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During the past decade, there has been a trend in higher education to reflect on and articulate the primary commitments to institutional mission. At the College of St. Catherine and University of St. Thomas (CSC/UST) School of Social Work (St. Paul, Minnesota), this has provided an opportunity to consider how our social work programs respond to and reflect the Catholic identity and mission of our sponsoring institutions. While some faculty recognize Catholic Social Teaching as a valuable resource and incorporate it into their courses, many do not. Some faculty believe that ‘religion does not belong in the classroom.’ This belief in secularism is reinforced by key ‘flash point issues’ which readily emerge when one simultaneously considers social work values and Catholic doctrine. Tensions related to important issues such as gender equality, reproductive and gay rights emerge immediately.
This article outlines how the CSC/UST School Social Work has embraced this ‘opportunity-challenge.’ Recognizing Catholic Social Teaching (CST) as rich resource of social justice, the School has committed to strengthening the social justice content of our programs through the integration of Catholic Social Teaching justice principles. The project described addresses faculty and curriculum development. As more than a set of tasks, the process has been a transformative journey focused on our School’s and our profession’s commitment to social justice and our identity as a program sponsored by Catholic institutions.