By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
IRVING — With the irresistible seminar topic of Pope Francis, presenter Barry Hudock probably should not have been surprised that “overflow” truly understated the crowd that filled his workshop at the University of Dallas Ministry Conference at the Irving Convention Center on Oct. 24.
Conference-goers lined the walls and sat on the floor once people filled the seats for Hudock’s “Pope Francis: Apostle of Catholic Social Teaching.”
Hudock, an author of numerous books and articles, described Pope Francis as a humble man of the people whose demeanor and lifestyle contribute to his popularity.
But this pontiff — who has graced the cover of “The Rolling Stone” and wears regular shoes — is not articulating new concepts as much as he is applying Catholic teaching’s rich legacy to contemporary circumstances and challenges, Hudock said.
Hudock provided a riveting account of Catholic social teaching in the light of papal encyclicals since the Industrial Revolution transformed the 19th century.
“It was an enormous shift in how we lived together,” he said. “It brought many contributions to what life is like for us today.
“But it also brought many, many problems.”
Hudock’s material—a refresher to some and refreshingly compelling overall—covered ways in which the increase in factories and the migration from farms to cities spurred low wages and perilous working conditions.
“That’s when the church stepped in,” said Hudock, who spent part of his career directing non-profit agencies that serve the poor in West Virginia.
Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum” did not invent Catholic social teaching but applied the church’s rich tradition to the events of the time, Hudock said.
“It was a pretty dramatic thing,” he said. “It was very much rooted in Christian tradition—Catholic tradition.”
He cited examples from the Bible as the roots of the encyclical’s application of Catholic social teaching.
Hudock elucidated the points in Pope Pius XI’s 1931 “Quadragesimo Anno,” which came when the Great Depression had ravaged many lives.
St. John XXIII’s “Mater et Magistra” and “Pacem in Terris” in the 1960s addressed wealthy nations’ responsibility to aid the developing world and to seek global peace in the context of human rights, said Hudock, who works as a publisher at Liturgical Press in Minnesota.
He outlined the social justice contributions of Vatican II; Blessed Pope Paul VI; St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI to preface his remarks about Pope Francis and the way the world perceives him.
Hudock presented Pope Francis as having extra “oomph” because of his attitude and simple lifestyle. The pope’s choice of the island of Lampedusa–where many migrants have died in shipwrecks while trying to reach a better life—for his first visit outside Rome exemplified Catholic social teaching, Hudock said.
He called Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” a “powerful, powerful statement on Catholic social teaching” and a “beautiful, beautiful document” in support of solidarity, the common good, family life and other key values.
Visual projections of photographs and key historical points and documents enhanced Hudock’s presentation.
After he fielded questions, he called on an audience member who told him that he had enriched the conference because he was such a “dynamic and interesting speaker.”
The applause that rocked the room indicated general agreement.