Reconciling God, Creation and Humanity on Earth Day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we celebrate Earth Day, we are reminded of Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si’ to care for creation and to reconcile our relationship with God, creation and one another.

 The following is an excerpt from an Ecological Examen developed jointly by Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The Examen asks you to reflect on your personal relationship with creation, to acknowledge and amend your ways and to promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.

Begin the Examen by placing yourself or your group in a posture that allows you to be open to the ways the Spirit is working in you. There are six steps in the Examen.

1. I give thanks to God for creation and for being wonderfully made. Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?

I begin my Examen by centering myself in the midst of God who is the God of unconditional love and infinite creativity. I imagine how this God of love created the beauty of the universe.

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” 1  I see that God is part of every facet of creation, operating in the world in the smallest organism to the greatest mountain range.

I give thanks to my God who created all the Earth, all the creatures upon the Earth, the fishes of the sea, the birds that soar through the skies, the water that gives us life and all humanity.

I give thanks to a God who molded me in my mother’s womb and who crafts me into the person who I am today. I thank God for my life and for all that God has provided me to sustain this very life. I recognize all I am and all Creation that surrounds me is a gift from God.

2.  I ask for the grace to see creation as God does – in all its splendor and suffering. Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?

I ask for the grace to look at the world as God does – to see the world in its infinite goodness, diversity and interconnectedness.

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf,

I see the close relationship between all creatures and our common home and how we are dependent on one another for our mutual well-being.  Like God, I rejoice in how the earth and the creatures and people who inhabit it are all wonderfully made.

But like God, I also hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  I hear how “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

I see signs of our sins reflected in the “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” I see how indigenous peoples have been displaced from their lands and seen their water contaminated due to an economic system that prioritizes profit over people and the common good. I recognize how a “throwaway culture” discards not only things but people as “leftovers,” and how it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most from climate change.

I see how poor people and persons of color disproportionately live in neighborhoods near industries that produce contamination and waste, whether in urban cities, rural areas or in precious natural biomes such as the Amazon.

I see how poverty, inequality and globalization contribute to “social exclusion [and] an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services.” I am pained by the increasing negative impacts of globalization on the earth and humanity.

As Pope Francis exclaims, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who “is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” 

3.  I ask for the grace to look closely to see how my life choices impact creation and the poor and vulnerable. What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation? How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?

How present am I to the world around me? How do I show my love for God through my respect for creation and my neighbor? How does my environment shape who I deem to be my neighbor or part of my community? Who is left out?

Where are the most polluted areas of my community and in the world? Who lives there?

How do I use water throughout my daily life? How am I a responsible steward of this gift? How do my consumption patterns and demand for energy impact the availability of clean water for communities in my country and around the world? Who has access to clean water, a basic human right, and who does not?

Do I recognize that eating is a moral act and that “how I treat my food is how I treat my home?”  Do I take more than I can eat?” Do I waste a lot of food when many around the world are hungry? Am I conscious of where my food is grown and under what conditions? Am I aware of the energy and water that went into the production of my food, and the impact on the environment?

iStock_000006715814Large4.  I ask for the grace of conversion towards ecological justice and reconciliation. Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?

In my desire for reconciliation with creation, I ask God for forgiveness and the grace of ecological conversion.

I acknowledge the ways in which I personally have chosen convenience, selfishness, and greed over ecological and social justice.

I also acknowledge the ways structures, patterns, and cultures of sin impact my life, the lives of people on the margins and the earth. Through my recognition of where I have fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters, and through God’s mercy, I pray for a conversion of heart to amend my ways. I seek through my prayer and actions to reconcile myself with God, creation and humanity.

I ask for the grace to become someone who chooses to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized and acts to contribute to a more socially and ecologically just society.

Seeing the joys and suffering of the Earth and its creatures and persons across the globe, I also see “signs of God’s work, of the great ministry of reconciliation God has begun in Christ, fulfilled in the Kingdom of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.” 

5.  I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity, and to stand in solidarity through my actions. How can I repair my relationship with creation and make choices consistent with my desire for reconciliation with creation?

God calls us as caretakers of the earth not simply to take the earth’s resources for our own benefit, but to use the earth’s resources to praise, reverence, and serve God.

By working for environmental justice and reconciliation with creation, we reverence the God of love and co-labor with God towards Christ’s own mission of reconciliation and love.

We “are called to help heal a broken world,” to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter. This means embracing a new sustainable path forward and a “new way of producing and consuming [that] puts God’s creation at the center.”

I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity. With the entire Ignatian Family, I take up this challenge by identifying personal concrete action steps to live more sustainably.

In what ways through my actions can I stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected by the environmental crisis?

In what ways will I advocate for environmental policies that care for creation and the most vulnerable?

6.  I offer a closing prayer for the earth and the vulnerable in our society.

“A Prayer for Our Earth” 

All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

(Laudato Si’, n. 246)

Going Deeper!
Caring for creation doesn’t stop with Earth Day! Learn more and view the full Ecological Examen, available online and in booklet form. Find out how you can get involved with the work of the Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Good Friday: The Day Jesus Sat on Death Row

prison-553836On the morning of the very first Good Friday, I imagine Jesus waking in a jail cell alone. I picture him sitting in the corner, eyes trained at a wall, preparing himself for a death that would come at the hands of the state.

Minutes away from experiencing the most extreme punishment of a justice system motivated by fear and vengeance, I imagine Jesus recalling the relationships, encounters, and experiences he had throughout his life.

It is the great love Christ had for all of us that most stands out me as I reflect on the depth of despair present on Good Friday. Forgiving those who condemned and executed him, even forgiving the criminals he died alongside. Christ is our example of unimaginable mercy. For as he looked down into the crowd of those who condemned him, he uttered these words: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)

I see the reflection of Christ in those sitting on death row today, awaiting a similar death. Men and women, who despite the grave harm they’ve caused are created in the image and likeness of God. Their dignity as human persons handed over to a criminal justice system all too similar to that of Jesus’s time.

As I meditate on state-sanctioned execution of Christ, I am reminded that our faith compels us to follow the example of Christ, who even as he suffered on the cross, chose mercy.

Families of the murder victims whose perpetrators sit on death row show us this mercy of Christ present on earth. At Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), we have the privilege of working and advocating with many of these families who, like Christ, seek mercy and forgiveness in the face of loss and suffering. I have been deeply impacted by the faith of these families. Their losses are unimaginable, yet they remain steadfast in their commitment to upholding the dignity of human life. They recognize that the death penalty is a false promise of peace.

This is not easy work. We see the utter brokenness of the criminal justice system, demonstrated most clearly by the 165 innocent people exonerated from death row over the last 40 years. At the same time, we see crimes which are truly egregious, often committed by people who were once victims of terrible harm themselves. We see cycles of trauma and violence that extend back generations and manifest in horrifying ways.

Catholics and people of goodwill are challenged to answer the Church’s call for the abolition of capital punishment by advocating for the repeal of the death penalty and opposing upcoming executions. We believe in the inherent human dignity of all persons, regardless of the harm we may have caused or experienced, we all have dignity and deserve an opportunity for healing and redemption. This is what Christ teaches us on the cross.

CMN is entrenched in of these dark corners of our criminal justice system. Places devoid of hope and life, where it always feels like Good Friday.

But Good Friday is not the end of Jesus’ story — and neither is it the end of ours.

By the grace of God, we know what happens on that third day. On Easter morning, humanity is redeemed and reconciled. Through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, we are transformed into a people of new life.

Each one of us has been impacted by harm in some way. But the resurrection of our Savior forever changed how we are called to respond to acts of harm. In the way of Christ, we are called to pursue restoration over vengeance and hope over death.

This Good Friday, how will you answer the call to advance Christ’s justice and mercy?

Going Deeper

The work of Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) takes root in this scene. As the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice, we mobilize Catholics and people of goodwill to answer the Church’s call for the abolition of capital punishment by advocating for the repeal of the death penalty and opposing upcoming executions.

This May, CMN will release a brand-new faith formation guide centering around restorative justice and our Catholic faith. Published by Liturgical Press, Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity is an invitation to consider our individual and communal responses to harm, and how our criminal justice system falls short of promoting human dignity, hope, and healing. Preorder your copy now!

View More: http://beschdesignsllc.pass.us/holyfamilyheadshots

 

Katlyn Toelle is the Communications Manager at Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.

 

Journeying through Lent with Catholic Social Teaching

povertyusa 7One of my favorite parts of my job as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Intern for the Archdiocese of Seattle is the work that I get to do around education and outreach on Catholic social teaching.

At the core of Catholic social teaching is the belief that all people are made in the image of God who desires to pour forth love into the world. So, to begin this conversation with students, I often like to begin with a seemingly simple question: “Who is God? What is God like?”

Responses are often straightforward and profound: “God is present in everyone.” “God is caring and loving.” “God’s image looks like us.” “God is like a friend to me.”

When we live into our authentic call as children of God, attentive to the ways the Holy Spirit is already at work in the world, these are characteristics we are invited to model.  We are called to be caring and loving, brave and powerful, like a friend, vessels of love and justice in the world.

And yet, as Pope Francis reminds us in his Lenten message: “The root of all evil, as we know, is sin, which from its first appearance has disrupted our communion with God, others and creation itself.”

When students are asked to brainstorm ways that life is threatened in their schools, communities, and the world, responses cover the spectrum of our shared brokenness: “Racism.” “Bullying and bad friends.” “School shootings.” “Family and school drama.” “Lack of opportunity.” “Gun violence.” “Discrimination.” “Climate change.”

As we move towards the end of this Lenten season, we know sin. We see sin’s destructive power in our lives, in broken relationships with friends and family, in the toxic and debilitating forces of shame and self-criticism, in gossip and untruths. We know sin in our communities and in our world; In the heart-breaking injustices of racism, hatred, poverty, and inequity. We both participate in and are harmed by broken systems and structures in our country and our Church. We know sin all too well.

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus says: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7). It is difficult to look at the world through God’s eyes of compassion. It is difficult to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the ways that we perpetuate systems of harm.

Similarly, our Lenten practices can sometimes be uncomfortable. We experience hunger during our fasting. We may experience awkwardness or discomfort in trying a new prayer practice.  It is also true that embodying the invitation of Catholic social teaching can sometimes be a challenge. It is hard to consider our lives as deeply interconnected to the well-being of our neighbor, and it is challenging to know how to act out of this.

Organizations funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) work to address the systemic roots of poverty in our communities. We must each confront the ways in which we have allowed systems and structures to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. When we learn how to identify unjust systems that undermine the dignity of God’s children, we can more authentically live out our call to Catholic social teaching. The work of CCHD and the groups it funds is unique and often creative because it goes beyond a “helping” model and into developing creative and sustainable ways of making systemic change.

Rooted in Catholic social teaching, CCHD works to embrace in new ways the realities of the preferential option for the poor, the call to family, community, and participation, the life and dignity of the human person and solidarity. CCHD responds creatively to the invitation of Catholic social teaching to bring us back into right relationship with one another. It does this in new and creative ways, and in ways that may be challenging.

During Lent, we are invited to see differently, and then to act anew. We are also invited to see that God is working in new ways through CCHD to bring us back into relationship with one another.

As we continue to move through Lent towards the new life of Easter, the invitation and wisdom of Catholic social teaching, as embodied through CCHD, patiently awaits us: Come back to who God is, come back to who we are.

Going Deeper!

As we continue to journey through Lent, take a moment and reflect on how your choices and actions reflect our call to live in right relationship with our neighbors with this examination of conscience in light of Catholic Social Teaching (also available in Spanish). Afterward, learn more about the power and work of CCHD and find ways to get involved in your community.

Claire Lucas

Claire Lucas is a senior at Seattle University studying Psychology and Theology & Religious Studies, and is currently the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) intern at the Archdiocese of Seattle. A self-proclaimed Catholic social teaching nerd, Claire is passionate about fostering attentiveness to the signs of the times and building communities of loving solidarity via fair-trade coffee and spontaneous dance parties.

Walking with St. Oscar Romero: Sacred Heart School journeys from home to Rome

A few years ago, the Archdiocese of Washington invited us to “Walk with Francis” in honor of the pope’s visit to Washington, D.C. This year, Sacred Heart School has been walking with the newly canonized St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador and champion for peace and the poor who was martyred while celebrating Mass in 1980.

Sacred Heart School--photo of students with St. Romero and cranes - TGF use ONLYOur journey has taken us to the heart of the classroom and the Vatican, to Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador and to St. Romero’s nieces, and as far away as Norway. On March 20, 2019, in anticipation of St. Romero’s feast day (March 24), we celebrated a Mass with students from around the Archdiocese of Washington.

As we “Walk with St. Romero” this year, we reflect on his homilies, rejoice in his canonization, and try to live his legacy of justice and solidarity. In the weeks preceding his Oct. 14, 2018 canonization, students led morning prayer by introducing different quotes from Romero. Teachers also created lessons from the quotes. Middle school students, for example, reflected on Romero’s prophecy, “Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.” They put up a message board for people to comment on the meaning of this challenge. Second graders constructed a replica of Divine Providence Hospital and chapel, where Romero preached his last homily before being martyred during Mass on March 24, 1980.

The school also hosted a catechetical evening with parents. Students, dressed as Romero’s many siblings, assisted in the presentation. St. Romero’s actual brothers, Tiberio and Gaspar, attended the canonization in Rome. (Gaspar died last month at the age of 89).

In class and at the catechetical evening, students folded origami peace cranes that we sent to the canonization Mass at the Vatican. The colorful cranes had a bright yellow tag that read, “Sacred Heart School loves Romero. Send us a message about your connection to Romero or experience at the canonization….”

Five Sacred Heart School teachers, along with a group of parents and parishioners, served as the school’s ambassadors at the Vatican. We gave the origami cranes to pilgrims from around the world who came to experience Romero, Pope Paul VI, and five other witnesses become officially recognized saints. We also shared the cranes with Cardinal Rosa Chávez and two of Romero’s nieces from the saint’s hometown of Ciudad Barrios. The crane’s message included a QR code that allows us to see the country of origin of those who scan the code. Our cranes reached as far as the Salvadoran diaspora in Norway.

Another project that bridged home, Rome, and beyond was collecting the school community’s prayers. Our school’s director of religious education carried them in her backpack to the canonization Mass, a papal audience the following day, and to churches throughout Italy. A highlight for several members of the trip was praying for all of the students at the tomb of the Franciscan saint, Anthony of Padua. We lovingly left the prayers at his tomb then celebrated Mass.

Our celebrating continued with students from around the archdiocese on March 20 with a Mass in anticipation of St. Romero’s feast day (March 24). Our choir sang songs in honor of Romero. Our offertory collection supported local people in need with gifts of money and food. We reflected on the same readings that St. Romero celebrated with during his last Mass: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).

St. Oscar Romero is legendary for many members of our community, especially those with Salvadoran roots and those who seek solidarity with them. His canonization provides a special opportunity to explore his prophetic path and challenges us to walk this same holiness. We hope in this Paschal season of dying and rising that you too will walk with St. Romero. As the saint preached in his last homily, “We know that every effort to improve society…is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God requires of us.”

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Cinnamon Sarver serves as the director of religious education at Sacred Heart School.  She has theology degrees from Boston College and the University of Notre Dame. Having traveled to El Salvador four times to research St. Romero’s life, she enjoys speaking and writing about his legacy.

 

This post was adapted for ToGoForth, and reprinted with the permission of the Catholic Standard. Read the original version at the Catholic Standard website and learn more about the March 20th mass honoring St. Oscar Romero

Encounter the Stranger this Lent

The Lenten season gives us the opportunity to encounter Christ in the desert. With him, we face the temptation to despair in the face of the world’s deepest needs, to throw up our hands in defeat. But, just as Jesus emerged from the desert fortified to begin his ministry, so too do we emerge from the desert of Lent ready to encounter the needs of the world with the hope of the Resurrection.

Yet, sometimes our fears can be paralyzing. We find ourselves focusing all our energy inward. We find ourselves doubting if we have enough, if we’ve done enough, if we are enough—and we are afraid to act. Scripture reminds us time and again: “Be not afraid.” In the person of Jesus—and in the countless holy women and men who have followed him—we see the power of giving fearlessly, of sacrificing what we have and what we are for the good of others.

Bolstered by faith, Jesus showed courage when confronted by fear. He did not waver in reaching out to those most in need. And we’re called to do the same, trusting that our lives can be ones of fearless encounter pointing to the hope of the Resurrection.

While the temptations of the desert tell us to be afraid, to cling to what we have and look out only for ourselves, the invitation of Lent beckons us forth to encounter the needs of the world through:

  • A renewed life of PRAYER in God that unites our needs with the needs of the world, through the stories of members of our global human family.
  • A commitment to FAST that reminds us that God is ever faithful and frees us from the fear of not having or being enough.
  • A readiness to GIVE ALMS to share what we have with our brothers and sisters around the world.

Each day during Lent, we have the opportunity to be inspired by the stories of communities from around the world, to set aside a little of ourselves to make room for a stranger.

Annet is one such stranger. Ongoing violence in her home country of South Sudan forced Annet to take her three siblings and flee south to neighboring Uganda. It was a dangerous journey, but Annet showed courage, keeping her siblings safe despite threats from rebel soldiers. For more than two years now, Annet and her siblings have been living in Bidi Bidi, one of the world’s largest refugee settlements. While Annet is happy to be away from the violence, life in Bidi Bidi is hard—especially for a young woman trying to raise her siblings. While she wants her family to one day be able to return to South Sudan, for now, she knows that Bid Bidi is the safer option. In the meantime, she encourages her siblings to go to school and does all she can to ensure they’ll have a bright future.

Stories like Annet’s remind us that the journey through the desert ultimately leads to resurrection—and it is our Gospel call to stand with courage. This Lent, we journey with Christ through fear to fortitude, recognizing God’s invitation to reach out beyond ourselves to encounter the needs of all.

Going Deeper!

Read more stories of hope and discover how you can get involved with CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting, and gifts to change the lives of the poor.

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Eric Clayton is a Senior Program Officer, Mission and Mobilization at Catholic Relief Services.

Continuando el testimonio del V Encuentro Nacional en la Reunión del ministerio social católico de 2019

El mes pasado, más de 550 profesionales del ministerio social, estudiantes y voluntarios parroquiales se reunieron en Washington, D.C., para dejar fluir la justicia y reflexionar sobre cómo llevar el mensaje de restauración y reconciliación a sus comunidades. La Reunión del Mministerio Social Católico (CSMG por sus siglas en inglés) desafió a los participantes a convertirse en mensajeros de la justicia y en constructores de la paz mientras analizaban las preocupaciones urgentes nacionales e internacionales como el racismo, la justicia restaurativa, la inmigración y la pobreza. La delegación de la Diócesis de Joliet reflexionó sobre cómo la CSMG 2019 les permitió continuar viviendo el llamado del V Encuentro Nacional al discipulado misionero.

Enave - CSMGDespués de participar en el V Encuentro Nacional (una reunión en el otoño de 2018 para reflexionar sobre los dones y desafíos que enfrentan los católicos hispanos en los EE. UU.) los líderes de la Diócesis de Joliet nos sentimos con energía para responder al llamado al discipulado misionero de nuevas maneras, incluyendo la planificación estratégica y la creación de nuevos comités, incluso uno centrado en la justicia social.  Once líderes nos unimos a una delegación más grande de la Diócesis de Joliet para participar en la Reunión del Ministerio Social Católico, donde dialogamos con la comunidad católica en general sobre los temas del racismo, la justicia restaurativa, la inmigración y más. Nos unimos a otros participantes para incidir en el Capitolio el 5 de febrero, incluyendo otros grupos de Illinois, para alzar nuestras voces abogando por preocupaciones internacionales y nacionales y por defender la dignidad de nuestros inmigrantes.

En resumen, usamos nuestra voz diocesana para abogar por una legislación que refleje la dignidad de todas las personas. Entendemos que la incidencia requiere un compromiso a largo plazo. Es por eso que la delegación de Illinois (incluida la Diócesis de Joliet, la Arquidiócesis de Chicago y otras) se reunirá una vez más en dos semanas para compartir informes y copilar las ideas sobre los esfuerzos futuros de nuestras dos oficinas en torno a la justicia social. Estamos increíblemente agradecidos por la oportunidad que nos dio la CSMG para aprender de los expertos y continuar construyendo una comunidad activa dedicada a la búsqueda de la justicia para todos.

¡Yendo más profundo! 

Obtenga más información sobre cómo puede responder usted al llamado al discipulado misionero suscribiéndose a nuestro nuevo boletín informativo bilingüe trimestral Iglesia en salida siendo sal y luz.  Este boletín informativo le ayudará a descubrir oportunidades de formación y desarrollo de liderazgo para todas las generaciones y ministerios y proveerá a los discípulos misioneros materiales catequéticos gratuitos, recursos litúrgicos y contenido interactivo para poner la fe en acción.

 

 

Continuing the Witness of the V National Encuentro at the 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering

Last month, over 550 social ministry professionals, students, and parish volunteers met in Washington, D.C., to let justice flow and reflect on bringing the message of restoration and reconciliation to their communities. The 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) challenged participants to become messengers of justice and builders of peace as they unpacked pressing domestic and international concerns such as racism, restorative justice, migration, and poverty. The delegation from the Diocese of Joliet reflected on how CSMG 2019 enabled them to continue to live out the call of the V National Encuentro to missionary discipleship. 

Enave - CSMG

After participating in the V National Encuentro (a convening in Fall 2018 to reflect on the gifts and challenges of U.S. Hispanic Catholics) leaders from the Diocese of Joliet were energized to respond to the call to missionary discipleship in new ways, including strategic planning and new committees—including one focused on social justice.  Eleven leaders joined a larger delegation from the Diocese of Joliet to attend the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, where they engaged in dialogue with the larger Catholic community around the issues of racism, restorative justice, immigration, and more. We joined other participants to advocate on Capitol Hill on February 5th—including other groups from Illinois, to raise our voices advocating for international and domestic concerns and defend the dignity of our immigrants.

In short, we used our diocesan voice to advocate for legislation that reflects the dignity of all people. We understand that advocacy requires a long-term commitment. That is why the Illinois delegation (including the Diocese of Joliet, Archdiocese of Chicago, and others) will be gathering once again in two weeks to debrief and brainstorm about future efforts of our two offices around social justice. We’re incredibly thankful for the opportunity that CSMG gave us, to learn from experts and continue to build an active community dedicated to the pursuit of justice for all.

Going Deeper! 

Learn more about how you can respond to the call to missionary discipleship by subscribing to our new quarterly bilingual newsletter, Iglesia en salida siendo sal y luz. This newsletter will help you discover opportunities for formation and leadership development for all generations and ministries and will equip missionary disciples with free catechetical materials, liturgical resources, and interactive content to put faith into action.

Honoring the Dignity of Life at Every Stage

povertyusa 10Throughout the month of January, we participate in Poverty Awareness Month and from January 14th through the 22nd we observed the 9 Days for Life Campaign. All Catholics must work together to protect the life and dignity of all persons, at every stage of life, and this demands we both join the work to end abortion and also address the systems and structures that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

In the United States, nearly 40 million people live in poverty. In addition, 75% of women who received abortions in 2014 were categorized as low income, and 49% lived beneath the federal poverty line. Taken together, these facts suggest important systemic issues that have significant implications for how to work towards creating a society that supports life and the flourishing of life from conception to natural death.

The Guttmacher Institute reported that 75% of women who received abortions cited the inability to afford to have a child as the reason for seeking an abortion. No parent should have to worry about being able to feed, clothe, and care for children or make choices between paying rent and buying food. Yet so many are in exactly this situation.

Access to quality maternal and prenatal healthcare is a challenge for many across the country. For example, in Washington, D.C., where the maternal mortality rate is twice the national rate, several hospitals closed their maternity wards in recent years, leaving many women and families in low-income neighborhoods multiple bus rides away from access to maternal and pediatric healthcare. The infant mortality rate in these low-income neighborhoods is ten times the rate in wealthier areas of Washington, D.C. Access to quality healthcare throughout every stage of life is an important part of upholding the preferential option for the poor and defending the dignity of human life.

In addition to advocating for comprehensive health care, benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), access to affordable housing, quality education and child care, paid family leaves, all create conditions which help families to thrive. We must also invest in family stability by ensuring that job training opportunities, family-sustaining wages and adequate benefits are available for all. Catholic Social Teaching tells us that support of these initiatives is imperative to living out the Gospel call to justice.

Watch this video about the cycle of poverty, and then imagine that you found out that you would soon be having a child. For many families living at or close to the poverty line, a missed paycheck or broken-down car can be enough to upset the delicate balance between making it and not. The time and cost associated with having a baby can seem insurmountable. The immense pressure and lack of accessible resources available to those living in poverty may leave many feeling that abortion is the only option.

It is a tragedy that in the United States many women and families feel forced into abortions because of their economic plight. The high rates of abortion among low-income families is a clear indication that we have not met the needs of low-income moms and families. For this reason, it is key for pro-life Catholics to support families and to help them bring new life into this world, and to support them beyond the birth of the child through access to quality food, education, and healthcare. As a Church, we must see the connection between abortion and poverty as a pivotal point of the pro-life work. We must advocate for systems and structures that support life in every stage and support and empower parents and families in every situation. Only then will we truly be a people of life.

Going Deeper:

Much of my work with my college’s pro-life group has centered around supporting low-income mothers. On campus, I have organized an annual Pregnancy and Parenting Resource Forum to raise awareness for an understanding of the options and support available to students should they become pregnant.  My club has also been involved with a local pregnancy resource center and maternity home that offers counseling, parenting materials and supplies, and even housing for low-income and immigrant woman who need support during their pregnancies and early years of parenting.  I have babysat at their maternity home, collected diapers from Safeway, and hosted fundraisers for the center.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) seeks to do more than the charitable works that I have participated in at my pregnancy center. CCHD transforms communities and addresses the root causes of poverty. Addressing why so many families living in poverty seek out abortions requires more than diapers; it requires an evaluation of issues such as affordable housing, access to healthcare, and paid family leave. CCHD funded organizations set the stage for women to choose life in moments of crisis.

Join CCHD in this work to address the root causes of poverty. First, take our Poverty Quiz and test your knowledge about poverty and the systems and structures that impact our communities. Then, discover a local CCHD funded group in your area and get involved in the work to end the cycle of poverty.

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MyLan Metzger is an intern with the Education and Outreach office of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Responding to the Clerical Abuse Crisis: Actions from a Family of Four Parishes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As members of the Body of Christ, we stand with and for our sisters and brothers who have been deeply wounded by clerical sexual abuse. We also know that the clerical abuse crisis has greatly shaken the faith of many in the Church. Throughout the country, many have already taken prophetic action towards providing a space for the faithful to process, reflect, and pray, and we want to lift up some of the ways parishes and dioceses are responding to this crisis in an effort to build community and solidarity. The following post is part of an ongoing series that will highlight some of these efforts.

Networking Seminar Meet Ups ConceptIn the face of the crisis of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, it is hard to know what any one person or any one parish can do that might make a difference. Many members of the Catholic laity feel hurt, angry, and betrayed, and they are looking for their parishes to help guide them through these emotions and walk with them in prayer and action for the Church that they love.

In the spirit of responding to this pastoral need, the churches of Old Saint Mary, Our Lady of Divine Providence, Saints Peter and Paul, and Three Holy Women (a family of four parishes on the East Side of Milwaukee) are making our own humble attempt at a response.

We began in August, as the news about former Cardinal McCarrick and the Philadelphia grand jury report dominated the headlines. Our pastors, deacons, and lay staff gathered for an open conversation about these issues, taking time to express our own feelings of anger and dismay, then discussing together how we as parish leaders might respond. Further conversations in the coming weeks led to a few specific action steps:

  • First, we wanted to make sure that our parishioners knew that these issues were weighing heavily on our hearts, that their priests and parish leaders were just as hurt and outraged by these revelations as they were. Our priests wrote a public statement that was read at all masses, expressing their solidarity with parishioners during this difficult time, and promising that our parishes would be responding in a prayerful, thoughtful manner in the coming weeks.
  • The following weekend, various lay staff members gave a short talk at our masses, providing another voice of compassion and solidarity with the feelings of the people in our pews, while inviting their feedback and ideas for how our parishes might respond.
  • After these initial talks, we offered a “Prayer and Action” insert in our bulletins, which included suggestions for lay people to be engaged through focused prayer and meaningful action in response to clergy sexual abuse.
  • We held Listening Sessions over the course of four weekends in October and November. These sessions took place after mass at each of our parishes, and all were invited
    to come and share their thoughts, feelings, and questions in response to the clergy sexual abuse and cover up crisis. Staff members of our parishes facilitated these conversations, while our pastors were present simply to listen to the voices of parishioners. In total, seventy-two
    people participated in our listening sessions to make their voices heard. Thorough notes were
    taken at each session, and the contents of these notes were condensed into a summary which was then published in our bulletins and parish websites, as well as sent directly to our Archbishop for his consideration.
  • During these listening sessions, we noted that many parishioners wanted more clear information about parish and archdiocesan policies and procedures for preventing and reporting abuse, so our pastors offered a brief summary of this information at masses throughout December, with more detailed information being provided through printed documents at the back of the church.

While we have received a lot of positive feedback about the action steps we have taken so far, we also know that there is much more work to be done. Our pastors and parish staff continue to discern together what we can do to meet the needs of our people and engage with the broader Church in the year ahead. We walk forward in faith, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us every step of the way.

This post was authored by staff of Old Saint Mary, Our Lady of Divine Providence, Saints Peter and Paul, and Three Holy Women Parishes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

World Day of Peace 2019: Good Politics at the Service of Peace

“Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.” – Pope Francis, 2019 World Day of Peace Message

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An annual papal message for the World Day of Peace (Jan. 1) has been released every year since 1968. Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message for 2019, entitled Good Politics at the Service of Peace, is a call to political participation. He reminds us that the Gospel calls us to raise our voices for the common good, for “politics is one of the highest forms of charity.” Advocating for and with communities who are oppressed, disadvantaged, or excluded is a response to our baptismal call to love all members of the Body of Christ, in imitation of Christ’s love.

How can we use our political and social systems to seek peace?

In announcing the theme for this year’s World Day of Peace on January 1, 2019, the Vatican made note of the call to all of us to engage with our civic systems saying, “Political responsibility belongs to every citizen and, in particular, to those that have received the mandate to protect and to govern.” Instead of indifference, cynicism
or thinking our voices do not matter, we believe the Gospel calls us to raise our voices for the common good, for “politics is one of the highest forms of charity.” Advocating for and with communities who are oppressed, disadvantaged, or excluded is a response to our baptismal call to love all members of the Body of Christ, in imitation of Christ’s love. God created human beings as social and relational creatures, made in his own image. We are called to reach out and build relationships of love and justice, making love visible in structures and policies through political engagement. Two areas in which we are called to protect human dignity is in our “concern for the future of life and of the planet, of the youngest and littlest.”

We must work to ensure that the dignity of all is protected is through our political, social, and economic systems. As Pope Francis teaches us in his World Day of Peace Message, these systems must always work to promote peace in our communities. Catholic Social Teaching demands that politics must have a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, and not be used to promote violence or marginalize those in poverty. Instead, “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

What Can You Do? 

  1. Pray. Pray for the grace to approach all political and social issues from a starting point of faith, love, and a spirit of generosity. You may also try one of the prayer practices at bit.ly/9WaysPray to enrich your experience of prayer for
    peace.
  2. Learn. Civic participation and faithful citizenship requires us to understand the political and social issues that impact our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Visit USCCB resources on Catholic Social Teaching and civic engagement
    to further your knowledge. Read stories of hope to learn how faith communities are answering the call to work for peace and justice.
  3. Act. Join tens of thousands of Catholics to advocate for policies that support justice and peace in the U.S. and those experiencing poverty or conflict around the world. Take action today by visiting confrontglobalpoverty.org. Join 500+ Catholic Advocates on Capitol Hill for the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (Feb. 2-5, 2019).
Going Deeper!

Learn more about the World Day of Peace by checking out these accompanying resources, including a two-page handout ( also available in en Español) to reflect on Pope Francis’ important invitation to all Catholics and people of good will.

For more ways to raise your voice for the common good throughout the month of January, join us for Poverty Awareness Month! An online and print calendar (also en Español),  longer daily reflections (also en Español) and a pastoral aid for Sunday, January 27, 2019 (also en Español) includes daily ways to learn about poverty, get inspired by how communities are responding, and take action with others. You can also sign up to receive the daily reflections by email.