Br. Jhobany Orduz, CSV, is still learning about the American culture and language, not to mention his role as a Campus Minister at Saint Viator High School. But this much he knows: after traveling with students to Washington last month, he came away impressed with their interest in creating change.

Students make their point with a representative from Rep. Sean Casten’s office.

Br. Orduz and Dianne Marshall, both in their first year in Campus Ministry, accompanied students to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, in Washington DC. Students afforded the trip thanks to a social justice grant from the Viatorian Community.

The conference featured a range of speakers — addressing restorative justice, racial justice, mental health awareness, justice in artificial intelligence, the death penalty and how to be a responsible voter, to name just a few — and drew nearly 3,000 high school and college students from across the country.

“We met so many people from around the country, who came together with idea of working together to create a new voice for Catholics,” Br. Orduz said. “We want to follow the invitation of Pope Francis on these issues and look for a better world with equality, respect for human lives, value for the people in the margins, and so many other situations that we face in this world.”

Each year, the conference seeks to teach high school and college students about different issues of social justice, as well as how to advocate for them on Capitol Hill. Associate Jason Wilhite attended the conference while he was in college and he introduced the idea to Saint Viator High School.

Students meet with a staffer from Sen. Duckworth’s office.

The Saint Viator delegation visited the offices of Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Sean Casten. They asked them to support the Environmental Justice for All Act, and to vote against any legislation that would include the continuation or expansion of Title 42.

Title 42 shut down the borders during the COVID pandemic and stopped anyone from coming to seek asylum. The CDC said it was no longer necessary in May, but many states sued to keep it in place. The discussion also allowed students to share about Viator House of Hospitality, and its mission to offer a safe haven to young immigrant men seeking asylum. All of which made a lasting impression on Br. Orduz.

“I come from a Latin American country and know how many suffering migrants, marginalized, homeless, farmers, and so many other population groups are in need,” he said. “This event gave me hope that we, as Catholics, are doing something to help construct the Kingdom of God amid the disturbing realities.

“Clearly, we cannot solve all the problems around the nation and, even more, the continent with two completely different faces,” he added. “On the one hand, the face of power and legislation, and on the other, the reality of the need and desperation of the poor and marginalized. It all makes me think about my role as a Viatorian, who feels the needs of so many in personal pain.”