Poverty doesn’t have a religion. Leaders of different faiths have unified to fight that stigma by raising money to give access those in need of basic healthcare within Collin County, Texas. How did Jewish, Presbyterian, Baptist and other faith leaders come to together to put aside different beliefs to work together? They did it by orchestrating a 5K multi-faith walk/run called the Seton Soles.

The race has raised $150,000 since 2008 through the Monsignor Henry Petter Endowment Fund for the Support of the Office of Peace and Social Justice in Plano. It will take place at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church on April 14th.

“The values that we hold in common are far greater than the ones upon which we differ. Find the values that we hold in common and work together on those. When diverse peoples work side by side on common projects, respect and trust is built,” wrote Father Petter, who the fund was named after and who also shares a passion for running.

Beliefnet asked Father Petter to expand on why uniting different faiths is crucial to a community and to a nation.

Why do you believe it is important to bring together people of different faiths?

FP: On the 25th Anniversary of the first Assisi Interfaith Gathering for Peace, Pope Benedict XVI stated, “we are animated by the common desire to be pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace.” Men and women of faith in all of the major religious traditions of the world seek the same good. It is important to witness this truth to the larger community whenever possible. This event brings together folks who all want the same thing for our world, namely to live in a community that strives to right injustices when they occur so that real peace can be secured for our families and neighbors. This year will be the 5th Anniversary of the Seton Soles 5K. We are so grateful to all those who have supported it over the years and we look forward to this year’s event as it gets better and better each year.

Tell us how this race started and what the catalyst was to create it?

FP: When I was pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano, the parish was dedicated to outreach and working for the causes of justice in our local community. Since I have been a runner for many years, my parishioners came to me with the idea of doing a charity run to benefit projects in the community that exemplified the work of social justice. Not only did the run help to raise funds but it also raised the awareness that even in Collin County there is great need and many people struggle to live lives worthy of the dignity of their creation by God.

The Monsignor Henry Petter Endowment Fund--can you tell us more about this fund and how it impacts Collin County?

FP: As you know the purpose of Endowment Funds is to secure the future. Donations to this cause are maintained in a permanent endowment to benefit organizations working for peace and justice causes within the Collin County community. The Fund is overseen by an Interfaith Board of Directors made up of men and women who are leaders in their various Religious denominations. Each year the Board will determine an amount for distribution from the fund to be given to an organization in Collin County working to help people get back on their feet so that they can become self-sustaining. We are so honored that our first recipient of a $10,000.00 grant will go to Isabel’s Community Outreach. An organization dedicated to teaching men and women the necessary skills and job training to lead productive lives by developing their innate knowledge and talents. The grant award will be presented at the 5K Run/Walk.

Can you give us any testimonies or the impact of bringing different faiths together for the racing event on April 14th?

FP: While it is obvious that so much more can be done to accomplish good when more people work together on common projects, a wonderful by-product is the deep friendships that develop among diverse peoples who without the event would never have the opportunity to meet and to work together.

How would you encourage other churches nationwide to follow in your footsteps?

FP: The work of building relationships is what is most important. Relationships take time and don’t happen by accident. Taking the time to be with people and linger with people and celebrate with people all builds trust. The common projects will emerge from the relationships so look for ways to build relationships with folks with whom your path would not normally cross.

People are often fearful of getting involved with other faiths. How can we overcome this hurdle? Is organizing fundraisers like this, the answer to promote unity?

FP: There are certain core values that we all share when it comes to what we want for our families and our neighbors. We want safe and secure neighborhoods, we want jobs that allow families to support themselves, we want access to affordable health care and we want our elderly and marginalized treated with care and dignity to name just a few. The values that we hold in common are far greater than the ones upon which we differ. Find the values that we hold in common and work together on those. When diverse peoples work side by side on common projects, respect and trust is built. The joy that comes from acting for good is a feeling that is not reserved to one particular religion but is a gift to each who pursues justice and kindness.

Check out the Seton Soles!

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