“For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)
The Center for FaithJustice (CFJ) inspires the next generation of leaders by creating programs to serve those in need and educate for justice in the Catholic tradition. Founded in 2007 and officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2008, the CFJ’s founder Séan Patrick Sanford boldly envisioned an innovative approach to faith formation that would engage young people not only through intensive reflection and emphasis on catechesis but also ministry to those in need. This vision has evolved into the Center’s signature “WorX” programs – ServiceworX, JusticeworX, CommunityworX, and LeaderworX – for youth and young adults from middle school through college.
Named for the biblical passage that inspired them, faith without works is dead (James 2:26), our signature “WorX” programs create a space for participants to engage in direct service to those in need and participate in complementary prayer and reflection activities. In contrast to typical service learning, CFJ engenders in young people a deep understanding of systemic poverty and instills lifelong values of social justice through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching.
Since our founding, we have served more than 5,000 young adults through our intensive retreat-style service immersion experiences to impoverished areas, representing more than 300,000 combined hours of direct service and social justice education. Those original program participants are now young professionals in the early stages of career, marriage, and family life; in fact, several of them currently serve on the Center’s Board of Trustees. Our alumni have gone on to become impressive servant leaders in many diverse fields ranging from international aid to corporate America to ordained ministry. Check out our alumni page to read up on some these incredible servant leaders.
CFJ is approaching the end of its first official decade of nonprofit service, but our roots extend back even further. Originally conceived by a group of college students in the mid 1990’s, CFJ was envisioned as a means for them and other young adults to stay connected to and continue to grow in their faith as they transitioned from college to life as young professionals. After years of collaborative brainstorming on how they might support each other and commit themselves more fully to a Christian vision of justice, Seán Sanford and his mother, Helen, began to host their first programs under the name “New Jersey Service Project” in 2002.
After a name change, Seán launched the first-ever “WorX” program in 2006 and the brand has endured ever since. That same year, with the help of an elected board, the Vincentian community at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Princeton, NJ, and many friends, the Center began the formal process of filing articles of incorporation and was granted tax-exmpt status in May 2008. The following February, CFJ relocated to its current location, the CASA (an acronym for “Convent at Saint Ann”) in Lawrenceville, NJ.
“We are taking part in something that seeks nothing less than the transformation of the world. We know that this mission will not be fully achieved without God’s grace and that the realization of the Kingdom of God is beyond our human reach, but we are also confident that we are doing good work as members of the Body of Christ on earth. The harvest is waiting and abundant, and with your willingness to serve, the number of workers continues to grow.” (Seán Sanford, 2010)
Seán stepped down from a day-to-day operational role with the organization in 2011, but remains engaged as President Emeritus, trusted advisor, and friend to the current leadership. A number of CFJ’s earliest staff members remain in touch, too, with some continuing to volunteer and join as Team Leaders on summer WorX programs. We are eternally grateful for the institutional history they enthusiastically share.
For two transitional years, the organization was led by dedicated volunteers, Rocky Balsamo and Laura Heil, who shared operational responsibility and oversight of the organization. Both long-time Trustees and donors, Rocky and Laura devoted themselves to sharpening the WorX program model while emphasizing financial stability and sustainability. They passed the torch to Stephanie J. Peddicord, a non-profit executive who served with the organization in various capacities since 2013 and assumed her current role as President in April 2015.
Today, the organization and our mission continues to grow. Our traditional WorX programs in Trenton, Philadelphia, and Appalachian West Virginia are thriving and welcome hundreds of students on programs every summer. We are equally blessed by many new opportunities for programming and collaboration and look forward to the future.