2006 Systemic Change Award - Eastern Province USA

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

Eastern Province, USA:

Inter-Faith Institute of Public Ministry

The overarching goal of this project is to develop a model of public ministry in the spirit of St. Vincent that addresses urgent community needs by empowering individuals to think and act creatively to help themselves and their communities.

The unjust structures that burden the poor manifest themselves in many ways, including access to higher education, access to medical care, entrance into labor markets, participation in the marketplace, and access to technology.

To begin to address some of these seemingly intractable issues, the Vincentian community at Niagara University, under confrere Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., proposes to develop an inter-faith institute of public ministry.

It is our contention that leaders in the faith community know how to effectively serve the poor. Therefore, by building their capacity to do so and by assisting them in pursuing available resources, we will better be able to promote and effect the sort of systemic change that is consistent with the aims of this award and that is sought by the Congregation of the Mission.

The message to protect and uplift the poor has to be carried by those who serve the poor. Yet, addressing the unjust structures experienced by the disenfranchised requires the strength of voice. As church communities weaken, so do their voices.

Our proposal seeks to empower religious leaders in a poor urban environment with the knowledge and understanding of ways to assist their churches. This proposal will increase the ability of the faith community to impact positively on the lives of the poor in our community and will develop a replicable model that may be used in other areas of the region, state, nation and world.

Brief history:

While businesses have closed, companies have relocated and those with means have migrated out of the city of (A reporters view of the plight of Niagara Falls), the faith community has remained as the beacon of light in most poor neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, the churches too have suffered from a decline in membership and available social and economic capital.

Nonetheless, the churches have continued steadfast, and the core of the faith-based community remains resolute in its commitment to helping the community and their congregations. To this day, the churches still provide the most direct means of touching the residents in these communities.

The overarching goal of this project is to develop a model of public ministry in the spirit of St. Vincent that addresses urgent community needs by empowering individuals to think and act creatively to help themselves and their communities.

The specific goals are:

  1. To build the capacity of the faith-based institutions serving the disenfranchised and poor areas in the city of Niagara Falls;
  2. To provide training and development opportunities for members of the local faith community;
  3. To provide a forum for the discussion and dissemination of issues and topics critical to serving the urban poor in our community.

To meet the above goals, the following objectives will be accomplished:

  1. Establish the Inter-Faith Institute of Public Ministry;
  2. Conduct a needs assessment of the faith-based community in Niagara Falls;
  3. Develop a board of community advisors from a broad cross-section of the inter-faith community in Niagara Falls, to include ministers, youth, lay pastoral agents and other leaders;
  4. Design an easy-to-read, well-organized and interactive web site;
  5. Host bi-monthly workshops at Niagara University for Church members of all ages on a variety of topics that include resource building such as grant writing, discussions about topics and issues that are plaguing poor communities;
  6. Design and host one moderated strategic planning session;
  7. Produce a series of pamphlets and brief publications.