The Bridge Builders

Twenty-five alumni from 25 years of the Catholic Studies program: Jason Adkins, Jenna Kraska and Rachana Chhin.

Politics, says Jason Adkins, is not about power. It’s about charity.

Executive director for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, Adkins says “the Church understands that politics is a form of charity – a service. As such, it is rooted in reason and relationships, not intimidation games and pressure tactics. If we want legislators to enact good laws, they need Catholics as resources and friends.”

Rachana Chhin, public policy outreach coordinator for the Texas Catholic Conference, agrees when he urges, “Our country needs the participation of faithful Christians of goodwill more than ever. Reductive ideologies have co-opted much of our discourse, and it is the voice of the Church and the fullness of Catholic social teaching that can bring a light to what is otherwise often an impoverished conversation.”

Chhin encourages his constituents never to underestimate just how much they bring to the table of political discourse.

“We bring a consistent moral framework,” he says, “drawn from basic human reason that is illuminated by Scripture and the teaching of the Church – for assessing issues, political platforms and campaigns. We also bring broad experience in serving those in need – educating the young, serving families in crisis, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless, helping women who face difficult pregnancies, feeding the hungry, welcoming immigrants and refugees, reaching out in global solidarity and pursuing peace. We celebrate, with all our neighbors, the historically robust commitment to religious freedom in this country that has allowed the Church the freedom to serve the common good.”

Jenny Kraska began her work with the Colorado Catholic Conference in 2006, a time she describes as being filled with great division and disagreement. In this season, she remembers, “I was part of organizing an event with the archbishop of Denver and a congressman who agreed with the Church on very little. The event was meaningful because it brought together a large, diverse group of people who all agreed that our immigration system was broken and needed to be fixed. I don’t think any institution but the Catholic Church could have brought together such diverse groups of people to have a meaningful dialogue on such an important issue.”

Chhin has had similar experiences in Texas, where a foster care ministry called the St. Joseph Ministry was recently launched throughout all of the state’s dioceses.

“During the lead-up to that,” Chhin recalls, “I was able to learn from and collaborate with amazing partners from the government, civil society and other churches. I gained a greater appreciation for what we can accomplish when we work with partners who may not even be Catholic, because at the end of the day even though we have different roles, it’s all about how we can mobilize people to best serve foster children and their families.”

“The social doctrine of the Church is truly a tool of evangelization,” says Adkins. “It provides a framework for thinking about truly vexing public policy questions in light of a correct anthropology of the human person. It functions like an invitation to get to know better the source of those truths: the person of Jesus Christ.”

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