate about teaching these students that they have responsibility and gifts to challenge unjust policies and practices to create positive change.

While it is easy to give up in the face of such a challenge, this is not what Jesus teaches us. In the Gospels, we see countless examples of Jesus prioritizing others, especially the poor and vulnerable. Through my relationship with Jesus, I aim to be a living example of the good that can come from working for a more just society. I, too, could have just given up when confronted by the challenges my sister faced. I could have ignored her struggles and focused on myself. However, this would mean that our school system would have continued unjust practices of cutting special education services at the expense of my sister and other students with disabilities. Nevertheless, by continuing to work for a just world and helping motivate others to do the same, we become closer to the Heaven on Earth God intends for us.

During Lent, we often focus our reflections and energies inward, giving up candy or swearing off television. However, I challenge you to focus these energies outward, so that, while we try to heal our own weaknesses for material things in our journey to become closer to Jesus, we also work to heal the world around us that does such damage in its unjust policies and practices. This Lent, become a channel of God’s mercy and an agent for positive change: reach out to your alderman or Congressman about an issue you are passionate about, help register voters for the upcoming elections, or volunteer with a CCHD grantee. Help us become one step closer to creating the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

Mercy Challenge

Become a channel of God’s mercy and an agent for positive change: reach out to your alderman or Congressman about an issue you are passionate about, help register voters for the upcoming elections, or volunteer with a CCHD grantee. Help us become one step closer to creating the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

Maria Ralenkotter is an intern for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.