"We begin Lent 2010 much like we did in 2009. Enormous financial realities impact our families, especially with the continuing loss of jobs and no immediate prospects for a renewed and favorable job market.
Too many of our families in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been impacted by the loss of jobs—especially those hundreds of thousands with minimum wage jobs. Countless thousands of our poorest people work two or more minimum wage jobs in order to sustain their families. But when one or more of those jobs terminates, the financial burdens are many and burdensome.
We see the disastrous results of those job losses: families struggle to pay their rent and utilities; others find it difficult to purchase adequate food for their families; and many of our Catholic families have had to take their children out of our Catholic elementary and high schools because they are unable to meet the tuition for their children. Even with the heroic efforts of Together In Mission school subsidies and the Catholic Education Foundation tuition scholarships, many of our families cannot afford to keep their children in our Catholic schools. This reality only compounds the problems for these families since a sound and integral education is the only and best hope for the children and young people of these families.
As we enter our annual Lenten journey, I would strongly recommend that all of us continue our traditional Lenten practices: increased prayer, appropriate fasting, and continued almsgiving. But this year, I would suggest that you consider making a donation during Lent to your parish school to enable a family unable to pay the tuition to have their son or daughter continue forward in that Catholic school. If your own parish school does not have this need, then there are many parish schools in each sector of our Archdiocese who could benefit from your Lenten charity.
I can think of no finer way to direct this year’s Lenten charitable giving than to those families who truly desire a sound Catholic education for their children but simply cannot afford it. If you are not certain which Catholic elementary schools are in most need, please contact our Office of Education at (213) 637-7300 and explain that you want to assist a young person remain in their Catholic school. The Office will give you the names of several schools in your immediate Pastoral Region.
Yet again, I am asking all of us to devote special prayer and fasting on behalf of our many undocumented immigrants living in our midst. It has been my personal goal for many years now to assist these families in having a path towards legal residency in our midst. Curt and abusive insults of our immigrant brothers and sisters do not help any of us in our great nation. The majority of our immigrant families are “mixed families,” meaning that some members are legal United States citizens and some are not. Because of this reality, these families will stay together and we will continue to have some people living in the shadows of legality.
Both the Congress and our President have the responsibility to help bring an end to these people living in the shadows of our society—often deprived of basic human rights and exploited by employers—and onto a path which would eventually bring them into full legal residence. Our country would benefit greatly from taking this step forward.
The Bishops of the United States remain committed to comprehensive immigration reform, and this is one of my highest priorities as Archbishop of Los Angeles. My own personal Lenten practices this year will be totally devoted to this effort at achieving meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform.
I invite you to consider both of these pressing issues during your Lenten journey: the opportunity for children to remain in our Catholic schools, and comprehensive immigration reform to be enacted by Congress.
Let us continue “to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and our most needful brothers and sisters during our Lenten journey!!"
Images of Ash Wednesday 2010, Courtesy of Victor Aleman