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Profiles in Marianist Social Justice

Bro. Skip Matthews, SM
Brother Skip Matthews“I try to make life a little easier for those who haven’t had it easy,” says Bro. Francis “Skip” Matthews. Bro. Skip’s ministry is up-close and hands-on. He collects food and clothing for distribution to the homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles. He works through the Catholic Worker soup kitchen, which is often called the “Hippie Kitchen.” The facility feeds about 800 destitute people three times per week. “Being a Catholic Worker is not about judgment; it’s just about being there for another human.”

Bro. Skip also volunteers at the Good Shepherd Shelter, a safe house for battered women and their children. He is treasured for his gentle spirit and his ability to finagle new clothes or a birthday present for the shelter’s clients. “I’m not much good at hearing the word ‘no,’ so I can usually get the donations the shelter needs,” he says. Bro. Skip also works part-time at a Marianist middle school and assists with Marianist LIFE, a faith-formation program for high school students.

 

Bro. Victor Forlani, SM
Bro. Vic ForlaniMarianist and Catholic social teaching dictate that we are called by God to serve one another. Bro. Victor Forlani, a lecturer in management at the University of Dayton, and director of its Center for the Integration of Faith and Work, helps business students understand how this concept fits into their future careers.

“Commerce is about developing and selling products and services that enable people to grow personally and to improve society. It’s about caring for people as citizens, as consumers … and as those God cares for,” says Bro. Victor. “Business is part of what we do for each other.”

Bro. Victor has made this very concept a reality. Several years ago, he challenged his students to develop a program that would enable struggling families to avoid high-interest payday loans. The resulting “Stretch Pay” loan program now operates through credit unions in eight states and saves borrowers an estimated $4 million per year while expanding the credit unions’ customer base.

 

Bro. Frank O’Donnell, SM
Brother Frank O'DonnellFinding decent, affordable housing is a challenge for disadvantaged people across the globe. Marianist Bro. Frank O’Donnell has worked for decades to lower this hurdle for poor people in Baltimore, Md.

As an attorney, Bro. Frank understands the connection between legal issues and housing issues. In the 1990s, he helped develop the Tenant Advocacy Project to provide representation for low-income residents in property disputes. Later, he worked at the Community Law Center, which sought to improve services in Baltimore’s most neglected neighborhoods.

Bro. Frank worked toward the enactment of Baltimore’s 2007 Inclusionary Housing Act. The act requires developers receiving public funds to set aside homes for low- and middle-income families. While political wrangling has weakened the legislation, Bro. Frank remains patient. “We can take the long view and find a way to make it work,” he says. “It’s what we’re called to do.”

Read more in these ALIVE magazine stories

Mary’s Farm – An urban farm growing food and building community

Water – A case for environmental justice

Stretch Pay Loans – A just alternative to payday schemes