Tuesday, December 17, 2013

FOLLOWING GOD'S PLAN IN OUR LIVES

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman was a great Catholic priest in England, and a prolific author and preacher.  He composed many Prayers over his lifetime, and I would like to share this one with you.  At times, all of us yearn to know if we are following God's Plan for us in our daily lives.  This Prayer helps guide and reassure us:


God has created me to do Him some definite service.

He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.

I have my mission.

I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.

He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good; I shall do His work.

I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place.

While not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. 

If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him.

In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.

If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

He does nothing in vain.  He knows what He is about.

He may take away my friends.  He may throw me among strangers.

He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me.

Still, He knows what He is about.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CONGRESS LEAVES WASHINGTON; NO IMMIGRATION REFORM

In a most embarrassing move, the House of Representatives left Washington yesterday for yet another long vacation and recess--leaving any type of immigration reform legislation on their desks.

The U.S. Senate had passed a comprehensive immigration reform package back on June 27, 2013--some six months ago.  The U.S. Bishops' Conference had supported that reform legislation which had broad bi-partisan support on a 68 to 32 vote.

The Bill was sent to the House where it has languished amidst a myriad of claims and counter-claims about its content, need, and application.  Speaker John Boehner would not allow the Senate Bill to be brought up for a vote in the House where many thought it would actually pass.

In the meantime, we continue to leave some 11 million unauthorized residents stuck in the shadows of our society.  They live their daily lives surrounded by fear, threats, loss of dignity and respect, and often exploited.  This lack of Congressional action to fix our badly outdated immigration laws is a modern day scandal, and surely one of the greatest social and moral evils present in our country.

What will happen when Congress reconvenes after the holidays?  Will there be any chances for action on the Senate Bill?  Will House members be able to break through the anti-immigrant rhetoric and take the bold steps needed to pass this legislation?

What is amazing is how far out of step the House is with the overall American public on the issue of immigration reform.  All recent polls show strong public support for our immigrant brothers and sisters.  One recent poll showed these results:

57% replied that immigrants should stay, and apply for citizenship;
11% replied that they should remain, but not be allowed to apply for citizenship;
26 % replied that immigrants should be required to leave;
5% were unsure.

That means that 68% of Americans believe the unauthorized immigrants in our midst should be allowed to remain the country.

There is a terrific website which tracks all polls across the country on immigration issues, and I strongly recommend it:   http://www.pollingreport.com/immigration.htm

We don't give up even in the midst of the House intransigence.  We increase our prayers for these brothers and sisters in need of our help; we continue to convince family members and friends about the positive value of our immigrants; and we send emails/letters to our House members urging action on immigration reform.

With the mid-term elections in early November 2014 on the horizon, we must not allow political brinkmanship to further torpedo needed comprehensive immigration reform.

St. Toribio Romo, intercede for our immigrant brothers and sisters!!




     

Thursday, December 5, 2013

GREAT ADVICE IN ADVERSITY

St. Catherine of Siena was a renowned Dominican who lived in the northern Italian city of Siena.  She was a fearless papal counselor, and eventually a stigmatist.  She died in 1380, and was declared a Doctor of the Church because of her keen intellect.

This piece appeared today in Magnificat [1] and I found it to have great insights when any of us finds our self in the midst of adversity.  I pray that you will find it useful on your own spiritual journey:


Virtue is proved in difficulty just as gold is proved in fire.  For if in difficulties we were to give no genuine proof of patience but try to avoid the difficulty...this would be a clear sign that we were not serving our Creator, that we were not letting ourselves be governed by him in accepting humbly and with love whatever our Lord gives us. 

It would not give evidence of faith that we are loved by our Lord.  For if we truly believed this, we could never find a stumbling block in anything.  We would value and reverence the hand that offers the bitterness of adversity as much as the hand that offers prosperity and consolation, because we would see that everything is done out of love.

The very fact of our not seeing this would demonstrate that we had become servants of our selfish sensuality and spiritual self-will, and that we had made these our Lord and were therefore letting ourselves be governed by them.

Since this servitude to the world and to our spiritually selfish will is deadly, we must flee from it.  It gets in the way of perfection, keeps us from being free servants of God.  It makes us want to serve God in our own way rather than God's--which is not right and makes our service mercenary.  So much evil comes of this!

I tell you, then, we must follow this way and teaching that he has given us.  God wants to do everything by using intermediaries.  We see clearly that we were not created by ourselves but that God himself made his charity an intermediary.  By means of his pure love he created us in his image and likeness so that we might share in and enjoy the eternal sight of him.  

But we lost this through the selfish love and sin of our first father.  So to give us back what we had lost, God gave us his Son as intermediary, and this mediator took on the blows [in our place]--since the war [between us and God] had been so great that there was no other way this peace could have been made.

Why?  Because the infinite God had  been offended, and finite humankind who had sinned could never, by any suffering they might have borne, have made satisfaction to the dear infinite God.

So the blazing depth of God's charity found a way to make this peace.


May we all find this a wonderful meditation and reflection throughout our Advent and Christmas season!


[1]  Magnificat is a monthly small booklet which offers various Catholic prayers, the Mass formularies for each day of the month, and many other spiritual insights for all of us.  Their website:  www.magnificat.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PERSECUTION and PERSEVERANCE


[This is a wonderful meditation during times of distress, agony, and difficulty]


PERSECUTION and PERSEVERANCE

By John Janaro

Lord Jesus,
I am struck dumb,
immobile,
inside and outside.
My heart is shrouded by this misery;
my eyes, which look upon your holy face,
are stricken, assaulted by the light,
aching red, longing to be shut beneath their lids.
I have no voice
except an inner cry,
a mute, distressed animal whimper
that cannot even summon itself to ask for mercy.
My fingers drift
away from my hands,
and the tokens of your love
are beyond their reach.

How do I pray?
O Lord, where is the longing of my prayer?
Jesus, Mercy,
hear the struggle of breath;
Jesus, Mercy,
hear the scream inside
the shaken contours of this skull,
with brain pierced
by some fiery blade.

O God, Love!
Hear the endless noise,
the pounding,
the howling of skin and nerve,
muscle and joint:
this cacophony of pain
that groans all through the place
where I once felt that I had a body.
Jesus, Mercy, forgive me.
Jesus, Love.
Jesus, I offer.
I long for these to be my words to you,
but lips are speechless quiver,
and thought and heart are frozen in exhaustion.
Prayer is ice that does not flow.
Prayer is a voice of distant memory;
it feels like a still corpse
beneath my soul’s total turmoil.
In the end there is nothing
but the hollowness that holds a thing called me
wanting you.
I want you, Jesus.



[John Janaro is the author of Never Give Up: My Life and God’s Mercy]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY

For all of us who were living on November 22, 1963, we recall vividly where we were on that fateful day in our country's history.

I was ordained the year earlier in Fresno, CA, and had been sent to the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, to get a master's degree in social work.  We were all in our classes at the University when someone came to the classroom door and informed the professor what had happened in Dallas.  The class was immediately suspended.  It was late in the morning.

By this time word had spread across the Catholic University campus, and all classes were ended.  What struck me first was the total silence that prevailed.  No one spoke.  No one gave any commentary.

Since the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is on the edge of the campus, everyone began walking towards the Shrine.  It was incredible to experience these long lines of students streaming silently from every direction towards the Shrine.  All in silence.  There were many processions of people in shock and grieving, silently lifting up their own prayers to God.

After we filled the huge interior of the Shrine, all remained in silence.  Recall that 1963 was before the end of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform which permitted special Masses in the afternoon.

Then, someone began praying the Rosary out loud.  We all joined in and filled the Shrine with our prayers which echoed the pain, sadness and sorrow of our hearts and souls.  I recall being in disbelief that our well loved President had been killed, taken from us.

After the Rosary, many of us lingered about in the Shrine seeking some solace in the midst of our grief.  Then everyone departed going back to their residences or dining rooms.  Lunch time conversation was muted and   painful as we tried to cope with the enormity of what had happened.  I recall feeling so empty--unlike anything previously.

All of the radio stations began playing classical music fitting for such a sad day in our lives, interrupting now and then for a brief news update.  The few television channels likewise played somber music as the networks tried to put together some programming--satellite TV trucks and 24 hour news had not come about yet.

The evening network news featured such greats as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather who helped lead the nation into its time of mourning and reflection.

Once Air Force One had returned to Washington with the body of President Kennedy, his wife Jackie, and President Lyndon Johnson, plans for a State Funeral began.

There was a large number of priest-students at Catholic University, and I recall all of us celebrating Mass the next morning for the President, his family, and our nation.  A prayerful and somber mood settled across the nation's Capitol.

Once the time and location for each of the Funeral events was set, it was obvious that we priests could not go to more than one event.  So many Washington streets would be closed, and there would be no way to get from one location to another.

Three other priests and I decided to go to the sidewalk across the street from St. Matthew's Cathedral where the Funeral Mass was to be celebrated.  The day of the Funeral was very cold, but clear.  We arrived in front of the Cathedral at least two or three hours before the Funeral so that we would have a good viewing place.

The Funeral Procession came from the Capitol to St. Matthew's Cathedral with many heads of State present.  Almost all of these heads of State walked in the Funeral Procession--an incredible sight, and not something that security leaders would ever allow today.

Some of the heads of State I recall seeing in the procession were Soviet First Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan, French President Charles de Gaulle, Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the Duke of Edinburgh representing Queen Elizabeth II,  British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Irish President Eamon de Valera, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, Queen Frederika of Greece, and King Baudouin I of the Belgians.  It was amazing to see all of these world leaders walking in solemn procession to the Cathedral.
Charles de Gaulle and Haile Selassie were particularly impressive because both were very tall men.

Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston was the main celebrant and homilist.

After the Funeral Mass, most of the dignitaries were taken by automobile to the Arlington Cemetery where President Kennedy was to be buried.

I recall us making our way back to the University and viewing the Committal Services on local television.

It is amazing how strong the emotional and spiritual impact can be when a tragedy occurs.  I can recall the details of November 22, 1963 just as vividly as 50 years ago.  The same is true for all of us who remember exactly where we were on 9/11.

May God continue to watch over and protect all of us living in our great Nation.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

IMMIGRATION REFORM DOABLE: COALITION NEEDED

Now that our national fiscal issues have been resolved for at least a few months, it's time to enact solid comprehensive immigration reform.

It's interesting that here in California more Republican House members are moving towards a comprehensive approach.  Why?  Because so many of them represent agricultural areas of the State, and their farmer constituents are begging for help because they can't find enough local labor to help with all aspects of the agricultural year, especially at harvest time.

We need to reach out more proactively to all of our House members, including more conservative members--Democrat or Republican.  Our best allies will come from the broad agricultural community:  individual growers, farm organizations, State Farm Bureaus, and the like.

Perhaps we have been too narrow in reaching out to diverse groups to form a broader coalition to get comprehensive immigration reform.  It's interesting that several States which have passed local restrictive laws dealing with immigrants have found great opposition from their agricultural groups.  A few examples:  Colorado, Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia.  We have achieved new partners from those State Farm groups, as well as other Church communities.  In the South, many Evangelical Churches have rallied in support of our immigrants and immigration reform.

Let's proceed forward actively to recruit new partners and collaborators as we make a renewed effort to pass decent and comprehensive immigration reform.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

NOW IT'S TIME FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

With the fiscal crisis in Washington now resolved for at least a few months, now it's time for Congress to move forward with immigration reform.

The Senate has passed a comprehensive Bill to fix our broken immigration system.  Now it's time for the House to take up that same Bill and vote on it.  Many Congress-watchers believe that the House has enough votes to pass the Senate Bill if the Speaker would abandon his stated goal that a majority of House Republicans must agree to the Bill before he brings it up for a vote.  On Wednesday night he suspended that informal rule to pass the fiscal package.

I urge him to do the same with the pending Senate Bill that is now in the House.

Our brothers and sisters who live and work in our midst, albeit in the shadows of our society because of their unauthorized status, deserve respect and dignity as human beings.  They are here because there are low-skilled and low-wage jobs which Americans will simply not do.  We have created a magnet to attract them here, and having benefited from their hard labors, we now have an obligation to offer them an earned path to full legal status.

You and I still have work to do:  send an email to your Representative in the House urging them to put aside petty objections and to vote for the Senate Bill which is now before them.

May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph intercede for us on behalf of all immigrants in our midst!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN ON ABUSE VICTIMS


October 12, 2013

To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 131 without my signature.

This bill makes amendments to the statute of limitations relating to claims of childhood sexual abuse. Specifically, it amends and significantly expands a 2002 law to "revive" certain claims that previously had been time barred.

Statutes of limitation reach back to Roman law and were specifically enshrined in the English common law by the Limitations Act of 1623. Ever since, and in every state, including California, various limits have been imposed on the time when lawsuits may still be initiated. Even though valid and profoundly important claims are at stake, all jurisdictions have seen fit to bar actions after a lapse of years.

The reason for such a universal practice is one of fairness. There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits. With the passage of time, evidence may be lost or disposed of, memories fade and witnesses move away or die.

Over the years, California's laws regarding time limits for childhood sexual abuse cases have been amended many times. The changes have affected not only how long a person has to make a claim, but also who may be sued for the sexual abuse. The issue of who is subject to liability is an important distinction as the law in this area has always and rightfully imposed longer periods of liability for an actual perpetrator of sexual abuse than for an organization that employed that perpetrator. This makes sense as third parties are in a very different position than perpetrators with respect to both evidence and memories.

For claims against a perpetrator of abuse, the current law is that a claimant must sue within eight years of attaining the age of majority (i.e. age 26) or "within three years of the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever period expires later?" However, for claims against a third party ? e.g. an organization that employed the perpetrator of the abuse ? the general rule since 1998 was that a claimant must sue before he or she turns 26. A later discovered psychological injury ? no matter how compelling ? could not be brought against a third party by a person older than 26.

When a number of high profile sex abuse scandals in both public and private institutions came to light, many felt that the third party limitation rule described above was too harsh and that claimants over 26 should be able to recover damages for later discovered injuries from certain, more culpable entities.

In 2002, the California Legislature weighed the competing considerations on this issue and enacted SB 1779, which did the following: (1) It identified for the first time a new subcategory of third party defendants which no longer would have the protection of the age 26 cutoff for claims. Going forward these defendants ? entities who knew or should have known of the sexual abuse and failed to take action - now could be sued within three years of the date of discovery of a claim. (2) Looking backwards, SB 1779 also revived for one year only (2003) all claims that had previously lapsed because of the statute of limitation. This very unusual "one year revival" of lapsed claims allowed victims relief but also set a defined cut-off time for these lapsed claims.

In reliance on the clear language and intent of this statute, the private third party defendants covered by this bill took actions to resolve these legacy claims of victims older than 26. Over 1,000 claims were filed against the Catholic Church alone, some involving alleged abuse as far back as the 1930s. By 2007, the Catholic Church in California had paid out more than $1.2 billion to settle the claims filed during this one year revival period. Other private and non-profit employers were sued and paid out as well.

For the public third parties covered by this bill, however, a very different result occurred. There is no doubt that in 2002, when SB 1779 was enacted, it was intended to apply to both public and private entities. Indeed, it would be unreasonable, if not shocking, for the Legislature to intentionally discriminate against one set of victims, e.g. those whose abusers happened to be employed by a public instead of a private entity. However, due to a drafting error, the California Supreme Court held in 2007 that SB 1779 did not actually apply to public or governmental agencies. So, unlike private institutions, public schools and government entities were shielded from the one year revival of lapsed claims. As a result, the similarly situated victims of these entities were not accorded the remedies of SB 1779.

In 2008, the Legislature addressed this unfair distinction between victims of public as opposed to private institutions. Note, however, that the bill enacted, SB 640, did not restore equity between these two sets of victims. Instead of subjecting public/governmental entities to all of the provisions of the 2002 law, the Legislature only allowed victims of public institutions to sue under the new rules prospectively-from 2009 forward-and provided no "one year revival" period. In passing this 2008 law, I can't believe the legislature decided that victims of abuse by a public entity are somehow less deserving than those who suffered abuse by a private entity. The children assaulted by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles are no less worthy because of the nature of the institution they attended. Rather, I believe that legislators, in good faith, weighed the merits of such claims against the equities of allowing claims to be brought against third parties years after the abuse occurred. The Legislature concluded that fairness required that certain claims should be allowed, but only going forward.

This brings us to the bill now before me, SB 131. This bill does not change a victim's ability to sue a perpetrator. This bill also does not change the significant inequity that exists between private and public entities. What this bill does do is go back to the only group, i.e. private institutions, that have already been subjected to the unusual "one year revival period" and makes them, and them alone, subject to suit indefinitely. This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair. For all these reasons, I am returning SB 131 without my signature.

Sincerely,

Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Governor of California 

Friday, October 4, 2013

DRIVERS PERMITS FOR CA IMMIGRANTS

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a provision allowing unauthorized immigrants across California to apply for and receive State-issued drivers permits.

I applaud this new law since it accomplishes many positive goals:  it recognizes the presence of many brothers and sisters among us without proper legal papers, and extends to them respect and dignity; it will ensure that all drivers on California roads will have studied for testing, and have taken a driving exam; it will require all such persons to have proper automobile insurance; and it will make our roads safer for everyone.

Some 1.4 million California immigrants would be eligible to apply for the new driving permits.

The new driving permits will appear differently from regular California drivers licenses which bear the logo "DL" for Driver's License.  These special permits will bear the logo "DP" for Driving Privilege, thus reducing their possible usage for other identification purposes.

It is expected that the Department of Motor Vehicles will start issuing the new driving permits by September or October of 2014.

While this step forward for our immigrant brothers and sisters is important, it does not address all of the other major stumbling blocks facing unauthorized persons in our country.  We must still insist on comprehensive immigration reform to bring all immigrants out from the shadows where they now live in fear, hardships, and discrimination.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

POPE FRANCIS: WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS & REFUGEES

The Vatican has just released the Message from Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees observed this coming January.

Pope Francis offers us the context for looking at this issue today:

"From the Christian standpoint, the reality of migration, like other human realities, points to the tension between the beauty of creation, marked by Grace and the Redemption, and the mystery of sin.  Solidarity, acceptance, and signs of fraternity and understanding exist side by side with rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering and death.  Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement.  Nowadays, 'slave labor" is common coin."

He points out that so often the scandal of poverty is the root cause of mass migration of peoples around the world--some 400 million people on the move each year.  Pope Francis notes:

"While encouraging the development of a better world, we cannot remain silent about the scandal of poverty in its various forms.  Violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, whether of individuals or of groups:  these are some of the chief elements of poverty which need to be overcome.  Often these are precisely the elements which mark migratory movements, thus linking migration to poverty.  Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate.  Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity."

The Pope then acknowledges yet another obstacle encountered by peoples on the move:

"Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration.  Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility.  There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identify and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase."

Our Holy Father points to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as examples of migrants and refugees--forced to flee their homeland because of death threats.

He calls us to see our brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.  This attitude is so essential in our own country as the House of Representatives crafts legislation to help our 11 million unauthorized persons achieve full dignity, respect, and opportunity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

POPE FRANCIS' VISION FOR ALL OF US IN THE CHURCH

America magazine has published an extraordinary interview with Pope Francis by Rev. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civilita Cattolica conducted in August.  One can easily find the entire interview on-line, and I encourage you to read it--actually, to reflect upon it deeply since Pope Francis signals his vision for all of us in the Church today.

While I am struck by many elements of the interview, the following are the ones which most captivated me:

I.  The Pope's Jesuit Formation       When Fr. Spadaro asks Pope Francis to identify who he is, he responds "I am a sinner.  This is the most accurate definition.  It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner."  But he hastens to add that he is a sinner with hope:  "I am one who is looked upon by the Lord." 

Pope Francis early on felt the need to be a part of a dynamic community.  He did not envision himself living alone; he loves people and needs to be in their midst.  This is the reason he resides at the Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican. 

The notion of discernment which was highlight by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises also plays a large role in the life and ministry of Pope Francis.  "Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.  My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times.  Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing."

He offers a good example in the life of Pope John XXIII who had as a motto:  "See everything, turn a blind eye to much; correct a little."  Living that out for all of us would create enormous positive changes in all of us!

II.  Church Government      Pope Francis explains how as a young Provincial for the Jesuits he did not carry out sufficient and broad consultation.  He points out two attributes to a fine leader:  broad consultation, and entrusting a task to someone with total trust in that person.

The image of the Church he favors "is that of the holy, faithful people of God....The people itself constitutes a subject.  And the Church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows.  Thinking with the Church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people....When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit.  So this thinking with the Church does not concern theologians only."

III.  The Church as Field Hospital      "I see clearly," the Pope continues, "that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.  I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.  It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!  You have to heal wounds.  Then we can talk about everything else.  Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up."

"I dream of a Church that is a mother and shepherdess.  The Church's ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor.  This is pure Gospel....The first reform must be the attitude.

"Instead of being just a Church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a Church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.  The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return.  But that takes audacity and courage."

Pope Francis then continues to spell out how the Church must know and love Jesus, must live out the Gospels, and must be the beacon for forgiveness, mercy, acceptance, and hope for the world.

IV.  Collegiality      The gift of collegiality is very important for Pope Francis, not only in the reform of the Curia but in the right relationship among all of the Particular Churches with the See of Peter.  He explains:  "We must walk together:  the people, the bishops and the pope.  Synodality should be lived at various levels.  Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic.  This will also have ecumenical value, especially with out Orthodox brethren.  From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality.  The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the Church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time.  In ecumenical relations it is important not only to know each other better, but also to recognize what the Spirit has sown in the other as a gift for us."

He emphasizes how the Second Vatican Council was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture.  The Council's "renewal movement simply comes from the Gospel.  Its fruits are enormous.  Just recall the liturgy.  The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation.  Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear:  the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today--which was typical of Vatican II--is absolutely irreversible."

 
**********
 
Pope Francis gives his views on many other important issues, such as the important role of women in the Church; the value of art, music, and plays in bringing Christ to the world;  the need for genuine "hope" over optimism; the triumph of Jesus Christ over the mediocrity of today's culture.
 
Our Holy Father has given us a splendid panorama of the Church as we move forward, his vision statement, if you will.  I find his vision appealing, captivating, and inviting!  I am enthralled with how Pope Francis continues to show us the way forward towards the fullness of Christ, especially in his daily homilies and his many addresses which are filled with discernment and hope.
 
I hope that you reflect deeply upon this interview, and you will also capture the depth and wonder of the Successor of Peter whom the Holy Spirit has given to us.
 


Friday, September 6, 2013

POPE FRANCIS & SYRIA

Principles for a Just Solution to the Conflict in Syria

Vatican City, 6 September 2013 (VIS)

Yesterday Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, met with ambassadors to the Holy See to express the concerns of the Holy Father and the Vatican regarding the unstable situation of peace throughout the world, with special attention to the Middle East and Syria in particular.

The prelate remarked that the Holy Father has on various occasions publicly denounced the conflict in Syria which has so far claimed the lives of over 110,000 civilians, caused innumerable casualties, created four million refugees within the country, and provoked an exodus of more than two million into neighboring countries.  "Faced with facts of this type, one cannot remain silent," he said, "and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions will clarify the situation and those responsible will be held accountable."

Archbishop Mamberti reiterated that the cessation of violence is an "absolute priority," and made an appeal to the Parties not to remain "wrapped up in their own interests, but to take with courage and decision the path of encounter and negotiation, overcoming blind opposition", and added a second plea to the international community "to make every effort to promote, without further delay, clear initiatives for peace in the Nation, always based on dialogue and negotiation."

He emphasized the importance of "the necessity and urgency of respect for human rights," and "the urgent need for humanitarian assistance for the majority of the population."  In addition he gave thanks for the generosity of many governments in favor of the suffering Syrian population.

Mamberti underlined that the Catholic Church, for her part, is committed with all the means at her disposal to the humanitarian assistance of the population, Christian or not, and mentioned some matters that the Holy See considers to be of importance in an eventual plan for the future of Syria.

The general principles he proposed for arriving at a just solution to the conflict include:  striving for the reinstatement of dialogue between the Parties and for the reconciliation of the Syrian population;  the preservation of the unity of the country, avoiding  the creation of different zones for the various components of society;  and guaranteeing, alongside the unity of the country, also its territorial integrity.

The secretary also referred to the importance of asking all groups to offer guarantees that, in tomorrow's Syria, there will be a place for all, especially minorities including Christians.  Mamberti mentioned the importance of respect for human rights and religious freedom, and he emphasized the equal importance of the concept of citizenship, on the basis of which all, independently of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs, are citizens of equal dignity, with equal rights and duties.

He concluded by drawing attention to the particularly worrying phenomenon of "the growing presence of extremist groups in Syria, often originating from other countries.  It is therefore important to urge the population and also opposition groups to distance themselves from such extremists, to isolate them and to oppose terrorism openly and clearly."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

FOUR CENTRAL CALIFORNIA FARMERS ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

[This Op-Ed piece appeared August 15, 2013 in the Fresno BEE newspaper.  It gives a superb perspective from California farmers on needed immigration reform.]


We are farmers in in the Central Valley. There is nothing we want more than to bring to your families fresh, nutritious food.In order to do that, we need a legal and reliable workforce.

Our country's immigration system is broken and needs reform. Most Americans, but especially most farmers and ranchers, heartily agree with this statement.

Inaction in Washington has brought us to this point, and it will take action from our elected leaders to build a solution. This is especially important as the House of Representatives begins the process of considering immigration legislation over the coming months.

For many in agriculture the biggest challenge we face today is finding the farmworkers we need to run our farms and ranches. After all, it does not matter what Mother Nature throws at you if you do not have the help to pick crops or care for animals through good years and bad. This is a challenge that is faced by farmers all over the country, and most especially here in California — America's No. 1 agriculture-producing state.

It is an issue that impacts communities beyond the farm gate however, since each of the 1.4 million or so farmworkers in the U.S. supports two or three jobs in other industry sectors.

Between 60% and 70% of this work force is unauthorized to work in the U.S., although these workers typically show us documents that appear genuine. We need these workers because not enough documented workers apply for these jobs and machines have not been invented that can pick a peach, a melon or stalk of celery with the necessary care required.

We need a skilled, stable work force we can depend on — one that is here in the U.S. legally. If we cannot find enough workers, farmers will be forced to reduce domestic production or go out of business due to labor shortages and high costs.

The fruits and vegetables requiring hand labor will have to be imported, thus raising prices for consumers, greatly increasing transportation miles and making it difficult to preserve the freshness of this perishable, fresh food.

Farmers often pay significantly more than minimum wage, yet we still have extreme difficulty finding workers. In many cases, it is not the money that makes these jobs unappealing to many Americans. Rather, the seasonal and often migratory nature of the work and the fact that it must be done outside in all kinds of weather are the primary reasons it is extremely difficult to find U.S. workers to do these jobs at any wage.

To respond to this need, a group of about 70 organizations representing agricultural employers across the country came together, forming the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC), to speak with one voice and to find a path forward on immigration reform.

The AWC also came together with the United Farm Workers (UFW) union this past spring to unite both employer and employee behind a proposal to help ensure America's farmers have access to a stable and secure work force.

That proposal also addresses border security and by no means offers amnesty to those already living and working in the country. Rather, existing workers would be put on "probation," requiring them to register with the federal government, undergo a criminal background check, and if no criminal convictions are found, they would pay a fine and receive provisional legal status or a blue card.

They would not qualify for federal health benefits for 10 years nor get Social Security credits for any work performed under a Social Security number that doesn't belong to them.

We hope that the general principles of this agreement would be carried through in any legislation dealing with agricultural workers in the House of Representatives.

Any program should deal with current experienced agricultural workers as well as provide for agriculture's future work force needs with a practical guest-worker visa program. We employ many good workers who have been in the U.S. for years, pay their taxes, and have homes, families and no criminal history. They may be forced out of a productive life if our congressional representatives cannot come together on immigration reform.

We urge the House of Representatives to act on this pressing need and get to conference with the U.S. Senate on immigration legislation that will provide American farmers, consumers and workers with an effective immigration system.

 
[Fred LoBue Jr., of Lindsay; Carol Chandler, of Selma; John Harris, of Coalinga; Harold McClarty, of Kingsburg; and Steve Patricio, of Firebaugh are members of the Western Growers' Board of Directors. Copyright 2013.]

 

Friday, August 9, 2013

CRUCIAL TIME TO CONTACT HOUSE MEMBERS!!

With the House of Representatives on a five-week recess, this is a crucial time for everyone supporting comprehensive immigration reform to contact the local office for your House Member.

The only ones to whom House Members pay attention are constituents who live in their District and who have the potential to vote them out of office.  That's why your voice and viewpoint at this time are so crucial for the sake of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

 A simple and brief email to your House Member is the best.  Or, a phone call to the District office in which you urge the Member to support a comprehensive immigration reform.  Best of all:  try to get a meeting with your Member and bring a small group of immigration reform supporters.

The best approach with House Members is to be positive about our being a nation of immigrants, and how immigrants have strengthened our nation--and continue to do so.  Point out that immigrants keep coming to our country for one reason:  there are jobs here that others will not take.  Many of these jobs are low-skilled and low-wages.  Immigrants are filling those jobs simply because others in the country won't.

Appeal to the Member to be a leader in dealing with some 11 million people living in the shadows of our society, people whose dignity and rights are being denied.  Explain that a comprehensive approach, such as in the Senate, is the best approach to deal with all of the issues that have been neglected over several decades.

Discourage a piecemeal approach to this pressing national issue.  The Senate version is already very onerous for our immigrants, and to stretch out the process even longer helps no one.

Continue to pray for our immigrants and immigration reform.  Try to get Intercessions included in the parish Prayer of the Faithful on Sundays for our immigrants and just reform.

Those opposed to immigration reform are working hard to defeat any meaningful reform.  We must be even more diligent and proactive in our efforts on behalf of these brothers and sisters.

With God's grace, we can make a significant difference on behalf of the least brothers and sisters!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

CRUCIAL FINAL WEEK IN THE HOUSE FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

These final days of July in the House of Representatives are crucial for meaningful progress on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and for progress on comprehensive immigration reform.  However, mixed signals continue to emanate from the House.

Most approaches to solving the immigration mess tend towards being punitive and greatly limited in their scope and timetables.  Very different from the Senate which passed a comprehensive package with bipartisan support.

If the House fails to pass any meaningful immigration reform before adjourning for the five-week August recess, the likelihood that a decent bill can be passed after Labor Day is slim.  In September, all of the House focus will be on the mid-term elections of 2014.  And both major parties are only concerned about taking seats away from the other party, not the overall good of the nation and the many critical issues which face us all.

The August recess offers all of us a unique opportunity to meet with our own House representative, and to urge him/her to consider and vote for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform--not a piecemeal effort which would take decades to embrace the 11 million unauthorized people living in our midst.

These local area meetings are critical because the only people House members listen to are constituents with the voting power to retain them in office, or to replace them.  It is crucial that these meetings be organized with actual constituents, not others of good will but who live in another House district.

Parishes can play a crucial role in enhancing these district level meetings by getting parishioners who live in the district to sign a letter which can be brought to the local area office of the House member.  No other step has as great an impact and influence on the House member than knowing how large numbers of his/her constituents feel on a given issue.

Much prayer and work remains, but the summer recess could be the most crucial time we have in trying to get the House to pass a measure close to the one which passed the Senate.

St. Toribio Romo, patron of migrants, pray for us!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

POPE FRANCIS' POWERFUL HOMILY ON IMMIGRANTS


Pope Francis Homily at Papal Mass on Lampedusa, the Island of Refugees from Africa  [July 8, 2013]


Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. That is how the headlines put it. When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart. So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated. Please, let it not be repeated!

First, however, I want to say a word of heartfelt gratitude and encouragement to you, the people of Lampedusa and Linosa, and to the various associations, volunteers and security personnel who continue to attend to the needs of people journeying towards a better future. You are so few, and yet you offer an example of solidarity! Thank you! I also thank Archbishop Francesco Montenegro for all his help, his efforts and his close pastoral care. I offer a cordial greeting to Mayor Giusi Nicolini: thank you so much for what you have done and are doing. I also think with affection of those Muslim immigrants who this evening begin the fast of Ramadan, which I trust will bear abundant spiritual fruit. The Church is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families. To all of you: o’sciĆ !
 
    This morning, in the light of God’s word which has just been proclaimed, I wish to offer some thoughts meant to challenge people’s consciences and lead them to reflection and a concrete change of heart.

"Adam, where are you?" This is the first question which God asks man after his sin. "Adam, where are you?" Adam lost his bearings, his place in creation, because he thought he could be powerful, able to control everything, to be God. Harmony was lost; man erred and this error occurs over and over again also in relationships with others. "The other" is no longer a brother or sister to be loved, but simply someone who disturbs my life and my comfort. God asks a second question: "Cain, where is your brother?" The illusion of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God himself, leads to a whole series of errors, a chain of death, even to the spilling of a brother’s blood!

God’s two questions echo even today, as forcefully as ever! How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another! And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.

"Where is your brother?" His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God! Once again I thank you, the people of Lampedusa, for your solidarity. I recently listened to one of these brothers of ours. Before arriving here, he and the others were at the mercy of traffickers, people who exploit the poverty of others, people who live off the misery of others. How much these people have suffered! Some of them never made it here.

"Where is your brother?" Who is responsible for this blood? In Spanish literature we have a comedy of Lope de Vega which tells how the people of the town of Fuente Ovejuna kill their governor because he is a tyrant. They do it in such a way that no one knows who the actual killer is. So when the royal judge asks: "Who killed the governor?", they all reply: "Fuente Ovejuna, sir". Everybody and nobody! Today too, the question has to be asked: Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn’t me; I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: "Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?" Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters.

We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: "poor soul…!", and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!

Here we can think of Manzoni’s character – "the Unnamed". The globalization of indifference makes us all "unnamed", responsible, yet nameless and faceless.

"Adam, where are you?" "Where is your brother?" These are the two questions which God asks
us at the dawn of human history, and which he also asks each man and woman in our own day, which he also asks us. But I would like us to ask a third question: "Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it?" Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families?

We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – "suffering with" others: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the crying, the wailing, the great lamentation: "Rachel weeps for her children… because they are no more". Herod sowed death to protect his own comfort, his own soap bubble. And so it continues… Let us ask the Lord to remove the part of Herod that lurks in our hearts; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who in anonymity make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like this. "Has any one wept?" Today has anyone wept in our world?

Lord, in this liturgy, a penitential liturgy, we beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!

Today too, Lord, we hear you asking: "Adam, where are you?" "Where is the blood of your brother?"

 




Thursday, June 27, 2013

68 TO 32: HISTORIC U.S. SENATE VOTE ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

On June 27 the U.S. Senate passed the most comprehensive immigration reform bill in decades.  The 68 to 32 vote shows strong bipartisan support.

I commend the Senators for turning back many amendments which would have created serious problems for many of the 11 million unauthorized persons living among us, but in the shadows of dignity, respect, and legal rights.

The U.S. Bishops Conference had been working with many in the Senate to improve the bill, especially in lessening serious hindrances for those attempting to apply and to qualify.  What is needed is a final bill which balances all of the needs and concerns for our country, as well as for these persons who work in a vast array of service jobs, in agriculture, in construction, in home care, in hotels and motels, and in all tourism industries.

Our next major challenge is to try to get the House of Representatives to adopt a bill which is similar to the one from the Senate.  But there has been so much rhetoric on the part of many in the House which is ominous, and which portrays a punitive approach to these 11 million brothers and sisters.

Now is the time for each of us to contact his/her House member urging a humane and just approach, and urging them to see the Senate bill as a good model and the basis for an eventual Conference Committee.

May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph open the minds and hearts of the House members to bring about a just and lasting solution!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

“Tragic Day for Marriage and our Nation,” State U.S. Bishops
 
June 26, 2013
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decisions June 26 striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 mark a “tragic day for marriage and our nation,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
The statement follows.
“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.
 
It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.
“Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.
“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.
“When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage – the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife – he pointed back to “the beginning” of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.
“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”
 

Friday, June 21, 2013

BORDER SECURITY & IMMIGRATION REFORM

The major focus now in the US Senate debate on a comprehensive immigration bill is on border security.

There are two views on how the country's borders are key to passage of a comprehensive new law:

     1.   Secure the Borders as Part of the Comprehensive Plan

This point of view sees the entire comprehensive plan as a single package, and each of its elements is related to the other.  All elements get set in motion once a law is signed by the President.  But no element is contingent upon completing any other element when the law goes into effect.

This is the view supported by the Catholic Church in our country because there are already sufficient time delays in the proposed plan to make sure that by the time an unauthorized person is eligible for a green card, at least 10 years or more will have past. 

With the recent border security amendments now in the bill, making the southern border totally secure will happen.  The doubling of Border Patrol agents begins at once, and the other border elements will follow quickly.  With the addition of more Border Patrol agents, one could actually station one agents every 250 feet from one end of the southern border to the other.

Keep in mind that the number of unauthorized persons attempting to enter the U.S. looking for work has dropped to a mere trickle.  In fact, the "bad guys" far outnumber people looking for work.  Drug dealers, money launderers, and human traffickers make up the majority of persons now apprehended.

     2.  Secure the Borders Totally Before Other Parts of the Plan Take Effect

This point of view focuses upon target percentages or trigger numbers of apprehensions before any of the other elements can take effect. 

But how can one know that 90% of all unauthorized persons are actually apprehended?  Since most unauthorized persons cross through five of the eleven Border Patrol Sectors, it will be easy to focus most of the new agents in those key Sectors.

It is feared that the proponents of this second approach are really not in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform plan, and see the use of triggers as a way to halt the implementation completely.  All of the anti-immigrant groups in the country tend to favor this second approach.


I urge each one of you to contact your U.S. Senator and urge him/her to support the bill in the Senate which retains border security as one of the interlocked elements of a comprehensive approach to reform.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

ST. JOSEPH: NEW RECOGNITION

For those of you who have been following my blogs, especially during March, you will recall that St. Joseph is a long-time and dear patron saint for me.

In fact, during the recent Papal Conclave I was praying that the Inauguration of the new Pope's Petrine Ministry would take place on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph.  And that's exactly what happened:  Pope Frances formally began his ministry as the Successor to Peter on that day.

As the Second Vatican Council was underway some fifty years ago, the Constitution on the Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium] was the first Council document to be approved and published.  At the same time, Pope John XXIII decided to include the name of St. Joseph to the Roman Canon, now known as Eucharistic Prayer I.  St. Joseph was not named in the other Eucharistic Prayers since they were prepared and published a few years later.

I must confess that over the years I have consistently added the name of St. Joseph when I was praying the other Eucharistic Prayers.  Surely not a liturgical aberration!

Well, good news!  The Congregation for Divine Worship has published a decree that beginning immediately the name of St. Joseph is to be inserted into Eucharist Prayers II, III, and IV.  Those Prayers will be altered to include him in this way:

       ....that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
            with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,.....

And in Spanish:

          ....con Maria, la Virgen Madre de Dios,
               su esposo san Jose,.....

I have that inner feeling that Pope Francis is the one who made this important addition to the other Eucharistic Prayers.  He has had a long devotion to St. Joseph, and I suspect that he decided to take this step.

This new inclusion of St. Joseph will certainly vault this wonderful Saint to a new recognition and appreciation.

St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer, pray for us!
St. Joseph, Patron of the Church, pray for us!

Monday, June 10, 2013

CRUCIAL IMMIGRATION REFORM WEEK

This week comprehensive immigration reform will formally go to the floor of the U.S. Senate.  The hope is that a vote in the Senate on the final version will occur before the 4th of July.

We need to pray earnestly that amendments which will delay or lessen the rights of our immigrants will be turned aside.  Sadly, there is much misunderstanding in our country about the true value of today's immigrants.  We need to help all of our family and friends understand what is at stake with our wonderful immigrants in the Congress.

Various amendments are being suggested which will create very difficult obstacles for most immigrants to surmount.  "Border security" will become a mantra from some to delay for many years any possible earned path to legal status for our immigrants.

Each of us has a duty to contact our two U.S. Senators and urge them to vote for a version which most resembles the comprehensive reform which the Church has been advocating for so many years.  Refer to the website:  www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Prayer is essential!  May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a grand prototype of immigrant families, lift up the hopes and dreams of our immigrants!

Friday, May 31, 2013

YOUNG ADULTS LARGEST SHARE OF UNAUTHORIZED IMMIGRANTS

The Migration Policy Institute recently gave some fascinating estimates on the numbers and age groups of the 11,000,000 unauthorized immigrants living in our country.

The unauthorized population is a young population, and it also includes a relatively small number of children.  The largest group is comprised of young adults.

In 2011, there were 1.15 million unauthorized immigrant children ages 18 and under, accounting for 10% of the total population.

By contrast, 24% of the total US population was under age 18 in the 2010 Census.  The vast majority of children with unauthorized immigrant parents (82%) are US born and therefore citizens.

Young adults comprise a large majority of unauthorized immigrants:  72% are ages 19 to 44.  By contrast, just 36% of the total US population is ages 18 to 44.

Because so many unauthorized immigrants are young, very few are in retirement or near retirement ages.  Just 17% of these immigrants are ages 45 to 64, versus 26% of the total population.  And only 1% of these immigrants are age 65 or older, versus 13% of the total population.

These data lead me to two important opportunities:

1.  For the Church

     It is imperative that our Church understand the presence of so many young adults within the immigrant population, and that new and attractive pastoral outreach efforts towards this population be set in motion across the Church.

     This young population need to be more involved in the life and the mission of the Church, and must be given pastoral leadership roles in order to develop the dynamic programs needed to attract and retain them within our Church community.

2.  For the Country

     With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every single day beginning back in 2011, our immigrants will be desperately needed in two ways.  First, as baby boomers leave the active work force, replacement workers must be found.  This requires far better education and training in math, science, computer sciences, medical technologies, and elder care.  Schools for our immigrants must emphasize courses and degrees that equip them to take these jobs.

     Second, a very large workforce will be required to provide all of the medical care for retiring baby boomers, as well as in-home assistance, meals on wheels programs, and all forms of elder care.  Our immigrants will be needed to provide this growing and expanding workforce.

As debate in Congress continues with a comprehensive immigration reform plan, we cannot lose sight of the valued presence and great need for the gifts and skills of our immigrant brothers and sisters. 

Actually, we simply won't be able to get along without them!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL--MANY CHALLENGES

Now that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has voted the comprehensive immigration reform bill out of Committee and to the floor of the Senate, it remains to be seen how the bill will fare among the general membership of the Senate.

The current bill has many challenging aspects to it, and I fear that it may become weaker as many amendments are heard and voted upon.  One of the big stumbling blocks already is the cost to the immigrant to just begin the process.  They would be required to pay a $500 fine, an application fee of several hundred dollars, and be assessed all back unpaid payroll taxes.  That could amount to $2,000 or more.  How does a family with two or three eligible applicants get the money needed for such costs?

Much emphasis is being put on border security, but recall that 40% of all unauthorized persons in our country came through an international airport on a visa, not across the northern or southern border.  How can our visa tracking system be improved to close this gap?

There are fears that introducing several "triggers" into the bill will stretch out the implementation time by several more years.  That approach is one already in play in the House.

It is the hope and prayer of many of us that the Senate version will withstand burdensome amendments for unauthorized persons, and that this bill will at long last signal a new moment in the lives of our brothers and sisters who have desired to come out of the shadows and become members of our society.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

HOUSE vs SENATE IMMIGRATION REFORM

We are aware of the US Senate 8-member proposed Bill before the Senate on comprehensive immigration reform, but we are now facing a new version in the US House of Representative.

All of us must keep focused on the overall goal:  to deal with the 11 million people living among us who do not enjoy any legal status, and who live in the shadows of our society--mostly neglected and abandoned.

The only legislative approach which will assist all of our objectives is one which includes all of the 11 million in the shadows.  I need to repeat often that 4.4 million of the 11 million did not walk across a border.  Rather, they arrived in a international USA airport with a Visa--and when the Visa expired, they just stayed.  That is almost half of the total number.

You and I need to emphasize to our representatives in Congress and in the US Senate that we need a comprehensive immigration reform package, and that we need it now.

I fear that other political issues now brewing strongly in Washington will somehow push comprehensive immigration reform to the side.  We can't allow that to happen.

It is not too early to contact your Congress Representative or US Senator to insist upon a full and comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system.

Yes, we can do this!!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

ORIGINAL PATH TO CITIZENSHIP

Sometimes, a simple cartoon tells the story more perfectly!!




Friday, May 3, 2013

GOOD ANALYSIS OF IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL in the U.S. SENATE

Below is a very fine analysis of S. 744 in the U.S. Senate to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.





Sweeping Senate Bill Sets the Stage for Fundamental Overhaul of US Immigration System

By Muzaffar Chishti and Faye Hipsman

April 26, 2013

After months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of US senators informally called the "Gang of Eight" on April 17 introduced long-awaited legislation for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system.

The introduction of the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) marked the opening salvo for what is bound to be a long deliberation in Congress of a bill that sets the tone for changes that reach into nearly every corner of US immigration policy.

Though conditions for action on immigration reform seem more promising than they've been since 2001, supporters of comprehensive immigration reform confront a tight legislative calendar, a difficult political dynamic in the House of Representatives, and an early stumbling block precipitated by the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.

While most of public attention has been drawn to one aspect of the 844-page bill — a legalization program for many of the nation's estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants — it is clear that the legislation's architects seized an opportunity to incorporate a variety of landmark measures that, when taken together, recast some of the long-established principals of US immigration law in scope not seen since 1965.

The heart of the legislation — its provisions to manage the future flow of immigration — would, over time, tilt the current legal immigration system away from its predominant emphasis on family reunification toward meeting US labor market needs.

In the process, it would establish far greater flexibility for employers to access foreign workers when they are needed, for workers to move within the labor market, and for a system to determine the number of workers admitted into the country.

A Greater Focus on Employment-Based Immigration

According to The New York Times' analysis of the bill, the share of family-based immigration in annual admission of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) would shift from 75 to 50 percent.

To that end, one of the most significant provisions is the creation of new merit-based points system, through which 120,000 to 250,000 immigrants per year would be admitted based on a list of government-established attributes: age, education, work experience, English language proficiency, employer demand, and presence of US relatives.

On employment-based permanent legal immigration, there would be no caps on visas granted to individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers, multinational executives, and noncitizens with Ph.D. degrees or advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) from a US university.

Furthermore, the spouses and children of employment-based immigrants would no longer be counted toward numerical caps. On the family-based side, visas for spouses and minor children of LPRs would no longer be capped. However, US citizens could no longer sponsor their siblings or their married children over the age of 31.

Flexibility

In another significant change, the bill would create a new legal channel for low-skilled temporary workers in non-agriculture occupations called the W-1 visa. The number of those admitted in this category would be adjusted in accordance with the labor market needs and conditions in the US economy. In its first year, 20,000 visas would be available.

But in later years, the numbers could be set as high as 200,000. Workers would enter on three-year renewable visas, be able to change their employers, and eventually seek LPR status. Employers would have access to new workers if their sponsored workers leave their employment.

A New Enforcement Regime

S. 744 would also set in motion a far-reaching workplace enforcement measure that would impact employers of all sizes and in all occupations. Designed to prevent employment of unauthorized immigrants, within five years of enactment of the law, all US employers would be required to use a federal electronic employment eligibility verification system, most likely E-Verify. E-Verify enables employers to check whether new hires are permitted to work in the United States.

Under the bill, large businesses with over 5,000 employees would be given two years to begin using the system; businesses with over 500 employees would be given three years; and all other employers would be required to use E-Verify within four years. Employers would face stiff penalties for violations of this mandate.

To reduce the incidence of noncitizens overstaying their authorized period of stay (currently estimated to be 40 to 50 percent of the total unauthorized population), the bill directs DHS to implement an exit system at all air and sea ports of entry by December 2015. This would supplement the existing system to track noncitizens at their point of entry.

Additionally, the bill would usher in new levels of surveillance at the southern land border, including the operation of drones 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Furthermore, the legislation authorizes $4.5 billion — and possibly as much as $6.5 billion — for increases in enforcement at the US-Mexico border for spending on additional fencing, personnel, and technology.

Legalization

Finally, the Senate bill would grant Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status to unauthorized immigrants who have been physically present in the United States since December 31, 2011, pass a criminal background check, and pay taxes assessed and a fine.

After ten years in RPI status, these persons could gain a green card if they demonstrate a consistent employment record or pursuit of education, and learn English. Three years after LPR status, they would be eligible for citizenship. However, no adjustment from RPI to LPR status would be permitted until certain border security and interior immigration enforcement requirements have been met.

In a special concession, DREAMERs (unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the country before age 16 and meet certain additional criteria) and agricultural workers would be given an expedited path to LPR status and citizenship.
Other important changes in the bill include:
  • Increase in H-1B visas (which allow US businesses to employ foreign workers in jobs requiring expertise in specialized fields) to 110,000 (with potential to be adjusted to 180,000 over time); however, large businesses (with over 50 employees) would be prohibited from having a workforce made up of over 50 percent H-1B workers.

  • Elimination of the diversity visa program

  • Elimination of the one-year requirement for filing asylum applications

  • Establishment of an independent immigration agency to make periodic recommendations to Congress and the executive branch regarding adjustments to employment-based immigrant and temporary worker flows.


Members of the Gang of Eight wholeheartedly endorse the bill and all indications thus far are that they intend to remain unified as it winds through the Senate. Meanwhile, proponents of immigration reform from both parties have generally welcomed it as an important first step, but Democrats have expressed concerns about the elimination of certain family-based and diversity categories.

   Meanwhile, Republicans appear to be troubled about the low numbers allotted initially to the W visa program. Opponents of immigration reform have criticized the bill as an "amnesty" for lawbreakers, and an invitation to future illegal immigration. They have also criticized the border security measures as inadequate and that allow too much discretion to DHS officials.

The Boston Bombings

On April 15, as senators readied their bill for introduction, two bombs were set off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring over 200.

The bill's momentum — fueled by constant speculation over its impending introduction — was briefly interrupted. Coverage of the attacks consumed national media, overshadowing the introduction of the legislation and prompting its sponsors to cancel a scheduled press conference out of respect for those affected by the attacks.

After the revelation that the bombing suspects were two Russian-born brothers of Chechen heritage who came to the United States as minors in the early 2000s pursuant to a grant of political asylum to their father, questions were raised about possible lapses in the immigration system. Several lawmakers, including Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) suggested that vulnerabilities exposed in the Boston attacks should be addressed before Congress turns to making broader immigration reforms.

However, supporters and sponsors of the bill, both Democrats and Republicans, have taken the opposite stance, arguing that if anything, the Boston events increased the need for swift action on immigration reform.

In a joint statement, two of the Gang of Eight members, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), stated that "immigration reform will strengthen our nation's security by helping us identify exactly who has entered our country and who has left." Their views gained a boost when 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin with significant support in conservative circles, said Boston has impressed the need to "fix and modernize our immigration system."

Though the early focus after the bombing was on the immigration system and its possible failures, attention quickly shifted to the intelligence community after word that Russian authorities had contacted both the FBI and CIA in 2011 to express concerns that one of the bombing suspects, Tamarlan Tsarnaev, had possible ties to extremists.

While the Boston attacks knocked the immigration reform debate off stride for a few days, there was a sharp contrast to the political reactions in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. After 9/11, lawmakers shelved all consideration of immigration reform for years and raced to enact strict procedures for visa issuance, tracking, and registration of foreign citizens.

Because the 9/11 hijackers traveled to the United States with valid visas even though some were known to intelligence and law enforcement agencies, serious weaknesses in the immigration enforcement system were revealed, prompting Congress and the federal government to invest billions of dollars in staffing, new technology, and programs to make the system dramatically more effective.

Legislative Timeline

Beyond any implications resulting from the Boston bombing, the efforts for immigration reform in Congress also face a race against the clock.

After several missed deadlines on its introduction, the Senate bill is finally gearing up for action. Hearings began in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 19, and the committee is expected to begin considering amendments to the the bill on May 9 and report it out for a vote in the full Senate in June.

President Obama, who has been seeking to keep the pressure on Congress to act, has demanded that the legislation reach his desk by the end of September. With a limited number of working legislative weeks left in both the Senate and the House before Congress' month-long recess in August, the clock is ticking for legislation to clear both legislative chambers.

In the House, there are reports that a bipartisan "secret gang" of members is drafting a broad reform bill but introduction of comprehensive legislation does not appear to be imminent. However, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) has indicated a preference for a piece-meal approach to legislation, and stated on April 25 that the committee will begin introducing individual proposals, beginning with a guestworker program and an employment verification system, within the week. It is unclear whether the two paths can find a common ground.

Furthermore, while House supporters of immigration reform can be found on both sides of the aisle, the issue faces powerful opposition from parts of the GOP. Many conservative House members represent districts with little immigrant constituency and face the threat of a primary challenge if they appear to be soft on immigration. According to Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), a key member involved in immigration talks, the House bill will be "a lot tighter [and] stricter" than the Senate bill.

Though for President Obama immigration reform is clearly a top priority, in Congress immigration legislation faces competition from other legislative priorities. Pressure is mounting on lawmakers to reconcile appropriations bills, agree on a federal budget, act on increasing the nation's debt limit, and pass an ambitious farm bill. Still, while immigration legislation must compete with these other priorities, the momentum for its consideration is stronger and spans more fronts than it has in decades.
 
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