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January 1, 2015

First Year of the Initiative: "An Extraordinary Beginning"

by John Carr

Right Mission, Right Time, Right Place

What an encouraging, promising, amazing first year this has been for the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life of Georgetown University. One year ago, the Initiative began carrying out its unique mission:

  • to promote deeper knowledge and broader dialogue on Catholic Social Thought,
  • to prepare students and other young people for affirmative and principled engagement in public life, and
  • to promote civil dialogue and collaboration across religious, ideological, and political lines in pursuit of the common good.

The Initiative has found the right academic and organizational home at Georgetown University, working with students, faculty and others to advance the University’s distinctive mission and identity.

The remarkable participation in our Dialogues, excitement over our outreach to young Catholic leaders, and diverse participation in our convenings on U.S. poverty have exceeded our hopes. There is not only openness, but hunger for increased knowledge, reflection, and dialogue on the links between faith, Catholic Social Thought, and public life. Pope Francis, with his humble ways and powerful words, is creating enormous opportunities and momentum for this mission. The Initiative is a timely and concrete way to advance the vision of Pope Francis, to educate future leaders, and to pursue the common good.

President John J. DeGioia and Georgetown University have offered the Initiative a warm welcome and strong support. Tom Banchoff, Georgetown’s vice president for global engagement, has been an invaluable leader, guide, and advocate for the Initiative. Cardinal Wuerl has supported our efforts from the beginning. More than 30 individuals and foundations have helped to launch the Initiative with their generous contributions. We are seeking additional resources to sustain the Initiative’s essential work into the future. Our colleagues at Georgetown and the Berkley Center for Peace, Religion, and World Affairs have helped us find our way forward. Caitlin Devine’s great commitment, excellent work, and many skills have been at the center of the Initiative’s progress.

Since our inaugural Dialogue on “The Francis Factor,” which packed Gaston Hall, a total audience of more than 2,500 people—students and faculty, Catholic and interfaith leaders, scholars and advocates, journalists and policymakers—have been a part of this amazing first year. The Initiative has moved from a promising idea to a vital national center of dialogue, analysis and action on human dignity, the common good and overcoming polarization across religious and political divisions. The Initiative—at Georgetown, in Washington, and in the Catholic and interfaith and academic community—is a unique expression of the wisdom of Pope Francis:

“An authentic faith, which is never comfortable or completely personal, always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.” -Evangelii Gaudium

John Carr is the founder and director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and is Washington correspondent for America magazine.