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placeholder January 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

Larry and Meg Bowerman at the CRS Rice Bowl Awards, where she was honored for lifetime achievement.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

Bowerman focuses on ministry
when honored for achievement

If you've been to a social justice event in the Diocese of Oakland, chances are you have seen Meg Bowerman. She may have welcomed you. She may have been sitting at a folding table, with a clipboard and information about JustFaith, the ministry with which she is most closely affiliated. You might have seen her in Sacramento, speaking to area lawmakers on Catholic Advocacy Day. Or seen her in action in her parish, St. Columba in Oakland.

At the diocesan CRS Rice Bowl Awards in December, she was in the spotlight, albeit reluctantly, to accept the lifetime achievement award.

It was an honor she accepted graciously, then deflected the attention to JustFaith Ministries, for which she serves as the volunteer coordinator for the Diocese of Oakland.

If there's an Act II in Bowerman's life, it is JustFaith, the Louisville, Kentucky based ministry that connects Scripture to acts of service to the poor and vulnerable.

Bowerman is a pediatric nurse by vocation. Her sons were leaving home for college at the time she was introduced to JustFaith by Mary Doyle, who at the time was the social justice coordinator for the Diocese of Oakland.

Doyle had set up a day at the Holy Redeemer Retreat Center in Oakland, in 2004, with Jack Jezreel, the energetic founder of JustFaith.

"It was the right time," Bowerman said. "I had just taken the Ignatian Spiritual Exercise," Bowerman recalled. "It had really prepped me for the long JustFaith."

She joined a JustFaith group — 14 people, from four parishes, in the Upper Room at Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont — and completed the 30-week course. (The core course, she adds, has been trimmed to 24 weeks.)

JustFaith groups have formed at several parishes in the diocese. In addition to the core course, there are shorter modules on specific topics.

The newest JustFaith venture in the Oakland diocese, Bowerman said, will be a six-week course on hunger. She plans to invite the parish-based St. Vincent de Paul conferences to participate.

These groups of people, she said, "are very tight; they have known each other for years."

"They've done this wonderful, wonderful work, but I think are ready for a little bit of the advocacy work," she said. "Who better than these people, when we have Catholic Advocacy Day, to come up (to Sacramento) and say. 'I've been giving food out for 20 years. Here's what I've seen.'"

Bowerman's own life of advocacy can be traced back to her family in Detroit. My mom and dad were in Catholic Family Movement, which was big in the '50s and '60s."

She credits, too, her "cathedral days," with community organizing training by Sister Rosemary Delaney.

As the volunteer coordinator, Bowerman visits each JustFaith group three times during its 24-week journey. She has been particularly heartened, she said, by the groups forming at St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Alameda.

One of the highlights of the course is Journey to Justice Day, which is held at St. Martin de Porres School's West Oakland campus. Participants are invited "to get out of your comfort zone," she said, in a day built around the story of the Good Samaritan. Representatives from a pair of agencies that receive grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development speak to the group.

For those considering stepping out of their comfort zone, Bowerman has some suggestions. They begin with stop thinking about this work as "just you."

"Could you and a friend go? Are you part of a group at your parish that you've been doing things for years, go together and explore a place? If eight people go, you'll have eight different impressions that you can share later."

You can also adopt a Catholic Relief Services approach in meeting with an agency ahead of time. "That message is so needed," she said. "We don't go in and tell them what's needed. They tell us."

And, as Sister Rosemary taught her, build in time for reflection afterward.

 
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