Francis, Frontera, Faith and Family

I was blessed to be able to join “Pope Francis VIPs” as they attended a Mass on the United States-Mexico border.

These VIPs were not CEOs, VPs, or celebrities. Rather these VIPs were, as defined by Pope Francis, migrants, undocumented immigrants, unaccompanied minors, and family members separated by massive fences, armed security, and outdated immigration laws and policies.

IMG_3544 croppedPrior to the Mass, we gathered for a couple hours in St. Pius parish hall waiting for our turn to be processed through security. In the hall was an air of nervous enthusiasm, as we really didn’t fully grasp what we were about to experience. The VIPs were excited to meet cardinals, bishops, and Church leadership. There was an obvious gratitude for the work of the Church on immigration and legitimate care for the migrant.

After being processed through security, we were bussed to a levee that separates El Paso, Texas USA and Juarez, Mexico.

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Pope Francis ascends memorial to pray for migrants. Photo taken from the U.S. side of the border.

Heavy on most of our minds were the thousands of people who have died in efforts to cross the border in hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Pope Francis himself spent several minutes of silent prayer on behalf of those lost lives.

In his homily, the Holy Father said: “The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those excluded as a result of poverty and violence, drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”

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Painting at Casa de Migrante in Ciudad Juarez

I was reminded that how, when wanting to prove our points, we recite numbers, indices, and statistics, not sharing the human story, overlooking the faces of people and the reality of our shared humanity. This “holy” sharing hit me hardest when persons on the Juarez side of the border and the El Paso side received communion: one God, one Church, one faith, and one family — all sharing simultaneously in the Body of Christ. I heard Pope Francis at the end of his homily when he said “…we can pray, sing, and together celebrate the merciful love that the Lord gives us and that no border can stop us from sharing.”

During the Mass, despite a well-fortified border and active patrolling security, an incredible peace surrounded us, a calmness that was not the result of fences or firearms. For a brief moment, the border was inconsequential. Prayers and supplications flowed on both sides as freely as the birds that circled above us. Together we prayed for generations past and for those yet born. We prayed that their lives may be lived to the fullest, and we remembered that no border can stop us from being one family.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


Go Deeper!

Communities of faith across the United States are taking up Pope Francis’ call to see the names, stories, and families behind the human tragedy of forced migration. Here are just a few:

Francisco, Frontera, Fe y Familia

Tuve la bendición de poder acompañar a las “VIPs del papa Francisco” cuando asistieron a una Misa en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

Estas VIPs (personas muy importantes) no eran directores generales, vicepresidentes o celebridades. Más bien estas VIPs fueron, como las definió el papa Francisco, migrantes, inmigrantes indocumentados, menores no acompañados y miembros de familias separadas por grandes vallas, seguridad armada y leyes y políticas inmigratorias obsoletas.IMG_3544 cropped

Antes de la Misa nos congregamos un par de horas en el salón parroquial de San Pío esperando nuestro turno para pasar el proceso de seguridad. En el salón había un aire de entusiasmo nervioso, ya que realmente no comprendíamos del todo lo que estábamos a punto de experimentar. Las VIPs estaban contentas de reunirse con cardenales, obispos y líderes de la Iglesia. Había una obvia gratitud por el trabajo de la Iglesia en materia de inmigración y cuidado legítimo del migrante.

Después de pasar por el proceso de seguridad, fuimos trasladados en bus hacia un dique que separa El Paso, Texas, Estados Unidos, de Juárez, México.

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Papa Francisco asciende monumento a orar por los migrantes . Foto tomada desde el lado de EE.UU. de la frontera.

En la mente de la mayoría de nosotros estaban muy presentes los miles de personas que han muerto tratando de cruzar la frontera con la esperanza de una vida mejor para sí y sus familias. El propio papa Francisco pasó varios minutos de oración en silencio en nombre de esas vidas perdidas.

En su homilía, el Santo Padre dijo: “Esta tragedia humana que representa la migración forzada hoy en día es un fenómeno global. Esta crisis, que se puede medir en cifras, nosotros queremos medirla por nombres, por historias, por familias. Son hermanos y hermanas que salen expulsados por la pobreza y la violencia, por el narcotráfico y el crimen organizado. Frente a tantos vacíos legales, se tiende una red que atrapa y destruye siempre a los más pobres. No sólo sufren la pobreza sino que además tienen que sufrir todas estas formas de violencia. Injusticia que se radicaliza en los jóvenes, ellos, ‘carne de cañón’, son perseguidos y amenazados cuando tratan de salir de la espiral de violencia y del infierno de las drogas”.

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Mural en la Casa de Migrante en Ciudad Juarez

Me hizo recordar cómo, al querer probar nuestros argumentos, recitamos números, índices y estadísticas, que no comparten la historia humana, que pasan por alto los rostros de las personas y la realidad de nuestra humanidad compartida. Esta compartición “santa” me impactó más cuando las personas del lado de Juárez de la frontera y del lado de El Paso recibieron la comunión: un solo Dios, una sola Iglesia, una sola fe y una sola familia, todos compartiendo al mismo tiempo el Cuerpo de Cristo. Escuché al papa Francisco al final de su homilía cuando dijo: “…podemos orar, cantar y celebrar juntos ese amor misericordioso que el Señor nos da y que ninguna frontera podrá impedirnos compartir”.

Durante la Misa, a pesar de una frontera tan fortificada y el intenso patrullaje de seguridad, una paz increíble nos rodeaba, una calma que no era resultado de los cercos o las armas de fuego. Por un breve momento, la frontera fue intrascendente. Oraciones y súplicas fluían en ambos lados tan libremente como los pájaros que daban vueltas encima de nosotros. Juntos oramos por las generaciones pasadas y por las aún no nacidas. Oramos para que sus vidas puedan ser vividas al máximo, y recordamos que ninguna frontera puede impedirnos ser una sola familia.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud es el director de la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano de la Conferencia Catolica de Obispos de los Estados Unidos.

Faith-based Groups Leading Efforts for Racial Equity

Rich WoodPope Francis, on his recent visit to the United States and in his customary hopeful tone, remembered “the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans.  This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed” (Sept 26, 2015).

Many Americans—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—remain inspired by Pope Francis’ visit. Yet America also struggles to live up to his hopeful vision of eliminating racism and prejudice. Racial controversies roil our universities, incidents of racialized policing lead to deaths, and mass incarceration curtails the life chances of too many young black and brown men. We have failed to build racial equity into the fabric of our society. That task remains urgent three decades after the U.S. bishops diagnosed it thus: “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it means an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us, 1979).

The bishops and Catholics in the United States have been putting money into that struggle for decades through the annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which takes place in many parishes throughout the United States in November. CCHD’s systematic investment in faith-based community organizing in dioceses and archdioceses around the country represents perhaps the Church’s best investment in fighting racism and working for racial equity in America. These groups fight poverty by empowering people in poor and working class communities to work for social policies in line with Catholic social teaching—often collaborating across racial and ethnic lines.

Many CCHD-funded groups have come to focus on explicitly working for racial equity. One such group is Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild (POWER).  POWER brings together Philadelphians across lines of race, income level, faith tradition, culture, and neighborhood. More than 40 congregations from every section of the city have actively participated in the building of POWER, which works to address racism and promote policy changes to improve communities in Philadelphia, such as fair funding for education, economic dignity through fair wages, and access to affordable housing.

The work of POWER in Philadelphia is but one example of how CCHD-supported groups are realizing the hopes Pope Francis expressed during his visit to the United States. There are hundreds of groups carrying out this work throughout the United States. These kinds of local faith-based organizing efforts offer Catholics a chance to be part of answering those questions.

Answer Pope Francis’ call. Learn more about what CCHD-supported groups are doing in your area and get involved!

Richard L. Wood serves as a consultant to the CCHD Subcommittee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the author of the just-published A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organizing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy, and works as a professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico


Learn more about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the state of poverty in the United States at PovertyUSA.org.

During the month of January, don’t forget to celebrate Poverty Awareness Month using this printable calendar (en Español), longer daily reflections (en Español), and our daily emails.  These resources provide food for prayer and action to address poverty in the United States. 

CCHD Collection: Your Generosity Working on the Margins

Bevin Kennedy, Office of National Collections at the USCCB

Bevin Kennedy, Office of National Collections at the USCCB

This weekend is the national date for the Collection for Catholic Campaign for Human Development. In my time here, working in the Office of National Collections, I have been able to not only witness the continuous generosity of American Catholics but also I get to witness all of the collaborative work that makes these projects possible.

CCHD funded groups across the country are doing incredible work to break the cycle of poverty and make change happen. There are those in Minnesota providing microloans to help refugees and immigrants achieve success in their small businesses, and those in Louisiana advocating for children unfairly caught in the justice system.

The success of these projects relies heavily on our CCHD diocesan directors, who in solidarity with those on the margins, tirelessly help people help themselves and often go unnoticed. These individuals give so much of their time to “bring good news to the poor…release to captives…sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free.”

But most importantly, all of this work would be impossible without the incredible generosity of our parishioners in the pew who give to this collection. The generosity of the American people to give what they have to support those in poverty brings new meaning to One Church, One Mission.

CCHD-montage-image-16It is in this generosity that I see the words of Pope Francis, “we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates.”

When I see how people share their gifts—from their wealth or their widow’s mite—, share their prayers, and share their time, I see open hearts reaching to the “fringes of society” to counter the exclusion that is the norm in our modern society.

If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read the CCHD newsletter, the bulletin insert, and visit Stories of Hope at PovertyUSA.org, and see just some of the fruits of this collection.

I also encourage you to prayerfully consider supporting this year’s collection. Even though so much has been done to address poverty in this country, there is still a lot to be accomplished.

Together let us remember, “Day after day, touched by [God’s] compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others.” (Pope Francis).


Bevin Kennedy is the Assistant Director for Promotions in the Office of National Collections at the USCCB.

Out within a year, and take your home with you

It’s early October 2015, and I’m on a site visit to the Archdiocese of Seattle. As part of the visit, I am attending a meeting at an out-of-the-way strip mall just south of Seattle. The meeting is for displaced manufactured home owners, and among those present is an organizer and a translator from the Association of Manufactured Home Owners (AMHO) of Washington State, a current Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) grant recipient.  It’s their work in action that I’ve come to see.

AMHO meetingThe room is filled with about 45 people. All Latinos, all restless. Their children are playing in an adjacent room. I can see that these are working families dealing with the struggles of poverty.  The atmosphere is filled with fear, anxiety, confusion, uncertainty, and mixed with anger and emotion, as they now have a new struggle to address.

In September, they all received a letter on their front doors, a note to vacate their plot of land in the manufactured home park. Out within a year, and take your home with you. 

The owner plans to develop the land for an apartment building. Here, as in most parks, the families own or rent their manufactured home (such as mobile homes or trailers), while paying monthly rent to the landowner per the lease.  These manufactured homes provide affordable housing for low-income families, and they are not subsidized by state or local public funds.

The park owner offers $5,000 to help families with the move, but many families have no place to relocate their home. Homes built before 1985 are not welcomed in most communities, and many families own these older homes. Even with a newer home, it is still very difficult to find a new park with a plot vacancy. Then there’s the extra money needed to make such a move.  The average cost to move a manufactured home is anywhere from $7,000 – $25,000, depending on the size of the home.

These families face the loss of land, possibly the loss of their home, the loss of their community, and added financial hardship. They contacted AMHO to explore organizing an association so they could work together to find a solution and save their homes and community. That contact led to this meeting.

“What am I going to do? Where will I go with my home?” they ask each other.

One man says he just bought a doublewide home. The lawyer present wishes him good luck. Moving this larger home will be very expensive, and it will be even more difficult to find a vacant lot in another park. “But I just purchased it,” the man says solemnly. “I was planning to stay here for a long time.”

Some stand up and emphasize the need to stick together, to act together, and confront the situation. As they talk about action the energy in the room changes; they are in this together.

The AMHO organizer discusses the next steps that the homeowners can take to organize their association. They have already sent forms to the State of Washington to become incorporated as a non-profit association, and tonight they complete forms to seek relocation assistance from the state.

The AMHO organizer suggests that all of the tenants should plan to attend future meetings of the City and County Councils. They must tell their stories, fears, and concerns, and seek a solution together. The people want more information, they want to discuss this idea.  The organizer points to a woman in the front row nursing her infant, “Your children should go with you, bring your infant to the council meeting.” Someone in the crowd responds, “She has FIVE children.”

Everyone laughs a little, but there is nothing else funny about this situation.

As a Grant Specialist with CCHD, I have seen situations like these before, and I know that there is hope in empowering people to seek solutions to the problems in their lives by working together. This work is critical. That’s why CCHD supports the work of organizations that empower tenants and homeowners.

As Pope Francis has stated,

[T]he “home” represents the most precious human treasures, that of encounter, that of relations among people, different in age, culture and history, but who live together and together help one another to grow. For this reason, the “home” is a crucial place in life, where life grows and can be fulfilled, because it is a place in which every person learns to receive love and to give love. (5/21/13)


Sean Wendlinder is a Grant Specialist with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

AMHO was founded by homeowners in Lynnwood who successfully saved their community from being redeveloped.  As a result of AMHO’s advocacy in Washington State, “mobile home park” zoning ordinances have been passed in Tumwater, Marysville, Lynnwood, and Snohomish County between 2008 and the present.

A few things you need to know about poverty in the U.S. right now

Tom Mulloy, policy advisor at USCCB

Tom Mulloy, policy advisor at USCCB

As Catholics, we strive for an economy that places people first. Everyone has a right to live in dignity, free from poverty, with decent work at just wages.

Life in America is far from our Catholic understanding of a just economy. Back in September, Archbishop Thomas Wenski cautioned against settling for this ‘new normal’ that leaves too many people and families behind.

The Census Bureau recently confirmed these fears when it released updated poverty and income statistics for 2014. Five years after the Great Recession — after five consecutive years of economic growth and “recovery”– Census reported that:

  • About 15 percent of Americans–close to 47 million people–live in poverty. The overall poverty rate hasn’t been this high for this long in over forty years.
  • 1 in 5 American children live in poverty. Child poverty hasn’t been this persistently high since the early ‘90s.
  • For half of all American households, income is still significantly lower than it was before the recession even began.

When the economic life of our country breaks down like this and fails to provide sufficient work and opportunity, public programs can play a critical role in ensuring human needs are met. Fortunately, Census had good news on this front. Federal antipoverty programs are relatively good at combating the shortcomings of the economy and reducing poverty.

  • Working family tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit, taken together, are by far the most effective tools we have for fighting child poverty. Without them, the child poverty rate would be seven whole percentage points higher.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly referred to as food stamps), in addition to fighting hunger, reduces overall poverty by one and a half percentage points, and child poverty by close to three percentage points.
  • 1 in 7 American senior citizens live in poverty. Without Social Security, that number skyrockets to 1 in 2. Yes–fifty percent.

We should make sure these programs are protected by reminding our elected officials that they help millions of people achieve some sense of financial security. Our interactive map at PovertyUSA.org now has updated statistics for your state to inform your advocacy efforts. We can also work for more and better jobs with just wages in our own communities. The county-level view of our map highlights programs across the country doing this critical work with help from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Let’s give Pope Francis the last word. In his address to Congress last month, he implored:

Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Mt 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.

 

Tom Mulloy is a policy advisor in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.


 

For an in-depth discussion of the Census report, check out our Poverty in America, 2014 and a Catholic Response webinar and download a copy of the presentation. 

CCHD: Helping Immigrant Families Participate Fully in American Life

The following excerpt is from a speech given by Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Bishop Soto

Bishop Jaime Soto, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on CCHD

[The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) seeks] to have immigrant families participate more fully in American life. Becoming a good citizen is not just a matter of a naturalization process. It is a matter of learning the personal responsibility – as well as the skills that go along with this – to be involved in your community. In time, faceless institutions become real people: the mayor of your town, the principal at your school, the police chief in your city and the local Congress member for your district.

More than just advocating for a just comprehensive immigration reform, CCHD has supported efforts on a variety of related issues both on local and state levels… helping immigrant communities better relate to local law enforcement, responding to local anti-immigrant ordinances, organizing community-based humanitarian responses to immigration raids with special attention for children separated from their parents.

All of these efforts are as much about the empowering of relationships, practicing subsidiarity, and enabling the virtue of solidarity as they are about the practical outcomes of promoting better laws.

One very important aspect of these efforts is enunciated very beautifully in Pope Francis’s recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He spoke about time being greater than space [EG, 221-237]. . . . The Holy Father expressed a concern that all too often there is a priority of space over time, a desire to control the exercise of power for intended outcomes, refusing to let the processes of dialogue and participation produce a more authentic human development. The inclination is to believe time is running out or to fear what time could harbor. So, using the Holy Father’s language, there is the temptation to take possession of the “spaces of power” in order to hold back any process. Does this not sound like the language with which sovereignty is being used today in order to build higher walls instead of better bridges?

Time has to do with hope, living with the expectation of a brighter horizon. Hope is more than an expectant feeling. Christian hope incarnates itself in time, using time to bring about the kingdom, carefully, deliberately – quoting Pope Francis: “without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity” (EG, 223). He used an apt metaphor from the Gospel, the parable of the weeds and the wheat. The workers wanted to take control of the situation, pulling out the weeds. The owner of the filed, fearing the wheat could be lost with the weeds, counseled time, patience. His wisdom allowed the field to develop and grow so that at the proper time a good discernment could be made.

The work of solidarity takes time, patience, and process or development. The work of CCHD understands this. Our efforts to begin with the poor and the marginalized, giving them the time to create the space of hope where they can share in protecting and providing for one another, creating a cohesive narrative and using power for the common good. We put resources and power where we believe it can do the most good.

Perhaps this is where time helps solidarity create a new sense of sovereignty that is not enslaved in a sense of space. The political probabilities for a comprehensive immigration reform are still uncertain, murky.   The work of CCHD will continue to engage immigrant communities in the political discourse not because a favorable outcome is assured. It is not. Even in the face of little optimism there is the hope in things still not seen (Rom 8, 24-25).

Along with this hope is the freedom to act. We insert that hope into time, creating citizens of the New Jerusalem. This is a hope not held captive by partisan timetables, strategies for the 2016 campaign or talk-radio slogans. Rather, “soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.” Pope Francis spoke about the constant tension between fullness and limitation (EG, 222). CCHD will continue to fund that tension, desiring always that his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

 


Bishop Soto’s speech on “Sovereignty, Solidarity and Time: Reflections on CCHD’s Work With Immigrants,” was given on January 25, 2015 at the 32nd Annual Aquinas Lecture sponsored by the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO. The full text of the speech appeared in Origins, CNS Documentary Service, Vol. 44, No. 37, February 1, 2015.

For stories of how CCHD works to help immigrant families participate fully in American life, visit the Poverty Map and select “Target Population.”

 

 

 

Setting the Table for Eucharist and Dignity

This past Sunday, the Gospel focused on Jesus, the bread of life. In this blog post, Michael Carlson reflects on how our celebration of the Eucharist leads us to mission in our communities.

Michael Carlson HeadshotFood is a crucial part of Catholicism. Most obviously, the true presence in the Eucharist is our spiritual nourishment. It is also important, though, to remember that we receive the Eucharist as a community. In an elementary way, sharing a meal is an intimate act, a mutual admission of our humanness and reliance on food. It is generally considered impolite to eat in front of a guest without offering her the opportunity to share that experience. Inviting someone to dine with you in your home remains a significant gesture of friendship. Sharing a meal is an ancient sign of trust. Recognizing this, Jesus challenges us:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner…invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:12-14)

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) funds organizations that are managed by people in need who serve those in their community also in need. By funding them, CCHD doesn’t just invite them to dinner; CCHD gives the hungry a way to invite others to dinner. Community organizations funded by CCHD are groups that don’t simply provide food to the hungry. These groups set tables and invite the hungry to dine with them.

In the Naugatuck Valley in the Archdiocese of Hartford, employment is scarce. However, the region’s aging population has recently created a burgeoning local market for domestic workers for home health care. Unfortunately, these workers often lack rights. For example, domestic workers were excluded from laws protecting them from discrimination and sexual harassment. The Naugatuck Valley Project listened to the experiences of the community members and their stories. CCHD helps fund the organization’s work; after all, Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and numerous social encyclicals following it have insisted that all workers deserve dignity in their place of employment.

Naugatuck Valley Project’s persistent advocacy for workers’ rights paid off on June 30, 2015, when the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was signed into Connecticut law. The law benefits not only the workers in the Valley, but also the entire community, which is challenged and invited by the new law to better recognize the dignity of all community members. Just as food and the Eucharist itself are meant to be shared, so is dignity. CCHD helps organizations like Naugatuck Valley Project share the dignity that all people need as much as all people need food itself.

There are many organizations around the country that do work similar to the Naugatuck Valley Project. See how organizations in your community address the root causes of poverty by visiting the Poverty USA.

Michael Carlson is an alumnus of the CCHD intern program who served the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Catholic Social Justice in New Haven. He is currently a master’s candidate at Yale Divinity School.

Francis’ Visit and the Witness of the U.S. Church

Rich WoodThe weeks leading up to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States in September 2015 offer an extraordinary opportunity to see the Catholic Church at all levels in some of its best work for the world. Francis will be in Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia, but he will address each person and the local church in the U.S.  and around the world.

In Washington, DC, Francis will address an extraordinary joint session of Congress. Massive media attention will surely focus on how he applies Catholic teaching on economic inequality, racial exclusion, and the dignity of all human persons to an American society for whom those issues have been the focus of intense partisan battles and social divisions.

In New York he will speak at the United Nations. He is likely to share the heart of his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, with its clarion call for greater international cooperation to address both economic exclusion and climate change, especially their impact on the poor.

In Philadelphia, at the World Meeting of Families, Francis is expected to focus on themes related to the upcoming Synod on the Family in October. This will offer a forum to address a broad range of issues that affect contemporary families—including all of the above.

In all these settings, much media hyperbole will stress Francis’ dynamic personality and global star status. For Catholics, this will be gratifying and inspiring—but will also shroud the consistency of Catholic social teaching across all these terrains: For almost 125 years, the highest teaching authorities of the universal Church have emphasized important themes—such as an economy at the service of human beings, human solidarity as a key Christian and human virtue, and the dignity of all persons at all moments and in all settings.  Key documents include, among others: Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum; the Gaudium et spes document of Vatican II, called for by John XXXIII and issued by Paul VI; John Paul II’s Laborem exercens and Solicitudo rei socialis; Benedict XVI’s Caritas en veritate; and Francis’ own Evangelii gaudium. Francis’ star power may get these messages across to a new generation—and he may apply the teaching with new insight to address new realities—but at the heart of his message will be long abiding truths.

To see this, U.S. Catholics need only look at the decades-long commitment of our bishops nationally, most recently via the work of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). For decades, its Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development (JPHD) has done practical work inspired by precisely these teachings. Catholic Relief Services sponsors refugee relief and international economic development in some of the poorest places and most desperate humanitarian crises of our time.  The USCCB Department of Migration and Refugee Services protects the life and dignity of the human person by serving and advocating for refugees, asylees, migrants, unaccompanied children, and victims of human trafficking. The USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) supports community organizing and economic development initiatives whereby poor communities are empowered to speak for their own needs and dignity, and in favor of greater racial inclusion, economic opportunity, and immigrant rights in American life.

In hundreds of local communities and dioceses throughout the United States, CCHD’s investment has enabled people to speak for their communities and in keeping with Catholic teaching. One national network of such groups, the PICO National Network, will be present in Philadelphia to help call attention to the above themes during Francis’ visit, and has developed study materials to help local parishes and faith-sharing groups to prepare for and reflect on the papal visit.

Precisely what Pope Francis will say to America will be revealed only when he steps on our shores. But his visit seems likely to spotlight how the Catholic Church works on multiple levels like no other human agency in the world: with deep roots in local communities and people’s concrete lives; guided by a coherent set of teachings about human life and meaning; driven by transcendent values and Gospel teachings; and capable of worldwide coordination under Spirit-inspired leadership.

Richard L. Wood is Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico and co-author of A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organizing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2015). He serves as a consultant to the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. 

Young Voices: “The Cycle is Most Definitely Broken”

Why I support CCHD campaignEdith Avila was the winner of the 2015 Cardinal Bernardin Award, presented at a reception at the June meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops, in St. Louis.

It’s amazing what God does when you surrender your life to the mercy of His love.

The Cardinal Bernadin New Leadership Award means so much to me. It reaffirms his path for my life in the work of social justice. More importantly, it reaffirms his love for me as a daughter of Christ. But even then, perhaps, it means even more to my parents. Coming from an immigrant and poor background, there is no such thing as a small success. Every accomplishment is a God-glorifying moment because every moment is one step closer to breaking the cycle of poverty.

While meditating on the significance of this award, it hit me and I thought, “Good Lord, the cycle is most definitely broken. His grace is abundantly deep.”  The Catholic Campaign for Human Development internship changed my whole life. While some of my friends would say it turned me into a hippie, I’d say it opened my heart to be able to truly live an authentic Catholic life. The more I learned about our Joliet CCHD funded groups, the more my own story became secondary. And God’s calling became very apparent.

Social justice is not about politics or choosing a side of the Church. Social justice is living out the Gospel by addressing the root causes of injustice. It’s about the lives of our brothers and sisters. It’s about how we respond to the injustices we see on a daily basis.

As Cardinal Bernardin wrote, “Like Jesus, we will love others only if we walk with them in the valley of darkness – the dark valley of sickness, the dark valley of oppressive structures and diminished rights.”

Thanks to everyone who opened their hearts to hear Christ when choosing me, a humble servant. And thanks to all my teachers of faith and justice that have led me to this moment of my life. As I stand here, I stand in complete awe of the Lord.

I’ll end with the last bit of a prayer that we all know, attributed to Blessed Oscar Romero – “We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”   Thanks and peace be with you all.

As an intern for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) in the Diocese of Joliet in 2013, Edith worked with a CCHD-funded group, Forest Park Community Center, which provides a safe haven outside of school for children in a community with increasing gang violence. In 2014, Edith participated in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering as part of the Young Leaders Initiative. Now Edith continues the mission of CCHD to break the cycle of poverty for families by working for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Joliet. She devotes her time to establishing relationships with parish leaders to provide service and advocacy opportunities for 129 parishes in the diocese. To inspire the next generation to be agents of our Church’s social mission, she is currently developing a Board of Young Professionals for Catholic Charities of Joliet which engages a diverse group of young professionals in justice, charity, and networking.