WCR reflections sparked conversations with columnist

Bob McKeon


September 26, 2016

I had just completed research for this column, when I checked the archdiocesan website and learned that the WCR would soon cease publication and that this would be my last Journey to Justice column.

My initial plan for this column was to talk about Pope Francis and his recent message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. (See Pages 14-15.) This is a new feast to be celebrated annually on Sept. 1.

What does it mean to celebrate this feast and read this papal message today provincially in Alberta and nationally across Canada? Pope Francis' message repeats and re-emphasizes the teaching of Laudato Si' about right relationship with God, other human beings and with all creation.

While his teaching is global, he could be very much thinking of Alberta today when he writes "Economics and politics, society and culture, cannot be dominated by thinking only of short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains." Instead, he insists that the focus needs to be re-directed to "the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation."

These words are written at a time of intense political debate as the Notley government prepares to implement the provincial carbon tax in a few months, a key element of the provincial Climate Leadership Plan. At the same time, present and possible future opposition leaders promise to weaken and roll back major provincial greenhouse gas reduction initiatives now being put in place.

Pope Francis appeals directly to citizens to hold their governments accountable to keep the commitments they made at last year's Paris Climate Change Conference, and "indeed to advocate for even more ambitious goals."

What I was planning to do in this column, is what I have tried to do in each of my monthly columns over the past six years. The Vatican II document, Church in the Modern World, called on all of us "to discern the signs of the times," to look at what is happening in our community and our world today through the lens of biblical justice and the principles of Catholic social teaching.


In each column, I have tried to identify key issues that call out to us. Usually these have been local or provincial concerns that are close to our everyday lives. These have included local poverty and homelessness, ecological responsibility, right relationship with indigenous peoples, and respect for the dignity of human work.

Then take the next step to put this social concern into a conversation with a dimension of Christian teaching and practice. Finally, to look for practical ways this brief theological reflection can be enacted in our lives and in our parishes.

My hope in writing these columns has not been that everyone agree with all that I write. Rather, I hope I have helped to model a type of faith conversation of "discerning the sign of the times" that each of us can see as important to carry out for ourselves. This is an ongoing dialogical process that is best carried out with others in community.


I am amazed how often I have been approached in Church settings and on the streets by people I know and many I do not know, who have read this column, thought about it and engage in conversation.

I am a life-long learner, and some-time teacher, of Catholic social teaching, sometimes called "the Church's best-kept secret." I am most thankful for the opportunity I have had in this column over the years to help make this social teaching visible and to bring it to life in an accessible way.


In the column I was planning to write, I was going to conclude with Pope Francis' appeal for a "healthy politics." In that politics, citizens encourage and support their politicians to be "courageous," and "leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility," especially on issues such as climate change and environmental protection, where benefits are unlikely to appear within a single election cycle (LSi 181).

Let each of us be passionate practitioners of "healthy politics."

(Bob McKeon: bob.mckeon@newman.edu)