Reaching Out to our Neighbors of Every Nation

The ongoing and profoundly painful crisis at the southern border of the United States has long been a threat to families and to the dignity of our Central American sisters and brothers. Every family and child arriving at the border brings with them an agonizing choice that they will carry for the rest of their lives. Their suffering, broadcast to the world, engenders in us a provocative reminder of our God-given commandment to love.

Pope Francis, in his April writing Gaudete et Exsultate, made clear that there is a calling for Christians,  “…for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him?”

If we live in the great and deep faith of the Church, we are bound by God to welcome His Son in the form of a stranger. We are called, undeniably, to witness that faith and live the Gospel by being a people who, with grace and with recognition of every person’s individual dignity, offer respite for the afflicted.

This is not solely the challenge of those cities and states at the Mexican border. Maryland is No. 6 in states with the highest population of undocumented immigrants, following California, Florida, Texas, New York and New Jersey. Truly, we in the Archdiocese of Baltimore cannot deny our role in the lives of these individuals.

As you may have seen in recent news coverage, Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center cares for immigrants daily. Most of the immigrants it has served have come to the U.S. for safety reasons, fleeing gang and other violence in their home countries. Through its six programs—educational services; health services; immigration legal services; family reunification programs; client services; and anti-trafficking services—it served more than 11,000 individuals in 2017, and expects to serve at least that many each year in the years to come.

Flight from danger is an especially prevalent cause for unaccompanied minors, who have made up more than 210,000 of the immigrants at the southern border since 2013. These children do not receive an attorney to represent them in immigration court. In Maryland, when contacted, the attorneys at Esperanza Center’s Immigration Legal Services program provide these services to those young people and their family members at low or no cost.

The Esperanza Center also reunites unaccompanied minors with family, locating proper relatives or legal guardians for hundreds of youth per year since it began these services five years ago. The youngest unaccompanied minor the Esperanza Center has served was only 5 years old.

The Holy See shared via Twitter on World Refugee Day, June 20, “A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity.” May we all live that message in our hearts and in the ways we reach out to our neighbors of every nation, and may we pray that all other Americans be moved to do the same.

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore

Related:

“Unaccompanied Minors Seek asylum U.S. Border”

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Baltimore Mayor: Parish IDs will be Valid for City Identification

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Family separations cause trauma, Archbishop Lori calls for end to policy

There can be no reasonable justification for a civilized government to separate children from their parents as a means for enforcing the law. This action threatens the stability of families, unduly inflicts trauma and hardship on those involved, including innocent children, and runs counter to the compassion and justice that are foundational to our American society. I join my brother bishops and so many others of goodwill in calling on our leaders to cease the current practice of separating children from their mothers and to seek other ways of safeguarding our borders.

Sports offer More than on-field Competition

Several area high schools, a number of which are Catholic, have been in the news lately over their decision not to have their football team compete against a school (also Catholic) that has recently become dominant on the field of play. The purpose of this column is not to debate the merits of the rationale on either side.  After all, the schools citing concerns for player safety as the reason for their decision have a responsibility to protect their players if they feel the competitive imbalance is so great it could increase the risk of injuries. And it is a worthy cause for a school that has long created opportunities for youths from very challenging backgrounds to do so now through more than academic means, becoming even more attractive to students wishing to open doors through athletics.

Unfortunately, the decisions on both sides have given way to hyperbole and rhetoric in both traditional and social media and prompted some to make claims ranging from unfair recruiting practices to racism. In the end, these games that brought together students of all walks of life are not going to take place and the greatest loss in this is that the personal experiences and shared interactions that are integral to the mission of Catholic education will no longer take place. Therefore, I am inviting the leaders of these schools—and others—to make it a priority to create opportunities where these children can see each other as individuals, as members of the same human family.

This is a central focus of a Vatican document about sports, “Giving the best of yourself: A document on the Christian perspective on sport and the human person,” which is the first of its kind and, providentially, was released while this conversation was taking place here in Baltimore.  The document analyzes the impact of sports on the integral development of the human person and society, as well as the role of sports as a vehicle for common good and the unity of the human family.

A key focus for Pope Francis, which is both instructive and timely for us as we view this situation in Baltimore, is that sports—especially team sports—provides us a communal experience. It is, he writes, “A catalyst for experiences of community, of the human family…Peaceful competitions can be a context for people to have encounters with others very different from themselves and even help them to have a glimpse of the unity of the human family.”

In an age of texting, online gaming and social media, young people eschew face-to-face encounters for safer and less vulnerable virtual interactions. Sports is a way to bridge those lost personal encounters and mutual experiences.

The recognition of this loss was evident in statements made by some of the schools involved. In a joint statement issued by the heads of two of the schools, the leaders wrote of their schools’ commitment to “explore other ways in which to collaboratively fulfill their common goal of fostering the spiritual, physical and academic development of their students.”  Another school head referenced her relationship with her counterpart as “colleagues and more importantly, friends” and called him a “transformational leader who never loses sight of his students or his mission.” These public acknowledgements provide us with a foundation on which we can build the climate of mutual respect and understanding that is necessary and fundamental to helping our young people grow into adulthood and contribute to the common good of our human family.

For these schools and for all our Catholic schools, we must not let a desire for competitive excellence obscure the integral role that sports can play in the development of young people. Sports is a bridge to new experiences, to unfamiliar faces, and can unite young people to each other in a unique and powerful way.

In breaking down barriers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote of the power of such encounters. I wrote in my pastoral letter on the enduring power and influence of Dr. King’s prophetic teachings: “Often we think we know about our own and surrounding communities. A second look may show, however, that we have a lot to learn. For that reason, Dr. King urged his followers—and now he urges us—to learn all we can about both the challenges as well as the opportunities in our diverse communities. In doing so, we will better understand the nature of the problems to be faced and also the goodness and humanity of people who don’t live so far away from us after all.”

Archbishop Lori’s Homily: 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Knights of Columbus State Deputies Meeting

“When we stop to think about it, Satan’s temptations usually involve two things:

“First, we are tempted to barter our calling to share eternal life and joy for the allure of some short-term and illusory advantage – be it money, possessions, pleasures, or power. Typically, we tell ourselves that God’s judgment lies far in the future, and that the promise of eternal life also lies far in the future… But here and now, at this very moment, in ways both tangible and illicit, I can enjoy myself, I can enrich myself, and I can impose myself on others. For good measure, Satan sometimes whispers in our ears that God really doesn’t mind if we take a few short-term gains. And, in the end, he says, we can presume that, since God loves us, he doesn’t really pay attention to our sins, even those we don’t repent of. So that’s the first thing Satan promotes: shortsightedness and presumption.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence

Fifty years after the death of one of the greatest civil rights leaders of any time, the teachings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continue to resonate in a society plagued by violence and racial discord. 

 Dialogue surrounding issues of race and the quest for a more just society continue to take place here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and in other communities across our country. 

 The Catholic Bishops of the United States have established a Committee Against Racism and are preparing a national pastoral letter on racism. In view of these and other important conversations now underway, I thought it appropriate to reflect on Dr. King’s teaching on nonviolent direct action and to propose questions aimed at furthering introspection, dialogue and constructive change.

 In that spirit I ask you to receive my pastoral reflection, “The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence,” with a prayer that it will help us all focus anew on Dr. King’s prophetic teaching and bring about true and lasting social change for the common good.

 I have asked our clergy to address in their preaching the evil of racism. I also invite you to enter into dialogue at the parish and archdiocesan levels. A forum for such discussion is part of the pastoral letter webpage. 

 Please join me in praying that open and honest discussions will lead to greater understanding and civility as together we rid our society of racism, intolerance, injustice and violence.

A Light Brightly Visible in West Baltimore

It was a pleasure to visit St. Edward in West Baltimore this weekend to offer Holy Mass and spend time with the parish family. I’m especially thankful for the leadership of Father Honest Munishi. We are all very grateful to the Spiritans, Father Honest’s religious community, for making available to us all such a wonderful priest. And we are grateful to Father Honest for his love of the St. Edward’s community and his service to the wider community.

Parishioners of St. Edward are no strangers to what makes headlines in the media: high crime, homelessness, drugs and a host of other social problems. In the midst of so many heart-rending social problems, St. Edward stands out as a beautiful community of faith, worship and service.

The parish community of St. Edward is a “light brightly visible” in the Mosher neighborhood of our city. Parishioners actively reach out to their neighbors – whether through participating in prayer walks, offering a food pantry or hosting a job-training site for Catholic Charities.

Above all, St. Edwards shines bright with the Word of God and the sacraments and seeks to share the Word of God effectively and convincingly in this part of our beloved City of Baltimore.

Read Archbishop Lori’s homily from his Jan. 28 Mass at St. Edward HERE.