Sr. Bernadette Purcell, University Chaplain at TU Dublin Tallaght, talks to us about the recent Social Justice Week, organised by the Students Union and University Chaplain, focusing on current issues in society.
What was the theme of Social Justice Week?
Bernadette: The theme for this year was “Our lives begin to end the day we stay silent about the things that matter” a quote by Martin Luther King.
How did the students respond?
Bernadette: Different Clubs and Societies get involved and so the different days allowed different groups to get involved. The 24 hours sleep out, aimed to raise awareness about homeless, involved 15 students and many others supported this by doing bucket collections, PRO work. The Kylemore Food company gave food and the caretakers in the college looked after their security. It was a college wide approach to the week. The other activities also got great buy in: for example, Fair Trade Coffee morning and SVP Toy appeal.
We had a talk by Peter McVerry and one of his clients who has gone through the Peter McVerry Trust and that was attended by 120 students and some staff. This client is now in an apartment, living a balanced life. His story was very moving and lots of conversation emerged around the issues of homeless, addiction and housing.
What is the main thing that students and young people are concerned about?
Bernadette: Homelessness and lack of housing/ drug addiction mental wellness. We also focused on National Accessibility Week as this was happening during these dates. We had the local Mayor and the President of TU Dublin on Campus for this launch. There was a great sense of connecting with the wider community and the South Dublin County Council partners.
As University Chaplain, what do you see as the important thing for young people to focus on?
Bernadette: It’s important to have a sense of the injustices happening in today’s society. There must be an informed notion of justice, not merely one based on opinion, hence we need to have those who work on the front-line share with the students what is happening.
We also need strategies of resilience to help with the self -care in a stressful society. Some students are in employment that absorbs a lot of time from their academic programmes. There is a need for balance and reflection in their student life. How do they do justice for themselves to maintain an inner balance as well as deal with the macro issues.
How do you personally see the connection between this kind of events and Presentation charism?
Bernadette: The PBVM Charism is based on the doing justice in the way of Jesus. Any program or activity that sheds light on the issues of the day, that encourages involvement, new awareness and change is welcome. We have been doing Social Justice Week for about 10 years now here. Each year the theme is about justice, and different activities emerge to support this theme.
The Charism expresses our commitment to justice. We belong to a wide web of people searching and wanting justice. As a University Chaplain, I am encouraged and enthused by the energy and commitment of the students and staff. The Social Justice Week is a great way of expressing the call to justice among the students and staff in the University.