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. 

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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.

Faith in the Valley: Putting Our Faith into Action

Faith in the Valley (FITV) is a faith-based grassroots community organization in California’s Central Valley, representing over 100,000 families in Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties. Our work is led by volunteer leaders who are among the people most impacted by equity gaps and focuses on issue campaigns such as healthy air quality, restorative justice, dignity for all immigrants through just policies, and affordable housing for all. Funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Faith in the Valley empowers its members to work together to transform their communities into places of opportunity.

We believe that a different, better future is possible for the residents of the Central Valley if we work together. A future in which everyone is included, treated as sacred, has a chance to thrive and live a healthy, decent life. A future in which no one is seen as “less than” or lives in fear because of the color of their skin, their legal status, or the amount of money they earn. A future where everyone has access to good jobs, clean air, clean water, alternatives to incarceration, quality healthcare, and safe neighborhoods.

A powerful way we choose to carry out this prophetic vision is to ensure that our democratic process is accessible to the people that are the most impacted by policy decisions. The Catholic bishops of the United States encourage Catholics across our nation to engage in the political process: “The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith.” Leaders at Catholic parishes across the Central Valley are living into this holy calling! Striving to be peacemakers of our nation, and as followers of Christ, we are committed to standing up for the dignity of all and seeking the common good of our neighbors through participation in faithful citizenship and civic engagement.

Over the last few months, our leaders engaged in conversations with several political candidates* to ensure that, regardless of political lines, our future elected representatives heard what is important to us as a community of faith. We are confident that the stories shared by the thousands of previously disengaged voters will give us the power to hold our elected leaders accountable to the demands of justice and dignity for all.

Faith in the Valley leaders and community members also knocked on hundreds of doors and made phone calls to those previously disengaged voters, who have oftentimes felt marginalized and unrepresented. We educated them on important propositions around affordable housing, increase in investment for public spaces, and protection of school funding, and encouraged their communities to have their voices heard by voting on November 6th.

Here are some of the highlights and powerful testimonies of some of our leaders:

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Maura, from St. Joseph’s Church in Selma, CA, inviting her congregation to pledge to vote as a symbol of holy commitment on October 21, 2018.

 

 

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“Many of the local measures have the power to directly impact and make an immediate change if we take the time to educate our community and encourage them to vote.  I’m involved because I know what has been given to me. I may never know any of them, but I have deep gratitude for the people that advocated for the amnesty laws of 1986, and thanks to the commitment of so many people, I am now a citizen. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.  My faith in God also grounds me. My only son had serious respiratory problems as a baby, to the point of being hospitalized. From then on, it was hard for me to sleep because I was afraid of him choking. I would sit up all night having him in my chest as I pray to God for my child. A year later, my son was diagnosed with asthma and received medication. That was an answered prayer. For all the blessings He’s given me, it’s important that I pray and step into action for others.” –Amador, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Selma, CA (left)

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“I volunteered to encourage people to vote because since I am a minor, I cannot vote. So I want to do everything in my power to try and make life better for my community, my family, and myself.” Kazzandra, Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Fresno, CA (back row, left)

 

Our efforts around the November 2018 midterm election were just one of the many issues Faith in the Valley leaders are organizing their community around. As people of faith, we will continue our commitment to our holy values by standing with the most marginalized and vulnerable in our communities.

Going Deeper!

Looking for ways to support groups like Faith in the Valley in your own community? Discover where in the country there are community groups working to address the root causes of poverty that receive funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Use the interactive map to locate and contact a local CCHD group in your area and learn how you can get involved!

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Faith in the Valley is new faith-based grassroots community organization in California’s Central Valley of 120 congregations representing over 100,000 families in Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties.

(*FITV is non-partisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. While FITV is working to promote civic participation including voter registration and education, we do not endorse or support candidates for office.)

 

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering: Inspiring, eye-opening faith-in-action

This past February was my first opportunity to attend the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC. Having recently begun working at the Catholic University of America as an assistant campus minister, I took several of our students to participate in the Young Leaders Initiative. We met with over one hundred other young people from college campuses across the country, all of whom are active in works of service and justice in their particular communities. It was a time to share ideas, learn new things, and be inspired by the many speakers and participants who are working for a better world in many different fields and in all different corners of the globe.

The opening mass set the tone for the whole conference. The room was packed, and Monsignor Ray East’s energy and liveliness woke us up to the strength and beauty of a faith lived through action. Songs and readings were done in languages from the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and the room of people of all ages and races were united by a love of God and love of justice. It was impossible not be touched by the Spirit moving in that room.

Sunday evening we were honored to meet several members of Living Hope Wheelchair Association. Founded by people with spinal cord injuries, they serve others with spinal cord injuries and wheelchair-confining disabilities. They told stories of how they were founded, how they have grown, and how they have fought to overcome obstacles both external and internal. Seeing people who are physically limited have so much strength and resilience, and who have done so much for others who suffer, helped us to have a more hopeful perspective. These people were truly shining examples of positivity and solidarity in a world more and more threatened by negativity and individualism.

Throughout the conference, we heard from many different speakers and participated in different discussions about social justice issues both domestic and international. One of my students has spent a lot of time tutoring low-income students in a predominantly black school, and he was able to learn more about racial inequality in our educational systems, criminal justice systems, and even in our own Catholic Church. One of my students is a social work major, and was able to learn more about affordable housing and the homeless population in the U.S. Another one of my students, who would be leading a group of his peers to the U.S./Mexico Border the following month, was able to learn more about immigration and the struggle of Latino immigrants. Having lived the last several years in Latin America myself, I was fascinated to hear speakers from Ecuador and Brazil, and attend presentations on Colombia and Cuba. The diversity and the expertise of the speakers and presenters was fantastic.

The final day of the conference was spent on Capitol Hill, meeting with Congresspersons and staffers, and advocating for those victimized by unjust policies and systems. This was the first time I, and most of my students, had lobbied on the Hill. Armed with the knowledge gained at the conference, and our own experiences, we united our voices to call for change.  Though it may be a drop in the bucket, civic participation is the responsibility of every citizen of a democracy, and the experience has spurred us on to continue advocating.

The CSMG conference was inspiring and eye-opening. It was an opportunity for growth, both for myself and my students, and something we will not soon forget. Let us pray that it was also an experience that will continue to move us to more action and a more authentic and lively faith.

Going Deeper!

Join us for the 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on Feb. 2-5. Registration is open until January 11, 2019!

Student leaders from colleges and universities and accompanying campus staff can participate in the Young Leaders Initiative (YLI) by filling out the YLI Interest form before December 12, 2018!

Harrison Hanvey

 

Harrison Hanvey is Assistant Campus Minister for Mission Trips and Community Service at The Catholic University of America.

Responding to the Clerical Abuse Crisis: A Season of Discernment at Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, D.C.

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.

people-sitting-circle-counseling-87643809After the tumultuous Summer of 2018, with news of on-going revelations relating to allegations regarding an Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, as well as the numbing effects of the findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and other assertions of clerical improprieties, hearts were truly burdened at many parishes throughout this Archdiocese, including those in Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown. As Father Kevin Gillespie, S.J., Pastor of Holy Trinity, noted, the poetic words of Charles Dickens, from “A Tale of Two Cities,” may well be applicable to the crises afflicting the Catholic Church. As Father Gillespie, S. J. observed, we do seem to be experiencing one of the “worst of times.”  The question that became central in the life of the Parish was: what can one parishioner or one parish do?

As mentioned in a column by the Pastor in the Holy Trinity Parish Bulletin soon after the crisis intensified, it was decided that the Parish should enter into a Season of Discernment whereby hundreds of Holy Trinity parishioners would be engaged in a series of listening sessions to respond to the anguish and anger prompted by the new allegations. Holy Trinity turned to a process of Ignatian discernment, which has roots in our Catholic tradition and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, to help process and respond to the current crisis. In this way, Holy Trinity was responding from its charism as a Jesuit-sponsored Parish.  In the Ignatian tradition, discernment involves paying attention to our experiences to understand whether they lead us toward God (authentic spiritual consolation) or away from God (spiritual desolation).

Participants’ responses during the listening sessions, as well as feedback received from emails to staff, phone calls, and a form on the Holy Trinity website were recorded, a dedicated team organized them into six thematic categories.  One category was, “What is heaviest in your heart?” which included the feelings parishioners expressed in response to recent revelations.  The other five were action-oriented categories:

  1. Church Structure
  2. Transparency and Accountability
  3. Role of the Laity
  4. Support of survivors and their families
  5. Prayer

The responses, arranged into these categories, were made available on the Holy Trinity website. As a way of following up on the listening sessions, the parish offered a Prayer Service for Healing and Reconciliation on October 17, 2018. A Parish Pastoral Council meeting, open to all parishioners, was held to discuss further appropriate next steps. As a result, all parishioners were invited to attend a Parish Open Forum in the Parish’s Trinity Hall on Sunday afternoon, November 4, 2018, from 2:30-5:00 p.m. Parishioners were invited to join one of the groups arranged by the thematic categories to plan for possible actions and follow-ups.

On November 4, 2018, the Parish Open Forum led by members of the Parish Pastoral Council and the Restorative Justice Ministry started with prayer and guidance on how to determine the best path in response to the challenges of this crisis, and how to respect the insights of all participants in this dialogue.

Facilitators invited participants to select one of the above categories and to join an associated breakout group to engage in a smaller group discussion focusing on specific plans and next steps. The breakout groups used the suggested outcomes as a starting point for their discussion, but also provided members the opportunity to weigh the merits of different approaches and to amend or expand on the outcomes. The next step in the forum was a plenary session in which individual spokespeople for each of the groups presented a brief report to the larger whole of attendees.  They suggested action items that included learning more about church structure, being laity who are empowered by Vatican II, initiating collaboration with other parishes, supporting priests of integrity, being welcoming and supportive to survivors, and ongoing prayerful discernment. To close the Forum, the facilitators led the participants in a reflection on what were the moments during the discussions when they experienced spiritual desolation or spiritual consolation—a prayer known in the Ignatian tradition as the Examen.

Based on the discussions and proposals for further action explored at the Parish Open Forum, the breakout groups have developed detailed recommendations for further review, consideration, and action by parish participants. Each parishioner is encouraged to continue to collaborate in this engagement, by offering reflections on the merits of specific proposals and calls to action. In this way, the views of the parish community will be reflected in concrete recommendations that will serve the Church as we face this crisis, in positive and constructive ways. As an individual parishioner, this process has accorded each member of the parish community an opportunity to channel feelings of betrayal and disillusionment into fruitful expressions of faith and hope for the authentic reform of Church structures and practices.

RichardColl

 

Richard Coll is a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C., and a member of its Parish Pastoral Council.

A Life Unlike Your Own Can be Your Teacher

SCWhat the world needs from the Church now more than ever is its missionary mindset. By that, I do not mean a new evangelization program. I mean a deeper commitment to the Incarnation.

We often think of the Incarnation as God making Himself known to us, but the opposite is also true. As Mike Gable, Director of the mission office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, says: “Before he set off for his own ‘mission trip’ to build God’s reign, Jesus spent 30 years learning how to humbly listen and befriend widows, lepers, and Samaritans. He reflected long and hard on his own cultural experience in prayer with God and his friends before acting.”

Even during his public ministry, we can see Jesus’ attitude of humble listening in action. In his exchange with the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ initial remarks to her are harsh, but he genuinely listens to what she has to say and, ultimately, allows himself a change of heart (Mt 15: 21-28). By hearing out the plea of a desperate mom looking to save her sick child, Jesus crossed the cultural divides of his day.

Jesus’ missionary attitude has inspired countless missionaries after him, including St. Columban and the missionary society named after him.

St. Columban (c. 550 – 615) was an Irish missionary who left his home country to preach the good news to continental Europe. First arriving in what’s now modern-day France, he clashed with the local community over thorny cultural differences and rebuked political powers for their immoral conduct. Those powers forced him into exile. He died in Northern Italy on November 23rd, now his feast day.

Former Irish president, Mary McAleese, says of St. Columban: “[he] transcended ethnic, confessional, and political divides by embodying the Christian message that we are all pilgrims on a journey to another homeland . . . [he] was a man who crossed borders—literally and figuratively.”

1,300 years later, his spirit was reimagined as the Missionary Society of St. Columban, a congregation of priests and lay missionaries formally established in 1918. Originally conceived as a mission to China, over the decades it has journeyed to 17 other countries. Today we serve in parishes, but also organize humanitarian projects and work for justice.

One of our Society’s oldest commitments is to migrating people. “Because missionaries move from their own country and culture into another society and culture,” says Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh, “Columbans have been very sensitive to the plight of migrants in the contemporary world.”

While Columbans are intentional migrants, our closeness to forced migrants has been a hallmark of our history. Our early experiences in China were shaped by the devastating floods of the 1920s, which caused massive internal displacement, and World War II, which caused massive continent-wide displacement. In the 16 countries where we currently serve, migration has been an ongoing phenomenon for one reason or another for the last 100 years.

The particular sensitivity that Fr. McDonagh talks about has become a defining feature of our charism. Every day we try to make the empathic leap that Jesus himself made when we encounter the Canaanites of our time. It’s our way of making real an attributed teaching of St. Columban: “a life unlike your own can be your teacher.”

Border wallWe put this teaching into practice across the world in a number of ways. In the United States, in particular, 30 years ago we decided to walk alongside the people of the borderlands. In the face of violence, we’ve worked with local communities to create parishes of peace and refuge. In the face of economic exploitation, we’ve petitioned governments and organized protests.

Several years ago, we decided to invite others to participate in our border mission. We created the Columban Mission Center to host groups from all over the world to stand in solidarity with migrating people and the front-line communities that welcome them.

One participant said of her experience: “I learned to open myself to God and to open my mind and try to understand the situation of immigrants.” At the border, each of us is invited to follow the example of Jesus speaking with the Canaanite woman. The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, located in Washington, D.C., makes this invitation especially to policymakers in Congress and the presidential administration.

But we do not need to physically visit the border to let a life unlike our own be our teacher. The Columbans encourage people of faith to be missionaries wherever they are. One way you can do this in relation to the borderlands is to download our Border Solidarity Toolkit and engage in its activities for prayer, education, and action.

The world today badly needs a renewed spirit of cross-cultural exchange. We need to be more like the Church’s great missionaries. Not only do cultural differences enrich us and lead us closer to God, but they also allow us to transcend the trivial factionalism that even St. Columban encountered.

“For we are all joint members of one body, whether Gauls or Britons or Irish or whatever peoples [we come from],” St. Columban said, refashioning the words of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12: 12-27). If you replace Gauls, Britons, and Irish with Americans, Hondurans, and Syrians, this truth won’t look any different.

Wesley Cocozello

Wesley Cocozello is the Communications and Programs Coordinator for the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO), a ministry of the Missionary Society of St. Columban in the United States. CCAO works for structural change within the US and is guided by the Gospels, Catholic Social Teaching, and the experience of Columban missionaries standing in solidarity with marginalized communities and the exploited earth.

 

All quotations featured in this article, unless otherwise noted, are taken from Saint Columbanus: Selected Writings compiled by Alexander O’Hara (2015).