AUGUSTA — The Social Justice and Peace Commission at St. Michael Parish in Augusta has received a nearly $2,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

“Most Catholics are very good when it comes to acts of ‘charity,’ but may not have a firm understanding of what ‘social justice’ is,” said Susan McGaulley — program manager of Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry, which helps process the grants — according to a news release from Dave Guthro, communications director, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. “To more than a few parishioners, this term is vague, or, even more concerning, takes on a negative, overly political tone.”

The commission at St. Michael will use the grant to address these public and parish perception issues through a variety of educational opportunities that will convey the importance of housing, economic opportunity, and environmental issues to the parishioners at the parish’s churches at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Augusta; St. Augustine Church, Augusta; St. Joseph Church, Gardiner; Sacred Heart Church, Hallowell; St. Denis Church, Whitefield; and St. Francis Xavier Church, Winthrop.

Each November, the annual campaign collection is held at Maine churches, with 25% of the proceeds remaining in Maine to support local efforts and the remaining 75% distributed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to larger-scale projects at the national level for which Maine organizations that address the systemic root of poverty can apply.

Grants are given to programs, such as the Social Justice and Peace Commission at St. Michael, that support local parish initiatives aiming to solve community-wide problems and empower the poor to make life changes that allow them to become more self-sufficient. Grants are available for existing and new ministries, but are designed to fund ministries that make transformational changes for those they serve, not just increasing a ministry’s capacity to assist more people through direct assistance. Grants can also be used to bring in programs and create workshops that will inspire and educate parishioners on their baptismal call to serve.

St. Michael’s Social Justice and Peace Commission seeks to realize the Gospel message of peace and justice in the parish, community, and world by offering opportunities for education, service, and advocacy using God-given gifts of time, talent, and treasure to promote the common good. This includes organizing Thanksgiving baskets and giving trees at Christmas, providing workshops, and holding special events like the “Souper” Bowl of Caring collection in February that raised $2,924 for local food pantries.

For more information about the Social Justice and Peace Commission, which always encourages community members and parishioners to join their number, contact Frank O’Hara at 207-592-1788 or [email protected].