Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Aug. 29

1. Cardinal Donald Wuerl told students from The Catholic University of America that his conscience led him to ask, "Where are the voices?" to advocate for those persecuted in the Middle East. This is a must-watch:

2. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of Atlanta, took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Check it out:

3. Just launched this week: Get the daily readings sent to your email every morning. Sign up at the bottom of the page:

4. Catholic News Service that Pope Francis will preside over a wedding in September, his first since becoming pope.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Aug. 28

1. Don't forget: a special collection will be held in dioceses across the country during the first few weeks of September. It will assist humanitarian relief in the Middle East.

2. News.Va reports, "Pope Francis on Wednesday said that in a Christian community division is one of the worst sins because it comes not from God."

3. Labor Day is Monday and, like Pope Francis, the bishops are concerned about the plight of the worker and the lack of employment for young adults.

4. Catholic schools are communities of the New Evangelization and partners with parents in a child's education.
5. God loves you.

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.

Remembering the workers who toil without justice

By Jose Luis Aguayo and Ana Claudia Aguayo

The work at the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center reflects the teachings and values that remind all of us to do what is right. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, there are several excerpts from the Old Testament that speak about what is right. Some employers do not follow these teachings and may practice unscrupulous tactics that go unnoticed. The Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, informs us of how to treat workers, “You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer." (Lev. 19:13).

The Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center acknowledges that all workers do their part to create a thriving community. Thanks to our service led approach, the Center acts as a beacon of hope in our community. Workers who feel marginalized or oppressed due to unfair labor conditions have a safe space where they can reach out for help, information, and solace.

It has become a common practice for some unscrupulous employers to steal wages from their employees by using fear and intimidation tactics aimed at the most vulnerable of workers: low- income, immigrant workers. Many workers do not get paid, many workers are continuously employed under false pretenses, while other workers are threatened with jail or deportation if they attempt to seek payment for their work.

America’s work ethic and work history is grounded in our desire to achieve the American dream, a strength and force that push us to work diligently to achieve our aspirations. This country was founded with the principle that regardless of where you are from, we are all created equal with dignity and inalienable human rights. Our communities were built and founded by the hard work of our immigrant ancestors who desired prosperity and protection for future generations.

One goal we have at the Center is to ensure that all are united by our common desire to become contributors and citizens to this country. We ensure the success of this goal in several ways. We add value to our community through our hard work, while developing stronger communities. We continue to seek the pursuit of happiness. We operate under interfaith social and moral tenets. We uphold and value servitude by ensuring compassion as we fight for immigrant low-wage workers. We seek to empower workers with labor education by providing them with essential personal and professional workshops, and by equipping them with the tools necessary to protect themselves at work. Funding for these programs come in part from a grant given to the Center by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The Center extends its hand to all community members wanting and willing to have dignity and respect at the workplace. We wish to implement right behaviors in our employers. They should not stigmatize workers based on looks, their national origin, nor should they use retaliation and fear to oppress workers.

This country is regarded as the land of opportunity, a place where we all contribute to its success and well-being. So the way this country treats new immigrants is a reflection of the values that created this country. People move to make their lives better for themselves and their families; it is an innate natural instinct that we possess and use to find safety and security. We all originated from diverse backgrounds. We have welcomed working individuals which day by day become contributing members to our communities. This Labor Day, let us remember the plight of those workers who toil without justice for their work.

Jose Luis Aguayo, Director of Programs and Finance at Northwest Arkansas Workers' Justice Center, and his sister, Ana Claudia Aguayo, Director of Development and Communications,  were  the 2013 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award winners.

Read Archbishop Wenski's 2014 Labor Day Statement.

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.