Quarterly Review – Fall 2015 Issue

WELCOME to the first edition of “Salt & Light,” SJV’s Social Service Ministry’s Quarterly Review. Unlike our weekly e-newsletters which include updates and information about upcoming SJV events, our Quarterly Review is meant to be more educational in nature. We invite you to join us in our Quarterly Reviews as we explore contemporary issues that are relevant to the Catholic Church’s social doctrine and the Corporal Works of Mercy, and to review our Church’s rich history in both words and actions in the arena of social justice. In addition to articles on these topics, we will share with you links to additional resources, prayers, action steps, and upcoming events. At the same time, we will share with you our Quarterly Reports which address the facts and figures of our own social justice efforts and how we are reaching out to and serving the poor and the vulnerable here at SJV.

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It is most unfortunate that the term “social justice” in recent years has become so highly politicized. It is difficult to speak of any issue or concern these days without the fear of being labeled left or right, liberal or conservative, capitalist or socialist, etc. Pope Francis has warned us, though, against this “simplistic reductionism.” In his address to Congress last week, Pope Francis said, “The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps…. Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.” As Catholics, we must allow ourselves to follow Christ and speak up for the most vulnerable in our world today—the poor, the immigrants, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and the imprisoned. Although Catholics (and Americans, in general) may disagree about how we should tackle and solve the problems of poverty, violence, migration, etc. that we face in our world today, as Pope Francis instructed us, “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.” It will, therefore, be instructive and timely to bring a discussion of social justice back into the spotlight and reclaim the rich history and beauty of our Church’s social doctrine.

There is so much to be excited about this week for Catholics all over the U.S. We are still basking in the excitement of Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S. and attempting to digest all that our Holy Father shared with us in his visit.  Here at SJV, we are also excited in anticipation of Jeff Cavins’ presentation Walking Toward Eternity this coming weekend, and our annual Parish Bazaar benefitting our charities the following weekend. In the midst of all of this excitement, though, we should not forget that October is Respect Life Month. Any discussion about social justice or Catholic social teaching would be impossible without the proper focus on the life and dignity of the human person. This is the foundation Social Justice.  As St. John Paul II famously entreated our nation, “And so America: If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. It you want life, embrace the truth, the truth revealed by God.” When we speak of justice, we cannot forget those who are most vulnerable, the unborn. For more about the sanctity of human life, please visit the Respect Life page on our website, and we hope that you will join us for some of our Respect Life activities this month as outlined there.

As you open this first review (and subsequent reviews), we ask that you open your hearts and minds and prayerfully consider the teachings of our Church. The Catholic Church is neither on the left nor on the right.   Today, our Church, as it always has, transcends issues of politics, nationalism, science, economics, and other interests. In the doctrine of the Catholic Church, we encounter more than two thousand years of wisdom and reflection on the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Now, more than ever, we must work together, relying upon the teachings of our Church, to help us combat the culture of death and its incumbent violence and injustice that exist in our world today. We are called upon to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world now more than ever.

In addition to our Quarterly Report, in this edition of our review, we will share information about Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, “Laudato Si,” and a discussion of the refugee crisis in Europe.  However, first we would like to draw your attention back to the basics.  Please see the presentation that we have created below, and take a moment to review and reflect on what Jesus taught us in the Works of Mercy.  You may also want to refer to the Reflection and Study Guide on the Corporal Works of Mercy created by Maryknoll.

In our next issue we will begin our discussion of the basic themes of Catholic Social Teaching, with a focus on the first theme: “Life and dignity of the human person.”   In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy this first edition, and stay tuned for much more to come!

Peace & Blessings,
Deborah Montez
Director of Social Services

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5: 13-16).

2015 The Corporal Works of Mercy from SJV on Vimeo.

UNDERSTANDING LAUDATO SI

“Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God.” ~ Pope Francis

The reception to Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise be to You) has been quite varied, and the encyclical has become the topic of much discussion and debate. As Catholics, though, we are called to see past the politics and to discern between fact and hidden agendas in the media. We are called to draw upon our heritage of faith, tradition and social teaching as we strive to live out the Gospel in everyday life. In order to better understand Pope Francis’ invitation to discuss how we can care for God’s creation, we have put together a series of resources that will hopefully present a clearer picture of what Pope Francis is asking of us as members of the universal Church.

If you haven’t done so already, a good first step to understanding our role as stewards of God’s creation is to read the encyclical itself.

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Father Gerry Kelly, of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, has recently given a presentation on Laudato Si, and he has graciously agreed to share a point-by-point summary of his presentation with us. Fr. Gerry is the spiritual leader for St. John Vianney’s Mission Trips to Eagle Pass, Texas. From the beginning of SJV’s mission trips to Eagle Pass in 2009, Fr. Gerry has led our fellow parishioners in mission. His exemplary kindness, selflessness and dedication to those we serve is truly an inspiration to us all.

Having witnessed the effects that climate change and environmental degradation have had on the poor and vulnerable, Catholic Relief Services has taken steps to raise awareness on these issues and to help those they serve to better prepare for these changes and devastating effects. Part of those steps include a brief video titled Care for God’s Creation, and a plethora of educational resources for people of all ages.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also produced numerous articles and resources to assist faithful Catholics in their efforts to answer Pope Francis’ call to care for God’s creation. One of these documents, Resources for Taking Action, provides important questions that Catholics and all people of good will need to ask regarding how to care for our environment. It also provides suggestions on how to take action at the local and national level.

Bob Waldrop, of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City, sees Laudato Si as “a call to a better life, a world with more justice, peace, equity, and sustainability.” He also shares with us very practical, simple and everyday ways in which we can respond to Pope Francis’ call.

As a second step, you and your family can join thousands of Catholics across the nation and take the St. Francis Pledge to pray, assess, act, and advocate for God’s creation, especially for the poor and vulnerable. You can also pray the USCCB’s Prayer to Care for Our Common Home, which is based on Pope Francis’ encyclical.

Finally, if you still have questions or concerns regarding Pope Francis’ encyclical, please don’t forget that our very own Adult Formation and Parish Life Ministries’ First Thursday Breakfast will host The Main Course, featuring Laudato Si and presented by Fr. Nathaniel Haslam of the Legionaries of Christ on Thursday, October 1st, 2015.

A FAITHFUL RESPONSE TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN EUROPE

“The Gospel calls us, asks us to be ‘neighbors’ of the smallest and most abandoned.”~ Pope Francis

With 59.4 million displaced individuals in 2014, the United Nations has declared this refugee crisis the worst crisis since World War II.  Since the start of the conflict in March of 2011, at least four million Syrians have fled their country because of the war and persecution, simply because they are Christian.  Close to 2,000 have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015 alone.  We have all seen the tragic images compelling us to act.

In an effort to bring humanitarian relief to a Europe ravaged by war, the Catholic bishops of the United States established Catholic Relief Services during World War II. Just as they did then, CRS continues to serve those in greatest need regardless of their nationality and religious or ideological beliefs. In September alone they will have served over 35,000 people, and there seems to be no end in sight to the conflicts generating this mass migration.

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Pope Francis has asked parishes throughout Europe to house refugees, but the number of people in need is overwhelming and the majority of countries in Europe are unable to meet those needs. CRS is responding to the Pope’s call, providing relief to families fleeing conflict.  CRS is also calling on the United States to “continue and expand humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, especially in those countries in the Middle East and Turkey that have been sheltering the largest number of Syrians and Iraqis as well as countries burdened by this new migration.”

As part of that assistance and in response to Pope Francis’ plea for help, Catholic bishops in the U.S. and around the globe are calling on the U.S. government and the international community to “provide support to both Syrian refugees fleeing violence and to countries that have been at the forefront of this humanitarian effort.” Their recommendations include:

  • Building an inclusive and lasting peace to allow Syrian refugees – including those of ethnic or religious minorities – to return home and rebuild their countries.
  • Providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
  • Providing development aid to refugee host countries near Syria so they are able to properly welcome and care for the refugees.
  • Providing 100,000 annual resettlement slots for the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syria conflict.
  • Designating an additional 100,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. from other countries.
    Source: USCCB website.

The President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, KY, has recently published a statement, urging

“… all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons – made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.”

If you would like to know what you can do to help, both the USCCB and CRS have listed tangible actions which all of us can take in order to assist our brothers and sisters fleeing persecution and violence:

  • Pray that God provides his protection to Syrians and all other refugees displaced by violence and persecution.
  • Write … a letter to President Obama, urging him to expand U.S. resettlement efforts of Syrian refugees who are fleeing unspeakable atrocities and violence.
  • Urge … your member of Congress to provide urgently needed development aid for refugee host countries near Syria that have heroically borne the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • Contact your local Catholic Charities agency to find out how you can assist them in their effort to resettle refugees and help them build new lives of hope here in the United States.
  • Donate to the MRS Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program, which provides parish and community volunteers an opportunity to help sponsor newly-arriving Syrian and other refugees and provide for their critical needs.  You can also donate to CRS‘ efforts to assist.
  • 7 Things You Can Do to Help

You can also visit the USCCB‘s and CRS‘ websites to stay informed on their latest efforts to assist the refugees. May they find the love of Jesus Christ in those who respond to their cry to let them in.

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” ~ Winston S. Churchill

LIVING FAITH, CHANGING LIVES, MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
ONE PERSON AT A TIME

Quarterly Report from the Social Service Ministries

 

SJV’s Social Service Ministries Department, through its Emergency Assistance Ministry, provides food, clothes, financial, and other types of assistance to those in need. Working in conjunction with the Food Pantry, Joseph’s Coat Resale Shop, our Employment Ministry, the Gabriel Project, other ministries within Social Services, and partnering with ministries such as Memorial Assistance Ministries and Catholic Charities, our volunteer interviewers meet with those in our neighborhood who are facing financial crises. These difficulties are often due to unemployment, low income, medical costs, or unforeseen family crises. Acting on their commitment to the Corporal Works of Mercy and through the donations of our very generous parishioners, the volunteers are able to compassionately respond to the needs of our clients and help them overcome the “bumps in the road.”

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