Bethany J. Welch, director of the Aquinas Center, a Catholic outreach center attached to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in South Philadelphia, represented the United States at the Vatican for the Nov. 5-6 celebration of the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes.
It is considered a landmark document of the Second Vatican Council that promoted interfaith dialogue and the Catholic Church’s concern for social justice.
The event this week in Rome included a symbolic handing over of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes from elderly participants in the 1962-1965 council to an invited group of youth and young adults from the various countries in five continents. Welch had been asked to represent the U.S. by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The invitation to attend the proceedings in Rome is a huge honor and comes at a unique time following the visit of the Holy Father to the United States,” said Welch. “I was particularly struck by his address to Congress when he said, ‘Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.’”
“His call for responsiveness and solidarity reflects the impact of a document like Gaudium et Spes and reinforces the values on which Aquinas Center was founded,” Welch said.
Aquinas Center, which is located at 1700 Fernon Street in Philadelphia in the multicultural, multilingual and largely immigrant parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, opened in January 2013. It hosts “urban immersion experiences,” according to Welch, plus counseling services, legal services to help immigrants regardless of their documentation, community organizing and advocacy work, English classes and urban revitalization activities.
Welch believes systemic injustice is a root cause of poverty along with a lack of access to social services and high quality education. She said she is inspired by the dignity of all persons and believes the work of Aquinas Center demonstrates the power of Catholic social teaching.
Her Catholic faith motivates her to promote a “culture of encounter” with people, the poor especially, to which Pope Francis has called everyone. Welch works to infuse this mission into the work of Aquinas Center, especially through its leadership training programs and community organizing.
“Everyone has dignity. Everyone has gifts to share,” Welch said.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103