Drawn to Social Justice
By Associate Angela Anno
Associate Dave Scharfenberger started out as a business major when he was a freshman at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His involvement in campus social justice programs changed the course of his life. He became a political science major, graduated in 1971, and took a training in Chicago about community organizing.
He first connected with the Sisters of Charity when he was hired by S. Barbara Busch as a neighborhood organizer working for Catholic Charities in Northside. Working together they organized community residents on issues that most impacted people, like, housing, red-lining, funding for health centers, and the struggle to pay utility bills.
“We’d find out what the people wanted and needed, gathered together with them and supported and trained them as they came up with a plan that would achieve their goals,” Dave said. He said he is “in awe” of people who face injustice and obstacles and the strength they have in making their voices heard and bringing about change.
This awareness led him back to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in 1979, to get a master’s degree in social work at the University of Louisville.
On returning to Cincinnati in 1981 Dave worked for more than three decades with S. Barbara in a variety of roles at Working in Neighborhoods (WIN), an organization that trains community leaders and helps people with housing, financial literacy, and healthy living. It also works with community leaders to form coalitions with other service providers and organizations to further enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods. During his time at WIN, he also met a number of SCs, including Sisters Judith Martinez, Louise Akers and Joan Groff; S. Joan was his companion in the process of becoming an Associate.
Dave was able to share his experience in working in communities as an adjunct professor at Mount St. Joseph University teaching community organization and sociology, as well as serving as the first director of the Mount’s service learning program. The school has established an annual award for community service in his name. He also received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award (the SC Community’s highest honor) in 2011 for his work in the community.
His concern for social justice led him to a job at the Social Action Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati from 2011 to 2014 to work on immigration reform. Later he served as coordinator of outreach ministries at Good Shepherd Church from 2014 to 2016.
Dave became an Associate in 2019 as a result of his relationship with the Sisters he had met and known in his years at Working in Neighborhoods and Mount St. Joseph. He said he was always impressed that even though the Sisters and Associates have different personalities, gifts and talents, they are united in their commitment to the vision and charism of the Sisters of Charity, living out the gospel.
Their spirituality and commitment to social justice, their willingness to look at and adapt to the needs of the times is “remarkable,” according to Dave. “Instead of resisting they grow and change as needed.”
In retirement he continues to be active in the Archdiocesan Social Action Commission, the Anti-Racism task force, and issues like immigration and the environment, as well as spending time with his wife, Judi; children Emily and Josh; and his three young grandchildren.