Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Aug. 27

1. Pope Francis has a message for gossipers: cut it out (although, spare your tongue.)

2. As Labor Day approaches, see what Archbishop Thomas Wenski says about young adult unemployment and how it can be corrected.

3. Peope have three days to nominate their parish to receive 250 free copies of the Pocket Gospels and Acts of the Apostles.

4.In less than a month, the U.S. Catholic Church will be celebrating it's religious educators - catechists.The theme of this year's Catechitical Sunday is God's Gift of Forgiveness. Pope Francis, of course, goes to Confession.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Young People Deserve to Experience the Dignity of Work

By Joanna Arellano

The La Villita (Little Village) neighborhood, also known as “Mexico of the Midwest,” has many faces. Bustling with loud rancheras and colorful taquero stands, it is still plagued with high rates of crime and gang violence, high poverty, under-resourced schools, teen pregnancy, and the lowest green space-per-capita ratio in Chicago. Both from Mexico, my parents built their lives in La Villita. Growing up in a humble household, money was never at the center of our lives – it was at the center of our worries.

As blue-collar workers, my parents knew early on that a quality education for their daughters would be the only guarantee to escape what we were up against. My oldest sister paved the way as the first member in both my immediate and extended family to attend college, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The three remaining sisters followed in her footsteps.

My experience in college was extremely transformational and enriching. For the first time, I delved deeply into social justice with the Church, learned art as a form of therapy for the special needs community, interned with the U.S government, and learned the poetic language and culture of Brazil first-hand. Immediately after graduation, my memories and intangible experiences from college became bundled into two words – student loans.

Now, two years later, I carry my debt of over $30k on my back everywhere I go, with interest climbing higher and higher every month and year. Although I was able to find a full-time job in the midst of our poor economy, I am still paying the price by juggling a student loan debt, car loan debt, rent, groceries, etc. Numerous friends have gone back to living with their parents because they cannot make ends meet.

The psychological and spiritual impact of debt and unemployment is devastating. The dignity of work stems from our call for stewardship of the world and all in it, as a means to enter more deeply in relationship with God. If our youth are unable to experience and live out this principle vibrantly, discerning one’s vocation and purpose becomes a tumultuous challenge and mystery at a crucial age.

While I am the exception to my generation’s low-employment status, this is the reality for those with no jobs. I have seen the effects in my community, but even more so with my sister. I did not work harder than she did, nor is it her fault that she could not find a job. There is a systemic problem in our country.

We begin with understanding that our current economic circumstance is causing high youth unemployment rates, and that a substantial percent of the jobs added since 2008 are low-wage jobs. The corporatization of public higher education in some sectors is harming many students’ capacity to fully participate in the dignity of work. Too often, students entering and leaving college are viewed as dollar signs by some institutions and organizations, rather than as children of God with the unique capacity to better society through their gifts and achieving a higher education.

Catholic Social Teaching calls us to confront systemic injustices that threaten the dignity of the human person on every level – from conception to natural death. We can respond to this systemic and deeply embedded injustice by supporting local organizations and movements that address these very issues. In doing so, we begin the journey of personally taking responsibility for reorganizing the economy by pushing for laws that create fair wages and hold employers accountable for the security and dignity of their workers.

We can organize to respond as a Church to ensure that we, as a society, are not diminishing the dignity of the young person for generations to come in our country.

Our existence is not “for-profit.”

Joanna Arellano is Program Coordinator, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Campaign for Human Development for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Five Things To Remember On Aug. 26

1. Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 55, as Bishop of the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio. The appointment was publicized in Washington, August 26 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

2. Make sure you read the series of guest blogs on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement.

3. Catholic Schools are starting another year. Find out why they are so vital.

4. Pope Francis wrote to the family of James Foley, saying he, "commends James to the loving mercy of God our Father, and joins all who mourn him in praying for an end to senseless violence and the dawn of reconciliation and peace among all the members of the human family."

5. God loves you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Aug. 25

1. To celebrate the 50 anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, the USCCB's Subcommittee on African American Affairs will release a series of resources to highlight the achievements of the Civil Rights era and its connections to the Catholic Church.

2. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of Atlanta, says, "The challenge of looking back 50 or 60 years with well-deserved pride is that we must also continue to look forward in hope for the fulfillment of the promises of yesterday in spite of relapses that still unfortunately surface today. Anniversaries offer many reasons to rejoice and to recommit to the principles they recall."

3. The Catholic Review in Baltimore covered an ecumenical prayer service for peace in Iraq held this past week. There's a great photo of leaders of different faiths together.

4. The Archdiocese of St. Louis celebrated another special series of Masses over the weekend to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the City of St. Louis and the 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Louis IX, King of France. Those attending included Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Vigano, Archbishop Jordan (from Reims, France where Saint Louis was crowned), and Prince Louis de Bourbon (descendent of Saint Louis). There will be a roundup of photos, video, and coverage at

5. God loves you.

Poetry in the Civil Rights Era

By Angela Redmond-Theodore

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful and terrible thing, needful to man as air, usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all, […] this man shall be remembered […] with the lives grown out of his life, the lives fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing. —from “Frederick Douglass” by Robert Hayden

In an interview for the PBS News Hour’s “Where Poetry Lives” series, U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey said that “A commitment to social justice always undergirds my poems.” This could stand as the mission statement for all artists, including African American writers, who have put words to our society’s deepest longings and highest calling.

The literature of the Civil Rights era is part of a continuum that stretches from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day. As the voices of the Harlem Renaissance inspired the music and poetry of the 1960’s, so did the Black Arts movement produce poets recognized today as literary and social giants. Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni all began their careers in the 1960s. What makes them outstanding is the lack of distinction between their art and their moral convictions and social activism. Their lives reflect the struggle for universal justice that informs and guides their work.

Let America be America again. – Langston Hughes. The Harlem Renaissance is a testimony to art’s transforming power. Often omitted from discussions about this period is its intentionally political focus. The demands for justice in American society required that artists – including writers Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Claude McKay and Jessie Fauset Redmon – embrace the responsibility of expressing and promoting the contributions and meaning of black life in the face of undeniable oppression. This sense of commitment became the legacy, the birthright, of the Civil Rights movement.

During the Civil Rights era, artists preserved and claimed their portion of the Harlem Renaissance legacy of cultural responsibility. In their turn, they inspired and fueled the efforts of the millions of citizens whose self-determination and dignity depended on the demolition of systemic injustice that marred national policies, local practices, and personal mindsets. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Paul Robeson, Nina Simone, Odetta, Harry Belafonte and many other performers risked their careers as they offered their fame as a galvanizing tool for the movement.

The literature from this time exemplifies what gives art lasting meaning – that is to say, what generates a legacy – the effect for change it has on individual lives and on society as a whole. What will our generation do to strengthen, preserve and enhance this legacy for future generations? How will the lives of our children “flesh [Frederick Douglass’s] dream of the beautiful, needful thing”? I have one practical, formidable suggestion: Fight for the restoration of arts education in our schools.


Angela Redmond-Theodore is studying for a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at the University of Tampa. She and her husband, Eric, reside in the Tampa Bay area, where they are members of St. Rita’s Parish.

Pax Christi USA Continues the Vision of the Civil Rights Era

By Sister Patricia Chappell, S.N.D. de N.

As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the modern Civil Rights era, Pax Christi USA, (PCUSA), the national Catholic peace and justice movement, continues its commitment to confront the evil of racism and all forms of oppression, as we witness to the Gospel call of nonviolence and peace with justice.

Traditionally, Pax Christi USA didn’t reach out to communities of color. It was not until people of color joined the national council that an intentional anti-racism initiative began to take shape. This ongoing commitment began in a process in 1999 when Pax Christi USA, with its majority membership of white Catholics, embarked on a 20-year initiative by: 1) creating a document “Brothers and Sisters All” and 2) creating the Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team, PCART, as an integral section of PCUSA. By striving to create a world that reflects the peace of Christ, intentionally becoming an anti-racist, multi-cultural, Catholic, non-violent, peace and justice movement, PCUSA strives to become part of “the Beloved Community,” envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr.

PCUSA is committed to this work of making strong, honest, caring relationships – both personal and institutional – across racial lines, in order that together, with the whole body of Christ, we can transform structures and cultures of violence and domination. We are further committed to and have made progress in transforming our own organizational structures, policies, practices, and forms of decision-making to include the participation of people of color. To assist the PCUSA members in this effort, the trained Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team educates the Pax Christi membership on embracing an anti-racist perspective in working on its initiatives.

This past year Pax Christi staff has promoted interracial dialogues between Catholic communities of color and PCUSA groups. This year workshops entitled, “We Grow Together,” were held in major cities across the United States: St. Louis, Miami, Los Angeles, to name a few. We learned that people are eager to enter into dialogue with each other to find solutions to common issues of injustice in their areas. Our next steps are to have follow-up assessment done by the PCUSA Regional Leaders to evaluate the actions, which these Catholic groups were able to accomplish. It is reasonable to believe that this approach could be a model for other Catholic parishes and groups.

Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. challenged us to become “extremists for love, justice and peace.”
This takes steadfastness and persistent courage. What will Pax Christi USA look like as we continue to pursue this anti-racist identity? What will it take for Catholics to truly make dismantling racism a central focus of bringing about God’s reign of peace and justice for the next 50 years (and beyond)? God promises to be with us, and we stand on the shoulders of many sisters and brothers who have gone before us and who sacrificed their lives at great cost.

The choice is ours.

(Information on Pax Christi can be found at


Sister Patricia Chappell is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Connecticut unit. She is a former president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference and currently Co-Chairs the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur-USA, National Anti-Racism Team. In November 2011, she became the first African-American Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. She also was the first African American to serve on the Provincial Leadership Team of her community. She holds a master’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America and is a licensed social worker.

My Transformative Experiences Growing Up in the Civil Rights Era

By Sister Patricia Chappell, S.N.D. de N.

Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut as an African American young teenager in the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s was exciting and challenging. The impact of institutional racism was felt daily in the Elm Haven Projects where we saw people of color struggle to meet basic human needs. It was exciting because for the first time I experienced a hope and affirmation of my blackness and dignity through the Black Power movement.

This was also time to ask challenging questions within my faith community at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, a predominantly African-American parish: How could this white, blonde, blue-eyed Jesus speak the Gospel of freedom and liberation when white people were the oppressors? And how could I identify with this Jesus? This shook my faith, but I had the opportunity to explore these questions more deeply with Baptists and Muslims.

My parish community began to incorporate Gospel music and Afrocentricity into its liturgical celebrations. As the Civil Rights Movement involved us, many parishioners came together with others of color who lived and worked in “the hood” to work for our own liberation and empowerment. Significantly, St. Martin’s joined other religious denominations as people of color who also experienced oppression, to protest the lack of resources and call upon New Haven to provide job training, jobs and better education. I learned that that social justice action was part of living out my Catholic faith.

My uncle was the Black Panthers Regional Organizer for Connecticut. He gave me a sense of pride as he empowered young people to do positive actions in neighborhoods where we lived. I served free meals provided by Black Panthers. Being Black, Catholic and involved in neighborhood struggles for justice led me to work to organize people to attain better education and jobs.

Another special memory in 1963 was when St. Martin’s parishioners began selling dinners to raise funds so some people could represent our parish and attend the first March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, calling for civil and economic rights for all African Americans. The pastor felt the March was of historical importance. We all felt a part of it, and clearly understood the radical ramifications this March would have on the rest of our lives and on the lives of others in the country.

Vividly, I also remember the sorrow and despair felt when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968. Someone in the family had died. The event would explode into angry rioting and destruction, which would take decades to rebuild.

To this day I carry these transformative experiences within me.


Sister Patricia Chappell is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Connecticut unit. She is a former president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference and currently Co-Chairs the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur-USA, National Anti-Racism Team. In November 2011, she became the first African-American Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. She also was the first African American to serve on the Provincial Leadership Team of her community. She holds a master’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America and is a licensed social worker.