Current Issues

WE WALK THE SACRED JOURNEY THIS WEEK 

 

In The Word

We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners because most of us were once foreigners.  I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that many of you are also descended from immigrants.  When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.  We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our neighbors and everything around us.  (Pope Francis’ Speech to U.S. Congress June 24, 2015)

 

In Our Contemplation

The Reality of Communion at Our Borders

In 2016, Pope Francis visited the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  In that same spirit, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have made immigration a significant agenda item.   In one particularly poignant trip to the border, U.S. Bishops reached across the border fence to distribute the Eucharist to Mexicans on the other side, signifying that there are no borders in Jesus Christ.   No one is excluded and no one is left behind.

This “communion” may be reminiscent of a little known fact.   Even before the first Thanksgiving in New England, a Holy Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Spanish migrants in San Elizario, the first seat of El Paso county.  It was a time of feasting together with members of the Manso indigenous tribe.  Since that time the region has been a powerful place of encounter, welcoming migrants from what was once the “Republic” of Texas and settlers from other parts of the United States.  Workers whose labor built the railroad that ran through El Paso to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans came there from as far away as Ireland and China.   El Pasoans then rescued people fleeing dangers at the time of the Mexican revolution – including priests, religious and seminarians.  The fields and crops in the U.S. flourished because Mexican  agricultural workers came here  during World War II.  Our trade practices in the 90’s drove Mexicans across the border with hope for a better life.   And now the region continues to receive survivors of violence, poverty and persecution from countries around the world that look to us for safety and refuge.   The historical truth of the matter is that  “Mexicans did not cross our border.  Theirs was crossed by U.S. acquisition of their land.”  Today,the border brings together.one of the largest bi-national and cross-cultural  communities in the world, in what we might think of as an image of “holy communion”.

 

In Defense Of Border Communities

The recent Pastoral Letter of  the Bishop of El Paso depicts  the border as beautiful, rich in culture and history, in faith and natural wonder.  Yet he grieves that the border, a place, where people of many cultures, nationalities and cultures co-exist and thrive,  is demonized by policy makers whose narratives are inaccurate and driven by private interests that bend the truth.   Their narratives paint the border as a place of chaos, violence and mayhem rather than a community of faith, family and hard work, and they belittle and falsely portray the community’s unique identity and contributions.

 

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have been the most consistent advocates for migrants and for comprehensive immigration reform.  Their message is that every human being bears within him/her the image of God which confers on us a dignity higher than any passport or immigration status.   Migrants possess a dignity that no earthly law or court can take away.   Given this dignity, the Church recognizes the right of persons to migrate.  Yes, countries have a duty to ensure that immigration is orderly and safe, but this responsibility can never serve as a pretext to build walls and to shut the doors to migrants and refugees.   And while respect for the rule of law is essential, a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law  is an unjust law.   And so  we are to judge earthly laws , including our immigration laws,  according to a higher criterion.   Laws that do not respect human dignity  and due process must be changed   The Church has been clear about the imperative to solve this perennial problem.

 

A Critique of Our Broken Immigration System

Both pro and anti-immigration supporters speak about our current immigration system with one voice: it is not functioning adequately.    Border communities bear disproportionately the burdens of the broken system.  El Paso is one diocese reflective of the problems.  These include multiple immigration detention centers holding untold numbers of human beings every night; a community  divided by walls and checkpoints that separate individuals from loved ones.  Its residents are frightened by the flashing lights of police cars in the rearview mirror; a place where people wonder if their family outing or that drive home from work will be the last and  where children worry whether mom or dad will be there when they return from school.   The border community knows the reality of the broken immigration system.  This year enforcement actions have escalated: deportation of those with no criminal record has increased; asylum seekers fleeing for their lives put into detention as a matter of course;  threats that migrant children might be separated from their mothers at the border;  a new law that will authorize local officers to serve as immigration agents and become  a mass deportation force.   In one way or another, the shadow of this reality also falls on many other communities all across the country in the name of “immigration policy”.

 

The moral consequences of this system cannot be ignored.   The terrible human impacts of the system are that it divides families, permits some to detain human beings for profit, and compromises our nation’s historic commitment to the refugee and asylum seeker.  Building walls, deploying a mass deportation force and militarizing our border are not long-term solutions to the challenges.  The voice of border communities must be taken into consideration in shaping border enforcement and  and in debates on immigration reform

 

Let Migrants Speak Their Truth

“The Shepherd knows the sheep and calls them each by name.”  And so the Bishop says of his flock that they  are prophetic in their lived testimony to values that wake us from our indifference to what must flourish anew in today’s culture: faith, life, and family.      All of us are called to journey with migrants in their anxiety and pain on the road to liberation, away from sorrow and mourning and on the road to a future of gladness and joy.  We are called to trust that God did not create a world without room for all at the banquet of life.  The Eucharistic Christ is building a new humanity through us.   All of us can assist in this great work and challenge this moment with the light of the Gospel – pointing out what reflects the Kingdom of God and what does not. Our generous service here prepares us for the coming of the Beloved Community.

 

What does the Bishop ask of us?  That we discern a path forward towards deeper solidarity and effective action.    We cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.  We need to shape the terms of the public debate.  We must continue to denounce the evil of family separation, the militarization of our border communities, for profit immigrant detention, the mistreatment of asylum seekers, and the disparagement of our Muslim brothers and sisters.  We need to confront the drug trafficking afflicting our neighborhoods, destabilizing Mexico and Central America and driving migration to our border.  The Bishop  appeals to those who administer the nation’s immigration laws not to ignore the obligations of conscience and to treat all they encounter with dignity and respect,  with the American values of fairness and justice and with recognition of their duty to the Constitutional mandate for equal treatment under the law and due process.

 

In Conclusion

The words of Pope Francis on his first pastoral visit to Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Italy (July 2013) should ring in our ears. “We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – and suffering with – others.  Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who, in anonymity, make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like that of refugees.  Has anyone wept?  Today, has anyone wept for our world?”    Reflection on these justice notes might suggest a question to us CSJ’s:  Who will weep if we don’t?

 

In Our Prayer

God of all, may we remember that you created us and you are the source of all life.  You created us all in your own image and so have given us, each equally, a dignity beyond all others.   We are each so differently gifted,  and our lives celebrate many cultures  and traditions.  And yet we are one.  It is you who gather us to form one family.  You endowed us with reason and conscience.  It is you who calls us to act towards each other in a spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.  Open our ears to hear your call to live in solidarity, to form one body, one family.  Sometimes we are called to prayer, and sometimes we are called to action.  O God, may our ears be attentive to your call, whatever it may be and wherever it may lead us.   As we rejoice in the gift of our own lives and give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy, may we remember all those who are not free   In the midst of all other priorities and voices to be heard, may we remember to be the voice of the voiceless.   Amen.

 

 

In Our Response

♥  http://cqrcengage.com/fcnl/app/write-a-letter?0&engagementId=384273  The fate of Dreamers hangs in the balance.   Get Congress to act on their behalf.  Time is of the essence.

♥  http://www.c-span.org/video/?325758-1/margaret-regan-detained-deported  A border community eye-witness will walk you through her experience.  (Also published in an eye-opening book “Detained and Deported” by Margaret Regan) Video is one hour followed by 40 minutes Q&A.

♥  Download attachment to pray with during August

♥  http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50887/p/dia/action4/common/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=23062  Urge President Trump and Members of Congress to use dialogue and diplomacy, not hostile acts and inflammatory rhetoric, with North Korea.

 

Source:  Pastoral Letter on Migration to the People of the El Paso Diocese by Bishop Mark Joseph Seitz July 18, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

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    Nourished by prayer, supported by community and energized by ministry, we are constantly addressing the needs of these times.