Making the Abstract Concrete Teaching the Catholic Social Tradition through Community Service-Learning

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Peter E. Baltutis


This article offers a model of how to construct a course that makes the abstract principles of the Catholic social tradition more concrete through community-service learning (CSL). Primary source readings from scripture, the Apostolic Fathers, Thomas Aquinas, and the major documents of Catholic social thought provide the academic theory of the course. The application of this theory is demonstrated through exemplars of Christian service that model how the themes of Catholic Social Teaching can be lived out in the real world. Most importantly, this course requires thirty-five hours of service with a community partner that provides students experience with marginalized populations. In explaining the structure and workings of a CSL course, several logistical challenges are addressed and examples are given of how the course has been modified. Combining the abstract Catholic social tradition with real-life experiential learning provides tangible benefits to the students, the instructor, and the community partner.

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