Feast of the Holy Family – Call to Family, Community and Participation

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family during this blessed season, we reflect upon the importance of family and our role as members of both local and global communities. This video on the Call to Family, Community, and Participation is the third in our new CST101 video series!

More on the Call to Family, Community and Participation

Mass at the border – celebrating our migrant brothers and sisters departed

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November 2nd is the day we Catholics celebrate our faithful departed. On a personal level, we remember those loved ones who walked with us on this life and have gone to the eternal home to continue their life journey. On the church level, we remember them as our brothers and sisters who share a common faith with us and have gone to continue their faith journey in heaven with all the angels and saints.

Here on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, within the dioceses of Las Cruces, El Paso, and Ciudad Juarez, in the month of November, we have a tradition to celebrate Mass right on the border line.

Smack against the border fence, we observe the feast of the faithful departed – Día de los Muertos, as it is known in Mexico and in other countries of Latin America – to pray in supplication and thanksgiving. We remember all our migrant brothers and sisters who have found death on their treacherous journey north, in search of a more dignified life for themselves and their families, often seeking to reunite with their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and other relatives.

This tradition started a few decades ago, in the wake of the many border enforcement initiatives enacted to deter migrants from entering this country without inspection. Enforcement operations such as “Hold the Line,” “Gatekeeper,” and “Safeguard” have pushed thousands of people to try to enter through harsh regions and consequently increased the number of deaths along the border.

To honor their lives and call attention to these deaths taking place along with the increasing militarization of the border, these three border dioceses started this beautiful and moving celebration that is now nationally known as the Border Mass.

Several hundred people gather every year on both sides of the border, around a common altar, to celebrate the Eucharist, symbol of communion, in a place that seeks to divide peoples and families. We announce the Gospel of inclusion, remembering that we are all one family of God, called to walk with each other in love. We share the Body of Christ and exchange the sign of peace across the border through the fence, despite opposition from the border patrol officials and ground agents.

The bishops of the three dioceses take turns presiding and the clergy of all three dioceses come to accompany the faithful, as we remember those migrants who have passed on to the eternal life. We pray for them in thanksgiving, for the gifts with which they have enriched the lives of their loved ones and ours. We also pray for change in our hearts, from hardened to welcoming, change in our immigration laws, for immigration reform, and for more Catholic engagement in advocacy so we can enact these changes.

As part of this Mass, we bring symbols of faith and pilgrimage, of migration, suffering, accompaniment, unity and hope. We present an image of the Virgen of Guadalupe as mother and consoler, a backpack, water, sandals, our national flags, and a crucifix representing our common faith in our Lord and Savior, who strengthens and accompanies us all pilgrims, those who are coming, those who arrived, and those who have departed ahead of us.

This is a wonderful moment of prayer and solidarity on the border.

Virgen de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros! Amen.

headshot of Marco Raposo

Marco Raposo is Diocesan Director of the Peace and Justice Ministry in the Diocese of El Paso.


Visit the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign website to learn more about the Church’s work to promote positive immigration reform.

The 2008 film “One Body, One Border” tells the story of the Border Mass. Learn more about the film.

The Devastating Effect of Irresponsible Mining Practices

miningFor over forty years, I ministered around the Appalachian coalfields. Because of this, I was invited to Rome, July 17-19, 2015, to represent the mountains at “United with God, We Hear a Cry,” a conference dealing with communities affected by mining activities.

Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in collaboration with the Latin American “Churches and Mining” network, the meeting convened grass-roots representatives from 18 countries: Chile, Peru, Brazil, Columbia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Mexico, United States, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Mozambique, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, and the Philippines.

Transnational mining corporations exert disproportionate power over most local communities with negative results, which raises grave concerns for Rome. Too frequently, the mining practices violate the human rights of workers, destroy local environments, introduce negative health impacts, greatly enable substance abuse, allow prostitution and human trafficking, threaten local cultures, and have ties to organized crime.

After citing many of these abuses, Pope Francis in a letter to the participants stated clearly: “The entire mining sector is undoubtedly required to effect a radical paradigm change to improve the situation in many countries.”

The stories from the participants underscored that sentiment.

A representative from the native peoples of Canada said a breached mine tailing dam in upper British Columbia released 25 million cubic meters of debris into Lake William and polluted the crystal clear lake where 80 million salmon spawn.

Worse, a Philippine village witnessed the killing of the mayor’s wife and two sons, because he opposed the mining practices. Others in the village received the “blanket” threat–the symbol of wrapping for death. Continuously participants told stories from mining practices. They told about violence, dishonesty, and theft, besides testimonials about pollution, destruction, and sickness.

Shortly after returning from Rome, I toured with Bishop John Stowe, our new bishop of Lexington, KY, around the nearby coalfields. We heard stories similar to those from the international conference.

One family we met contracted with a company to mine 70 acres for coal, but instead saw the company illegally mine 90 acres, allegedly because the company changed the property map.

Another fellow said the blasting from mining caused a separation in his brick home large enough to put his fist into the gap.

Still another complained the mining company never paid him the agreed amount for the coal that they mined. Instead, he found the payments delayed until the company declared bankruptcy, and then he witnessed operations resumed under a different name without the liability.

Add to these stories the discarded miners with black lung, the numerous kids with asthma and the increased rates of cancer for women attributed to mining practices, and we can see that Appalachia unfortunately shares much of the same dishonesty, theft, and despoiled environment that breeds sickness and human distress discussed at the international conference.

On the local level, Catholic parishes not only respond to victims of mining-induced floods and mudslides always by supplying temporary shelters and home furnishings, but also conducting community prayer services. These services bring spiritual healing and insight by directing prayer against mining injustices.

Nationally, people of faith must awaken to the link between the demand for mine products and their lifestyles.

Conference participants acknowledged the need to train bishops, priests, and seminarians about Laudato Sí, and extend this to all the faithful. Dialogue within the church and with mining interests remains key, while divestiture from businesses supporting bad practices requires action.

Ultimately, we people of faith must reflect the teachings from Laudato Sí and pursue an integral ecology that links the poor, the earth, and human community in the web of life. 

headshot of Fr. John Rausch

 

Fr. John Rausch, a Glenmary priest, teaches, writes and organizes around justice issues in Appalachia.

Authentic Role Models for Emerging Leaders in Social Justice

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

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Trinity student Laura Clavijo and Dr. Lynda Jackson

As a business professor at Trinity Washington University, my research and studies focus on the best ways to mentor students and guide them toward developing success factors that will enhance their careers and in turn their lives. Specifically, I like to stress the significance of becoming involved in purposeful networking, actively seeking caring mentors, and consistently identifying suitable role models.

Being involved in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) offered an environment that provided our students with direct access to all three–networks, mentors, and role models.

When we learned of the opportunity to attend the CSMG 2015 conference in Washington D.C., it appeared to be the perfect setting for our students to network with likeminded individuals, seek encouraging and caring mentors, and interact with role models who were making significant contributions toward social justice in their communities and our society as a whole.

Once our plans were set to attend, we read the brochures and watched the informative videos, and our excitement grew. But, no one could have told us how stimulating it would be to actually attend and be a part of the CSMG 2015!

My students were amazed–as this was their first opportunity to attend a conference. At first, they were a little apprehensive, but then, every group they joined warmly welcomed them and involved them in the topics of discussion. The students were given several business cards for future contact and mentoring opportunities.

The plenary sessions were “awesome” (their words) and increased the students’ excitement about the “possibilities” of one person making a major difference in the lives of many through advocacy. Students especially appreciated the rare experience to hear first-hand accounts of the works of tremendous role models such as Martina Liebsch, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Caritas Internationalis, and Sylvester Brown, Jr., Executive Director of The Sweet Potato Project.

Another advantage was the chance for the students to network with other students from all over our nation who are interested in being involved in human rights advocacy projects and social justice awareness activities. Additionally, they took advantage of the opportunity to speak and network with the friendly and informative representatives from a variety of Catholic and advocacy programs located in the Exhibit Hall. They enjoyed chatting and learning about each of the organizations and were encouraged by the representatives’ eagerness to engage them in conversations about their own future career plans.

By the end of the conference, the students were elated about the possibilities of bringing community service ideas and insights back to Trinity where we too focus on human rights and social justice. They also looked forward to sharing what they learned with their home parishes. Without a doubt, the CSMG experience exceeded the students’ greatest expectations!

At Trinity, we certainly look forward to future opportunities for our students to participate in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

Trinity student with Catholic Social Ministry Gathering registration materials

Trinity student Bruna Distincto Algaran at CSMG

All students, nationwide, are bound to be excited about the tremendous opportunity to be involved in CSMG and to gain exposure to this valuable network while interacting with excellent and committed role models and mentors. As a professor, I highly recommend this opportunity to all students and can assure them a valuable, rewarding, and priceless experience!

As Benjamin Franklin indicated, involvement is where true learning occurs!

Dr. Lynda C. Jackson is Assistant Professor of Business at Trinity Washington University


Join us at Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on January 23-26, 2016! The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering strives to recognize, encourage, and prepare young and diverse leaders of our Church’s advocacy and social ministries. We invite college and universities to participate in the Gathering through the Young Leaders Initiative. 

Special early bird registration rate ends November 13th.

Two Powerful Books You Need for Early Formation

the covers of two children's booksLunches are packed, backpacks are strapped on tight, and yellow school buses are making their rounds.  The school year has begun!

Religious education programs are also back in full swing at our parishes. And families, back from summer camps and vacations, are settling into the normal routine of fall. At the same time, Pope Francis’ visit to the United States for the World Meeting of Families is just around the corner.

What do all of these have in common? They are each a special opportunity to reflect on the formation and education of children.

This formation and education begins, of course, at home, where parents, the “first educators of their children,” teach them moral values and love for God and neighbor (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1653 and 2207).  We can’t start too early.

This fall, as we look for ways to catechize children about discipleship and the call to mission—themes that will most certainly feature prominently in Pope Francis’ messages during his visit—the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development has two great resources to help.

Green Street Park (grades K-2) and Drop by Drop (grades 2-4) tell stories about how children, inspired by their faith, put two feet of love in action in their local and global communities.

Here you can read:

Finally, here is a review by an 8-year-old!

handwritten review of Drop by Drop by 8 year oldDrop by Drop Review

In my opinion Drop by Drop is a very good book, now here is why: First of all I loved Drop by Drop, because there was a prayer in the front of the book! The story made me feel sad because the girl Sylvie had to get water that was 3 miles away and she could not go to school like me! I think other kids should read this book because they will learn how to help kids around the world!”

 


Find out more ways to respond to Pope Francis’ call during his visit to the United States! Sign up now for JPHD’s Papal Visit alerts on Sept. 21-28. The daily emails will include updates, resources, and ways you can act on the Holy Father’s call. The alerts will also highlight sharable content from JPHD Facebook and Twitter pages.

It Ain’t the First and It Ain’t the Last

“It ain’t the first and it ain’t the last!” That was the response of Avery, an elderly man who is always at my barbershop (though he never seems to get a haircut) when he was asked about the current unrest in Baltimore.

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Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Indeed, many of us said after the Ferguson turmoil, polarity, and finger-pointing that it could happen anywhere. We acknowledged that issues in many of America’s inner cities were at a boiling point. Twenty-three years since Rodney King and twenty three days since Freddie Gray.  From the west coast to the east coast and countless cities in between, lives have been lost and reduced because of racism, classism, unjust laws, oppressive systems, and benign neglect. From coast to coast we have seen a rapid rise in hatred, racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, inattention, and abandonment. Impressions of our sisters and brothers have been reduced to what is reported by the ever so selective evening news, or discriminatory twitter or latest Facebook feed.

Yes, another straw has broken another camel’s back and another spark has been fanned into flame as the ever so elusive peace continues to avoid our cities. It is important to note that there are always many straws and many sparks long before the camel’s back is broken or the fire erupts.

Exclusion and marginalization continues to plague communities and manifests itself in often violent protest. In the words of Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel: “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility” (no. 59).

It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of people who struggle with poverty or marginalization do not show their disgust in violence. Rather they participate in peaceful prayer services, marches, and demonstrations. A far greater number do nothing at all but find themselves paralyzed trying to figure out what might do the most good.

It would be unwise to assume that the problems are only one dimensional, that it is only racism, or only classism, or only family structure, or only urban, rural or suburban. The issues are complex and require a complex and diverse response. No response only fuels more smoldering embers.

Avery continues to lament with grief, “it ain’t the first and it ain’t the last!” Have we given up on Baltimore? Ferguson? New York? Etc.? And what of the ones who would be husbands or fathers? Scholars? Role models? Stewards and caretakers of inner cities?  Is it totally impossible to dream that Baltimore could be “the last”? Is it possible that enough courageous faithful people could rise and say, “Enough!” Could it be that folk will call racism the sin that it is and commit to doing whatever needs to be done to eradicate and dismantle it? Can decent affordable housing shelter people in all neighborhoods? Why can’t we ensure education that provides a path to college and then a path to employment? How can we reform the criminal justice system so that it doesn’t target and oppress people of color?

Numerous questions, and frankly, I don’t have a good answer for any of them, but I am certain apathy and indifference doesn’t maintain the status quo; it only makes matters worse.

“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.”   (1 John 4:16)

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.

Anger and Reverence

Kerry Alys Robinson

Kerry Alys Robinson

On March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day, I was invited by the archbishop celebrant to reflect on the scriptural readings for the third Sunday in Lent in the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria Regina della Famiglia in the heart of the Vatican. It is believed to be the first time a woman has ever had this privilege during the Sunday liturgy at the Vatican. The Gospel passage is John 2:13-25. The Mass began the Voices of Faith celebration of women’s contributions to the Church and world. 

All of our lives we are invited into a deeper relationship with Jesus, the better to live lives as Christians. We are called to hear his words and observe his actions in order to emulate him in our own lives. And what do we know about Jesus? He is the radical peacemaker. He tells us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to lay down our lives for others.

So in today’s Gospel it is shocking to see Jesus angry. Anger is such a deeply human emotion and yet because it is Jesus, we know that there is also a divine anger at hand here. It gives us permission to be angry.

Why is Jesus angry in this Gospel passage? He is angry because what is holy, what is a sacred place, is not being reverenced. He is angry because the people present lack all reverence for what is holy in their midst.

When we think of our lives today – March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day – when are we angry? Where is there a lack of reverence for what God deems as holy? Where do we lack reverence? And what could be more holy in God’s eyes than all of creation, the earth, humankind?

We are called in this Gospel today and every day to never be apathetic, to always be angry when we see that what is holy is compromised. We are called to be angry when the dignity of people is compromised. We are called to be angry when there is sexism in the world or in the Church. We are called to be angry when our sisters and brothers live in extreme poverty, the result of unjust structures that we can remedy. It should make us furious that women and children- the most vulnerable- are disproportionately affected by poverty, war, violence, disease. We should be angry when whole generations are being raised in refugee camps. We should be angry when children do not have access to education, or food, or water, or healthcare. We should be angry when sexual abuse and violence is still so prevalent in every part of the world, and kerrypreachingthat rape is a weapon of war. We should be angry when young girls are kidnapped and sold into slavery. We should be angry that in 2015 human trafficking is a very real, collective sin.

Our invitation today is to claim that anger, and in emulating Christ, to turn that anger into opportunities for action to reverence what God holds dear, what God sees as holy and sacred. And that is surely the very lives of people. Today in a preferential way let us uphold and promote the dignity and full participation of all women and girls in the world and in the Church.

Come to the table of the Eucharist and pray for the grace to never be apathetic when what is sacred is being desecrated. Pray for the grace to always have the strength and sustenance to reverence what God sees as holy and, as Christ did, to act on that with the whole of your life.

Kerry Alys Robinson is the executive director of the Leadership Roundtable and a former consultant to the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Want an awesome new children’s book to read to your child?

Merged Books

For years, the US Catholic bishops have used a “two feet” model to explain how Jesus’ disciples are called to put God’s love into action to address the problems that face our local and global communities. The “two feet” are charitable works and social justice

Charitable works describe those immediate actions we can take to address the needs of families and individuals in short-term ways, like serving at a soup kitchen or donating money to emergency relief efforts. Social justice addresses the root causes of problems, with the aim of making long-term change that will affect many people. Fixing flawed laws or policies, and promoting economic development are examples of social justice. Both “feet” are complementary and necessary.

This concept can be tough to teach to adults, let alone children! But it just got easier with two new children’s storybooks published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in partnership with Loyola Press:

Green Street Park is a story about a boy named Philip, who lives on Green Street. He loves his neighborhood, but the park he and his friends play at is in rough shape. When Philip and his friends complain about the park, their teacher, Sr. Mary Clare, challenges them to follow the example of St. Francis and care for creation in their own backyard. They clean up trash and they also work to engage their parents and community—even the mayor—in “fixing” the park. The end result? A safe, clean place to play and a community garden that produces healthy food for neighborhood families and the parish soup kitchen.

In Drop by Drop, Sr. Mary Jerome’s class has a visit from her nephew, Mr. Mike, who works for Catholic Relief Services in Burkina Faso, in Western Africa. Mr. Mike shares about his friend, Sylvie, a little girl who could not go to school because it took several hours each day for her and her sisters to walk to a river and collect clean water for their family. CRS and the community implement a water project, and this means Sylvie can finally go to school. The students listening to Mr. Mike’s story decide to help through a creative project of their own.

As a parent, I’m excited about these two new books because they are such a great tool in helping children learn about our call, as disciples of Jesus, to respond to the problems that affect our neighborhoods and world. They explore real issues that children in the U.S. and around the world face, and spark imagination about how children can be involved in creative charitable works and social justice solutions.

Loyola Press has created a beautiful reflection guide to help children (and their parents) pray with the books, as well as downloadable worksheets for educators.

I hope you’ll join me in sharing these super new books with children in your lives. This week (April 20-24, 2015), in honor of Earth Day and both books’ focus on caring for creation, you can also visit USCCB Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to participate in a contest. You might even win a free copy of one of the books!

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Jill Rauh is assistant director for education & outreach at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.