Practically every political science major I know dreams of interning in Washington D.C. and all in the hopes of making a difference. As a senior at the University of Michigan, I’ve shared in that dream. So when the opportunity of interning at the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only because FAN is involved in issues that I am interested in, or because they work in D.C., but because I wanted the chance to explore my faith in the political realm, to discover how the beliefs that I hold close really affect the political sphere in this country.
I’ve always had a personal and active faith in God and close ties to Catholicism. On my college campus I’ve found a church where I feel comfortable, and though I don’t attend as regularly as I want or should, I know that I can find peace and solitude there when I don’t know where to turn. I’ve also always had an opinion on everything going on around me, and I’ve been known to be quite vocal in my political beliefs. However, I’ve never really been able to consciously find a place for both in my life. In some ways I think I’ve always thought that my Church and my state should remain separate entities, totally removed from the each other. I quickly learned at FAN that these two worlds completely intersect, and they should. How can anyone be an active member of their faith and live their lives as exemplified by Jesus, yet abandon those principles on the Red Line as you exit Union Station on your way to Capitol Hill? The answer I’ve found is you can’t, and you shouldn’t. In my ever-so-humble opinion, it is impossible and hypocritical to pursue a totally separate set of ideals when working in politics than it is when you are focused on any other aspect of your life. Catholic social teaching is meant to be a way of life. Social justice is something that all Catholics or Christians should aim to advocate for. Thus, as a Catholic that aims to work on issues directly pertaining to the state, I should be carrying these principles with me.
This summer at FAN, I was able to explore these new, profound thoughts of mine while shadowing Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF in her work on Human Trafficking and Immigration, but also in some environmental research. The biggest reinforcement though, came when the Nuns on the Bus rolled into town. FAN as an organization supported the Nun’s protest of the House’s Federal Budget and gave its interns the opportunity to be at the homecoming rally in July. Personally, I tend to identify as a Catholic but also as a Moderate-Republican. Before working at FAN, I would have accepted the budget as a gesture of partisan support and moved on to the next issue. But in between working on FAN’s beautiful new brochure and checking my email, I sat down and actually read the budget. It’s supposedly rooted in Paul Ryan’s Catholic faith and Catholic social teaching. It’s not. There’s no way it can be. Catholic social teaching says to help the poor and elderly, not cut their benefits. I’m not going to get into a detailed argument on the Ryan Budget, because that’s not the purpose of this blog. But instead, reiterate my own personal enlightenment on how my faith and my political beliefs were in conflict and morally I could no longer separate the two. Had I not had the opportunity to spend 7 weeks at FAN this summer, I would never have had this realization.
I could go on and on about all the practical life skills that I learned at FAN, or how my political beliefs have or have not changed, but I realize that this is becoming a bit lengthy so I won’t. I truly count my internship at the Franciscan Action Network to be a blessing. I am grateful for the connections I made this summer, for the welcoming and supportive environment I found in the office, and I pray that hopefully the friendships and mentorships that I began to develop will continue and flourish in the future.