Micah House co-ordinator named
By James Buchok
WINNIPEG — Catholics have an obligation to follow and act on the church’s social teachings of human dignity and charity, says the newly appointed co-ordinator at Micah House, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg’s Catholic Centre for Social Justice.
“I would like to see awareness that our faith requires us to act
on social justice issues,” says Patti Fitzmaurice, who was named
to the position following the retirement this summer of Micah House’s
founding co-ordinator, Sister Johanna Jonker, SNJM, after 10 years
“We have an obligation to love our neighbours,” Fitzmaurice says, “to be aware of injustices and vulnerability and to assist people through difficult times and issues.”
Fitzmaurice was born in Dauphin, Man. and is a longtime resident of Winnipeg’s St. James neighbourhood, attending John Taylor Collegiate, Blessed John XXIII Church and St. Charles Church. She earned a law degree at the University of Manitoba and practiced family law both with a firm and independently. She felt her combination of legal expertise and volunteer activities, which include serving on the board of a personal care home and helping out at St. Charles, provided a “good fit” for the role as Micah House co-ordinator. She recently completed the Nathanael Adult Faith Formation course offered by the Archdiocese of Winnipeg.
She led a year-seven catechism group last winter at St. Charles and in a discussion about respect she asked the catechists how they would react if they found themselves downtown and were approached by a stranger.
“Their responses were to run the other way or lock the car doors, and that’s not respect,” she said, adding that while personal safety must be kept in mind “the first reaction should not be to run.”
Fitzmaurice says although Micah House is not a drop-in centre, it is important that it is situated in the city’s North End, an area of low income and homelessness. It is housed in a small former church on Main Street which also contains Hospitality House Refugee Ministry Inc. In 2011 the archdiocese initiated sponsorships for a total of 849 refugees from several countries.
Fitzmaurice sees Micah House as “a work in progress,” a meeting place for those involved in social justice and a resource for the archdiocese at large.
“It’s a place where Catholics can gather to discuss how to take things to the next step. It’s there for the co-ordination of social justice issues in the archdiocese. Catholics do wonderful work everyday but people can tend to feel isolated. They are not alone in these various ministries. Catholics are not aware of what each other is up to, they don’t know what others are doing. ” She said Micah House “can create a sense of camaraderie.”
Fitzmaurice said among her first steps is to meet with pastors “to find out what parishes are up to” and to let parishioners know that Micah House can be a means of helping to share resources among churches. “There are a lot of good ideas out there,” she says.
Parishioner participation is vital to Micah House, Fitzmaurice says, as is the archdiocesan annual appeal, Sharing God’s Gifts, which provides most of its funding.
The Micah House mission statement includes: advocating for the low income and the homeless; advocating for and within the mental health constituency; advocating for Aboriginal peoples; advocating for the refugee and/or new immigrant and advocating for victims of human trafficking.
The huge challenges facing those working in social justice simply have to be accepted, Fitzmaurice says. “Narrow it down to what you can do,” she says. “It might be baby steps but it’s something. Something Micah House can do is bring more people together into one voice that can be heard and listened to, and we need parishioners to be able to do it, to make a stand.”