John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, offered the following comments on Time magazine naming Pope Francis the “Person of the Year.”
Pope Francis has done more in the past nine months than any Catholic leader in 50 years to begin rescuing the Catholic Church from a Vatican culture often more fixated on privilege and power than the radical message of the Gospel. His personal humility, focus on the poor and stinging critique of economic inequality is capturing the attention of global leaders and ordinary people. Like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, this pope is calling the Church to a deep spiritual reform that asks bishops to come out of cathedrals and walk the streets with the homeless, the hungry and the lonely. At a time when 1 in 10 Americans are former Catholics, Pope Francis provides a road map for U.S. bishops to regain their public voice and moral credibility by being pastors, not culture warriors.
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Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach efforts for the fast.
Mendoza, an undocumented mother of three who works as a motel housekeeper, is one of about a dozen activists fasting on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol. The fasters want the House of Representatives to vote on legislation that would grant some 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. The bill was approved earlier this year by the Senate but has met stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled House.
The “Fast for Families,” organized by faith, immigration and labor groups, began on Nov. 12. Four activists who went nearly 22 days without eating ended their fast last Tuesday. About a dozen others, including Mendoza, are carrying on with the strike, some fasting for one to several days at a time, others indefinitely, in the hope that they can compel Republican leadership in the House to bring the bill to a vote.
The activists have had a slew of visitors, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, many members of Congress and some from Obama’s Cabinet. One tent is adorned with cards written by well-wishers who have stopped in (“Adelante companeros” or “Keep going, friends,” one of the missives reads), and a table is lined with items found in border areas believed to belong to migrants, including a worn sneaker.
“The time is now for us to be under this big tent and talk about the issues that affect our communities because if we keep trying to fight the battles separately, we’ll never win,” the group’s executive director [of Dream Defenders] Phillip Agnew, 28, of Miami, Fla.
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FPL worked to organize the college campus activists and helped to lead press outreach for the fast.
From the interfaith clergy to the civil rights heroes, from the union activists and community organizers to one of the youngest members of Congress, those involved in an event Tuesday spanned the wide range of people working to keep Washington’s attention on comprehensive immigration reform.
Marking the 22nd day of the Fast for Families, a prayer-and-fasting activity being observed around the country as well, four people who had consumed only water for 22 days broke their fast and symbolically handed over the role to others.
Students and faculty at 11 Catholic colleges were participating in the fast as well. And a letter of solidarity signed by leaders of nearly 20 Catholic institutions was released Tuesday.
“Your courageous example reminds us all that the issue of immigration reform is not about partisan politics or narrow ideological agendas,” it said. “This is a profound moral issue, as old as the Hebrew prophets and the Gospel, that calls into question the kind of nation we aspire to pass on to our children.”
Among the letter’s signers were Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; two former ambassadors to the Holy See; the presidents of several Catholic colleges or universities and representatives of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK; the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
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Advocates begin 21st day of fasting today, urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform
Prominent Catholic leaders – including the president of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic university presidents and former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican – released a statement today offering encouragement to immigration reform advocates now starting their 21st day of a water-only fast to dramatize the moral urgency of passing comprehensive immigration reform.
“We are hopeful that your sacrifices and determined stand in the face of Congressional delay will awaken the consciences and break open the hearts of elected officials to the human suffering caused by an immigration system that tears families apart,” the leaders write. “Your courageous example reminds us all that the issue of immigration reform is not about partisan politics or narrow ideological agendas. This is a profound moral issue, as old as the Hebrew prophets and the Gospel, that calls into question the kind of nation we aspire to pass on to our children.”
The core group of fasters include Eliseo Medina, former international Secretary Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and Cristian Avila, 23, of Mi Familia Vota in Phoenix, the son of Mexican immigrants. As of today, more than 5,000 people across the country have fasted in solidarity for one or more days and hundreds have joined nightly community meetings at the fasters’ tent to offer support. This week, students on 11 Catholic university campuses are fasting in solidarity. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, will visit the tent tomorrow to offer spiritual support and prayers as the fasters continue a national week of solidarity, prayer and action.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez joined a group of civic and labor leaders last week to announce a 24-hour fast between December 1-3 in solidarity with the Fast for Families. “Everyone knows our immigration system is broken,” Archbishop Gomez said in announcing the fast. “But our leaders don’t seem to feel enough urgency to fix it. So we offer our fasting today as a prayer — in the hopes of moving the hearts of our national leaders in Washington.” Bishop Blase Cupich of the Diocese of Sopkane, WA. last week sent fasters a letter saying their efforts are a “cause of great inspiration to me personally.” Bishop Cupich added: “I have been working with elected officials directly and through other community leaders to spur action on achieving comprehensive immigration reform. You motivate me to enhance those efforts.”
The message of solidarity released today will be delivered to the fasters’ tent on the National Mall, which in recent days has attracted a stream of elected officials, civil rights and religious leaders – including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Jessie Jackson and Bishop John Wester, the Roman Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City. The statement of support is signed by among others Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA; Thomas P. Melady, retired U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George H.W. Bush; Miguel Diaz, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama; the presidents of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Sabrina Burton Schultz, Director of Life Ministry in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The full statement with signatories can be found below and here.
We are deeply moved and personally inspired by your prophetic witness that demonstrates the moral urgency of comprehensive immigration reform. We are hopeful that your sacrifices and determined stand in the face of Congressional delay will awaken the consciences and break open the hearts of elected officials to the human suffering caused by an immigration system that tears families apart. Your courageous example reminds us all that the issue of immigration reform is not about partisan politics or narrow ideological agendas. This is a profound moral issue, as old as the Hebrew prophets and the Gospel, that calls into question the kind of nation we aspire to pass on to our children.
As Pope Francis said when he visited the island of Lampedusa to honor migrants, we are all complicit in a “globalization of indifference” when we fail to confront the personal and political realities that undermine human dignity. Thank you for your moral leadership. Please know that you are in our prayers.
Rev. Larry Snyder
Catholic Charities USA
Thomas P. Melady
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)
President Emeritus, Sacred Heart University
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
University Professor of Faith and Culture
University of Dayton
Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J.
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J.
University of San Francisco
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
Mexican American Catholic College
Sister Ann Scholz, SSND, PhD
Associate Director for Social Mission
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sabrina Burton Schultz
Director of Life Ministry
Diocese of St. Petersburg
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Interfaith Worker Justice
National Advocacy Center
Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Rev. Frederick L. Thelen
President, Action of Greater Lansing
Pastor, Cristo Rey Church
Rev. Joseph Nangle, O.F.M
Susan M. Weishar
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University, New Orleans
Christopher G. Kerr
Ignatian Solidarity Network
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Faith in Public Life helped to organize the letter and led press outreach.
The “Nuns on the Bus” campaign was such a success that many Ohio Catholic sisters want to keep the bus rolling — in spirit, if not in body.
More than 100 nuns across Ohio, including 25 from the Toledo area, have signed a statement expressing their support for state expansion of Medicaid coverage.
“The Nuns on the Bus came through a year ago and because there’s momentum, the sisters decided to get together again,” said Sister Geraldine Nowak of the Sylvania Franciscans.
Last year’s bus trip across Ohio by the nuns included stops at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, urban outreach centers and other places where the state’s neediest are getting help, including the Assumption Outreach Center near downtown Toledo.
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