Catholic social teaching: Work can be your gift

Brother Ed Bergeron spoke about the dignity of work and workers' rights at Blessed Sacrament Church in Charleston on Jan. 27. "Everyone has a talent. It's what you do with that talent that is your gift to God," he said. (File photo)

CHARLESTON—Most people work to make money but, according to Christian Brother Ed Bergeron, there’s more to it than that.

Brother Ed spoke about “The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers” on Jan. 27 at Blessed Sacrament Church. 

He began by addressing everyone who came and had them introduce themselves. Each person gave their name and what they did for a living, even those who were retired. He pointed out that many people spoke about their job or what they did before retirement, before mentioning their family life; and some did not reveal a family life at all. 

His point was to show that people identify with their work. 

“It develops character and is a part of a basic human experience,” he said. 

He had the class study a parable about a landowner who hired laborers to work in his vineyard. He hired laborers at different times of day and in the end, paid everyone the same, even the ones that only worked an hour. This struck many of the workers as unfair, but the moral is that everyone who works in God’s kingdom receives the same reward. 

Brother Ed used the concept of those being passed over for work to show how people who are either underemployed or unemployed are sometimes looked down upon. 

“Work is important. It provides a way to eat and live,” he explained. “In our society if you don’t work, you don’t have value and that is not true … work gives worth, but doesn’t define our worth.”

Brother Ed also discussed how working can be essential to our social fabric by serving co-workers, society and customers. 

“We’re connected to one another through our work,” he said. 

He noted that in today’s world many people move from job to job. 

“I think that companies used to look after their employees. There was more social consciousness and that made people more loyal,” he said. “Now, the emphasis is on making more money with less employees and not paying them what they deserve.”

Brother Ed also addressed how college students sometimes change their major several times before committing to a profession. There is nothing wrong with that, he said. 

“I think our ‘call’ evolves. What am I called to do? Some discover that early on, but many people don’t,” he said. 

In the end, work is about worth. 

“Everyone has a talent,” he said. “It’s what you do with that talent that is your gift to God.”

The event was part of a series of talks sponsored by Blessed Sacrament’s social justice ministry committee. Beth Knowles helps organize the group’s events and said she enjoyed the talk because it struck her as a rational way of thinking.  

“Nothing he is saying is new or different, but it just reminds you about what is important. It is about being a better Catholic and a better person,” she said.

Mike Kirst also helped organize the event and said he liked the way Brother Ed assimilated ideas out of textbooks and applied them to reality.

“The Social Justice Ministry helps us to be more compassionate and engage with each other. It is really for everyone,” said John Hennigan, who is particularly interested in the Catholic Church’s social justice principles.

“These types of presentations help me to be a better version of myself. It is interesting to learn from others and hear their views,” said Shannon Hurley, a long-time parishioner of Blessed Sacrament.

Brother Ed is a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers and is the parish life facilitator at St. John Church in North Charleston. He has been with the Diocese of Charleston since 1996.

He is also the co-president of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry,

By Theresa Stratford