by, Jilleen Barrett, Asst. A&E Editor
The Lasallian Colleges and Universities in Association for Justice (LCUAJ) is bringing Lasallians at the collegiate level together to advocate for social justice. Manhattan College is one of the participating colleges, thanks to the work of Conor Reidy, the campus minister in the Campus Ministry and Social Action suite.
Reidy would normally be bringing students to Washington, D.C. around this time of year for The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ), where members of the Jesuit Institution and church at large gather in the context of social justice. Due to COVID-19, this trip was impossible, but he found a way to keep justice-motivated students active through the LCUAJ as well as an online version of the IFTJ.
He explained that for the last five years, this trip has been educational for students in ways that learning in a classroom is not.
“They [the IFTJ] began an in-person conference in Washington, D.C. where they gathered students from across the world to meet for two days to listen and learn and connect about really important Catholic social-teaching issues like climate change, like migration, like racism, and then spend a day, all together advocating on Capitol Hill, with their representatives– so it was like a combination of learning, education and advocacy in Washington D.C.,” he said.
Reidy spoke about how in the past, he often met several other Lasallian college representatives at the IFTJ. Once they formed a connection, they made a point to stay in the same hotels and have conferences focusing on the idea of forming a coalition of Lasallian colleges for advocacy with the Lasallian Volunteers. They did the same thing this year, only online.
“We started meeting in May of this year, on Zoom, and it included people from Manhattan College with Lasallian University, Saint Mary’s in California, Louis University, Christian Brothers University … and the District of Eastern North America and Lasallian Volunteers,” Reidy said. “We had like 15 people in this group and we decided we wanted to create a name and a mission statement. So our name became the Lasallian Colleges and Universities Associated for Justice.”
The purpose of the group is represented by their mission statement: “Lasallian Colleges and Universities in Association for justice, or LCUAJ, is an international coming together of the Lasallian family to encounter the pains and dreams of our time to discern our individual and collective responses, and to commit to shared action for justice.”
The group held two meetings in October and focused on reflection, advocacy panels from students and forming connections despite many of the other groups coming from all over the world.
“I just had a wonderful time communicating with Lasallian students from around the country, all who are really passionate about the same social justice issues and want to find a way that we can work together as Lasallians to affect change,” Reidy said.
Senior Meggie Osorio is one of the students involved in the yearly trips to the IFTJ and is now involved in the LCUAJ. She shared how forming a bond with the other Lasallian colleges has changed her college career and brought them to become an individual group working to advocate.
“I have gone to the IFTJ with Manhattan College since my freshman year,” Osorio said. “It was such the first real introduction I had into social justice during my time at college. Last year was the first time that we had this Lasallian delegation present at the IFTJ which was such a great home-base for us as we spent the weekend learning about justice and advocacy … it really made the IFTJ so much more impactful for me, and I was excited to be a part of it again this year. We were able to transfer to an online format and dig deeper into the Lasallian connection to social justice.”
She noted that although she was concerned about the effectiveness of the program with an online format, the group is still making progress.
“I was a little worried that with the online format this year it would be difficult to have thought-provoking discussions and real connections, but with the help of breakout rooms, we really got the chance to get a little deeper with each other at certain points which was really great,” Osorio said.
Reidy is driven to bring more students of the Lasallian faith to the IFTJ.
“We are unifying in order to bring students to this event in the IFTJ which was virtual this year, but also to have more intentional conversations as the Lasallian family about what we can do with our numbers,” he said. “The fact that we have six universities, we have Lasallian volunteers, we have all of these brothers, how we can affect change for social justice around Catholic social teaching.”
One student who was recently selected to participate in these activities was freshman Rebecca Kranich.
“I got involved because I looked at the MC announcement on my email and so I’m really into social justice and it looks like something I would be into,” Kranich said. “I got involved by submitting an application and eventually Conor Reidy contacted me for our first meeting and the group welcomed me in. I’m the only freshman there and I’m one of the only few newer members.”
Kranich believes that other first-year students should consider joining the group as it is a unique outlet for those interested in social justice.
“It’s the most welcoming group on campus and it really connects you with people from all over the country through social justice issues and solutions,” she said.
Osorio stated that she wants to show new members the effects of her experiences within the program.
“I do hope that I can show any underclassmen that this type of programming is some of the best that it offered through Manhattan College,” Osorio said. “There are things I would have never learned had I not taken a part in them. I have also grown so much myself. When I was a freshman going to D.C., I wanted no part in being the voice in some of these advocacy meetings because I was shy and less informed, but now I know how to be an advocate and it would be difficult for me not to speak up. There is so much growth that can happen and I hope any underclassmen who want to be involved in advocacy can be excited by that idea.”