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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Deeper:

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

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

 

Living Hope: A Voice for the Vulnerable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos Courtesy of Living Hope Wheelchair Association

Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Deeper!

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Ana Chavarin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Deeper

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

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

Walking with Hispanic/Latino Missionary Disciples Who Witness to God’s Love

In less than two months, I will participate in the V National Encuentro alongside 3,000 other delegates and collaborators who are engaged in Hispanic/Latino Ministry in the United States. Inspired by Pope Francis’ social teaching and actions of compassion and care for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable, the gathering’s theme is “Missionary Disciples, Witnesses of God’s Love.” This theme reflects the commitment Hispanic/Latinos have made as missionary disciples to go forth and serve those who are poor and suffering.

The gathering is an opportunity for participants to review and reflect on the experiences and significance of the four-year Encuentro process and generate ministerial best practices and concrete responses on how the Church can recognize the contributions Hispanic/Latinos make to parishes and dioceses and better support them. As a first-generation Hispanic/Latina immigrant, I feel honored to be part of the mission and planning process that has engaged thousands of Catholics across the U.S.

I currently serve on the National Planning Leadership Team, the Program Subcommittee Team, and Co-Chair the Planning Committee for the Justice and Peace ministerial breakout session. Each of these roles has allowed me to better understand the vision and objectives for the V Encuentro and to think creatively about the goals of the convening, one of which is to increase the participation of young and second and third generation Hispanic/Latinos. Integral to this experience has been ensuring that my work is informed by the local consultations that have happened across the country. This active listening process has allowed us to gain insights into the community’s needs and to identify areas for future growth and improvement.

The V National Encuentro is the culmination of a two-year discernment process of evangelization, mission, and consultation with parishes, dioceses and episcopal regions on the best pastoral priorities and practices needed to recognize the presence, gifts, and skills of the Hispanic/Latino community. This convening signifies a key moment for the Church as it discerns the best ways to respond to and support the multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-generational community that is actively living out their faith in parishes and dioceses across the U.S. It’s been inspiring to witness how this discernment process has served as the catalyst for developing ministries among Hispanics/Latinos during the past fifty years and will continue to do so for years to come.

The Encuentro process has served as an opportunity for all Catholics to actively engage as missionary disciples and created the space to discuss the challenges and needs Hispanics/Latinos face. This has happened at multiple levels and the data coming in from the regional Encuentros is being used to inform the discussions at the upcoming national gathering.  The process has also inspired important conversations about the best practices and opportunities for future growth and development of the Church.

As Catholics continue to engage in discussions in their local areas about how to continue strengthening Hispanic ministry in their communities, I am especially grateful for the concrete actions the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Office of Education and Outreach has taken to value the gifts of Hispanic Catholics and help bridge some of the existing gaps in the Church’s ministries. One example is the small grants program we’ve developed to help Hispanic Ministry and Social Justice diocesan staff form relationships, learn common interests, and identify areas for collaboration.

A second example is that as Diamond Sponsors of the V National Encuentro, we have offered scholarships to lay or emerging leaders who are active in diocesan or parish peace and justice ministry to attend the convening in September. Our office will also be actively engaged during the national gathering by leading the Justice and Peace ministerial breakout session and sharing numerous bilingual resources at our exhibit booth. In particular, we will be highlighting Catholic social teaching resources that will be available to everyone and are meant to complement the work Catholics are doing to continue advancing the social mission of the Church and supporting our Hispanic/Catholic brothers and sisters.

As we get closer to the V National Encuentro, I am excited to gather with so many from across the country as we discern what it means to be a Church that witnesses to God’s love.  I hope to see you there!

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Ivone Guillen is the Catholic Social Teaching Education and Outreach Coordinator in the USCCB Office of Education and Outreach.

Solidarity and the Shipwreck: Transformative Education in Action

Bill Scholl, Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

The prophet Nathan knew the power of a well-told story to transform.

After King David sinned against God and neighbor by sending a man to die in battle so that David could marry the man’s wife, Nathan realized that David needed to be told of his error in a way he could hear.  Nathan wisely petitioned the king, who loved justice, with the case of a poor man who was robbed of his only beloved lamb by a rich man with many livestock. Outraged, the king declared this rich man must die and make four-fold restitution. Nathan teaches towards transformation with the words, “you are that man” (2 Sam. 12:7). Placing ourselves in the story has the power to transform, and this is why Jesus so often taught through parable.

I have personally witnessed this power of story to transform from an exercise I developed to teach about immigration called “Solidarity and the Shipwreck.”  Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to an auditorium of Benedictine college students on the subject of immigration reform to kick off their Social Justice week. We did an abridged form of the exercise.  I invited ten students to come up and stand close together.  I then encircled the ground around their feet with a rope so everyone knew there was room for all inside. Next, I asked seven students to step outside the circle and set this scenario: the group within the circle become passengers on a luxury cruise near the Antarctic that comes upon a massive shipwreck.  The group outside the circle become drowning sailors trying to prevent their deaths by getting onboard.  Because the passengers have paid a lot of money for the trip, the captain lets them decide whether to save them.

I then asked the passengers on the imaginary ship what they decided. The faculty of this Catholic college will be glad to know that these students unanimously agreed to let all the drowning sailors on board, to much applause from the student body!

So, like Nathan, let me explain: as Americans, we are the ship; the drowning sailors are those who flee poverty, violence, or environmental devastation in their home countries seeking opportunities elsewhere; and it is this story that can open our hearts to the Church’s teaching on immigration.

The Catholic Church teaches that since all human beings are created in the image of God everyone has a right to pursue those things required for basic human decency (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) within their own country.  However, when someone cannot acquire those things needed for human decency in his or her home country, be it for reasons of a depressed economy or well-founded fear of persecution, then that person has a right to migrate. The Catholic Church upholds the rights of sovereign nations to secure their borders but insists that this right is not absolute.

Nations, particularly wealthy nations, have a moral obligation to accommodate immigrants in dire circumstances in ways that still maintain the common good of their own country; preservation of wealth alone is not sufficient cause to keep people out. Just as the captain of a ship coming upon the wreckage of a vessel much larger than his would have an obligation to take on as many survivors as he could, but not so many that his own ship would sink, so also should nations look upon preserving the rights of immigrants. Consequently, the bishops of the United States encourage all Catholics, all people of good will, and particularly U.S. officials to look at the immigration issue in humanitarian terms.

I have presented this scenario to many groups and it never fails to transform the discussion from a partisan perspective to a solidarity lens that looks to how we can pragmatically love our neighbor.  If you’d like to learn more or arrange such a dialogue go to www.archkck.org/socialjustice. Learn more about the Church’s teaching on immigration, and other ways to respond, at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Bill Scholl is the Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

 

Living Laudato Si’, Three Years Later

Three years after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, two of the document’s challenges still resonate as strongly as they did when I first read them: “the use of highly polluting fossil fuels … needs to be progressively replaced without delay” (no. 165) and “the duty to care for creation through little daily actions” (no. 211).

Those of us concerned about climate change often talk about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground in order to minimize global warming. We focus on threats to vulnerable communities from sea-level rise, stronger storms, droughts, and extreme heat. We pay attention to the impacts that the process of fossil fuel extraction has on poor and vulnerable communities.

We also need to make sure that the shift to renewable energy doesn’t repeat the human rights abuses and environmental destruction committed by the fossil fuel industry. While large-scale hydroelectric dams, solar farms, and wind farms can be climate solutions, they also can destroy eco-systems and human communities if local residents aren’t part of the conversation.

The Sisters of Mercy had all of these concerns in mind when we asked our institutions and ministries how they are reducing their reliance on fossil fuels while remaining attentive to the needs of the communities they serve.

The results have been inspiring. Most convents, schools and universities, social service centers, retreat centers, and administrative offices reported institutionalized recycling and reduced use of plastics. Many have converted or plan to convert to energy-efficient lighting and to upgrade heating and cooling systems for energy efficiency.

Examples of these Mercy-led efforts to implement the challenges put forth by Laudato Si’ include:

  • The Convent of Mercy in Albany, NY, has entered into a contract to purchase electricity from a community solar farm being built on a Methodist church’s property about 20 miles away. This option supports clean, renewable energy for those who can’t install solar panels on their own property.
  • Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, will establish an energy-use baseline in the fall so that staff can measure and compare the campus’ carbon footprint as they adopt new practices.
  • Mercy Circle retirement community in Chicago, IL, which was built to strict energy efficiency standards, has vegetation growing on its roof for natural insulation.
  • Mercy Farm in Benson, VT, has installed 20 solar panels, purchased certified energy-efficient appliances, and has timers on thermostats to limit energy use.
  • Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA, has hired a sustainability director, is re-examining its 2012 plan to reduce greenhouse gases to identify next steps and is planting native plants to reduce watering and stormwater impacts.

Some Mercy facilities are reducing their fossil fuel usage in response to local, state, or national policies. For instance, Mount St. Mary’s Convent in Burlington, VT, benefits from a city government that has arranged for 100% of their electricity to come from nearby sustainably harvested wood and local hydroelectric, solar, and wind power.

It’s exciting to know—judging by the hundreds of Catholic dioceses, parishes, institutions, and organizations that expressed a commitment to addressing climate change by signing onto the Catholic Climate Declaration—that the Sisters of Mercy’s “little daily actions” are just a sampling of the collective efforts within the Church in the United States to respond to the challenges put forth in Laudato Si’.

Each of us can take steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Here are a few places you can visit for some ideas:

  • The Catholic Energies program, which assists dioceses, parishes, and institutions with energy-efficiency projects and solar installations
  • Catholic Climate Covenant for advocacy on climate change at the national and state levels, and education and liturgical materials
  • The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, which includes a list of energy-efficiency products

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Marianne Comfort is the Justice Coordinator for Earth, Anti-Racism, and Women for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Breaking Down Intercultural Barriers Through Encounter

My husband was working at a parish leading Hispanic Ministry and several times he would have people at the English masses ask him, “How’s ministry going with all those Mexicans?” Being raised in Mexico himself, he was bothered by all Hispanics being lumped together. Comments like these speak to an unfortunate lack of awareness of the diversity within the Hispanic community—and they also point to a deeper issue.

There are very real obstacles to intercultural integration in our parishes and ministries. In the previous posts in this series, we have explored diversity in the Church of the United States, dimensions of culture, and intercultural communications in ministry. Module 4 of Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers challenges us to take an honest look at the obstacles of prejudice, stereotypes, and racism. This module explains what was happening in the situation described above.  It is called in-group, out-group dynamics: “Those we do not know or trust and those who seem different from ourselves in whatever way (e.g. skin color, language, customs) constitute the ‘out-group.’  We judge these individuals by different standards than those we use for our own group” (BICM, p. 22).  Some of the common ways we judge the “other” are named in Module 4: generalizing, demonizing, colonizing (seeing them as children), trivializing differences, and making them invisible.

I have found that these dynamics are usually subtler than in my opening story, but they are very much present. I remember that when I first started meeting Latin American immigrants I was surprised at the level of prejudice they had towards other Latinos from different countries or socioeconomic levels. But if I take a moment to analyze my own tendencies, I can see these in-group, out-group dynamics at play inside of me as well. I can easily generalize about a group that I don’t know and yet see all sorts of differences within my “in-group.” I recognize a lot of differences even among European Americans from different socioeconomic realities or geographical areas I’ve lived in. Someone looking from the outside could simply see people with the same skin color, language, and cultural heritage and group us all together. After recognizing these dynamics at play, it’s easier to understand how unfair it is to lump all Hispanics into one generalization.

It is possible to make progress in overcoming these barriers of prejudice and racism. As Module 4 explains, it takes an intentional and counter-cultural approach that includes breaking the silence and denial that often surround the challenges of racism. One piece of the solution is addressing the racial anxiety described by Fr. Boniface Hardin, OSB: “Our racial anxiety arises from these three areas: fear, ignorance, and guilt—thus, the FIG Complex. Intercultural leaders are called to move beyond fear and anxiety as they lead the Body of Christ into the beloved community of the Fatherhood of God” (BICM, p. 24).

Another powerful way to overcome these obstacles is to encounter the “other.”  I have a friend who is an immigration lawyer and she has shared with me countless stories of U.S. citizens who come to her to find out how to “get papers” for their friend. The faceless, nameless “other” of the undocumented immigrant has now transformed into this faith-filled, hard-working, family friend named Juan. Of course, she has to break the news to them that Juan, like millions of others, has no line to stand in to apply for residency. The point, however, is that we are much less likely to fall into the traps of generalizing, demonizing, trivializing differences, treating the “other” as children or invisible if we have been intentional about spending time encountering people in the “out-group.”

In our parishes and ministries, it will take an intentional effort, starting with the leadership, to overcome our fear, ignorance, and guilt in order to recognize and confront our own prejudices. Only then will we, as people of faith, be able to begin the work to transform the systems and policies that have helped to sustain these in-group, out-group dynamics and historically made it more difficult for certain groups to succeed. By bringing these issues into the light and finding our voice to discuss and transform them together, we will be building up the Body of Christ, the one family of God.

Going Deeper

Visit the USCCB’s webpage on Racism for information on responding to the sin of racism and other helpful resources.

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Patti Gutiérrez, Diocese of Owensboro

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

 

 

Religious Freedom Week: Serving Others in God’s Love

Drive through just about any American town, and you will encounter St. Jeanne Jugan, St. Vincent de Paul, Ven. Dorothy Day, St. Katherine Drexel, or Our Blessed Mother. Under the patronage of these saints—and many others—Catholics in our country have built and promoted an impressive number of institutions dedicated to charity and justice. From healthcare and education to social services and community organizing, Catholics have created a legacy of institution-building that we are grateful to inherit. These institutions play a crucial role in serving the common good.

Despite their contributions to the common good, some Catholic faith-based service providers find themselves in a precarious position.

In Philadelphia, the city recently barred Catholic Social Services from placing children with foster families, despite CSS’s long track record of successful placements. Although it faces a shortage of foster families, the city decided to shut out an organization that cared for over 2,200 children in the past year because the organization’s Catholic convictions about marriage and family do not allow them in good conscience to place foster children with same-sex couples.

Recent legislation in Oklahoma and Kansas protects the rights of faith-based adoption and foster care providers to continue to serve children without sacrificing their religious principles. But that legislative victory was hard-fought, and the law’s proponents were accused of being bigots for working to ensure that faith-based organizations are able to continue their work with integrity. We cannot take for granted that Catholic institutions will continue to have the freedom to serve.

The services offered by Catholic institutions are unique and irreplaceable.

As Steve Roach of Catholic Charities in Springfield, Illinois has noted, religious adoption and foster care organizations are well placed to recruit families from their own faith communities. The rise of the opioid epidemic has led to a corresponding rise in the number of children in the foster care system. The loss of faith-based service providers in places like Illinois, Massachusetts, California, and DC means that there are fewer avenues to recruit people of faith to serve as foster families.

Catholic organizations are often respected for their excellence even on secular terms.  But they provide something more: love. Catholic social services are rooted in the mission of Jesus Christ and thus animated by love. While the state is responsible for promoting the common good, it cannot provide love, which is a fundamental—indeed, the most fundamental—human need.

During Religious Freedom Week, the bishops ask us to reflect on the theme of “Serving Others in God’s Love.” Religious freedom is a human right to be “immune from coercion,” so that no one is forced to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs. The bishops are dedicated to encouraging religious freedom efforts for people of all faiths in all parts of the world. For Catholics in the United States today, religious freedom means that we have the space to build on our Church’s legacy of serving others in God’s love through our network of institutions.

We can advocate for that space today. The federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881 / S. 811) would protect the religious liberty of child welfare service providers, including adoption and foster care agencies. Contact your U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to cosponsor the federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.

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Aaron Matthew Weldon is the Program Specialist in the USCCB Office of Religious Liberty. Follow USCCB religious freedom activities at @USCCBFreedom

 

Share the Journey on World Refugee Day

In his 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message, Pope Francis exhorted all members of the human family to recognize that, “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43).” This encounter is practically expressed, he goes on to say, in acts of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating migrants and refugees which place no conditions or restrictions on our accompaniment.

On June 20, the international community will observe the 19th annual UN World Refugee Day to remind ourselves about the ongoing and life-threatening struggle of migrants and refugees and, at the same time, celebrate the multitude of gifts they bring to the receiving nations and host communities that become places of rebirth and new hope. Refugees like Walaa Ali, whose peaceful life was turned upside down in July 2007 when she was forced to flee her beloved homeland of Iraq. Her story epitomizes the courage and resiliency of all refugees, like the Holy Family, who undertake a perilous journey of survival.

The two-year Share the Journey global migration campaign launched by Pope Francis in September 2017 under the auspices of Caritas Internationalis, a worldwide confederation of Caritas and Catholic Charities agencies, comes at a particularly opportune moment in the history of the global migration phenomenon. Sadly, we’re witnessing the tendency of nations including our own to turn inward and seal their borders in the name of security and out of fear against the enormity of the plight of our desperate brothers and sisters, fully 80 percent women and children, who seek only protection and a place of peace for themselves and their families.

This campaign offers a multitude of personal and organizational opportunities to raise awareness of, advocate for, and be of service to some of the most vulnerable persons we’ll ever encounter. Here are just a few examples:

  • Celebrate a multicultural Mass or prayer service in your parish on or around World Refugee Day and focus the readings and prayer intentions on the scriptural migration narrative
  • Organize in-district Congressional member visits to advocate on behalf of migrants and refugees
  • Present Catholic teaching on migration to parish and school groups
  • Volunteer to assist newcomers in the initial stages of their journey to the U.S. through a Catholic Charities agency
  • Join the Share the Journey and Justice for Immigrants campaigns to learn more about migration and refugee issues and available resources
  • Participate in a local pilgrimage/solidarity walk to raise awareness and present a visible witness to the plight of migrants and refugees
  • Host a parish or community potluck meal with newcomers in your community and invite them to share their stories

How will you share the journey? In the words of the Holy Father, “The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”

May we heed this call with open hearts and open minds.

Jim Kuh

Jim Kuh is the Senior Director of Immigration and Refugees Services at Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, VA.