Edgewood Justice Summit
Associate Jim Baltus speaking at the summit
Edgewood Justice Summit Becomes Reality
by Jim Baltus, Associate and Edgewood High School Religious Studies Teacher and Mission Coordinator
Catholic Schools Week at Edgewood High School (EHS), Madison, WI, with this year’s theme of “Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed,” has always been a festive time of dress-up theme days, liturgy, student reflections, service, and a pep assembly at the end of the week. This year marked the first year for EHS to go deeper with its Dominican mission during the week and incorporate a school-wide Social Justice Summit, a commitment to working for truth, justice, equity, and the call to action of Catholic social teaching.
In the past, 9th-grade teachers at EHS planned and coordinated a Social Justice Summit for freshmen to have a deeper understanding of issues they were learning about in class. Also inspired and motivated by the values of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa and a commitment to the work for justice, upper-level classes (American Multicultural Literature, Environmental Science, Peace and Justice Studies, Global Issues, etc.) continue to focus on racism, incarceration, privilege, sexism, global climate change, immigration, human trafficking, violence, and war. Over the last several years, many Sisters (Ann Marie Palmisano, OP; Maggie Hopkins, OP; Barb Dannhausen, OP; Joan Duerst, OP; Reg McKillip, OP; Maureen McDonnell, OP; Priscilla Wood, OP; Mary Howard Johnstone, OP; Colleen Settles, OP; Mary Ellen Gevelinger, OP; Clare Wagner, OP; Mary Rathert, OP; Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP; Julie Schwab, OP; Kathleen Phelan, OP; Ruth Poochigian, OP; Toni Harris, OP; Pat Leahy, OP; Sarah Naughton, OP; and Christin Tomy, OP) visited EHS to meet with teachers or attend meetings with administration and faculty, to visit with students in classes, or to address the student body, all to share with us information about social justice issues and ideas for action and fostering hope. Several cocurricular groups have been organized by students and are devoted to learning about justice issues and working for change, including Focus Club (social justice issues), Inclusion Club (LGBTQ issues), Multicultural Club, Green Edge Environmental Club, Close-Up (political issues), and Sisters Taking Active Roles (STAR).
On Jan. 28, Dominican Sisters and Associates of Sinsinawa, youth ministers from local parishes, and students and staff from St. Ambrose Academy gathered with EHS students, faculty, and staff at a liturgy presided by Madison Bishop Donald Hying. Then, EHS students participated in the Social Justice Summit that started with a keynote by Associate Jim Baltus. Teacher Jean Leisen Bondoc coordinated the planning for collaboration of administrators, staff, and teachers across every discipline to develop and facilitate 48 sessions with the student body covering these issues selected by students: racism, human trafficking, immigration, access to healthcare, sexual orientation discrimination, environmental justice, and mental health stigma. Bishop Hying facilitated two sessions to explore Catholic social teaching. His message focused on the essential circle of relationships with God and each other where power is harnessed to build a just, humane, and compassionate society. All sessions incorporated discussions with students to explore the issues and present and/or brainstorm actions we can take to promote understanding and change.