‘Put yourself where the poor are,’ urges speaker

CAMDEN — “You must put yourself where the poor are.”

With these words, Jack Jezreel called for the packed crowd at Rutgers University-Camden here on March 22 to “do something heroic … and encounter the sacred.”

Jezreel was the keynote speaker for the 13th annual Romero Lecture, “Justice or Just Us?” held from 3-9 p.m. at the Rutgers Camden campus. The founder and president of JustFaith Ministries, a conversion-based justice formation program that has been brought to 120 dioceses across the country, Jezreel followed a day of workshops focused on helping participants live justice in their lives, work, and in their world, consistent with Catholic social teaching.

The lecture was sponsored by the Romero Center, a ministry of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral Parish in East Ca,den. The Romero Center provides Catholic education and retreat experiences and is named for Archbishop Oscar Romero, a champion of the poor in El Salvador who was killed by an assassin’s bullet 33 years ago.

Jezreel urged those gathered to act like Jesus’ disciples, “and put yourself where the poor are. We can lose our lives, or keep them.”

If we do this, he said, society is changed. “When our lives are occupied with doing good, there is little time for violence,” he said.

Romero Center awards were given out to various recipients:

— Good Seed, Good Soil, to Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, Md., a school that has participated in the Romero Center’s Urban Challenge experience, and has taken what they learned back to their home community.

— Community Partnership, to Generations Plus for providing Urban Challenge participants with meaningful educational experiences.

— Social Justice Education, to Kristen Prinn and Youth of L.U.C.Y. Outreach, which regularly provides social justice educational experiences to students and adults in their community.

— Mustard Seed, to Colleen Gibson, who exemplifies the mission of Romero Center Ministries through her dedication, love, and commitment to the Gospel.

Jezreel “asked some challenging questions that are at the heart of our Catholic commitment to justice,” said Genevieve Jordan Laskey, executive director of Romero Center Ministries.

“Are we in relationship with those marginalized by society? Do we live simply? Do we practice nonviolence, both in the way we relate to other people and in the way we relate to other nations? Are we willing to risk something — maybe even our lives — for the Gospel message?”

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