A Kickstarter for Social Justice

By Joe Twiner

As I move towards the end of my college career, I have begun reflecting on the role of education in my life and the role I hope it will play in the future. Over the past sixteen and a half years I have been blessed to attend Catholic schools. I think of the heroes and the mentors who have guided me and have made me who I am today. One such hero came into my life during my junior year of high school.

Ms. Klister was well known in my school for her dedication and her passion for teaching. Every semester she started her class by explaining her love of teaching. She was a devoutly religious woman who  originally came to the school as a nun and made sure that every student knew that God was active in their lives. She introduced me to some of my favorite poets, writers, and thinkers. Most saliently every January her students were required to read Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter to Birmingham Jail” and be able to talk about the importance of nonviolent protests.

At the time I would have been best described as disinterested in politics, social justice, or nonviolent action. However, this letter challenged me and called me out as the silent white majority against whom the letter was written. Ms. Klister would challenge our privilege and call us to action asking us what issues today would be important enough to protest. We studied the work of Dr. King and other civil rights activists as well as the philosophy of nonviolence, which animated the work of the Dr. King as well as the work of activists today. But Ms. Klister did not stop with Dr. King. She would teach us about the nuns who walked with him (fittingly from the order to which she once belonged). Even though it was an English class, Ms. Klister so loved and lived Catholic Social Teaching that she made a point to share the importance of justice through literature.

Like so many teachers, Ms. Klister set off a snowball at the top of a mountain. She packed it tight with information and with passion and then sent it on its way. Down the mountain it has gone picking up speed and mass; the snowball has grown through further learning and reflection, but was only made possible through the strong base set in place by a dedicated Catholic School Teacher.

Now every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day I take some time and pull up the document which kickstarted my passion for peace and justice. Every year I take the time to reread and recommit to working for justice and working for peace. Every year I remember the heroes who have come before me, both in the work for justice and the work for Catholic education.

So, I would like to invite you to join me by reading “Letter to Birmingham Jail” found at this link: 


Edited by Lindsey Bronder

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