On Monday, March 24, the “Fast for Families Across America” bus rolled into South Bend, Indiana as part of an 14,000 mile cross-country journey for citizenship and immigration reform.
Two Notre Dame students, Jessica Pedroza and Christian Myers, have been leading efforts on campus through ND’s Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy. From fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with “Fast for Families,” to organizing ‘Immigration Week’ on Notre Dame’s campus, to traveling to Chicago to join the Student Summit for Immigration Reform, they have a great record mobilizing their fellow Catholic students to stand up for humane immigration reform. Both Jessica and Christian joined local leaders at a “Fast for Families” community meeting at Little Flower Church in South Bend. The duo spoke movingly to the crowd assembled about the urgent need for immigration reform and ways this issue has touched their own lives. Here’s what they said:
“The nation has joined the fasting efforts in support of comprehensive immigration reform, including students from Notre Dame, and we all have our reasons for fasting. I chose to fast because living in fear of deportation is not the way to live. Years ago, when my family drove to Mexico to visit extended family, I saw white crosses all over the border representing those who have died on their way to a better life. People leave their lives in their home country and sacrifice everything to come here. Some bring their children out of love—for them to receive an education, for them to have opportunities…Those of us who are not DREAMers and who do not happen to live in limbo like 11 million others, have the responsibility to fight for them, to fast for them, to pray for them. These are our relatives, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, our business leaders. When we fast, we are hungry for food, but what we are far hungrier for is immigration reform.”
-Jessica Pedroza, Notre Dame freshman originally from Phoenix, Arizona
“In our solidarity fast, 26 members of the Notre Dame community elected to each engage in a water-only fast for 24 consecutive hours during the week of Dec. 2nd through 6th. It was truly powerful to come together in this experience and simultaneously be united with other fast groups around the country…It is my hope that our Congress will look at the “Fast for Families” effort and the numerous other examples of support for our immigrant brothers and sisters, documented and undocumented, “skilled” and “unskilled,” sick and healthy, old and young, regardless of their country of origin, and do everything in their power to enact much-needed reform. Whether you are guided by God, morality, civic duty, or some other ideal, you should be able to recognize that it is our system that is broken and therefore it’s up to us to fix it. And…the time to fix it is now.”
- Christian Myers, Notre Dame student and organizer of Notre Dame’s solidarity fast
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I recently wrote in the National Catholic Reporter about Catholic leaders who never got the memo from Pope Francis. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison is the latest to make you wonder how long it’s going to take for those refreshing winds blowing in Rome to be felt in U.S. dioceses.
Pope Francis angered liturgical traditionalists by washing the feet of women and Muslims during last year’s Holy Thursday liturgy. It was the first time a pope had included women in the rite, which commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the night before his crucifixion. Bucking centuries of tradition, the pope also held the ceremony at Casal del Marmo, a prison on the outskirts of Rome, instead of the swankier digs at St. Peter’s or the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
From the Wisconsin State Journal this week:
Three years ago, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino issued guidelines that gave priests the option of either using only men or not celebrating the ritual at all. Given the heightened attention to foot-washing last year, some parishioners thought Morlino might re-evaluate his position. That has not happened. Brent King, the spokesman for the Diocese of Madison, said priests have the same two options this year — men only or no ritual.
Does Bishop Morlino fancy himself more Catholic than the pope?
This isn’t the first time the Wisconsin bishop has made news. When parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in his diocese raised strong concerns about a new group of traditionalist priests, Bishop Morlino took the unusual move of threatening those raising objections with formal church censure.
“This is a situation where push has come to shove and the bishop is asserting his authority and letting the people know, as it were, that he ‘owns the buildings and calls the shots,’” Dennis Doyle, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton, told the State Journal at the time.
Bishop Morlino, who sparked criticism from some theologians after his unusual interpretations of church teaching during heated debates over Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals, has also warned that Catholics in the United States face “sophisticated persecution.”
Pope Francis wants a less defensive church that opens doors and is “bruised, hurting and dirty” after being “in the streets.” The leadership style of Bishop Morlino sends the message that Catholic identity and evangelization are best served by wielding authority like a club and drawing dividing lines in the sand.
I’m putting my collection-plate money on the fact that Pope Francis has a more effective, and more authentically Christian, strategy for renewing the church.
H/T The Deacon’s Bench
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Today at the Vatican, President Obama and Pope Francis met for the first time.
While detailed reports of the meeting aren’t out yet, there certainly wasn’t enough time to cover all the issues on which they share common concern. Climate change, staggering economic inequality, poverty, the plight of immigrants and refugees, and international conflict resolution all need focus from the world’s most powerful political leader and most recognizable faith leader. Given Pope Francis’s condemnation of “an economy of exclusion” and President Obama’s recent reference to those warnings, I think and hope that addressing the staggering gap between the wealthiest few and those left behind figured prominently.
Still fighting for affordable healthcare
Four years and several days ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. Now, after seemingly endless repeal attempts and obstruction, along with a very rocky rollout, the law is getting a chance to work for millions of American families.
While there are many challenges ahead, I’m proud to say that faith groups are playing a crucial role in making the law work.
But right now the biggest obstacle is the unconscionable decision by politicians in 25 states to reject the federally funded expansion of Medicaid. Fortunately this has become a rallying cry for the Moral Mondays movement in several key states. This movement will only grow stronger as conservative politicians’ immoral obstruction continues.
Faith groups such as NETWORK, Catholics United and PICO National Network were instrumental in the healthcare reform legislative debate in Washington. It’s only fitting that clergy and congregations are carrying on the fight in state capitals where politicians are making the lethal and immoral choice to deny their citizens the care they need.
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The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) always provides a useful window into what’s resonating with the movement’s activist base. One moment from this year’s conference, held last week in Washington, struck me as particularly important.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has a history of using faith to justify an agenda that takes food and health care away from struggling families and seniors, accused proponents of a strong safety net of offering “a full stomach – and an empty soul.”
He went on to tell a false story about a child in poverty to attack the free school lunch program that keeps students from going hungry.
After years of receiving powerful rebukes from faith leaders over his immoral federal budget proposals, his misuse of Catholic teaching and his allegiance to Ayn Rand, it seems that Ryan is trying to rehabilitate his image while clinging to his ideology. It’s no surprise that Ryan, a Catholic, would make a moral argument, but it’s shocking that he’d characterize safety net provisions supported by Catholic nuns and bishops as offering “an empty soul.”
This is more than just Ryan’s personal crusade. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of rhetoric from conservative politicians in the months ahead, but they still strongly oppose effective anti-poverty measures like raising the minimum wage and tax fairness policies like closing massive loopholes for big corporations that don’t pay any taxes.
What they’re left with, then, are empty moral platitudes in service of the same old extremist agenda. We have to counter that with a vision for an economy that honors the dignity of work and enables all families to flourish.
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a well-earned reputation as a politician who uses faith
to justify policies that kick struggling families when they’re down. So it’s hardly surprising that his remarks about poverty at the Conservative Political Action Conference today included religious and moral arguments. Raw Story has the footage
It’s interesting that he accuses safety-net supporters of offering “a full stomach and an empty soul.” As a Catholic, is Ryan accusing nuns and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of advancing an agenda of spiritual bankruptcy? I ask because these leaders vocally defend protections like SNAP and extended unemployment insurance that help hard-hit families put food on the table.
And Ryan’s remarks about families that count on free school lunches are just as troubling. I taught in a school where most students received free or reduced-price lunches. Much like kids at middle-class schools across the country, I’m sure many of them would’ve preferred a homemade meal over the cafeteria cuisine. But Ryan’s suggestion that the 31 million American children who get free or reduced-price lunches aren’t “cared for” by their parents is contemptuous and foolish. Ryan, who is a millionaire, appears to be completely out of touch with the struggles and sacrifices of families trying to get by on the $290 a week that a minimum wage worker brings home.
Ryan should stop pontificating about low-income families — and stop trying to make it even harder for them to meet their most basic needs.
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