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Building an Interconnected Village of Support

Building an Interconnected Village of Support

Date: Friday, November 17, 2023
Joe and Stephanie Mancini

The Mancini’s reflect on their faith and the philosophical principles that ground their service at The Working Centre


When Joe (BA ’81, MA ’82, LLD ’19) and Stephanie Mancini (BA ’82, LLD ’19) graduated in 1982 from St. Jerome’s University, a federated partner of the University of Waterloo, they opened The Working Centre in downtown Kitchener to serve people facing unemployment and poverty in the community.

On November 9th, St. Jerome’s University welcomed the Mancini’s back to campus as part of the Lectures in Catholic Experience series to share their reflections on the roots of The Working Centre and the philosophical principles that ground this work. Stemming from the Church’s social teachings and significantly influenced by The Catholic Worker Movement, the married couple embody the ideals of a branch of philosophy known as personalism that prioritizes a life of serving others, radical sharing and love of neighbour.


The Working Centre model has used the Pastoral Circle to inform its approach to the crisis of poverty, joblessness and homelessness in the Waterloo region.


“The first step in this process is to walk with the experience of the people who have been left behind and actively listen and reflect on what they shared to help us understand the experience of others,” says Stephanie Mancini. “From there, we need to start asking critical questions that seek to explain the larger social or economic factors contributing to these challenges. The next step involves reflecting on our six virtues that inform this work — serving others, living simply, working as a gift, rejecting status, building community and creating community tools. Taking this personalist approach ensures that we are being other-centred and developing a common unity. And the last step is to take practical action, to improve things and constantly integrate new learnings to build community supports.” 


“The Working Centre is a dynamic living system that grows and evolves from these fundamental building blocks,” adds Joe Mancini. “All our projects, staff, and volunteers work together in an interconnected village of support.”


The recent pandemic and the current socio-economic climate have exasperated the number of people who are experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges and substance use. The Working Centre’s response using the Pastoral Circle has been to stretch deeply to help establish more than 230 shelter beds in Kitchener-Waterloo that are open 24/7, effectively doubling the former shelter system while expanding food production that now distributes 700 meals daily. 


“Modelling Catholic Action’s ‘see, judge, act’ methodology of social analysis, since 1982, Joe and Stephanie’s work has promoted justice and improved the lives of so many in our community,” says Peter Meehan, president and vice-chancellor of St. Jerome’s University.  “Their commitment to the needs of others embodies the very highest values and aspirations that we at St. Jerome’s University have of our graduates.”


Watch the full lecture

Join the Mancini’s at the next Research Talks


Topic: Societal health impacts of rising inflation and interest rates
Tuesday, December 5 | 6-8 p.m. 
Apollo Cinema, 141 Ontario Street North, Kitchener, ON

Register now: https://uwaterloo.ca/research/about-research/research-excellence/research-talks