SAN BERNARDINO—The Diocesan Department of Life, Dignity and Justice, which carries out the social mission of the Church, locally, has been restructured to address emerging ministry needs.
The Department is now comprised of six ministries: Respect Life and Pastoral Care Programs, Community Service and Outreach Programs, Education and Formation Programs, Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants Programs, the Office of Restorative Justice and the Office of Life, Dignity and Justice.
Sister Chilee Okoko, D.M.M.M., Department Director, said the restructuring was done to put more emphasis on the Catholic Social Teaching that underpins the outreach and advocacy efforts of the Diocese. Jose Luis Elias serves as the Director of the newly-created Education and Formation Programs ministry.
“Every aspect of education and formation in the department will be directed and organized by same director,” Sr. Okoko notes, “unlike previously where each director organizes their ministry formation and specialization courses.”
Another goal of the restructuring was to better coordinate all of the public policy advocacy efforts on a variety of social issues, Sr. Okoko said. Abraham Joven is serving in that capacity as Director.
“In advocacy efforts, which could concern any or every aspect of the ministry like in Respect life issues, Restorative Justice issues, education, immigration, social justice issues, healthcare, every director and personnel of the department will be involved, and participate actively in the process,” she said. “This effort will be led and championed by the director of Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants.”
A similar strategy is being employed with the new Director of Community Services and Outreach Programs, Sister Hortensia Del Villar, S.A.C .
“Having a director that focuses on community services, outreach programs and capacity building in the vicariates and parishes, networking with other agencies outside the diocese will help strengthen our collaborative efforts and provision of services to people in our diocese,” Sr. Okoko explains.
This department was created originally to focus on community services and has grown over the years to include various offices and programs. The objective of the department now is to promote all seven guiding principles of Catholic Social Teaching. They are; Dignity and Equality of the Human Person, Rights and Responsibilities, Social Nature of Humanity, the Common Good, Subsidiarity, Solidarity, Option for the Poor, and Stewardship.
The offices and programs of the Department of Life, Dignity and Justice have their formation and specialization courses that aim at education and formation of ministers who carry out the mission at the vicariate and parish levels. Elias will coordinate these courses, such as Salt and Light, Parish Ministry Formation Program (PMFP) specialization, Charity and Justice Classes in the Coordinator of Ministries Formation Program (CMFP), Natural Family Planning, Sanctity of Human Life, Pastoral Care, and Bereavement Ministry training.
The ministries of the department network with other dioceses under the umbrella of the California Catholic Conference (CCC) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and work in close collaboration with others that engage in social justice, advocacy and community services like Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE), and Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC).