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Brown Bag Lunch discussion series to address community issues through the lens of Catholic Social Tradition

| Friday, October 1, 2021

The Center for Social Concerns will commence the Brown Bag Lunch discussion series Friday. The discussion series, which will take place in the Geddes Hall Coffee House on the first Friday of every month, consists of casual gatherings where participants discuss issues affecting the local community in the context of Catholic Social Tradition.

Bill Purcell, senior associate director for operations and director of the Catholic Social Tradition program, said the discussion series is a “low key” opportunity for students, faculty and staff to “gather and discuss current issues through the lens of [Catholic Social Tradition].”

Purcell said the discussion should lead attendees to ponder how they can contribute to the local community.

The Brown Bag Lunch series is part of the Center’s “Signs of the Times” initiative. The title “Signs of the Times” is derived from Vatican II, which asks Catholics to understand social issues by reading the Scripture and understanding Church tradition but also by learning through experience, Purcell said.

The Brown Bag Lunch series is “a way of bringing the community onto campus and hearing about community issues that we can address,” Purcell said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Center initiatives including ”Signs of the Times” struggled to engage with the South Bend community through virtual events. Purcell said community engagement is key for engaging the common good and that the Brown Bag Lunch series aims to “slowly but surely” reconnect the community with the campus.

“It’s about mutuality… how we build solidarity as well as the common good in a relationship,” Purcell said, referencing some of the core principles of Catholic Social Tradition.

The Center chooses focus topics that are important to the local community and present opportunities for students to get involved, putting to action principles of Catholic Social Tradition that students have learned in classes. Faculty and staff, who are also welcome at Brown Bag Lunch discussions, live in the local community and are affected more directly by these issues, Purcell said.

For the Brown Bag Lunch series this semester and in the future, the Center listens to community members about what they want to advocate for. The Center’s goal is to “do things with people, not just for people,” Purcell said. He added that working with the community is a more sustainable method of bringing about change.

The Center’s three goals for attendees are “awareness, education and action,” Purcell said. He hopes attendees gain a better of understanding of important subjects in South Bend and learn about ways to be involved with community agencies that work on solutions.

The first discussion will be held Friday from 12-1 p.m. in the Geddes Hall Coffee House. October’s topic is refugees because Catholic Charities might bring Afghan refugees to the Michiana area, Purcell said. The featured speaker will be John Pinter, executive director of the United Religious Community of St. Joseph County.

The discussion will reflect on the refugee issue in an intellectual, practical and spiritual manner, Purcell said. The Center is “trying to educate for action” through the Brown Bag Lunch series, he said.

Attendees should bring their own lunch, but beverages and desserts will be served. People can come and go if they are unable to stay the whole time, Purcell said.

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