By Erin Hallissy
The Working Life
More than 100 years ago, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Rerum Novarum, which addressed the exploitation of workers during the Industrial Revolution and the rise of socialism. Pope Leo opened by noting, "The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvelous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses … "
During the current trying economic time, Pope Benedict XVI last summer issued his latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, which continues the Catholic social teaching tradition of Pope Leo. Pope Benedict wrote that we now "must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future."
At Saint Mary's, we were inspired to view "the working life" through elements of the Catholic intellectual tradition outlined in these encyclicals, including the dignity of work, the common good and a just and ethical society.
Many in the broad Saint Mary's community are addressing these issues in their lives. We look at an alumna who has championed the rights of workers throughout a career that now finds her one of the most powerful women in California. We hear from successful corporate executives who say that the ethics lessons they learned at Saint Mary's have helped their companies do well, while they're doing good.
We also talk to a sociology professor about the struggles of America's once-strong middle class, and we find out about SMC students who immerse themselves in the lives of farm workers in California with the goal of understanding issues of labor, poverty and homelessness.
In every life, there's also room for play, and that's exactly what Saint Mary's students did when an unexpected snowfall transformed the campus into a winter wonderland on Dec. 7. We share photos from that special day, and invite you to look at a video by senior Bryan Navarro on YouTube by going to www.stmarys-ca.edu/snow.
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