Social Justice Week: 8–14 September

Published on 2nd Sep, 2019

Te Wiki o te Whai Tika: 8–14 Mahuru

And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. – Pope Francis (TED talk, 2017)

Social Justice Week was established by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference in 1997 as an ongoing commitment in the Catholic calendar for the week beginning the second Sunday of September. This is a time to consider, reflect and take action on a particular current social justice issue in the light of Catholic social teaching. Social Justice Week falls during the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. This is a period in which the liturgical readings teach us about discipleship. This year’s Social Justice Week theme is ‘Fairness’ and runs from 8–14 September.

We are reminded of St Mother Teresa’s words, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Jesus himself was well aware of the power of small steps. He would constantly use small, seemingly mundane moments and encounters to heal those whom he met along the way of ordinary daily life, bringing to them great renewal of purpose and life. We too are called to do our part, however small, to bring fairness and hope into our world.

As we reflected on this year’s Social Justice Week theme of fairness, many human realities and experiences came to mind; discrimination, the state of our environment, poverty, the housing and rent crisis, the struggles of refugees and migrants – the list goes on. The injustice that we can observe in our world may seem overwhelming and it is easy to become disheartened, but what is important is our desire to understand those affected, and then act not out of embitterment, which so often leads only to revenge or a simplistic turning of the tables, but out of love.

(Excerpt, New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ 2019 Social Justice Week Statement)

Caritas Director, Julianne Hickey says “Fairness is a broad concept linked to justice, and what is ‘fair and just’ to a particular individual or culture may not be seen as ‘fair and just’ to another. During Social Justice Week this year, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is inviting us all to consider how each and everyone of us can be a light and the advocates for justice bringing fairness and goodness to all areas of life.”

Some people wish to redefine ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice’ to mean giving people an equal chance, rather than our more traditional New Zealand attitude of looking out to ensure that everyone has what they need to participate in society. During this week, we consider both in following the teachings and ways of Christ.

Keeping the Social Justice Week topic broad this year means that individuals and communities can be intentional with what they choose to focus on. We are aware that we all have different priorities and interests. This topic allows us to reflect on what is fair and unfair in our own context and make a plan for action appropriate to our communities and experience.

Caritas is sharing resources with parishes and communities throughout New Zealand for them to include in Sunday celebrations and activities during the week. Dioceses have been invited to think about how they can mark the week through their own initiatives.

The development of resources has been based around the See-Judge-Act method, developed by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn in the 1920s. This framework is grounded in Catholic social teaching – it is a way of looking at a situation, analysing it, and taking appropriate action. We hope that our resources inspire and challenge individuals, parishes and communities to do their part, however small, to bring together greater fairness and hope in our world.

As Te Wiki o te Reo Māori coincides with Social Justice Week again this year, these resources have been designed with this is mind, providing connections to Te Reo Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi articles and principles.

Social Justice Week in Parishes

Participants in a Social Justice Week workshop in Dunedin in 2017.

With the support of the National Liturgy Office, Caritas has provided parishes with resources for the week, including a resources and liturgy booklet providing background information, ideas, inspiration and reflections. This booklet has been produced for use by Parish Priests, Parish Leadership Teams, Liturgy Committees, Social Justice Groups, Diocesan Justice, Peace and Development Commissions and others who are part of the life of the Church and wider community.

Caritas Community & Advocacy Assistant and Social Justice Week 2019 lead, Joanna Viernes, says “this booklet reminds us of the principles of Catholic social teachings together with practical ideas to stimulate and challenge us all on the concept of fairness. Our hope for parishes, schools, groups and individuals to use this as an opportunity to examine and promote the concept of fairness in their communities.”

Auckland college students participating in Justice Leadership Days 2019, led by the Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand education team.

This comes together with a prayer and reflection brochure for families in examining our values, strengths and abilities as a family and as a community through our individual gifts. Caritas has asked Parishes to provide these to families leading up to and during Social Justice Week. These resources can also be found on our website –

These tools provide an opportunity to learn more about this theme and encourage individuals and groups to reflect on what is unfair in the world around them and be challenged to choose an action that will make our world a better and fairer place. If we all pledge to make one positive change then we can make a huge difference!

Social Justice Week in Schools

The education team at Caritas has produced a variety of resources to be used by schools during the week, however they have been designed so that they can be used by a wider audience at any time. The title of the education resources is Fair, you say? Seeking fairness in an unfair world. These resources are available online at and provide opportunities for both reflection and discussion during the week. Background notes are available that provide relevant knowledge, curriculum links and helpful statistics connected to the theme of fairness.  

For more information about the Caritas education resources for Social Justice Week 2019 or to find out how to order more posters, contact [email protected] or [email protected].

May we take this Social Justice Week as an opportunity to develop empathy and discernment as to where and how the Holy Spirit is leading us to act. We should not feel confined by one week a year to act with a tender heart but may we all grow and learn to act out of tenderness, working towards a fairer world, every day. (Excerpt, New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ 2019 Social Justice Week Statement)

Ms Hickey concludes that “fairness is about giving people – individuals, groups and cultures – what is their due, what is due in justice to them, as fellow human beings, as children of the one God who created us all. We have put together these resources with this in mind. At the conclusion of the booklet, there is a quote from the Book of Matthew that captures this idea:”

If you have any questions or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0800 22 10 22 or email [email protected].


Published in WelCom September 2019

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