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Symposium focuses on lifting downtrodden

Martin Sheen

Today's headlines include disturbing news about immigration, refugees, the struggles of the poor, threats to the environment and peace.

For Martin Sheen, an award-winning Catholic actor and dedicated social justice advocate, the only way to deal with these kinds of issues is to take action.

"The first world is going to have to account for this sort of horrible poverty in our midst," Sheen said. "We have to, first of all, become aware of it. We have to take responsibility for it. And then we have to do something about it for our own freedom, for our own salvation, for our own humanity."

Sheen, known widely for his role as President Josiah Bartlet in the TV series "West Wing," will serve as the keynote presenter for "Save the Earth, Save the Poor," an interfaith social justice symposium March 7 in the Solon Springs Community Center, 11523 South U.S. Highway 53, Solon Springs.

The full-day symposium, sponsored by Sheen and the Peace of Mind Project, features an array of presenters who are acting daily in support of the poor and marginalized and for the care of creation, including Sheila Lamb, executive director, All Nations Indigenous Center in Duluth and water protector at Standing Rock, N.D.; representatives from Catholic Charities in Superior and Lutheran Social Services in Duluth, the two largest faith-based social services organizations reaching out to the poor and marginalized in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin; Kent Shifferd, professor emeritus of environmental ethics at Northland College.

In addition to the integration of environmental and social justice issues, topics for the day's presentations include many of the housing, vocational and health services needed by and provided to seniors, refugees, the mentally ill and addicted, families, veterans, the homeless and those with disabilities.

The event runs 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with check in and continental breakfast 8-9 a.m. followed by Martin Sheen's pre-recorded keynote presentation.

At 4 p.m., all symposium attendees are invited to hear Father Dennis Mullen, a frequent presenter and retired priest of the Superior Diocese, speak on Pope Francis' Encyclical on the environment, "The Care for Our Common Home," at nearby St. Pius X Church, 11651 S. U.S. Highway 53, followed by a potluck dinner.

The event welcomes people of all faith traditions, is free of charge and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Attendees are asked to RSVP by calling St. Pius X Parish to plan for complimentary meals at (715) 378-4431, ext. 2.

The Peace of Mind Project is a nonprofit founded by Father James Kinney, pastor, St. Pius X Parish, in 1999 and dedicated to raising awareness for those with mental illness and related addictions, to enable them to live healthier lives and to bring an end to the stigma and discrimination of mental illness through education and the legislative process.