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Insights: Papa Francisco, Sisters of Mercy, Immigration

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February 19, 2016

Papa Francisco in Mexico          

The Pope concluded his visit to Mexico with a Mass in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.  Reflecting the close ties of two cities along the border, a community of Catholics from neighboring El Paso also joined in the celebration to welcome the Pope.

Juarez was once known as the murder capital of the world with 3,500 killings in 2010. In 2015, the number dropped to 300. The local government is hoping that this visit will continue the healing of this city wracked by violence and death from the drug wars. 

This symbolic visit of Papa Francesco drew the world’s attention to one side of the Rio Grande where a country besieged by violence was able to celebrate the faith of so many of its people.  And to the other side, where the United States, whose drug consumption helps fuel Mexico's violence even as our politicians avoid debate on how to fix a broken immigration system.

Before Mass, the Pope prayed and blessed a large cross created as a memorial to migrants who crossed the border. He paused and waved to the hundreds of people gathered on the El Paso side, many who were immigrants and not able to make the trek to Juarez. At the foot of the memorial were three smaller crosses that the Pope also blessed. They will go the dioceses of El Paso, Ciudad Juarez and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

No side was spared from his critique of leaders, calling the "forced migration" of millions a "human tragedy" and "global crisis."  He also continually called on the need for society to create “dignified work” for people so they do not turn to a life of crime.

Earlier in the day he visited a penitentiary. Inmates were seated in a large courtyard and some were able to meet the Pope. At the end of the meeting, one prisoner presented him with a handmade wooden crosier.

Referencing th Year of Mercy the Pope told the crowd of inmates, “it is about learning not to be prisoners of the past but to open the door to the future, to tomorrow and believing things can change.”

The Pope also called on society to help people before it is too late. He asked the crowd to pray to make “their hearts bigger” and to forgive society for not knowing how to deal with them before they committed their crimes.

During his first visit to Mexico, the Pope has denounced and criticized drug trafficking, violence and corruption, among other delicate issues.


Year of Mercy: Sisters of Mercy

Nestled under redwoods at the north entrance of the California Capitol, a bronze sculpture of three women commemorates the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy into the Sacramento area. For more than 150 years, the Sisters have brought hope and assistance to those in need. Their founder, the Venerable Catherine McAuley, established the Dublin-based order in the early 19th century.

Mother McAuley was not a stranger to receiving assistance from others. Her father died when she was young and her family was dependent on the goodwill of others throughout her childhood. After working for a wealthy couple for more than 20 years, she inherited their estate and wealth. She immediately pursued her dream of opening a house for women and children in Dublin.

Poverty was rampant in 19th century Ireland, especially among Catholics who accounted for 80 percent of the population.  Even before the Great Famine (1845-1852) work was scarce and the government offered little assistance.  Mother McAuley was a pioneer who realized the value of education and made it central to her program. She hoped her home would give women the help they desperately needed to overcome the cycle of poverty.

Her first home opened in 1824 on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mercy. Along with two other women, it was used to shelter and educate women and girls. It was Mother McAuley’s desire that the members should combine silence and prayer with the active labors of a Sister of Charity. It was not a religious order at first, but due to concerns over stability and continuity, they eventually formed an official order.

Guided by the principles of mercy, the newly founded order was rooted in four core values: spirituality, community, service and social justice.  They were focused on responding to the unmet needs, through direct service as well as seeking ways to change unjust systems.

Once in the United States, the order flourished and now has schools, housing services, advocacy efforts in social justice and hospitals throughout the country.  In California, Mercy Hospitals are scattered throughout the state and are known for their excellent care.  In 1897, the Sisters opened their first hospital, Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento.

The Sisters came to the Sacramento area via steamboat. They arrived after the Gold Rush to a town teeming with neglected children and homeless residents.  Just like their founder, they had a vision and had the courage to spearhead new projects, offering hope and healing to those in need.

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Supreme Court and Immigration

The following op-ed appeared in the Sacramento Bee by Bishop Jaime Soto, Sacramento Diocese and President of the California Catholic Conference

Prudence is weighing the possible, determining how to achieve the most good and avoiding unnecessary evil. This is the task before the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers President Barack Obama’s executive action to provide temporary relief for some immigrant youths and parents by deferring deportations.

It is not an amnesty program, nor does it fix the broken immigration system. Any significant reform will have to wait for a more reasoned conversation in Congress. In the meantime, what the administration is proposing gives a modicum of security to many aspiring Americans living in ambiguity and allows federal and local law enforcement to effectively allocate resources to protect our neighborhoods, not divide them.

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Bulletin Inserts

Our website contains background information on life and dignity issues faced by Californians. These one-page sheets can be downloaded and used in parish bulletins as reflection questions or as a guide to evaluate issues.

Reverence for Life
       What the Catholic Church Teaches about End of Life
       La enseñanza de la Iglesia católica sobre el final de la vida
Human Dignity
Restorative Justice
Faith in the Public Square
Family Life


Publication Schedule  

We will not be publishing Insights next week due to our attendance at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim.

Please visit us at our booth - the Catholic Legislative Network – No. 446.  Restorative Justice Ministers will be available next door, at No. 448, to talk about the Chaplaincy programs in California.  The Congress is the largest annual gathering of its kind in the world. The four-day event is held at the Anaheim Convention Center, Feb.  25-28, and is sponsored by the Los Angeles Office of Religious Education. 

Feb. 19, 2016
Vol. 9, No. 6

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