John Gehring, FPL’s Catholic Program Director, was quoted in an article on Pope Francis’s criticism of the Catholic Church’s focus on divisive social issues.
“Catholic progressives are wondering if we’re dreaming and going to wake up soon,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. “It’s a new day.”
The interview also showed a very human Francis. He seemingly had no qualms about acknowledging that his tenure as superior of Argentina’s Jesuit order in the 1970s — starting at the “crazy” age of 36 — was difficult because of his “authoritarian” temperament.
“I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems,” he said.
The key, he said, is for the church to not exclude.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” he said.
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(Washington, DC) – In a sign that momentum for immigration reform continues to grow, 25 Catholic colleges released details today of a joint national advocacy effort in support of comprehensive reform with a pathway to citizenship. From a Mass on the U.S.- Mexico border led by Loyola Marymount University to vigils at Creighton University dedicated to immigrant families, Catholic students and education leaders are hosting dozens of special Masses, organizing Catholic DREAMers, sponsoring text message campaigns and contacting their local Members of Congress at their district offices.
“The advocacy of presidents, students and campus ministers from Catholic universities sends a clear moral message to elected officials that we must act now to fix our broken immigration system,” said Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Georgetown University. “I hope the many graduates of Catholic universities in Congress heed this call to put human dignity and the common good before narrow-minded partisanship.” The number of Catholics in Congress is at a historic high, including 136 in the House of Representatives.
Today’s announcement of coordinated campaigns, spearheaded by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Ignatian Solidarity Network and Faith in Public Life, follows a July letter from more than 100 Catholic university presidents that urged Speaker John Boehner and the U.S. House of Representatives to fix an immigration system they described as “morally indefensible.”
The flurry of actions, Masses, forums and student organizing is taking place on Catholic colleges representing more than 100,000 students. The fall advocacy effort adds momentum to calls for common sense reform fueled by a broad coalition of religious, business and labor leaders.
“Catholic students put their faith into action when they stand up for immigrant families,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. “Young men and women at Catholic colleges bring vital energy and inspiration to our national movement for immigration reform.” In Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University campus ministry leaders will take students to the U.S-Mexico border for a vigil and Mass on Sept. 29.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network has launched a “Fall Call for Immigration Reform” urging all 28 Jesuit Catholic colleges and universities to take actions in support of humane and responsible reform.
“Campus leaders are fired up and mobilized to make sure no more families are torn apart by deportation and inhumane immigration policies,” said Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “Catholic colleges are organized, unified and determined to make an impact. Our grassroots movement is a reminder to those in power that immigration reform is about values and real people, not legislative procedures or political scorekeeping.”
At the University of Notre Dame, which recently announced it will admit undocumented immigrants, campus leaders are organizing a text message campaign – NDream – to help students mobilize campus events and contact Members of Congress.
“I am inspired to see the passion our students have shown in support of immigration reform,” said Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., President of the University of Notre Dame. “Many stand with Catholic bishops in calling for Congress to pass humane and responsible immigration reform.”
At Loyola University in Chicago, campus and student leaders have created a “Safe Spaces” support network for immigrants that include training and resources. In June, the university’s medical school became the first in the country to allow undocumented students to apply under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“Young aspiring Americans bravely face the consequences of our failed immigration system each day,” said Pedro Guerrero, President of the Unified Student Government Association at the Loyola University Chicago. “We can’t be silent while these outdated and inadequate policies inflict havoc on our friends, neighbors and families. As students with a stake in our democracy and as future workers who will compete in a new global economy, we urge Illinois’ Congressional delegation to give us a vote on common-sense immigration reform with an earned pathway to citizenship.”
The following is a list of advocacy actions, Masses and events at Catholic universities.
- 20 Catholic colleges are planning special Masses for immigration reform, including Georgetown University, Boston College, Cabrini College, Canisius College, Creighton University, Fairfield University and Loyola University of Chicago.
- Students are launching a text message campaign to build events on campus and contact their Members of Congress at Cabrini College, Misericordia University, Neumann University, Notre Dame University and Villanova University.
- Immigration reform town hall meetings were held at Creighton University (Sept. 4), the University of St. Thomas in Houston (9/12), and forums are being planned at Fairfield University and Misericordia University.
- The University of San Diego, Canisius College, Fordham University, Loyola University of Maryland and the University of San Francisco have organized postcard writing drives for students on campus.
- Film screenings on immigration themes will be staged at the University of San Francisco and Villanova.
- Vigils dedicated to immigrant families are being planned at Creighton and the University of San Diego, where on Sept. 25 students will hold a vigil and Mass.
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Pressure Continues to Build as Lawmakers Wrap Up August Recess
As the pro-immigration reform movement continues to build momentum across the United States, PICO National Network Action Fund, the Diocese of Reno, Nevada, and Faith in Public Life Action Fund launched radio ads in key markets this week urging constituents to call their representatives and voice their support for comprehensive immigration reform. In their respective communities, clergy leaders and local students encourage constituents to call House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Reps. Mark Amodei (NV-2), Dennis Ross (FL-15), Gus Billrakis (FL-12) and Lee Terry (NE-2) to support moral immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.
The ads started running on Monday, August 26.
The Diocese of Reno and PICO National Network Action Fund teamed up for an ad featuring high-school student Sam Mendoza, whose father is undocumented, and Fr. Francisco Nahoe, OFM, of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in Reno directed at Rep. Amodei.
In Omaha, the spot features Maria Hernandez, a local college student whose parents are undocumented, and Sr. Kathleen Erickson of the Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Mercy Community Justice Office. The ad encourages constituents to urge Terry to support a pathway to citizenship so families like Maria’s aren’t “…threatened with separation because of our broken immigration laws.”
“Congressman Terry has a clear choice to make,” said Kathleen Grant, Co-Chair of Omaha Together One Community’s Immigration Action Team. “Will he side with extremists like Steve King, or with Omaha families like Maria’s? The faith community will not rest until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted. Because without reform, families remain separated and millions of immigrants will be relegated to a permanent underclass – we people of faith will not stand for that.”
In ads launched in Florida targeting Reps. Ross and Billrakis, recent high school graduate Rosalba Ortiz joins with Pastor Leo Trevino of Church of God in Lakeview to say “she’s just a regular American kid, but ‘every day I pray [my family] won’t be deported.’” Pastor Trevino adds that constituents should call their representatives so families like Rosalba’s “…can live out their God-given gifts in America.”
In Bakersfield, CA, where the pro-immigration reform movement grows stronger every day, the radio ads feature DREAMer and CSU Bakersfield graduate Lorena Lara alongside Sr. Marie Francis Schroepfer of the Diocese of Fresno urging constituents to call House Majority Whip McCarthy so aspiring Americans like Lorena “can work towards an earned path to citizenship.”
Throughout the month of August, the PICO National Network turned up the heat on members of the House of Representatives, pressuring members to declare their support for a direct, inclusive and affordable pathway to citizenship for all 11 million aspiring Americans. Through events in 12 states and 30 congressional districts attended by nearly 50,000 faith and community leaders the Summer for Citizenship will powerfully demonstrate what polls have already shown, that people of faith overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented Americans.
From their presence at local town hall meetings to the placement of radio ads across the United States, clergy and other leaders in the pro-immigration movement are keeping up the pressure. They will not stop until aspiring Americans, like these students and their families, are brought out of the shadows and able to fully participate in America’s democracy and economy. The time is now for the U.S. House of Representatives to bring legislation to a vote and pass immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
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Pressure Continues to Build as Lawmakers Wrap Up August Recess
AUDIO AVAILABLE HERE
(Omaha, Nebraska) – As the pro-immigration reform movement continues to build momentum across the United States, Omaha-area faith leaders launched local radio ads this week urging Representative Lee Terry’s (NE-2) constituents to call his district office and voice their support for comprehensive immigration reform.
The ads, sponsored by Faith in Public Life Action Fund, started on Monday, August 26, and will run through Friday, August 30. Featuring Maria Hernandez, a local college student whose parents are undocumented, and Sr. Kathleen Erickson of the Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Mercy Community Justice Office, the ad encourages local constituents to urge Terry to support a pathway to citizenship so families like Maria’s, aren’t “…threatened with separation because of our broken immigration laws.”
“Congressman Terry has a clear choice to make,” said Kathleen Grant, Co-Chair of Omaha Together One Community’s Immigration Action Team. “Will he side with extremists like Steve King, or with Omaha families like Maria’s? The faith community will not rest until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted, because without reform, families remain separated and millions of immigrants will be relegated to a permanent underclass – we people of faith will not stand for that.”
With degrees from Catholic institutions such as Creighton University and Creighton Law School, Rep. Terry would honor his education and serve his constituents well by paying attention to the social teachings of the Catholic Church.
“The time is now to pass common sense immigration reform that reflects the Catholic tradition of honoring and defending all human beings, regardless of legal status,” said Sister Laura Reicks, President of the Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Community. “We stand with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith leaders in calling for an end to the exploitation of immigrant families and the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. This reflects not only the teachings of our Catholic faith, but also the highest values of our nation.”
From their presence at local town hall meetings to the placement of radio ads across Omaha, clergy and other leaders in the pro-immigration movement are keeping up the pressure. They will not stop until aspiring Americans, like Maria’s parents and thousands of other families, are brought out of the shadows and able to fully participate in America’s democracy and economy. The time is now for the Rep. Lee Terry and the U.S. House of Representatives to pass immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship.
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Catholic sisters have gathered for a national meeting in Orlando this week under close scrutiny. An archbishop tasked by the Vatican with overhauling the organization that represents most U.S. nuns will be keeping a watchful eye on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
The Vatican issued a report last spring criticizing the sisters for promoting “radical feminist themes” and not doing enough to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.
The high-profile scolding prompted widespread displays of support for nuns across the country. Americans have signed petitions and opened their checkbooks to show support for these women of grace and grit. This outpouring of respect and admiration is well-deserved.
Nuns in the Orlando area have long been on the front lines of low-income communities. In Apopka, Catholic sisters are helping farmworkers and migrant families by providing literacy and citizenship classes, social services and spiritual care.
Catholic nuns’ tireless support for immigration reform, living-wage jobs and effective programs that help struggling families underscores that being “pro-life” doesn’t stop with defending life in the womb.
Now that Pope Francis is drawing rave reviews for his engaging style and emphasis on social justice, could there be an opening to repair the breach between nuns and the Vatican? The pope sparked a flurry of media coverage recently for his comments about gays. “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?” he asked.
Less noticed was his candid acknowledgment that the Catholic Church lacks “a truly deep theology of women.” A woman’s role does not “end just with being a mother and with housework,” he told reporters, noting that in church history Mary is more important than Jesus’ male apostles.
These words are not revolutionary. Women run corporations and serve as heads of state. The pope’s comments may even sound quaint. But for a global church that frequently operates like a monarchy, this pope has signaled the need for greater dialogue and collegiality.
The Vatican has every reason to begin healing the wounds caused by its heavy-handed treatment of women religious. For a church that has struggled with headlines filled with scandal, nuns are good news.
John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington.
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