In memory of Thomas P. Melady

January 7, 2014, 1:09 pm | Posted by

Former Vatican Ambassador Thomas P. Melady died yesterday at the age of 86. His passing is a significant loss for the Catholic community in Washington and anyone who cares about public service. Tom was a true gentleman who believed in civility, building bridges across ideological divides and finding common ground with Catholic progressives like myself. A moderate Republican from Connecticut, he served his country and the Catholic Church by carrying himself with a gentle dignity that is all too rare in a city of strutting partisan peacocks.

While almost 50 years separated us, Tom became a friend because of our love for the Catholic Church and the conviction that serving the common good means a lot more than whether you voted for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. At times the politics of the Catholic Church can feel even more polarized and nasty than the battles waged on cable news and Capitol Hill, but Tom never let labels or blind partisanship stop him from reaching out to progressives. He even joked with me a few times that he was willing to take heat from his friends on the right for his eagerness to make common cause with more liberal Catholics.

Tom was a man of integrity and clear moral vision. He spoke up as a pro-life Catholic who opposed abortion but also called the scourge of gun violence a sanctity-of-life issue. While some conservatives and a vocal minority of bishops argue pro-choice Catholic elected officials should be denied Holy Communion, Tom rejected turning a sacrament into a political bludgeon. He joined other Christian leaders to denounce Uganda’s shameful efforts to dehumanize gays and lesbians. He spoke out for comprehensive immigration reform. He challenged the powerful and all of us not to forget the growing ranks of the poor and hungry. Tom knew that politics could be a noble calling, not simply a blood sport for the self-serving and ambitious.

I will miss his stories over lunch at The Army-Navy Club and his impromptu phone calls to talk about politics or the Church. Our country will miss his spirit of service.

add a comment »

Still holding fast

December 5, 2013, 1:24 pm | Posted by

Many tears were shed on the National Mall on Tuesday morning when leaders of the Fast for Families who had gone without food for 22 days broke their fast before an audience of faith leaders, Members of Congress, and leaders of the immigration reform movement. Witnessing the commitment and sacrifice of these physically weakened but spiritually powerful leaders was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in a long time. I’m especially proud that my colleagues at FPL have played a key role in planning and carrying out the Fast For Families from the beginning.

And the movement continues. After the outgoing fasters received a blessing from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, seven more people — including five faith leaders — began their own long-term fasts in the same tent where it all started on November 12th. It’s a sign that our resolve for immigration reform that protects families and builds a path to citizenship is stronger than ever. As my friend Rev. Gabriel Salguero told the crowd, we’re going to win because our cause is just.

At the same time, thousands took part in solidarity fasts across the country, including students on 15 Catholic college campuses organized by Faith in Public Life. If Speaker Boehner had hoped the faith community’s groundswell for citizenship was a last gasp, he was sorely mistaken.

add a comment »

Fifteen Catholic College Campuses Fasting for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

December 4, 2013, 2:42 pm | Posted by
DeSales University organizer Kristen Snyder meeting with Rep. Charlie Dent to lobby for immigration reform.

DeSales University organizer Kristen Snyder meeting with Rep. Charlie Dent to lobby for immigration reform.

In coordination with the Fast for Families group fast on the National Mall, Catholic college students across the country have organized rolling, on-campus fasts, eating no food and drinking only water to call for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform to be held.

Creighton University in Omaha began fasting on Nov. 11th, and students and faculty organized nightly prayer services throughout the week.

At DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, students and faculty fasted the week following and led a lobby visit with Rep. Dent to call for immigration reform.

Loyola New Orleans hosted Nuns and Friends of Immigration Reform on Nov. 23rd, where 80 nuns and women religious gathered with DREAMERs and other speakers, despite drizzling rain, to put out a call for immigration reform. The week following, students and faculty fasted.

The first week of December, as the Fast for Families fasters on the National Mallcome into their third week abstaining from food, Saint Joseph’s University, Gonzaga University, Regis University, University of Dallas, St. Edwards University in Austin, Loyola University Chicago, Notre Dame University, Misericordia University (PA), Cabrini College and Villanova University all have fasting teams on campus made up of students and campus ministry and other administrators.

Next week, University of San Diego students are leading a campus fast and other Catholic colleges continue to add fasters to this national movement to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

add a comment »

Catholic Leaders Send Messages of Support to “Fast for Families” on the National Mall

December 2, 2013, 2:17 pm | Posted by

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.

Dear Fasters,

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.

In solidarity,

Rev. Larry Snyder
Catholic Charities USA

Thomas P. Melady
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)
President Emeritus, Sacred Heart University

Miguel Diaz
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

Michael Galligan-Stierle
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities

Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J.
University of San Francisco

Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
DePaul University

Arturo Chávez
Mexican American Catholic College
San Antonio

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
Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Kim Bobo
Interfaith Worker Justice

Larry Couch
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
Migration Specialist
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University, New Orleans

Christopher G. Kerr
Executive Director
Ignatian Solidarity Network


add a comment »

Week 1 of the fast: Our movement grows stronger

November 18, 2013, 2:12 pm | Posted by

This post originally appeared in the Fast for Families blog

It’s been an incredible first week at the Fast for Families tent on the National Mall in DC. Just steps from the U.S. Capitol, faith, labor and immigrant rights leaders have been fasting around the clock to urge Congress to pass immigration reform. They have inspired Members of Congress, Cabinet officials, and activists from around the country to visit them and join the effort.

The fasters have been encouraged by conversations with Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Joe Kennedy III who came to the tent to offer their support. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack also visited the tent to thank the fasters for their sacrifice.

We were particularly excited to be visited on Friday afternoon by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who came to hear the stories of the fasters and why they are willing to risk their health for this cause. She reiterated that a majority of House members support immigration reform, and that if a vote were held today it would pass.

We’ve also been deeply grateful to receive hundreds of other supporters who have come by to offer their support for the fast and immigration reform.

What have been most moving though are the nightly meetings and prayer vigils. Each night, the community gathers to hear updates on the fasters and pray for their continued strength and for an end to this moral crisis. Rev. William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP and the Moral Monday movement came to deliver a moving sermon, as did Rev. Derrick Harkins and Rev. Jennifer Butler. Each night we also hear from some of the many activists who have traveled from all over the country to be with us in this effort.

As the fasters finish their 4th day without food, our movement is growing stronger. In the coming days, we will continue to make sure Congress hears our message loud and clear: pass commonsense immigration reform now.

add a comment »