Jobs: More than a paycheck

The prayers, hopes, and actions of many in the Livingston County community of Pontiac were answered March 12 when Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the Pontiac Correctional Center would remain open, keeping 600 jobs and millions of dollars in revenue locally. The news was like a ray of sunshine breaking through gathering storm clouds of job loss in our region and across the nation.

Pontiac has been under more than its share of those clouds. In addition to the prison scare, the community this month also watched as another major employer, United Fixtures Interlake, was sold and more than 200 jobs hung in the balance. The public high school district discussed possible staff reductions at its March 9 meeting.

Open any newspaper and you’ll likely find a headline telling of job cutbacks. “American Airlines to lay off 323”, “19 District 87 employees to be laid off”, “Eastman Chemical cutting up to 200 jobs”, “All Circuit City stores will close by Sunday” are just a few we clipped on a recent day.

Our own Catholic News Service wire tells similar stories. The Diocese of Phoenix, citing the weak economy, eliminated 17 central administrative positions this month in a major realignment. Another CNS story tells of one job in high demand in these troubled times: those who can provide counseling services to people whose emotional distress has outpaced their financial distress.

In the past century, the Catholic Church has developed a rich teaching on the spirituality of work and the rights of laborers. That teaching is worth frequent review in our present economy. For example, Pope John Paul II, in a 1981 encyclical called “On Human Work,” called unemployment “an evil in all cases” that not only stresses families but can lead to social disaster.

The church’s social teaching repeatedly tells us that our work is more than a paycheck. In a beautiful section of the same text, John Paul II described how, through our work, we assist God as Creator. That awareness “ought to permeate even the most ordinary everyday activities,” he wrote.

Yes, our work is much more than a paycheck. But when you’re out of work, providing for yourself and your family becomes priority number one. As we give thanks with those in Pontiac, let us keep those among us who find themselves in the difficult situation of unemployment in our prayers, and actions. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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