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March 28, 2023

Young Catholics, Work, and Labor in the New Economy

A Salt and Light Gathering

Showing the Young Catholics, Work, and Labor in the New Economy Video

Young workers in the United States are wrestling with how their jobs affect their finances, relationships, and personal beliefs and values. What does work mean for young people in an economy that is dramatically changing how we work, where we work, the kind of work we do, how workers are paid, and whether they have a voice in the workplace?

Catholic social thought begins with decent work and provides a moral framework for what a solidarity economy should look like: a society where human dignity and the common good are valued over profits. Pope Francis has said that “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development, and personal fulfillment” (Laudato Si’ #128). A solidarity economy supports mission-driven investing, stewardship of natural resources and care for the environment, and reforming financial institutions to respond to inequality and poverty. Yet in the United States economic structures and decisions often perpetuate unfair labor practices and what Pope Francis calls “an economy of exclusion.” Workers are organizing at Starbucks, Amazon, and elsewhere across the United States but face resistance. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed great disparities in the world of work and has changed the economy and workforce, generating dynamics like the Great Resignation and “quiet quitting.”

This Salt and Light Gathering for young Catholics under 40 brought together young professionals, experts, and union leaders to examine today’s challenges, explore what a new economic framework can look like, and ask how our own work can better reflect the principles of Catholic social thought.

This gathering had three parts:

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. | Happy Hour
Mingle with fellow young leaders over food and drink

7:00 - 8:00 p.m. | Salt and Light Gathering 
A dialogue and conversation on “Young Catholics, Work, and Labor in the New Economy”

8:00 - 9:00 p.m. | Reception
Continue the conversation with the participants and other young leaders over food and drink

Participants explored questions like:

  • What is the nature of work in the new economy? How has the gig economy changed how and why we work?
  • What do Pope Francis and Catholic social thought have to say about work, labor, and the economy? How can young people recognize the dignity of work in their lives?

  • How can young people support workers’ rights? What is the role of unions, and what challenges do they face? 

  • What steps can young people take to help the beginnings of a solidarity economy take root?

  • How are work and labor rights connected to broader issues like health care, the environment, racial justice, and immigration?

  • How should young people of faith balance the need to support themselves, their families, and their communities with the desire to participate in a solidarity economy?

Anna Gordon, program director of the Initiative, moderated the conversation. 


View articles, podcasts, and other resources for this gathering.

This Salt and Light Gathering was for Catholics under 40 years old in Washington to help them explore links between faith, Catholic social thought, and their lives and work, and was co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.


Dawn Carpenter

Dawn Carpenter

Dawn Carpenter is the founding director of the Solidarity Economy Workshop, a project of the Kalmanovitz Initiative at Georgetown University, a senior advisor to the Vatican’s Economy of Francesco’s Finance and Humanity working group, and is the host and executive producer of the business ethics podcast What Does it Profit?.

Robert Christian III

Robert Christian III

Robert Christian III is the editor of Millennial, an online periodical by millennial Catholics on religion, politics, and culture. Christian is also a senior fellow at Democrats for Life of America and co-host of the podcast Whole Life Rising.

Candace Cunningham

Candace Cunningham

Candace Cunningham is a community organizer and the workforce development coordinator with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United DC (ROC-DC). Cunningham has also worked at the Washington Literacy Center as an adult literacy instructor and a volunteer coordinator.

Willie Lyles III

Willie Lyles III

Willie Lyles III is a senior advisor and counsel for Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC). Lyles was named one of National Jurist magazine’s 25 “Law School Students of the Year” in 2017 for his work with the Carbondale Pipeline Working Group (CPWG) which encourages young people from minority communities to seek careers in the legal profession.