The Catholic Church has a lot to say about social issues, yet much of what it says remains a well-kept secret often obscured by more sensational news. With an eye toward making social justice teaching not only more widely known but more widely practiced, the San Gabriel Pastoral Region’s committee on Social Justice presented a day-long session on the subject Sept. 7 at Holy Family in South Pasadena. It was a day not only to listen to presenters — whose stories touched the heart and the conscience — but to fellow attendees, and the table conversations were lively. Appropriately, Cambria Smith, Holy Family Parish Life Director, asked everyone to leave their political loyalties aside as the day progressed. She reminded all present that Catholics have much to be proud of in their charitable and social justice efforts. And she explained the importance of volunteering at homeless shelters, tutoring children and donating food to food banks, working to beautify the community, and raising money for overseas projects as these good works help people meet their basic needs. She also explained the pressing need to address the causes of hunger and homelessness, support laws that protect the environment and improve our educational systems.As the day progressed, the key principles of Catholic social teaching were highlighted by featured speakers, simply and clearly, and without political spin. Among those principles: Human life is sacred from beginning to end; the poor and the marginalized deserve care; human rights of life, food, shelter, clothing, employment, education and health care are the responsibility of everyone, as well as the right to a living wage, the promotion of peace and care for the environment. Relevant Church documents were suggested as reading material.Jesuit Father Scott Santarosa, pastor of Dolores Mission, spoke on the importance of comprehensive immigration reform and told of 13 people who walked from Sacramento to Bakersfield in crushing heat earlier this month in hopes of meeting with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, majority whip of the House of Representatives. The 13 were met in Bakersfield by nine busloads of people from Dolores Mission. Rep. McCarthy did not attend the meeting, but according to Father Santarosa he signaled perhaps talking in the future, which gave hope to those working for comprehensive immigration reform. It emphasized the impact of people joining together in support of common goals and positive societal change. Also on the program:—Tony Fadale, a national representative of Just Faith, a program that invites individuals into a course of study designed to raise awareness of the possibility of social change in parishes and communities, explained their newest endeavor, Good News, created to move parishes as a whole to action in their local communities. —Father Chris Ponnet, pastor of St. Camillus Pastoral Care Center, spoke on his longtime work with PAX Christi, an affiliation of communities that meet on a regular basis to pray, study and act for peace and justice. His words were particularly relevant given the present situation with Syria.—The Fair Trade movement was explained by Joan Harper, long-time activist, organizer and volunteer on behalf of people who are poor and in need, who offered samples of Fair Trade chocolate and encouraged attendees to consider Fair Trade goods when shopping. She suggested the expansion of fair trade sales through local parishes as ways to support economic justice for those who live in distant lands.When I first heard of this day-long conference, I was excited. Then, as often happens there were all sorts of reasons not to make the drive from Camarillo to South Pasadena on a Saturday morning. Thank heavens the routine chores of the day did not win out. The speakers and those gathered — who were challenged to return to their parishes and share what they had learned — offered hope for the future and a renewed resolution to pursue social justice issues at the parish level. Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community. Her e-mail address is [email protected].{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0920/famtime/{/gallery}