The Center for FaithJustice provides transformative experiences of faith in action, builds community, serves those in need, educates for justice, and empowers people to change the world.
- The Bond Between Faith and Justice
Rooted in the Catholic tradition, the Center for FaithJustice affirms the essential relationship between what we believe and how we live. We join the words “Faith” and “Justice” into a single term to reflect our conviction that faith and justice are intimately bound together. God calls us – as individuals and as communities – to act on behalf of the vulnerable, weak and oppressed. Through CFJ’s work, we ask people of faith to revisit and renew their commitment to the Gospel and the common good.
We are inspired by the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that “[t]he laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation,” and thus “[e]verywhere and in all things they must seek the justice of God’s kingdom.” Through our projects, we hope that people of good will grow in understanding of the spiritual life and deepen their commitment to pursuing social, economic, and political justice for all people.
In 2011, Center for FaithJustice project participants will engage in well over 20,000 hours of community service, particularly in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and participate in a similar number of hours of faith and justice education. We believe in an approach to faith and justice that is both active and educational. For details on our youth and young adult offerings, please read about our SOFIA and WorX projects.
Each project is an expression of our commitment to educate the laity and seek a justice inspired by faith. We invite you to become a companion on this wonderful journey.
The Center for FaithJustice is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) public charity.
Rocky became CFJ’s Acting Executive Director at the request of the Board of Trustees in the spring of 2012. In July 2012, the Board asked Rocky to remain as the Executive Director, and Rocky agreed to do so on a volunteer basis.
Rocky brings a unique mix of ministry and business experience to the Center for FaithJustice. For 14 years in the 1990s and 2000s, he served as an adult facilitator of the youth ministry program at Our Lady of Sorrows-Saint Anthony Parish (Hamilton, NJ) and ran the program for three years alongside current CFJ Board member Mary Vanderhoof. He has helped facilitate Catholic volunteer experiences for youth and young adults and has played an active role in CFJ since joining our founding Board of Trustees. Before accepting the position of Executive Director, Rocky served as Chairperson of CFJ’s Board from 2011-2012. He and his wife, proud parents of three, live in Mercerville, New Jersey.
In addition to his duties at CFJ, Rocky is the group coordinator of the Rocky Balsamo Real Estate Group, which he started in 2003 when he assisted Long & Foster in opening their first real estate office in New Jersey. In 2011, the New Jersey Association of Realtors recognized Rocky for his volunteer contributions to CFJ and awarded him the Good Neighbor Award.
Martha has been privileged to minister within a variety of faith communities — parishes, diocesan agencies, retreat centers, retirement communities and now the Center for FaithJustice — for more than thirty years. The last decade included working as a Pastoral Associate for Worship at St. Charles Borromeo in Skillman, NJ and Program Associate for the Vincentian Renewal Center of St Joseph’s Seminary in Princeton, NJ. A passionate student, Martha has pursued advanced degrees in spirituality and fine arts and is currently writing her dissertation for a Doctor of Letters. There are a number of Divine imperatives that resonate with the work to which Martha has been called: feed, welcome, unite, bless, pray, listen, rest, rejoice, wash, eat, drink. At the heart of this role is its communal dynamic. No part can be achieved alone. The clearest, loudest part of any call Martha has heard with regard to her work is that it accompanies others. That work which has brought the greatest joy has connected her to faithful women and men asking, seeking, knocking (lamenting, cajoling, wondering, wandering, thanking, doubting, crying, dying) as together they find their way. From moment to moment they are, any one, shepherd and sheep, pardoner and pardoned, giver and gift. This is the good, important work in which Martha continues to be engaged.
Kimby first joined the CFJ family as a participant on JusticeworX. Her experience there sparked her interest, and after several more service/immersion trips the fire was burning! She attended Boston College where she deepened her faith and knowledge and fell in love with the Jesuits! She graduated with the call to “set the world aflame” ringing in her ears.
The call led her to Nashville where she earned her masters in Diversity and Urban Studies. While completing her degree, Kimby interned at a juvenile detention center. The experiences there strongly impacted her, and developed within her a deep compassion for youth and adults who are detained and incarcerated.
Laura Heil joined the Board of Trustees at CFJ in 2010, and is the currently serving as the President of CFJ, doing so on a volunteer basis for the past year. Prior to her work at CFJ, Laura worked at both Bristol Myers and Ciba Pharmaceuticals in the areas of marketing finance and financial management of consumer products. Her work there included both existing brands and launches of new brands/products and licensing/acquisitions.
In addition to her professional career, Laura has many years of volunteer service with schools, church, recreational sports and scouting. For four years, Laura served as the Service and Justice liaison for the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Council in Skillman, NJ. Currently, Laura also volunteers weekly at the Crisis Ministry, providing financial counseling to clients in Trenton who are homeless or face the threat of homelessness. While not doing all of the above, Laura also works as a fitness instructor.
Besides service and justice, Laura is an outdoor and adventure enthusiast. She loves to travel, especially on paths less traveled. Laura and her husband Steve are the proud parents of four grown children.
John joined the Center for FaithJustice staff in November of 2009. Previously a labor management consultant, John is a 2007 graduate of American University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. An innovative thinker and skilled manager, John directs the business affairs of CFJ and brings enormous enthusiasm to the process of building a nonprofit organization committed to building community and serving those in need.
As the overseer of the Casa Retreat and Meeting House, John works with groups to provide a quality space for group retreats and meetings.
He is also the enthusiastic voice on our voicemail, the doer of all things that need doing and an irresistible presence in the office. John calls Hamilton, NJ his home.
Jan joined the FaithJustice Fellowship in September 2011 as a next step in her career as a youth minister. She holds a B.A. in Interpersonal Communication from Western Michigan University, with a minor in Comparative Religion, as well as a National Certificate in Youth Ministries Studies from the Center for Ministry Development. After graduating from college, Jan served the last seven and a half years as Director of High School & Young Adult Ministry and Director of Youth Confirmation at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Portage, Michigan. One of her favorite parts of being a youth minister was taking students on service immersion trips, so she has loved working on the administrative side of that ministry at CFJ, seeing first hand what it really takes to provide these opportunities.
After finishing her volunteer year, Jan joined the staff of CFJ as Outreach Coordinator in September 2012. After a few months of superb work, Jan was promoted to Director of Programming. She misses her family and friends back home in Michigan, and has become the official spokesperson for fresh water vs. salt and saying “pop” instead of soda. Jan has enjoyed making New Jersey home and is excited to take on this new challenge and role!
After a decade of experience working with schools, faith communities, and nonprofit organizations, Seán Patrick Sanford founded the Center for FaithJustice in 2007; he served as a the Executive Director of CFJ from 2007 through 2011, and as President from 2007 to 2012. He is a currently a member of the Board of Trustees.
A 1997 graduate of St. Joseph’s University, Seán has studied at Union Theological Seminary, the Mexican American Cultural Center, and Temple University, where he is currently completing his doctoral degree. His research focuses on Catholic studies, American religious history, religion & sexuality, and political theology. Prior to founding CFJ, Seán served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Catholic Community of St. Charles Borromeo (Skillman, NJ), and as the first lay Executive Director of St. Joseph’s Seminary (Princeton, NJ). Seán has served as board member and consultant to a number of faith-based and secular organizations, and facilitated talks, retreats, and workshops on a variety of themes. He is the recipient of Enable’s 2006 Discover Independence Community Award and Saint Josephs’ University’s 2011 Ignatius Award for “embrac[ing] the Jesuit ideal of living … a faith that promotes justice.” Seán lives with his wife, Lisa and their dog, Maggie, in Merchantville, NJ.
Board of Trustees
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., The Rocky Balsamo Real Estate Group
KT Likely Consulting
Hill Wallack, LLP
Loyola University Maryland
Somerset Valley YMCA Child Development Center
Founder, Center for FaithJustice
UBS Financial Services, Inc.
Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson company
Alex participated in a variety of Center for FaithJustice programs as a high school student as well as the LeaderworX program while in college. Years after those experiences, she looked back on the effect that those experiences had on her.
“The Center for FaithJustice programs made it so easy to connect — to my peers, to the people we were trying to help, to my faith. Throughout the programs and the months after what I remember most is this incredible feeling — a mix of happiness, hope, purpose, empowerment, amongst many other emotions. I remember that during those experiences, I really felt like myself, and it was the closest I ever felt to being the person that I want to be, and that my faith teaches me to be.
After I graduated from high school and moved on through college and my early adult life — while I continued to volunteer, attend church, develop connections with my peers, and pursue a career dedicated to helping promote environmental and social justice — finding the same connection was much more difficult. And while I can say I am still struggling to find the meaning and purpose in my life and figure out who I am and where I want to be, I continuously draw on my earlier sense of self I discovered in the FaithJustice Programs. I use the feeling as sort of a proxy for making decisions. I know when I am doing something that gives me that same feeling as I had back then, that I am doing something right and I am being who I really am, and closer to who I want to be.”
In 2009, Alex earned a Masters of Science from Columbia University and is currently employed by the Earth Institute, a collection of research centers affiliated with the university. Her work is focused on species and ecosystem conservation.
Rev. Hugo Medellin, C.M.
Hugo volunteered as part of the LeaderworX program in the summer of 2007 while in the Vincentian seminary.
“The energetic young people who formed the LeaderworX group were amazing. They proved themselves to be very dedicated and enthusiastic about social justice issues. As a Vincentian seminarian, I found very encouraging to spend a summer with all of them and I learned a lot from them.
Given my different culture and age, I, at first, felt a little distant. Additionally, because I was so zealously focused on social justice, I wanted to be serious all the time and to keep the focus on what I felt was important. Eventually, I realized more profoundly the wisdom contained in book of Ecclesiastes, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” So I learned to laugh. I laughed many times. Some of the most remarkable moments of laughter were at the work sites. For instance, in a daycare facility for mentally challenged people, one of the customers wanted a picture with me. After we took the first shot, I asked for another and he agreed. But this time he took off a helmet he used to wear all the time. Nobody dared to touch that helmet because he would not allow others to touch it, but I took the helmet and put it on. We shared a sweet laugh. There were many moments with a similar feeling of joy during that summer.
I think the JusticeworX and LeaderworX participants also learned from me. I was able to share the stories of my youth and my experience as an immigrant in this country. The other participants and I were able to learn from the differences in our histories, but were also given the opportunity to witness the commonality of our human experience. I felt welcomed as part of that community.”
Hugo Medellin is a member of the Congregation of the Mission. He received an M.A. in theology from The Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in 2009 and is finishing his Masters of Divinity in that same institution. Hugo was ordained a Catholic priest in 2010.
As a high school junior, Annie participated in a WorX program in the Appalachian area of eastern Kentucky. Shortly after that experience, she reflected on the week.
“During our week in Kentucky, we worked building houses for the poor with Habitat for Humanity. After working through the day on the housing site, we would walk to Hurley’s, a little store near by, in the evenings. One night, when my friends and I went in to buy cookie dough for a snack, the man who owned the store, Cassey, struck up a conversation with us. By the end of the night our entire team was sitting on the porch, discussing the problems of the world with him.
During those few hours we spent on the porch I discovered that I am not alone in the world. Even though I can do many things on my own, I am going to need some help along the way. The people that I was helping were helping me as well. Our program facilitators led me to understand that even though I can do many things on my own, I need others, as they need me.”
A year later, as a high school senior, Annie participated in another WorX program, this time to Tijuana, Mexico.
“In Mexico, I worked beside the poor on the same project. The opportunity to work with the poor brought me back to Mexico two more times, after my senior year of high school and again after my freshman year of college. This experience altered how I did any service in the future and adjusted my vision for what I want to do with my life.”
Annie is currently the Youth Development Coordinator at Juma Ventures, a social enterprise college-access program for at-risk high school youth, where she works to reduce the psychosocial barriers that could prevent them from being successful in college and beyond. She is simultaneously pursuing a Doctorate in International and Multicultural Education with a Human Rights Emphasis at the University of San Francisco. Annie holds a B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Saint Joseph’s University. In 2007-2008, she served as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she worked as the Outreach Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and Summer Program Coordinator at the Mustard Seed School in Sacramento, California.