Leader Spotlight: Mark Spadafore

Mark Spadafore is a political organizer with 1199 SEIU. He grew up and still lives in Liverpool, NY, a suburb of Syracuse. Mark attends St. Joseph the Worker in Liverpool, and he is also part of the Executive Board of ACTS. 

What is your relationship with Gamaliel and how did it begin? 

ACTS is an affiliate of Gamaliel, and I think the name ACTS is aptly named because it reminds me of the Acts of the Apostles, which says to spread the good word. I started working with Gamaliel in 2006, which is when the organization came to our parish and we started organizing there with the parish and the community, and we have been organizing ever since. 

What issues in your community have you been addressing and how have they aligned with the Fire of Faith campaign and Catholic Social Teaching? 

One strength of our community is that we are really diverse, not just Catholics but other Christians, and Jews, and Muslims, along with other spiritual communities. We have 3 task forces, focused on food access, education, which is for funding for preschool education, and criminal justice which looks for funding sources for legal services. We are currently adding new task forces to fight for good jobs and a better community to fix the damage of a highway that was built in the area. This highway dispersed African American communities, and we are trying to mend this issue now. Our work aligns with Catholic Social Teaching, and I am reminded of this in the Book of St. James, we need to be living our faith and not just saying it. 

How does the aim of the Fire of Faith Campaign align with your Catholic Social Teaching? 

They align really well, Catholic Social Teaching talks about a more just world in general. The issues we tackle are examples of Catholic Social Teaching in action. Going back to the affirmative action plan, the problem is that right now the hiring practices have been and are racist, which Catholic Social Teaching clearly says is a sin. Also by getting abandoned house torn down we help the neighborhood. Abandoned houses are good places for rats to live. They are also places that can be used by drug dealers; so it is good to get them down. With the Fire of Faith campaign it is about building relationships with people and seeing what we need to do better and how we can create change. It is important to remember that we need to build relationships with people, we need to respect them and their views. 

What appealed to you in the first place about Gamaliel’s Fire of Faith campaign?

Well I liked that they are organizing for power and not just talking about it, which is important. Oftentimes we don’t get to the action point, we just sit around and discuss the issues, which doesn’t accomplish our goals. 

How has your Catholic background influenced your work in social justice? 

Well it’s the whole point of it; Jesus didn’t take the side of the wealthy and the powerful-he took the side of the powerless. I’m on the side of the working people and not those who own the means of production.

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