This is the 4th guest post by CFT board member Andrea Dennis chronicling the experience of CFT’s members. Her first post depicted her own experience, followed by interviewing a student member from DePaul, Helena Duecker, and then a local social enterprise director. Andrea has been a board member of CFT since 2013, is a longtime individual member, and the Outreach Director at Greenheart International


I have the esteemed privilege to connect with Marilyn Antonik of Old St. Pat’s. Marilyn is an educator, social justice activist, and a key mover ‘n shaker in bringing fair trade to religious institutions. Having been raised Catholic, I am particularly grateful to hear Marilyn’s perspective on all things fair trade and Catholic.

  1. Tell me a little bit about yourself Marilyn. How long have you been with Old St. Pat’s, what attracts you to their ministry, and anything else you’d like to share.

Old St Pat’s drew my husband and me to this community through their outreach programs to those truly in need as well as their meaningful, inspiring liturgies.  Over twenty-five years ago, we began tutoring men in recovery in basic literacy and computer skills. In 2000, we began a Justice Initiative to address causes of injustice as well as the works of charity we were doing to respond to those in need.

  1. What draws Old St. Pat’s to be a supporter of fair trade? How does your CFT membership impact the outreach work of Old St. Pats?

OSP is a member of Chicago Fair Trade as FT is a deeply rooted concept of our faith.  Worker’s rights is a vital social justice principle.  Fair Trade is good for economic development and the development of poor countries can help end mass migration, help lessen human trafficking, and enable families to support themselves with a sense of dignity.  CFT inspires us to continue our work, and provides us with many resources and opportunities to do so.

Our Justice Initiative team has committed to having a parish wide Season of Social Justice each Fall.  One of these themes was Care for Creation.  Through CFT we learned about FT coffee, etc. and were able to bring Fair Trade coffee to OSP, serving it all our events.  We also began purchasing eco-friendly paper goods.  We recycle paper and bottles, etc.  and now have large bins in all areas of our campus.

About ten years ago we started hosting a Solidarity Market featuring Ten Thousand Villages each November. For the past six years with the help of CFT we’ve invited over 30 Fair Trade or Eco-friendly individual vendors to sell their products at our OSP Market.  These vendors are amazing and an inspiration to us all.  Our people not only buy the gifts that give twice, but they hear the stories of the people making the beautiful products.

We’ve also started a Creation Care team at OSP, addressing environmental and Fair Trade issues in light of the Gospel and Laudato Si.  We believe it is important to link FT and Creation Care.  We sponsored four discussion sessions on LS in partnership with another parish.  We write a full Creation Care page in our bulletin each month.  This month we featured The Human Thread.  During the summer we sponsored a film, True Cost, on this issue for the One Earth film festival. During the past two months we’ve sponsored a recycled vase drive for Random Acts of Flowers and also had Chris Cox of The Human Thread address our group.   


    We have partnered with over 100 congregations over the years, but it is often challenging to convince these congregations to become members, despite the strong connection of Chicago Fair Trade to faith based social justice issues. Why do you think faith based members should join Chicago Fair Trade? What advice do you have for individuals working to get their institution to join Chicago Fair Trade?

Our faith calls us to act for justice.  Fair Trade has to be understood in light of the Gospels and faith documents such as Pope Francis’ Laudato Si.  Father Shay Cullen writes “Fair Trade is the long term sustainable vehicle for delivering social and economic justice.  The development and promotion of Fair Trade is a most effective way for Catholics to use their buying power to make a strong faith-based commitment and statement for social justice. Faith can be more alive every time they choose to buy a Fair Trade product knowing it is not the product of child labor, exploitation or cheating the producers. They will know it is based on fairness and concern. They will learn too from the information given with the products about the needs of the poor and the positive help that Fair Trade gives to them and what more they can do to help.”

As for joining CFT as a Church – this takes education and perseverance.  I’d suggest starting with something that would resonate in your parish.  Get a small group committed and then take issues to the proper channels.  It’s important to engage our pastors.  This is a great time to do it based on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si.  Fair Trade has to be understood in light of the Gospels and faith documents such as LS.  One idea is to start with a small project that would be acceptable in the parish such as recycling, bulletin articles with FT suggestions, FT coffee, etc.

  1. What trends do you see shaping the social justice outreach of faith based institutions? 

We need young leaders involved.  And this is beginning to happen.  On the FT issue, colleges are taking big steps and hopefully, young people will continue to be involved after graduaion.  And on Care for Creation in general, our children are leading the way.  At our local parish, St Mary of the Woods, when we discussed care for creation issues, the grade school students were ahead of us.  When I suggested to my granddaughter, age 5, that we recyle something, she told me, “No, Gran, we should reuse it first.”  I’m always impressed with all the young people involved in the Fair Trade events sponsored by CFT.  It gives me hope.

One trend of the future might grow out Laudato Si.  Our Pope certainly believes in the importance of our relationship with creation.  We need to build on this.  It’s a way to approach our pastors and church leadership.

  1. What are all the ways that faith based institutions can incorporate fair trade practices into their organization? This could include everything from fair trade wine for the Eucharist to fair trade holiday fairs.
  1. Serve and sell Fair Trade coffee, tea, olive oil, wine, etc.  At St Mary of the Woods parish, our local parish, we sell Fair Trade coffee, tea and olive oil about every six weeks. 
  2. Holiday Fairs are a fun way to expose congregations to Fair Trade vendors and principles. 
  3. Another effort we made was to check out our local grocery stores for Fair Trade items.  If we found them, we thanked the managers; if there was nothing, we asked them about carrying coffee, Paul Neuman FT items, etc.   It’s also helpful to let parishioners know which stores carry FT items.
  4. Suggest using FT wine and FT palms for liturgies and serve FT wine as well as FT coffee at Church events. 
  5. Our Young Adults hosted an evening of FT chocolates and FT wine tasting.   Fun and educational.
  6. Encourage parishioners to participate in CFT events such a Global Fest, Runs, wine tastings, visit Pop-Ups, etc.
  1. Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m always encouraged to persevere by the words of Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you so very much, Marilyn! 

If you want the tools and support to bring fair trade to your place of worship, education or workplace, join Chicago Fair Trade and be connected with the largest fair trade city in the U.S.