Speakers discuss social justice
By MOLLY McVOY
The speakers at Wednesday's brown bag luncheon said that their education at Saint Mary's involved more than classrooms and textbooks.
As part of Social Justice Week at the College, M.J. Murray-Vachon, Class of 1982, Emily Hopkins, Class of 2000, and Ann Loux, an English professor, spoke on the issue of social justice and everyday life.
"Social justice, to me, is a search for truth and a search for the dignity in every individual," Hopkins said.
Hopkins hopes to go on to graduate school in social work, with a specialty in social justice. A passion to help those who cannot seem to help themselves drives her work at the Center for the Homeless.
"My only fear, and I guess my hope, is that I never lose that passion," Hopkins said.
She explained that the first component to living a socially conscious life is changing one's mentality. People must first force themselves to seriously think about social issues in a different way.
"This was my biggest challenge," Hopkins said. "It can be a challenge on this campus; it is somewhat homogeneous."
Exposure to the poor and involvement with them is also crucial to social justice. She explained that without immersing oneself in poor communities, feeling does not turn into action.
"Exposure is the key," she said. "It turns those thoughts into actions."
Murray-Vachon agreed that exposure to the issues is the best way to awaken consciousness. For her, social justice is an extension of the responsibility that comes with being Christian.
"Social justice is how we, as Christians, take our faith into action everyday," Murray-Vachon said.
After graduating from Saint Mary's, Murray-Vachon spent a year volunteering with Holy Cross Associates. This experience helped change her attitudes about the poor and other social problems.
"I learned that the world is so much bigger than my needs," Murray-Vachon said.
She explained that people have a choice between what she calls the good life and the abundant life. She described the good life as the American dream: a career, a house and a car. The abundant life is what Christians are called to live: a life focused on community and religion. Communal living, faith development, service to the poor and simple living are all components of the abundant life.
Murray-Vachon also worked with high risks families for six years as a therapist in the inner city of Chicago.
"It was so humbling and so directing," she said. "They had so little hope. It was very profound."
Loux was more concerned with race relations and how education can improve those relations. She grew up in Mississippi, and said her experiences of racism and hate will stay with her always. Although the racism of her childhood environment was more obvious than what she encounters now, she believes it is still prevalent.
All News Stories for Thursday, February 10, 2000