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Global Economy Affects National, Local Poverty


It is no longer possible to interpret poverty on a “one-dimensional” level, according to the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, who said that local and national poverty in the United States is tied to the global economy at a conference on Monday, April 16.

“Globalization is now the context in which all economics are understood today,” said J. Bryan Hehir, Ph.D., the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. “There is a trickle-down effect on our national, and local, levels.”

J. Bryan Hehir, Ph.D. Photo courtesy The Pilot

Father Hehir was one of three keynote speakers at “Celebrating Faith in Action,” a daylong interfaith conference and series of workshops sponsored by Fordham’s Bertram M. Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty, part of the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) on the religious community’s response to the challenge of poverty in society.

Speaking at the Lincoln Center campus on “Catholic Social Teaching and the Challenge of Poverty,” Father Hehir said that American Catholics are present locally, nationally and globally on poverty issues, but they must also address what it means to be a good citizen in a country that still has 32 million people living below the poverty level.

“It is not enough to measure an economy by its Gross National Product,” he said. “[Any] created order is to be measured by how well it serves the dignity and welfare of the human person.”

Other keynote speakers included John Kretzmann, Ph.D., co-director, Asset-Based Community Development Institute, School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, and James A. Forbes, Jr., Ph.D., senior minister at the Riverside Church.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, welcomed speakers who had traveled from other states on a day of record rainfall, saying “faith brought you here in the midst of the storm.”

“What the Beck Institute is doing, wrestling with the issues of the day—poverty and race—are especially important,” said Father McShane, “It is a topic that is at the heart of Fordham’s mission.”


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