The Pax Christi Catholic church building in Eden Prairie is low and, well, rambling. Not a cathedral. Not an imposing fortress of spirituality. It is complete with a Latin name that means “Peace of Christ”.
The seed from which this article grew was the historical fact that years ago when Muslims were new to Eden Prairie, Pax Christi followed its philosophy of being welcoming. For several years it allowed the Muslim faithful to use some of Pax Christi’s facility for their worship.
It turns out that this action is emblematic of Pax Christi’s ethos of community service.
According to Pax Christi’s Fr. Michael Byron, mystery is extremely important in religion. Mystery is not a shrouded something. Mystery is truth—“a truth so immense that no one person can comprehend it.” Per Joan Howe-Pullis, the church’s Director of Justice Ministries, Pax Christi is “a faith community that is a spiritual community [and]we see our role in the world as well.”
Pax Christi began forty years ago with a handful of families and has grown to 12,000 parishioners. Per Howe-Pullis, “there is a deep commitment to lay leadership being in the community and working with each other.”
Out of Pax Christi’s ten ministry councils, Howe-Pullis works with the Justice Council. Howe-Pullis’s Justice ministry conducts the Burgundy Bag Food Drive seeking food donations from parishioners, manages the Twelve Baskets Ministry following social justice to match those in need with supplies of blankets, food, and warm clothes, and runs the Giving Garden which raises food directly for our city’s People Reaching Out to People.
Per Howe-Pullis, food is “rightly described” as being under the heading of justice because of food inequity, food insecurity.
Would the Justice ministry participate in protests? After some thought, Howe-Pullis responds, “Not yet. . .We have participated in conversations at the State legislature.”
The Justice Council includes the Justice Grant Board. Every year the Board makes grants to area organizations. Per the Pax Christi website, the purpose of the grants is for “furthering goals of Catholic Social Teaching. Current Pax Christi efforts are focused in the areas of education for people living in poverty and homelessness.” For 2020-2021, grants have been made to thirteen area organizations. The Justice ministry does not micromanage the grants but does continue productive relationships with the recipient organizations.
The Justice Council also deals with racial equity, environment, housing justice, climate justice, and immigration justice. Hence: an upcoming April presentation called “Environmental Justice Is Racial Justice”; ongoing participation in the Eden Prairie Housing Coalition; creating an On the Road to Jericho immigration initiative to “discuss ways in which the Pax Christi community can provide safe and welcoming space for our neighbors who have made Eden Prairie their home”.
Besides volunteer work in our community, the Justice ministry also educates. Using outside-produced curricula, the ministry offers JustFaith (a year-long small-group course based in Scriptures) and JustMatters (which is eight-week courses on such specific topics as food insecurity).
Howe-Pullis’s full title is Director of Justice Ministries and Liturgical Coordinator. According to her, this is not an accidental combination of roles. “We are formed by our liturgy. Liturgy [the form of worship]is the source and summit of our community life.”
As Father Mike puts it, “Addressing the needs of people is always Christian.”