"Proclaiming the Dignity of Work"

Vol.1,No.1, 1995

National Work Commission, Secular Franciscan Order, U.S.A

Ed & Mary Zablocki, SFO, Co-Chairs, 360 Beard Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214 (716) 838-4178

A Word of Thanks

As the new Chairperson of the National Work Commission, I give thanks for the opportunity that the Lord has given me to serve my brothers and sisters in Francis. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to several members of the Franciscan family: to my predecessors, Joseph Halka and Allen Jordan, who have paved the way, to Ron Pihokker for encouraging me to consider and then recommending me for the position, to Mary Mazotti for her support and encouragement as I begin and to my fellow chairs, Carol Gentile, Ron Michaeli and Charles Spencer, for the excellent example and the high standards they have set.

About the Title

Why DIGNITAS? In thinking about what I would hope to help fellow Secular Franciscans appreciate about work, the aspect of the dignity conferred on a person through their work and on the world through good work came to the forefront. Our own rule captures the dignity and importance of work in emphasizing that work is "a sharing in the creation, redemption and redemption and service of the human community". That's pretty astounding if you stop and think about it. The following are just a few examples portraying the dignity and importance of work:

"[M]an's life is built up every day from work, from work it derives its specific dignity."

"[T]he Church always considers it her task to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated." On Human Work, John Paul II

"Work is not to enable me to get ahead; the purpose of work is to enable me to get more human and to make my world more just....work is fundamental and necessary and physical and holy and spiritual and creative." WORK: Participation in Creation, Joan Chittister, OSB in Weavings

"God's nature, as portrayed throughout the Bible, is active and creative. God works, and the results of God's labor are good (Gen. 1:31). Human beings were created to share in this creative activity as companions of God. God gave us a garden to till, entrusted us with a creation to manage (Gen. 2:15). Work lost this original dignity and became toil only when human beings rejected companionship with God." from Editor's introduction to "WORKING faithfully" an issue of Weavings, John S. Mogabgab

"If laypeople cannot find any spiritual meaning in their work, they are condemned to living a certain dual life - not connecting what they do on Sunday Morning with what they do the rest of the week. They need to discover that the very actions of daily life are spiritual and enable laypeople to touch God in the world, not away from it." Confident and Competent: A Challenge for the Lay Church, W. Droel and G.Pierce

"A change in the meaning of work and the relation of work and reward is at the heart of any recovery of our social ecology." Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah et al. "Franciscans themselves need a "conversion experience" with regard to our thinking about and our doing of work before we can make bold to call upon our fellow citizens to imitate us."To Evangelize American Culture: A Franciscan Approach, Daniel McClellan, OFM

About Us

Mary and I were professed as a Secular Franciscans in 1982 in Buffalo, New York. We have two children, Francis (14) and Paul (11). I have worked in the Office of the Vice President for Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo for the past 13 years. My previous work experience has included 8 years as a program coordinator with disabled adults at United Cerebral Palsy of Western New York, and a year as a "parent" of adolescent boys at St. Vincent' Home in Fall River, Massachusetts (ask me about it some time!). Part-time employment has included selling shoes at Florsheim's, refereeing basketball and baseball games, stocking grocery shelves, handling hinds and quarters of beef for a meatpacker, and, going way back, helping farmers unload and sell their produce at a regional farmer's market (start time: 5:30 am).

Mary and I have been married 15 years and we work well together as a team. She is a part-time labor and delivery nurse and a homemaker but most of all a writer and poet. Mary has agreed to contribute to our quarterly efforts through a column called "In the Trenches" the first installment of which is enclosed. Mary's writes best from her own experience and this is what she will be doing in her reflections on her work experiences. The rest of DIGNITAS will look at work in a more general sense - looking to provide insights into events and trends, resources and useful information.

We hope to feature your thoughts as well! Please write us with your reaction to DIGNITAS or about your own experiences regarding work and we'll hopefully be able to include it as part of a dialogue among us as Secular Franciscans and as workers. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Work Retreat/ Workshop

In the near future, a 1 day workshop and a weekend retreat on the dignity and spirituality of work will be available. Both will consider, in depth, article 16 of the SFO Rule: "Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption and service of the human community." The approach will be to fully engage the participants so that they can begin to appreciate the giftedness and dignity of their own work. Cost sharing is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Pro Bono

The American Bar Association is requiring lawyers to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono (free) service a year to the poor. The rule still needs to be adopted by each state's bar association. There is no penalty imposed on lawyers who choose to neglect this rule.

Vocational Reflection Groups

In Akron, Ohio, Fr. Norm Douglas along with attorney Larry Vuillemin have helped form vocational reflection groups. The groups consider how they can work within their own professions to achieve social justice. For example, a Firefighters Group is dealing with racism in their department, a Sheriffs Group is considering how treatment of prisoners can be improved and a Bankers Group is addressing the issue of layoffs in their industry. Secular Franciscans could be catalysts for starting such groups within their fraternities, regions, parishes, dioceses or workplaces. For more information, write Heart to Heart Communications, 159 S. Main St. #824, Akron, Ohio 44308. (From Initiatives, 1994, 63)

The Spirituality of Work

A series of booklets on the spirituality of work for Nurses, Teachers, Lawyers, Homemakers and Business People by William Droel try to help lay Christians overcome the sense that their occupations do not have any religious significance. Each booklet contains the reflections of Christians in these professions and their struggle to make a connection between their work life and their faith life. The booklets are $4 each (includes postage and handling) and may be ordered through the National Center for the Laity, 1 E#. Superior Street, #311, Chicago, Illinois 60611 (phone: 312-849-2772)