The Critical Need for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees

The Catholic Relief Services Collection will be taken in many parishes across the country on the weekend of March 25-26 to support humanitarian and pastoral ministries to the vulnerable around the world. The work of The USCCB Office of Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers benefits from this collection. To learn more, please visit www.usccb.org/catholic-relief.

In El Cajon, California, a parish composed mostly of refugees and asylees gathers each week to celebrate Mass in the Syriac rite. Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish is part of the Syriac Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance and is the center of the community for its members, most of whom fled from Iraq. In my visits to this community last year, I found a faith life that was truly awe inspiring. They are united by their faith and by their culture, and their pastor leads them to building community with one another.

During my first visit in June, I discovered how deeply the pain of their past runs. I was there with Bishop Yousif Behnam Habash, leader of the diocese and a member of the Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, as well as Deacon David Hamel, from Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Tulsa, to have a discussion with refugees from the parish and to learn from their experiences and needs as we seek to assist bishops and their dioceses in offering pastoral care to these communities.

The conversation turned to forgiveness. Bishop Habash began to share the importance of forgiving those who have hurt us. He is a leader who is no stranger to this sometimes difficult task. An Iraqi himself, he knows the pain that many in his home country suffer.

As the conversation continued, I noticed a man in the crowd. He was sitting there, listening, and he began to cry. I knew that many in the room had suffered greatly before they came to the United States, but I was not prepared to hear what he would share.

This man shared that his daughter had been killed in Iraq and he was forced to flee to escape the violence. The pain of losing his family and being forced out of his home country was so much to bear. And the task of forgiveness seemed daunting.

So many members of this community carry the pain of a traumatic past. But they carry it to this parish where they find comfort and community with one another. They rely on one another, support one another, celebrate together, and pray together.

During a visit in November, the women’s prayer group invited me to join them for one of their weekday prayer meetings. Many of the women don’t speak English, but they welcomed me and shared their prayer with me. After prayer, everyone met for coffee and donuts and sat around chatting, sharing news and stories, laughing and eating. Their bonds of faith connected and fortified them as they built their lives in the United States.

But this community is not without needs. Refugees and asylees, in particular, need pastoral care to go hand in hand with their humanitarian care. By supporting The Catholic Relief Services Collection, you can help provide pastoral care to marginalized groups around the country. Your support to this national collection will help bring the Gospel to people, like migrants, refugees and travelers, who need to hear its message of comfort and hope.

David Corrales is the Program Coordinator for the USCCB Office of Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers

Interreligious Action for Peace

Tom Bamat, CRS' former senior advisor for justice and peacebuilding

Tom Bamat, CRS’ former senior advisor for justice and peacebuilding (Photo by Jim Stipe)

In 2013, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was awarded a grant to begin a new peacebuilding initiative across six countries on the African continent. Called CIRCA (Capacity for Interreligious Community Action), it has aimed to develop new attitudes, knowledge, and skills among staff and partners for more effective grassroots Muslim-Christian cooperation.  The initiative grew out of local concern about growing interfaith tensions and sporadic acts of violence in East Africa, growing isolation and declining levels of trust among faith communities in Egypt, and the risk of escalating religious extremism in northern Nigeria and Niger.

We were especially blessed in the search for a CIRCA project manager. As I consulted broadly, I was asked to consider a recent graduate of the M.A. program in peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame named Shamsia Ramadhan.  Not only did she have a solid background in Catholic social teaching and excellent people skills, she was a devout African Muslim.

Since late 2013, Shamsia Ramadhan has been leading workshops with youth and community leaders across Africa on the scriptural foundations and teachings on peace and justice of both Islam and Christianity; on the importance of mutual respect and openness to the “other;” and on practical skills needed to bring people together around local development or “connector” projects. She has simultaneously designed a detailed guidance document for those who wish to replicate or adapt the CIRCA trainings.

On my last international trip before retiring from CRS last October, Shamsia Ramadhan and I joined CRS colleagues in Mindanao in the Philippines to share interreligious experiences from the Philippines and the Balkans, as well as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. In an extraordinary Oblate parish there, my colleagues and I listened as Muslim, Christian, and indigenous Lumad women told of their shared experiences with armed violence and their efforts for peace.   The mutual respect among them was obvious.  Such respect is foundational to interreligious dialogue and to practical interreligious action for peace.

CIRCA testifies to what Pope Francis stressed in his most recent World Day of Peace message: no religion is terrorist and violence profanes the name of God. Many Christians and Muslims possess a common thirst for interreligious cooperation. I am grateful to have witnessed the impact that Christians and Muslims working together can bring to bear in Africa and so many global contexts.

Tom Bamat is a sociologist and independent peacebuilding consultant.  A former Maryknoll lay missioner, he was CRS’ senior advisor for justice and peacebuilding 2007-2016. 

Going Deeper!

Learn more about CRS’s peacebuilding efforts around the world. Reflect with Pope Francis on his World Day of Peace message, Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace

 

 

 

Catholic Schools: Un-rivaled

HPIM0658.JPG

Last week our Church joined ecumenical efforts worldwide in praying for and celebrating our Christian Unity. Perhaps Catholic Schools Week will not only be a time to celebrate the great gift and legacy of Catholic education, but also a time to answer our call to Catholic unity, even if that means working with your high school’s arch-rival!

Often times, our Catholic schools may unintentionally compartmentalize our efforts for peace and justice formation. An invitation comes to your high school for your students to participate in a social action. “Oh, stick it his box. He is our peace and justice guy.” Does this sound familiar? That was me. I often had many service or faith-based advocacy invitations from religious congregations, local pro-life and human rights groups, or our diocesan social action office with whom I would have loved for my students to become acquainted. It can sometimes feel like one teacher or campus minister is tasked with a colossal project: introducing our students to Catholic social teaching and the discipleship of living out our faith in society. At least that is how it felt to me.

Until one day about 15 years ago.

It was the run-up to the war in Iraq, and our pope and bishops had been speaking out to slow our nation’s rush to military action. I was a busy high school theology teacher, and my conscience was tugging at me to engage my students with the reality unfolding before our eyes. But I felt somewhat overwhelmed and disconnected – the moral stakes of war were just too big a task for one person to address. Little did I know, I was not alone. The Holy Spirit was about to spark a flame of justice in a new generation, bringing to birth Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice (CSPJ) in the Diocese of Cleveland. A former teacher of mine was feeling the same call to act in his school, so he sent an email to several friends and colleagues from various academic disciplines in high schools across our diocese. He invited us all to meet, and it was this motley collection of mostly teachers and campus ministers who came up with an unrivaled proposal. Eventually, we would approach our bishop and ask if we could gather with students at the Cathedral to pray for peace and continue with a public witness at Cleveland’s Public Square. The collaboration was exhilarating. As adult leaders, we found solidarity with one another in our common struggle to support our students in living out our baptismal call to work for justice and peace. The prayer and witness for peace (2003) exceeded our wildest expectations. We had representative participation from nearly all of the high schools in the diocese, totaling around 750 students and teachers. The collaborative spirit of that event began to spread as an inextinguishable fire. Students and teachers found hope and freedom in joining beyond the parochial boundaries that usually separated us. As in many places, folks from our Catholic high schools in Cleveland most commonly met one another at competitive athletic events or in uncomfortable admissions-related encounters. CSPJ was different. We found common ground in our faith and vocation to live the gospel.

Bishop Anthony Pilla believed in us and guided us to work with our Diocesan Social Action Office to formalize our relationship with one another in this work through renewing annual covenants between the CSPJ adult team and the schools we represented. We have since received the vital support of not only Bishop Pilla, but also his successor, Bishop Richard Lennon. Consequently, CSPJ has been graced with a tremendous cast of partners at each of our schools: encouraging administrators, energetic and emerging student leaders, and a contagiously inspiring mix of both veteran and rookie educators. CSPJ has engaged thousands in the past 15 years through countless events. Our creativity is not bound by the divisive political climate that separates us into “either-or” boxes. Rather, our collective energy arises explicitly from our Catholic “both-and” moral conviction and imagination. We gather annually during Respect Life Month in October for a Mass and public witness where our students courageously share their personal stories and dreams for building a Culture of Life.  This is not a one-issue event. Rather, all life issues in the Consistent Ethic are valued and represented. Following the lead of the Ohio bishops, CSPJ has also advocated for the end of the death penalty through our presence at vigils at the

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility during executions. We have organized public witnesses at the Statehouse, including “Wheels for Justice,” a 3-day, 150-mile bicycle trip from Cleveland to Columbus (2006). Other highlights over the years include:

Some may not think it possible that long-time high school rivals can work together. But when we come together with humble hearts, the Holy Spirit may grant us a glimpse of the unity we seek – realizing we’re all on the same team.augie-pacetti

Augie Pacetti is a co-founder of Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice and serves as Director of Campus Ministry at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

 Going Deeper

Read more about Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice on our WeAreSaltAndLight.org website. There, you can also access resources and educational activities to engage high school students in learning about Catholic social teaching and poverty.

 

Encountering Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

After a moment of silent prayer on Wednesday afternoon, July 27, 2016, I offered the following prayer, as we sat down for a light lunch:

God our Creator, God of compassion,

 pour out on us a spirit of truth, understanding and good will,

that we may come to know with all our hearts

 what is truly pleasing to You and with one accord,

pursue together all that pleases You.

May our coming to know one another more deeply give You glory

 and may the manner of our lives give You honor.   

AMEN.

Thus began a meal and conversation with our Bosnian Muslim neighbors who are preparing to dedicate their mosque here in St. Louis, Missouri. We ate with Imam Eldin ef. Susa, the spiritual leader of the Bosnian Muslim community; Alija Dzekic, President of the Board of the St. Louis Islamic Center; and, Akif Cogo, who is the President of St. Louis Bosnians Inc., a local nonprofit, and planned to be married in the new mosque in mid-August.

We discussed the experience of Bosnian immigrants in the United States and here in St. Louis.  We shared some of our feeble knowledge of the religion of Islam and asked some clarifying questions.  Our Bosnian friends appreciated our welcome, our interest in their welfare, and our curiosity about their religion.  At our own parish, Fr. Lydon and I felt the need to preach about welcoming the stranger as our Bosnian neighbors were building a mosque in the neighborhood.  The construction site created some tension in the community because Islam is misunderstood.  The true religion was hijacked by extremists, and just as secularists in our modern culture misunderstand and stereotype Catholics, so do many Muslims suffer from the same kind of stereotyping.

Muslims do not want us to conclude that their religion is best represented by ISIS or the Taliban.  Neither do I want Muslims to conclude that Christianity is best represented by The Army of God, a network of violent Christians that promotes the killing of abortion providers, or the Jim Jones cult or The Phineas Priesthood, who believe in white superiority. These groups are no more representative of Christianity than the Taliban and ISIS are of Islam.  Vatican II taught that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are the three great monotheistic religions in the world, all of which claim Abraham as our father in faith and believe in the one God who reveals Himself in history.

Muslims prize religious freedom, family ties, education and morality in social and personal realms.  With the overwhelming power of secularism in our society, those of us who believe in the One God who reveals Himself in history have far more in common than not.

We must work together to protect and cherish religious freedom in the public arena.  Our parishioners visited the St. Louis Islamic Center NUR (The Light) Mosque Open House recently, where we received the warm welcome and hospitality of our Bosnian neighbors.

We look forward to continuing our mutually enriching encounter with our Muslim brothers and sisters in the future.

Fr. Paul Rothschild is pastor of St. Dominic Savio parish in St. Louis, Missouri.


Going Deeper
Learn how to reach out and encounter your Muslim brothers and sisters in your community using these resources from the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. You may also be interested in this video on Catholic-Muslim dialogue and the Generations of Faith video and manual on interreligious, intercultural, intergenerational dialogue.

Hope “pierces the heart” of a diocese new to organizing

yard-signs-header

The closing of the liturgical year and the Feast of Christ the King fell, this year, just after the U.S. presidential elections. Such timing prompts me to ask, what does God’s reign look like on earth? Among a divided world, how does one rule with peace and justice? Who would be better equipped to ensure the good of his people than one who knows suffering, family poverty, and being outcast?

prophetic-voting-hitting-the-streetsIn my diocese here in the Northeastern corner of Indiana, the sovereignty of Christ’s power has been made manifest in new ways throughout the last six months. A humble group– immigrants, returning citizens, foreign priests, low-income lay leaders, and average every-day parishioners – heard God’s call for justice and participation and took on new habits, words, and ways of seeing themselves and the world.

What does their love look like in public? Here are a few freeze frames:

  • Pastors dismayed by their parishioners’ disinterest in current events, slimmed attention spans, and even illiteracy issued calls from the pulpit about the need to consider the entirety of Church teaching when forming their consciences and challenged them to move beyond partisan comfort camps;
  • Ethnicities unfamiliar with working together shared stories of similar pain and worry with each other and partnered to knock on the doors of some of the most destitute neighborhoods in our diocese;
  • Undocumented immigrants, who cannot vote and barely survive in the shadows, held voter registration tables and conducted hundreds of calls to encourage those who can to vote their values, even when those values stood in stark contrast to their own;
  • Men and women working multiple part-time jobs made time, often despite family criticism, to be trained in Catholic social teaching, the parameters of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, and the kinds of decisions local and state governments make every day that determine the conditions of our lives.

Even the night when our country finally elected its president, Christ’s kingship still rang out across our land. Amid moments of frailty and fragility, as those same leaders from the voting effort were working the third shift at a manufacturing plant and their co-workers exchanged excitement for the time when “immigrants will go running like cock-roaches”; or, in the days that followed, as students hid in lockers as kids chanted brazen slogans in the hallways and parents were caught speechless as their children gaze into their eyes asking “what is going to happen to us?” – the Kingdom keeps yeasting.

stpatligandbrothersIn the quiet solitude of our hearts, we remember a reality that is unchanged – God is the King of the World. We let the truth radiate outward from there, and soon we cannot help but recommit to the work of overcoming hate, indifference, and ignorance through the hallmarks of mercy and the audacity of hope.

As people of faith, we must continue our efforts to keep immigrant families together, promote religious liberty, ensure the vulnerable have access to adequate health care and emergency assistance, work for racial justice, reform the criminal justice system, and care for all God’s creation.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:28). And organize!

 

audrey-davisAudrey Davis is the Director for the Office of Social Justice for the Diocese of Fort Wayne- South Bend, Indiana.

This pocket of former manufacturing and agricultural glory is today home to the 17th highest incarceration rate on the globe, and where only 30% of jobs pay a family wage. Through the Prophetic Voting Campaign, the diocese partnered with IndyCAN to make its foray into community organizing, through which four low-income parishes joined together to hold sacred conversations with 1,787 low-income voters, register 80 new voters, and spread the message of human dignity and justice through 6 news stories.


Going Deeper

Visit the PovertyUSA.org map to find out where people of faith are organizing for and with those who are poor and vulnerable in your community. Join them!

 

Always Walking, Always Acting with Justice

“Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain? He who walks without fault; he who acts with justice…” – Psalm 15:1-2

This past Friday, Monsignor Marvin A. Mottet, diocesan priest for the Diocese of Davenport, died peacefully. He was 86.

Monsignor Mottet established the Social Action Office in the Diocese of Davenport in 1969. Later, he served as the National Director of the Campaign for Human Development, which is now known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. He was instrumental in incubating four dozen projects which were spun off as autonomous service agencies still active today. He would walk with them to the point that they could do so on their own.

msgr-mottet-2

In 2012, Msgr. Mottet received the Servant of Justice Award from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.

For the past seven years, while serving as the Director of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport, I have benefited greatly from Monsignor Mottet’s wisdom, from his written words and legacy, and from his personal mentoring.

Shortly after beginning, I familiarized myself with The Two Feet of Social Justice, created by Monsignor Mottet, now known by many more in the United States as the Two Feet of Love in Action. I first learned of the combination of charity and justice as Monsignor described and was empowered to share with parishes groups across the diocese. It might seem a simple model, but it is no less powerful. And folks have shown they can go from their experiences of providing for immediate needs to looking at ways to make systemic change.

And Monsignor Mottet supported and encouraged my development as a diocesan director by encouraging me to attend week-long, faith-based community organizer training. He stated his belief that every diocesan director should go through training in order to learn how to affect change, how to empower the disenfranchised, how to teach about power so that it is understood as meaning the ability to affect change. Learning about and in turn teaching others about the benefits of mutual self-interest is at its very core a means of showing dignity and respect to the life of the other, so very necessary in pursuing peace and justice.

Even during his last years, after he was no longer joining us on legislative visits, at rallies and protests, he still attended office team meetings, still wanted to get updates over meals. He continued on with phone calls and emails to elected officials on a variety of justice issues. And most importantly, he supported us and encouraged us on our team.

During his last few days, as people came to visit him, he began to leave each individual with a similar message; as long as you are breathing, use your power and do the work. It was never Monsignor’s work, but rather God’s work walking with both feet towards justice. To honor his legacy, we now continue our walk with his/our Two Feet.

Kent Ferris is Social Action and Catholic Charities Director in the Diocese of Davenport.


 

Msgr. Marv, Friend of the Poor, Companion to the Oppressed

Last week, like many people, I paused, shed a brief tear, offered a prayer, and then found myself with a big smile. So many people were saddened to hear of the death of Msgr. Marv Mottet, my predecessor as Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. I shed a tear at the loss of such a champion for the poor who worked most of his 86 years on behalf of those in need. He was always one with quick wit and charm. But he was also one who would swiftly challenge systems that oppressed and kept poor people down. His embrace of the Gospel was synonymous with his embrace of “the other.” He could not separate the two. Monsignor had a way of correcting, confronting and instructing a person in way that neither demeaned or degraded. I stand as a beneficiary of his strong affirmations and his quick and appropriate admonishments. He had a way of doing both with Christian love. His humility led him to live in Catholic Worker houses and homeless shelters, and to eat at soup kitchens; not because he couldn’t do better but because he placed high value of encountering the poor and looked for creative ways to embrace them and understand their stories.

He once shared with me that one of his proudest moments was when he had the audacity to invite Martin Luther King Jr. to receive the Diocese of Davenport’s Pacem in Terris Award. Msgr. Marv, in his humble manner, called up MLK, told him about the award and asked him when he would be arriving in Iowa to receive it. Dr. King, taken aback, told him that despite a busy schedule, he was honored. In a cassette tape Marv shared with me of the award presentation, Dr. King remarked “Who would believe that a Black Baptist minister named Martin Luther would be receiving an award from a Catholic priest?”

Upon hearing of Msgr. Marv’s death, I also had to smile. Just thinking of Marv’s smile, I could not help myself. Smiling within my grief. I recalled the joy he shared and the contagious laughter he so often freely offered. He has been a wonderful gift to me and countless others. I had to smile because I know what has been promised to those who live lives like Msgr. Marv Mottet. Those who care for the poor, those who pursue justice, those who walk humbly. Rest in Peace Msgr. Marvin Mottet, Good and Faithful Servant.

 

Ralph McCloud is Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Reflections for the Day of Prayer for Peace in our Communities (Sept. 9)

Deacon Al Turner, MTS

Deacon Al Turner, MTS

We as Christians know that we are called to “love our neighbor as our self.” If we want peace we must work for justice – and peace does justice. The way of the world is to seek and hold on to power, to dominate the “other.” The racial strife we are now experiencing is about superiority. One group has made another group a threat to its privileged status. One group is in fear of the other. This otherness can be culturally, class, or racially based. No matter. If power is not used for the good of those under that power, peace cannot follow. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

Power, if it is justly administered, must be done out of love. So love is the answer. If we are to have peace in our communities, we Catholics must be among those who are engaged in the struggle. “How?” you may ask. First and foremost, we must live our lives as though we believe in the Gospel. We must love one another as Christ loves us; love all of our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of our station in life, our race, our culture, or our religion. We must work with ministries and agencies which promote the equality of and equal opportunities for human beings. Be part of the solution. Be an “accepting” person. We live in a very culturally diverse society. We must accept this new reality. Intolerance is a learned behavior. It is learned at a young age. So, it is important that our efforts begin early on. Scripture is full of teaching on the merits of loving one’s neighbor. As the faithful, we should lead the way, by example.

There are programs which teach us how to develop this quality. Recent studies have shown that acceptance education is most effective between the ages of four and nine years of age, and several programs have been developed to help educators teach students how to relate to others from different backgrounds and cultures. One such pilot project Mix It Up at Lunch Day by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, which has begun in elementary, middle, high schools, and colleges nationwide. It encourages students to identify, question, and go beyond the restrictions of social boundaries.

For adults in ministry, ordained and lay, there are opportunities to obtain the skills to minister in a tolerant and loving manner to the diverse people of God. The Catholic bishops have developed programs which fall into the category of living out our call to embrace the other and make them our brother and sister. The Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers program teaches from the Catholic perspective the skills which are essential to bringing about peace and doing justice to all.

That is what our Lord has commanded of us: to “love one another as I have loved you.” These programs and many more can assist us in living out our lives as witnesses to Christ, the Prince of Peace and the author of justice for the entire world. We can be part of the solution.

Deacon Al Turner, MTS, is the former Director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of Washington and is currently assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, MD.


Going Deeper

Join faith communities around the United States to celebrate the Sept. 9 Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities.

Visit the USCCB webpage on Racism for a prayer card, Prayer of the Faithful, study  materials, and real stories of how faith communities are working for peace and racial justice.  You can also participate in the Sept. 14 YouTube Live event on Racial Justice.