We Need YOU! Add Your Voice to the CSMG through the Diversity Outreach Initiative.

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) has been bringing a collective voice on issues of poverty, war, injustice, and the promotion of human life and dignity to Capitol Hill for over three decades.  Since its beginning, offices within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have joined forces with over a dozen Catholic ministry partners, including Catholic Relief Services; Catholic Charities, USA; Catholic Climate Covenant; Society of St. Vincent de Paul; and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (which I direct) to sponsor this important annual gathering of social justice leaders from throughout the United States.  Through networking, plenaries, and workshops, participants gain an understanding of possible social, political, and cultural transformations and inevitably grow stronger in their Catholic faith as they put it into action.

The Diversity Outreach Initiative (DOI) was established over a decade ago when CSMG planning leaders recognized that important voices were missing from the gathering and visits to Capitol Hill.  These leaders decided to take action to ensure that the CSMG would more fully reflect the rich diversity of the Church. Thanks to the DOI, the Church’s social ministry has been strengthened as we reach out to Catholic ethnic, racial, and disability communities, encouraging members to lift up their voices and share the richness and diversity of their gifts to further our mission.  As part of the commitment to ensure the participation of diverse communities, the DOI offers scholarship funds which cover registration and housing expenses. Since its establishment, the DOI has enabled people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the gathering, including students, young professionals, and seasoned advocates.

Each year brings more opportunities for DOI participants to enrich the full gathering as they serve as speakers or panelists for plenary sessions, experts in workshop sessions and in various liturgical roles.  Over the years, DOI participants have shared reflections from their experiences during morning prayer.  Several of these past reflections stand out to me:

  • Last year, Adelson Da Silva (Korá is his indigenous name), a tribal leader, offered a traditional ritual prayer that witnessed to the sacredness of creation and our common responsibility to protect it.
  • A student from an Illinois university, David, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair, offered a reflection on the story of the paralyzed young man who was lowered down to Jesus through the ceiling, noting the creativity and commitment of the friends to create the access needed to bring their friend to Jesus. Of course, he urged us to go forth and do likewise!
  • The experience of Dreamers has been shared in panels, along with reflections by African-American pastoral leaders working in inner-city
  • Another year Renee, a pro-life disability advocate who also lives with cerebral palsy, focused on the richness of our Catholic social teaching which recognizes and upholds the dignity of every human person, including those which society tends to marginalize through lack of community-based services or even to eliminate through abortion and assisted suicide.

An exciting aspect of the DOI and CSMG is what happens when people return to their homes with a renewed commitment and heightened understanding of how to effect change in their local communities.  We hear back from students who organized events at their universities to raise awareness and advocate for systemic change.  We learn that anti-poverty advocates challenge the lack of affordable and accessible housing, armed with the resources and lessons learned at the CSMG.  We appreciate the feedback we receive from participants, such as Lauren who shared what attending CSMG meant for her: “I was fortunate to participate in the CSMG as a diversity candidate. It was extremely beneficial to me personally and to my Diocese. Not only did I learn so much about the Church’s position on important issues, but I was able to network and collaborate with my colleagues to plan for more effective dissemination of this information to the people we serve in eastern North Carolina.” – Lauren Green, Director of African Ancestry Ministry & Evangelization, Diocese of Raleigh.

Make plans now to join us for the CSMG 2019 from Saturday, February 2 through Tuesday, February 5 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Join the conversations on racism and restorative justice, advocacy with Asian and Pacific Island Catholics, restoring a just economy, engaging and accompanying migrants, affordable housing, ending poverty, assisting women in unplanned pregnancies, and ending the death penalty.  Learn more about CSMG here.  If you are a member of a diverse community served through the DOI, consider applying for a scholarship before November 26, 2018!

It is time to Act!  Time to Learn! Time to raise your voice for justice!  Join us for CSMG 2019!  We need YOU.

Janice Benton

 

Janice Benton, OFS is the executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) in Washington, D.C. and a professed Secular Franciscan.  

Oscar Romero: A Saint for Our Days

444px-Oscar_Romero_by_puigreixachAs Catholics, we believe that our Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. For many, the shortcomings and failure of our Church leaders to protect the most vulnerable in our communities have undermined that bedrock belief. Yet, in the midst of this chaos, the Holy Spirit has made His presence evident through the timely canonization of Saint Oscar Romero. With Romero’s canonization, the Holy Spirit is lifting for the entire Church a model of Christian leadership that is needed in our Church today.

Most people are familiar with the narrative of Romero’s life. A conservative priest then bishop who had a powerful transformation that led him to become a voice for the poor and marginalized in El Salvador. That transformation is often attributed to the assassination of Romero’s good friend, Father Rutilio Grande. While the event had a significant effect on the new archbishop, Romero’s transformation was rooted in his experience as Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de María. This diocese, a poor and rural region, brought Romero in direct contact with the suffering people of El Salvador.

It was in Santa María where Oscar Romero encountered Christ in the suffering and persecuted people to whom he ministered. It was here where he came into contact with the repression and violation of human rights experienced by the farmers under his pastoral care. This closeness with the suffering of his parishioners made him sensitive to the day-to-day needs of the people in El Salvador. Here he learned to listen with the heart and to speak without fear. He learned to accompany the abandoned, the despised, the vulnerable. It was his ability to do these things that made Oscar Romero the archbishop that the people of El Salvador needed.

Today, we are in need of such leaders. Our Church needs leaders who take the time to encounter Christ in those who are suffering, those who are hurting, and those who have been regarded as disposable. Romero, through this encounter, was moved to speak and act on behalf of those on the margins. It was this experience of accompaniment that also fed him the prophetic words that touched the souls of those living through the repression.

Our situation here at home is in no way comparable to the dire situation of El Salvador in the 1980s. However, today we have communities that live in fear. Families that are being separated at our southern border. People fearing for their lives can no longer see the U.S. as a place where they can “breathe free.” In this environment, prophetic voices are needed. These prophetic voices won’t be elevated until all of us–clergy and lay leaders—immerse ourselves in the lives of our brothers and sisters on the margins. Only by going to the margins will we be able to acquire the language of love that can move others to action.

Young people who have come to distrust most institutions are looking for the modern-day Romeros. They want to be inspired by the holiness of this man, and they will only be convinced if you and I decide to imitate Romero. The Holy Spirit has lifted up a saint we desperately need in our Church and world today.

Going Deeper:

Pray with St. Oscar Romero and discern how you can work for justice in your community. Looking for some ways to get involved? Check out these tools and resources that will help in your advocacy with our brothers and sisters on the margins.

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Javier W. Bustamante, Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement, is responsible for implementing, coordinating and supporting a comprehensive program of social, cultural, intellectual, spiritual, governance and community service programs that complement the academic mission of The Catholic University of America. 

 

A Treasured Encounter: Honoring the Stories of Fair Trade Month

cross-670244_960_720October is Fair Trade Month, a time when we are invited in a special way to reflect on and lift up the dignity and rights of workers throughout the world.  While we are called to make ethical purchases throughout the year, Fair Trade Month provides us with the opportunity to share the stories and the people behind the products. Recently, I was able to hear one of those stories and was reminded of why supporting Fair Trade products is so important.

I was finishing set-up for my display of Fair Trade crafts and chocolates at the Annual Convention of the Palm Beach Diocesan Council of Catholic Women when I placed a sign that read: “My work makes me very happy because it has enabled me to send my daughter to school.”  The sign had a photo of Etia and her daughter, a picture I had taken from the tag of the pond critter planters made in Bangladesh.  Most Fair Trade products from SERRV have a tag that shares a story about the artisan that made it. “I have never met Etia,” I said to myself as I wished that someday I would have the opportunity to meet one of the many artisans who create the products sold in the CRS Ethical Trade/SERRV catalogs.

At that moment, I looked up and I saw a man walking by my booth. For an instant, I thought he was going to be my first customer, but he continued walking as if taking a panoramic view of my display. Then he left.  After a few minutes, he came back and walked from one end of my table to the other end and then walked away again.  Since this was a women’s conference, I gathered he must have been someone’s husband who had come to drop off his wife. But he came back again.

“My father used to make those crosses in Bethlehem,” he said, pointing to an olive wood cross from the West Bank displayed at my table. In disbelief, I asked him: “Your father made crosses in Bethlehem?”  “Yes,” he answered. “My father made crosses like that one.”  “Are you from Bethlehem?” I asked.  “Yes, I was born in Bethlehem,” he said. “My name is Tariq Hamad.”

Tariq then proceeded to tell me how a woman named Barbara, who came from SERRV, would come by his father’s shop in Bethlehem every year and buy a large number of crafts from him.  “This helped our family survive financially,” he said. Tariq was in high school when Barbara first came, and she continued to come back every year even while Tariq was in college.  “When I went to study at the Aristotle University in Greece, my dad was able to send me money each month and this helped me to continue my studies,” he added. Tariq emigrated from Greece to the United States after he finished his education. He now resides in Miami where he has his own religious gifts shop named “Bethlehem Treasures.” He was present at the Conference of Catholic Women this day as an exhibitor.

I have been the CRS Diocesan Director in Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach since 2011.  From the beginning, I was sold on the principles of Fair Trade that protect the rights of workers and empower the poor and vulnerable by guaranteeing fair wages that allow them to send their children to school. In 2013, I was a member of a Delegation from the United States that visited several CRS programs in Rwanda, including a coffee cooperative that put Fair Trade principles into practice. During this experience, we met the coffee farmers and heard their testimonies, but I had never met someone whose family had been a beneficiary of the crafts that I sell at the CRS Ethical Trade sales.  I never imagined that I would ever meet a beneficiary of Fair Trade whose father could say:  “My work makes me very happy because I have been able to help my son continue his studies at the university.”  This indeed was an encounter that I will treasure and will further motivate my involvement with CRS Ethical Trade for years to come.

As we continue to celebrate Fair Trade Month, learn more and discover how you can support workers, farmers, and artisans like Tariq and his father:

Elena Muller Garcia

 

Elena M. Garcia is Director of Parish Social Ministry and CRS Diocesan Director at Catholic Charities Diocese of Palm Beach.

Four Reasons You Should Participate in the Young Leaders Initiative at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering

yli-at-receptionThe Young Leaders Initiative at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering was created to give a voice to the emerging leaders doing important works of justice around the country. The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering recognizes the critical role young leaders play in shaping the future of the Church and thus wants to provide both space and a training ground for the next generation of leaders to hone their skills, make connections with others, and deepen their understanding of the ways Catholic Social Teaching informs anti-poverty work in the Church.

As a campus minister at The Ohio State University, I brought a group of students to the Young Leaders Initiative at the 2018 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. My students and I were able to leverage that experience to have a profound impact on their work back on campus. Check out some of the ways the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) can be a touchstone for you, your students, and your leadership organizations to move from passionate understanding to concrete action.

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1) Deepen your commitment to justice: Finding and connecting with peers from colleges and universities across the country is a powerful motivator for students. It’s helpful to know that they aren’t the only ones struggling to make their voices heard or make a difference in their community. Right then and there at CSMG students are empowered to make their voices heard in the halls of Congress to protect and support people suffering the impacts of poverty and injustice.  Mary Chudy, a 2018 Young Leaders Initiative (YLI) participant from The Ohio State University wrote, “CSMG showed me that a student’s voice mattered to legislators. I had never done a full legislative visit before (especially not in D.C.). Being in Columbus, it especially showed me how imperative it was for me to be more involved with advocacy and legislative visits, and that my story mattered.  It was also a great opportunity to interact with and advocate alongside inspirational advocates of peace and justice from both the national and international spheres. It gave me lots of creative ways to approach further programming on my own campus, through being part of the leadership team for the CRS Student Ambassador Chapter on Ohio State’s campus. CSMG gave me the tools and connections I needed to create impactful programming for entire Newman Center community, including a social justice-centered Stations of the Cross, Simple Solidarity Meals, and a Candlelight Vigil on the evening of Holy Thursday in solidarity with migrants and refugees.”

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2) Making connections is key: CSMG provides opportunities to make long-lasting, professional connections that can go on to benefit both students and campus ministers alike. Because of the wide variety of Catholic organizations all present at CSMG, students have the opportunity to see the many ways there are to put faith into action and effect real change in local and national organizations. Learning about the breadth and depth of the Catholic Church’s commitment to putting Catholic Social Teaching into practice is like adding fuel to the fire for students already committed to justice. Introducing the systems and organizations by which we put the Gospel call into action, is a powerful tool in connecting the teachings of Jesus to the work we do every day.

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3) Engage in our call to ADVOCACY: This one is so important it warrants ALL CAPS. Doing the work of charity and direct service is obviously important. But we are called to more. The invaluable advocacy training that happens at CSMG puts a frame around the Gospel call to justice. Justice requires we speak out against systems of oppression. At CSMG our voices are awakened and re-energized to utilize this opportunity to share the stories we’ve heard and the experiences of poverty and injustice we know firsthand. We are given both the tools to lobby and the time to meet with our legislators and implore them to make some important changes. Despite the cynicism about government today, constituent visits and calls still make up the most important factors for legislators making a decision on a bill. This is a real tool where students can learn by doing and a central part of CSMG is mentoring others into this role. Imagine the impact you could have on your local legislators after opening the door to advocacy.

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4) Takeaways for your ministry: Do you have a project you want to launch this year? CSMG will give you the space, time, and tools to craft the why and how of launching a new project. On Ohio State’s campus, we saw several new initiatives grow out of the work we started together at CSMG. Cella Masso-Rivetti, an Ohio State student leader states: “Sending several of our Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering as part of the Young Leader Initiative bolstered our chapter’s confidence and dedication to bringing social justice to campus. Through Lent of 2018, our group worked to bring our Newman Center and Ohio State campus community to a close encounter with our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters.  After Holy Thursday Mass, our chapter led a Vigil Walk, in which we held placards with the message ‘We Stand With Our Brothers and Sisters who are Refugees and Immigrants’ and carried candles through the dark in a solemn procession around campus.  CSMG gave our chapter the social justice expertise, tools, and support to carry out this event and other events aimed at Lenten Encounter through the semester.”

Interested in learning more about YLI and CSMG 2019 in general? Check out this webpage learn more and complete the interest form. Scholarships are also available for students from diverse communities through our Diversity Outreach Initiative. Contact Emily Schumacher-Novak (enovak@usccb.org) for more information!

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Austin Schafer serves as Pastoral Associate for Campus Ministry at St. Thomas More Newman Center on The Ohio State University’s campus. He is also the co-chair for the Young Leaders Initiative at the 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. Austin wrote about how influential attending CSMG was for his student leaders on campus.

On Labor Day, a call to lift up the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

Volunteer with intelectual disability working at Bakery WorkshopIn his 2018 Labor Day statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, calls for all persons to work together for just wages, which are necessary for families to flourish. A just wage is one that “not only provides for workers’ financial well-being, but fosters their social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions as individuals and members of society.”

We heard this call echoed in the readings this past Sunday. In the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are reminded of the justice within God’s law, which included several parameters on work and economic justice (5:13-15, 14:28-29), and their duty to keep the demands of that law (4:1-2,6-8). In the second reading from the letter of James, we heard the call to “Be doers of the word and hearers only” (1:22), something Mark’s Gospel points out can be challenging to do in light of temptations towards greed, deceit, theft, and other evils (7:20-22).

As we reflect on the vision of Catholic teaching, and in the just laws of the book of
Deuteronomy about the treatment of the poor and workers, or James’ warning
not to simply hear the words of God without action, or Mark’s warnings against greed, we might ask ourselves: How can we help make God’s vision of justice a reality? How can we, in our families, institutions, and as a society, better respect the dignity and rights of workers and the well-being of their families?

As Bishop Dewane remarks in his 2018 Labor Day Statement, “First, we are called to live justly in our own lives whether as business owners or workers.  Secondly, we are called to stand in solidarity with our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters.  Lastly, we should all work to reform and build a more just society, one which promotes human life and dignity and the common good of all.”

Watch this video resource for more on how Catholic Social Teaching invites us to uphold the dignity of work and rights of workers not only in regards to just wages but also to allow for the full flourishing of all people.

 

Going Deeper

Looking for more information on what Catholic teaching says about the dignity of work and rights of workers? Use this primer on Catholic Social Teaching on Labor or these quotes from Pope Francis on Labor and Employment to learn more.

Caring for Creation: A Vocation

When Pope Francis established the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation three years ago, he declared that this day would provide “individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation.”

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The word “vocation” in this context might sound strange to some, especially given the observations of the recent Vatican Document anticipating the upcoming Synod on Young People, which found that many people only associate the term with the priesthood and religious life. The truth is, however, not only that awareness of a vocational call is accessible to all people, but that there is also “a fullness to each vocation.” In other words, it is not a one-and-done decision to enter the priesthood or married life, for instance, but a multilayered reality that is continually revealed by God throughout one’s life.

In this sense, Pope Francis sees this day as an opportunity for everyone to come to a deeper understanding of our call from God to care for creation. “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork,” Pope Francis states in Laudato Si’, “is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (no. 217).

From my perspective, this is not the way that most people think about creation care. It is often reduced to a few discrete actions: recycling, turning off lights, using a reusable water bottle, etc. It is not uncommon to see lists of “5 Easy Ways to Go Green,” as if living in harmony with the natural world is something we can do in our spare time after dinner and then be forgotten.

Pope Francis is calling for something much more radical. The nature of the ecological crisis necessitates a complete transformation in perspective and a “profound interior conversion” (LS no. 217). Seeing caring for creation as a vocation, causes one to view every action, thought, and prayer through the lens of one’s relationship with creation and the Creator.

Given that “everything is connected,” an increased awareness of this reality can quickly become overwhelming (LS no. 117). One begins to see how each individual is entangled in a vast web of consumption beyond one’s control.  This makes it extremely difficult to reduce one’s impact on the environment and others, or even to know one’s true impact. The simple decision to buy a cup of coffee, for instance, leads to a myriad of questions about how the beans were grown, processed, and transported, how the workers were treated, how the paper cup was produced, and so on.

Realizing the systemic nature of social and environmental problems can be paralyzing and disheartening. Yet seeing our response to these issues as a dimension of our vocation can make things simpler, since our most fundamental vocation is the call to holiness: “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness” (Gaudete et Exsultate no. 19).

As Pope Francis advises us: “Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received” (GEE no. 23). The systemic problems we face cannot be solved by individual spiritual growth alone, but the above guidance serves as a useful roadmap for the profound spiritual conversion we must undergo.

On this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and throughout the Season of Creation, then, let us pray that we become more aware of the place we inhabit within the web of life and hear how God calls us to live in greater harmony with all creation.

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Matt Jones serves as the Environmental Policy Assistant for the Environmental Justice Program of the USCCB. Learn more about the USCCB’s work on the environment.

 

 

Going Deeper

September 1 is the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the beginning of the “Season of Creation,” which lasts until October 4th, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. For ways to celebrate the Season of Creation, check out this handout created by the USCCB or this reflection resource created by the Catholic Climate Covenant. You can also download the Catholic Climate Covenant’s Feast of Saint Francis program for your parish, which this year focuses on the intersection of climate change, refugees, and migration.

A Fierce Urgency of Now: Remembering the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

If You See Something, Say Something. This message on billboards, in airport terminals and on buses appears to be as well-branded today as Smokey the Bear’s mantra, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” was in my youth. We all want to feel safe, but the “fear” of some persons is endangering the lives of others.

Consider the following headline, currently circulating in the Black Press:  Florida Jury Awards $4 to Black Family. In St. Lucie, Florida a jury deliberated the case of a county deputy who fatally shot a Black father of three while he was listening to music in his garage. The incident began with a noise complaint by a mother picking up her child from a school across the street from the home of Gregory Hill Jr. For killing Hill and tear gassing the community, the jury awarded $1 to Hill’s mother for funeral expenses and $1 to each of his children for “loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and … mental pain and suffering.” The verdict later was reduced to $.04!

I am more than fed up with the killing of Black people on the streets, at traffic stops, on death row, in the womb or due to poverty. Yet, the distressed phone calls of “concerned citizens” reporting the presence of Black people in “white” spaces is, I believe, an old form of harassment. It is reminiscent of perceived threats and insults that have historically generated violent retaliation against the Black community – including riots and lynching. There seem to be no consequences for the caller and no repercussions for the killer.

martin-luther-king-682116-pixabayRev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put forward a “fierce urgency of now” more than 50 years ago. It resounds in the call for reparations today. Addressing reparations would interrupt the harassment trending in communities at this time. This is not an “eye for an eye” philosophy nor an equalizer for generational injustice. Petitioning for reparations has a scriptural and sacramental basis. Like the brief period of Reconstruction, there is a restorative value for the entire community.

Despite external differences, we are one human family. Right now, the spectacle on the border sense is a déjà vu experience for African Americans and American Indians whose children have historically been taken away to boarding schools or sold away. Even now, poor and vulnerable children miss out on “parental companionship, instruction . . . guidance” and protection. Until we make a serious effort to address injustices like this and make reparations to those who, throughout our history, have been denied dignity our human family will remain fractured.

Recently, I re-read Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963.  Generally, that iconic moment is viewed as a rallying cry for freedom, justice, and integration. However, did we forget the tangible, jobs component? Whereas the call for freedom and integration is subjective and aspirational, employment need not be elusive vapor.

Now is the time to suspend judgment about the unemployed and under-employed. Low employment for persons of color, individuals with disabilities, formerly incarcerated men and women, and poor whites is unacceptable in the United States. The income gap between average workers and the corporate elite and the wealth gap between racial groups is the rotten fruit of our present economic system. Prioritizing the Common Good would free up sufficient resources for all who need to earn a living. Many long for the dignity of work. People want jobs that pay a living wage and provide essential benefits so that they may care for their families. Countless individuals cobble together part-time jobs to afford basic needs and may still require further assistance.

As one human family, we must once again hear that urgent cry of Rev. King and work to address these societal injustices in our time. As we prepare to mark the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, here are 10 examples of innovative approaches to reparations to consider:

  1. Teach the history of all.
  2. Focus STEM initiatives on medical technology, infrastructure and ending hunger, rather than producing military systems.
  3. Establish community-based sites for learning about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
  4. Value work and workers, people over profits.
  5. Fairly compensate teachers, caretakers, people who clean the environment and beautify spaces where we live, work and play.
  6. Provide access to quality education and health care for all.
  7. End homelessness.
  8. Affirm that Black Lives indeed Matter.
  9. Honor the Sabbath.
  10. Strive to do better and be better. Don’t give up.

The message of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is relevant now more than ever. As we mark the anniversary of this historic call for justice and dignity for all our brothers and sisters, we are challenged to work for the transformation of systems and structures that prevent the flourishing of some members of our society.

Going Deeper:

Learn more about how we can work for justice in our communities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Racism page where you can find resources and tools to respond to the sin of racism.

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Donna Grimes is the Assistant Director of African American Affairs in the USCCB Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

 

Living Hope: A Voice for the Vulnerable

Noe Ramirez of Living Hope Wheelchair Association receives the Sister
Margaret Cafferty Development of Peoples Award in Houston, TX.

Noe has been a quadriplegic for more than twenty years, ever since a drunk driver knocked him off his bicycle as he rode to work in Houston. Without a trace of bitterness, he told us, “I thank God for putting me in a wheelchair.”

Despite his struggles to get help—perhaps because of them—he and nine other people with spinal cord injuries came together to address their immediate need for medical supplies. The local public health district had stopped providing catheters, adult diapers, and urine collection bags to people with irregular immigration status. At first, the members of Living Hope focused on raising funds to buy supplies for fellow wheelchair users. Then the organization began to address the root causes of marginalization and poverty for immigrant workers with disabilities.

Today Living Hope is a strong voice for the rights of both immigrants and people with disabilities.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated south Texas in August 2017, Living Hope’s network helped identify and aid people with disabilities who were stranded. Its post-hurricane work has reflected Living Hope’s consistent call to community. Without their assistance and outreach throughout the year, many people with mobility concerns would be physically and emotionally isolated. The group uses Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) funds to train quality-of-life promoters to help reintegrate people facing debilitating injuries back into the community and ultimately help them return to full participation in society.

We were honored to present our 2017 Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of Peoples Award to Living Hope Wheelchair Association in November and at this year’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. The group embodies the criteria of the award with its community-based self-help model that helps poor and low-income people improve their situations and change the structures that keep them and others in poverty.

Living Hope members are strengthened by their faith in God and help from one another to advocate for basic rights and respect for their human dignity. Because of their persistence in engaging elected and appointed officials and speaking publicly about their plight, Living Hope has won small but significant improvements to health care access, transportation, and public safety.

Living Hope is a tangible example of how the preferential option for the poor translates from concept to action.

Thank you for helping CCHD address the needs of the vulnerable and poor through its support of people like Noe.

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD.

Going Deeper
Learn more about Living Hope in the latest edition of the CCHD quarterly newsletter Helping People Help Themselves. Visit PovertyUSA.org to learn more about Living Hope and hundreds of community groups that receive funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Photos Courtesy of Living Hope Wheelchair Association

Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for Justice

As we approach the V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (Sept. 20-23, 2018), we celebrate the leadership and gifts of Hispanic Catholics in the United States.  The USCCB Dept. of Justice, Peace and Human Development is celebrating the contributions of Hispanic Catholics through our sponsorship of and participation in the V Encuentro and our ongoing work to invest in missionary disciples who put faith in action in their communities. Ana Chavarin, a mother of four and community leader in Tucson, AZ, is one such leader. Ana offers this testimony about responding to the call to missionary discipleship:

My name is Ana Chavarin. I am an immigrant from Mexico. I came to this country 14 years ago. I am a single mother of four children and I’m a parishioner at Saint John the Evangelist in Tucson, Arizona.

Right now, I have two part-time jobs and I take classes at community college, where I am studying to be a psychologist. Four years ago, I went back to school to get my GED. That’s where I discovered one of my passions: helping others. I got involved in the student council and organized service projects, but these ways of helping were not enough. I saw all of the need in the community but I did not know how to do more.

Then, one day the priest at my church invited us to read The Joy of the Gospel. Around the same time, I was invited to a leadership training. What I learned in training was just what Pope Francis said in The Joy of the Gospel. In this apostolic exhortation, the pope invited us to be a light to others and to walk the extra mile. He talked about how we should involve ourselves in the community, vote, protect those in need, and be a voice for people who are oppressed. It was amazing how everything I read in the document connected with the leadership training! Shortly thereafter I was offered a part-time job as a community organizer. This was a blessing to me because apart from working to help make changes in my community, I had another source of income for my family.

Now working as a community organizer, I have trained leaders in different parishes. Together we have fought drugs, we have done immigration forums to educate our brothers and sisters about their rights, we have met with the police department to make sure they do not do racial profiling, and we have organized a voter information project to educate people and encourage voting.

All of these things I connect with Matthew 25:35: “I was hungry and you gave me food.” Then Christ tells them, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” I see Christ in every person that we help empower. In every step in my work, I see Christ, and my love and faith grow day by day.

I invite you to put your faith in action and walk the extra mile. Our Lord sends us to pray but he also needs hands and bodies that want to walk the road to Jericho.

Going Deeper!

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Ana Chavarin

Listen to Ana’s testimony as part of this webinar on missionary discipleship by the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry. Use this handout to consider how social justice and Hispanic ministry offices can collaborate in your diocese.

Becoming One Church: Practical Steps for Multicultural Integration in Church Settings

As I wrote in the first post of this series exploring the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ resource Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers (BICM), “The Church is called to represent the communion of the Trinity, ‘to mirror that communion of Divine Persons in the way it welcomes and gathers all peoples – every tribe and tongue, people and nation (Rev 5:9)’” (BICM, p. 4).  After exploring the new intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed in ministry in the previous modules, in this last post of the series, we will look at Module 5 of BICM, which offers practical advice and next steps.

Module 5, titled Foster Ecclesial Integration Rather Than Assimilation in Church Settings with a Spirituality of Hospitality, Reconciliation, and Mission, begins by describing the experiences of both parish leadership and the “newcomer” to the community as they go through the process of integration through the spiritual terms of encounter, conversion, communion, solidarity, and mission.  Often, in the early stages of this process “New immigrants feel discouraged by their difficult situation as foreigners in a foreign land; economic, family, and immigration issues; the Catholic parish’s doors remaining closed to them,” while, “parish leadership is obsessed with expecting new immigrants to just come through the door and fit in—speak English, assimilate, and ‘be like us’” (BICM, p. 27).

Maybe you have experienced similar feelings and challenges in your own parish or ministry.  I know I have.  In parishes that are becoming more diverse, I’ve heard those who have been members for a long time express a feeling of being a divided community because of the new culturally specific ministries emerging.  There is an assumption that once the “newcomer” becomes accustomed to the community there won’t be a need for ministry in different languages or focused on different cultural traditions.

In the BICM training, we were reminded that the Church has always called for integration rather than assimilation: “Through the policy of assimilation, new immigrants are forced to give up their language, culture, values, and traditions . . . By [ecclesial] integration we mean that all [cultural/ethnic communities] are to be welcomed to our church institutions at all levels. They are to be served in their language when possible, and their cultural values and religious traditions are to be respected. Beyond that, we must work toward mutual enrichment through interaction among all our cultures” (National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, no. 4).

That is not to say that integration is easy.  Module 5 describes a process of ecclesial integration that includes “four major thresholds: welcoming, Catholic identity, sense of belonging, and sense of ownership. Each threshold has movements or steps and requires certain communication competencies” (BICM, p. 30).    

In my own parish ministry, I often wished we could skip ahead in the process of integrating our culturally diverse parish.  After studying this process of integration, however, I learned to respect the stage that we were in and focus our pastoral planning on developing what we needed to move forward toward the next stage.  This helped me to recognize that the process we were undergoing was natural and that others had been there and successfully moved forward.

For example, instead of lamenting the fact that we didn’t have Hispanic leaders who were vocal on the parish council (which comes in the ownership stage), we focused our energy on building a sense of belonging and providing opportunities for formation.  After allowing the Hispanic community to develop a sense of belonging, I started to see glimpses of what is described as the later stages of integration: ″All members of the parish community, both well-established and new arrivals, are fully aware that they are called to take care of one another. From their separate stories and narratives, they begin to generate a common narrative that is centered in the grace of the Resurrection and our experience of reconciliation” (BICM, p. 28-29). There will always be room for improvement and there will always be people or groups of people within the parish at different stages of integration, but overall, I see our progress and growth as a community.

I hope this exploration of the Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers program has informed, inspired, and equipped you to “proclaim Christ’s message effectively among all nations” (BICM, p. 5).  May we all ″be willing to be a bridge-builder rather than a gate-keeper” (BICM, p. 32).

Going Deeper

For more information about how to assist your parish community with this process of multicultural ecclesial integration, and for pastoral planning strategies read Best Practices for Shared Parishes: So That They All May Be One.

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After working in Hispanic Ministry at the diocesan and parish levels in Western Kentucky for 14 years, Patti Gutiérrez now blogs about ministry and offers resources for Catholic ministries at http://www.patticc.com