By Therese Porod Staff Writer
The Center for Civil Leadership brought Fr. Michael Pfleger to Benedictine last Wednesday to speak to the University about becoming active members of society who care for the poor.
Pfleger began his inspirational talk with the story of the Good Samaritan, relating it to how he believes our society has become: self-centered and disconnected. He said that people tend to ignore the poor and homeless, treating them as though they are invisible.
Pfleger said that there is a 40 percent unemployment rate in his Saint Sabina Church community and surrounding area. Within the past few months, Pfleger reports Catholic Charities has had to close down four of the seven food pantries. He said that “we may ignore the cries of the poor, but God will never ignore the cries of the poor.”
He also urged everyone to put down their phones and become engaged in life once again. He explained that with all of the technology available today, everyone is more disconnected that ever.
“My hope for tomorrow is the youth. College is the time when you guys will be most involved in issues and justice, exposing your minds more than ever. College is where I learned to be who I was,” Pfleger shared.
When talking about the topic of the education system, Pfleger said, “In 2011, we are still fighting for what Dr. King died for in 1968.” He said that the quality of education has become dependent on class and zip code. What the world needs is a “revolution of the education system in America.”
Pfleger said he told Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Junior’s widow, that they should have brought resources to schools instead of busing kids to be educated in other areas. He believes that resources should be brought to struggling schools today as well.
He also shared a story about one of his adopted sons. At 15, the boy was unable to read. Pfleger became angry at this, urging the attendees that education in America is doing its children a grave injustice.
Pfleger made a point that the church needs to be transformed to become “lobbyists for the poor.”
“Get involved. Learn about the world. Expose yourself,” says Pfleger. “Read things that aren’t on the bibliography list. Expose yourself.”
“I have watched too many people on the side of the road and too many people walk by and too many people call themselves the church,” he explained.
Many who attended the event were inspired.
“I thought it was terrific. It was really very good what we have talked about that you are going to be judged on what you do,” said Dr. Flether, a professor in the religion department.
“I thought it was inspirational and that we should stand up for what we believe in even if no one else wants to,” freshman Aneta Krzycka said.
“College students have to be the ones to change America,” advises Pfleger. “Don’t grow up and get into what America already is, decide what you are going to do to make American what it should be.”
Pfleger was ordained a priest in 1975 for the Archdiocese of Chicago and now resides as the pastor of Saint Sabina Church with his two adopted sons. Jim Ryan, former Attorney General, introduced Pfleger as an advocate for the poor and civil rights leader, who worked side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has appeared on television, in magazines and newspapers.