February 2011


The United Nations established 2/20 as World Day of  Social Justice Day in order to “support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.”  The UN also uses the day to ask world citizens what does Social Justice mean?

Part of St. John’s Social Justice mission is to make the Social Justice dimension of research/action more explicit in various “academic” disciplines, and to  promote awareness of Social Justice issues/actions, on pastoral, academic and diplomatic levels.  Our efforts are “academic” only in the sense that we can use the time and mental-space that University life affords to explore  the “big picture” of Social Justice principles, (and what they mean), in order to enact social justice in concrete applications for our students and communities.

The  Catholic Church’s presence at the UN — the Permanent Observer Mission of Holy See Mission to the UN — tries to help to answer the question at the diplomatic level during UN deliberations; The UN Mission submits statements to help remind the  UN body that worthwhile goals of  peace and development are authentically pursued only when the means are consistent with the principles of Social Justice found in Catholic Social Teachings:

  • Respect for Dignity of the Human Person
  • Call to Participation based on the Social Nature of Humanity
  • Rights and Responsibilities of individuals, towards the benefit of the Common Good
  • Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable
  • Respect for Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
  • Subsidiarity in Government (so that problems should be effectively handled at the lowest possible level of governance)
  • Solidarity
  • Care for the Environment – Stewardship of Creation

As part of World Social Justice Day, ihe UN’s International Labor Organization is promoting the “The Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization” and is calling for people to respond to the question “What does Social Justice mean to you?” There is also another local opportunity to add the collection of voices promoting Social Justice in various disciplines via the Libraries’ Applied Social Justice Essay Competition (the deadline for submitting abstracts for is this coming Tuesday 2/22). We encourage you to respond to these calls; by doing so, you can help inform the notion of social justice as is applies to the “real world.”

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If you were reworking and/or writing an essay for the contest, and got waylaid by the snowpocalypse, we encourage you to take advantage of the deadline extension!

University Libraries & Friends of the Libraries are proud to sponsor the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Applied Social Justice Essay Competition, which seeks entries from among undergraduate researchers whose essays incorporate and/or inform a social justice dimension within the essayist’s chosen discipline.

In addition to encouraging students to explicitly examine the social justice dimension (1)  of their research (with a faculty member as a mentor), the libraries are promoting the use of  a variety of scholarly resources (in both traditional and Social-media venues) which contribute to the creation and distribution of the student’s university-level research.

Winning essayists receive a cash prize (1st = $500, 2nd=$300), and  the winning essays then become available as a social-web-scholarly resource to other researchers and the public through open-access publishing via this library blog. (2)

The first deadline for this year’s contest is fast approaching, this Monday Jan 31 Tuesday, February 22. If you are an undergraduate student, please consider writing or revising a paper, in conjunction with your mentor; if you are a faculty member, please notify those students you think would be interested in this contest. For application details, see the Competition posting.

(1) For more on Catholic Social Justice teaching, and how it currently informs different disciplines, see our Social Justice LibGuide.

(2) We are pleased to report that the winning essays from last year garnered over 1300 blog views, and elicited many positive comments from readers outside the University community.

NOTE: Deadline for application is 2/22, final submission due 3/15.