Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oscar Romero

Kevin Clarke writes about Archbishop Oscar Romero in the March issue of U.S. Catholic magazine:

One year shy of 30 years ago on March 24, 1980, standing before the altar of a small hospital chapel, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador held up his hands during his last Mass, consecrating this body and blood before his brothers and sisters. He was gunned down a day after pleading with Salvadoran soldiers to “stop the repression” and halt the killing of their brothers and sisters—and just a few weeks after he begged U.S. President Jimmy Carter to cease sending America’s murderous foreign aid into his small nation. Romero certainly understood that his words in those last weeks and days would be his own death warrant.

It’s hard to celebrate 29th anniversaries, the 20th and 25th having barely passed, and the 30th coming up so soon in a much more numerically satisfying fashion. So why acknowledge this awkward year at all? Why not wait another 12 months to commemorate the murder of this good man? Because in this 29th year since the brutal murder of Romero, El Salvador itself has likewise reached an awkward appointment, its own great moment of transition.

The rest of this article can be read here.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Prayer for the Economy

From Education for Justice:

Lord, our Father, may Your everlasting strength and resolve help
solidify and bring together Your Nation of devoted followers to
work towards uplifting the economy. We pray for You to forgive
foreclosures, for those without employment to find work, and for
the government to make wise and Godly decisions with the
country's national resources.

Let us pray to You, Our Lord, to provide relief to those impoverished
and in dire need. And for those of us with wealth and abundance to
increase our charity and support as we were taught through Your
divine teachings. Amen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lent and Peace

Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz writes an article entitled Eight Attitudes for a Holy Lent in his e-newsletter entitled E-spirations at
Some months ago I received an e-mail from a reader suggesting that Jesus’ eight beatitudes would make a good topic for E-spirations. As we stand at the threshold of Lent, the timing seems just right for us to explore this teaching of Jesus, which offers us eight attitudes for opening ourselves to God’s saving love.
. . .
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
The Hebrew word shalom helps us understand the full meaning of peace as a state wholeness and total health and well-being. When we wish someone peace in the biblical sense, this is what we are wishing them. When we are in tune with God’s healing and saving love, we are peacemakers, seeking to tear down walls of hatred, division, misunderstanding and prejudice. As instruments of God’s peace, we are instruments of wholeness and reconciliation in our world. We are then true children of God.

You can read the entire article here.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Soup kitchen benefits hungry and helpers

Elizabeth Lynch writes in the latest issue of The Evangelist:
Feeding the hungry is a pillar of Christian ministry. However, since opening a soup kitchen at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet, volunteers are not only serving hot meals to guests but also, they say, sharing reconciliation and faith among a growing circle of parishioners and neighbors.

“Mary’s Kitchen,” explained Sharon Kowalski, director of faith formation and youth ministry at the parish, “has the goal of providing the same kind of welcome as [to those] people who gathered around the Blessed Mother’s table — Jesus and the disciples.”

Mary’s Kitchen serves soup and sandwiches every Monday from 3:30-5:50 p.m.
Since it just opened in February, the number of guests is still small. But those served are grateful and those ready to serve are growing in number.

Though the project began among the youth of the parish, it has also drawn in many retirees and older volunteers looking to help and make productive use of their days. “About 50 people signed up to volunteer,” said Mrs. Kowalski.

The workers range in age from 16 to 70-plus. Many are not even parishioners or even Catholic, she said, adding: “It’s such a joy working together, laughing. It has been a wonderful community-builder for the parish.”

Frank Garceau, catechist and volunteer, sees it as a part of the healing process.
“I’m seeing the parish come together,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot with Called to be Church.”

In 2005, six parishes merged to create Immaculate Heart of Mary. “The process didn’t set well with some,” Mr. Garceau reported. “People said, ‘I’ll do this and that’s all. This is what I’ve always done.’ The soup kitchen has knocked down those barriers.”

Donations for the kitchen come from volunteers, parishioners and the Knights of Columbus. Mr. Garceau solicits donations from community businesses as well.

“I want to get corporate America involved,” he said. “But it’s tough times. Corporations say, ‘I can’t help you,’ or, ‘I can help, but it’s just a one-time deal.’”

Hard times are what sparked the soup kitchen idea.

“I was alone in the office,” explained Mrs. Kowalski, “when a young man came to the door asking for a meal. It was freezing out and the snow was whirling. I didn’t have anything to give him.”

She told him he could sign up for a food basket.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t have anywhere to cook it. I need something to eat now.’ Watching him turn and walk out into the snow and the darkness, I thought of the Gospel, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and not give you to eat?’”
We recommend you read the rest of the article here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dealing with Traumatic Grief

The Restorative Justice Commission of the Diocese is offering a free presentation on Dealing with Traumatic Grief on Wednesday, March 18 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The session will be in Conference Room 1 on the ground floor of the Pastoral Center at 40 North Main Avenue in Albany.

Presenters Lisa Good and Liz Smith have counseled survivors of sudden loss - including violent loss - in a variety of contexts. A rash of shootings in Albany inspired Lisa Good to found a volunteer organization named Urban Grief, which offers immediate and long-term support to those affected by traumatic loss. Liz Smith works for hospice and is particularly interested in helping children and adolescents who are dealing with grief.

Issues of loss and grief affect individuals, families, and often entire communities. Those affected include many "secondary" victims. Since individual responses may vary, symptoms often go unrecognized and untreated - thus multiplying the human and social costs.

Please bring your lunch and listen in. Beverages will be provided.

Come find out what's going on and how you can help.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hearing the Cry of the Poor

The Jesuits at Creighton University in Omaha offer a special resource on hearing the cry of the poor during Lent. Here is a sample:

How can I make this Lent a time to hear the cry of the poor?

It all starts with desire and a few choices. If we recognize a desire to be more attentive to the poor and to grow in affection for and solidarity with them, then it is likely that this is a grace we have received. Many things may have happened to open us to this grace, but it is important to name it and welcome it. Perhaps God has been offering us this grace for some time and preparing us to receive it this Lent. If we don't feel this desire, we can ask for it. We can ask our Lord to help us grow in a desire to hear better the cry of those most in need.

Who are the poor? Who are most in need? Who are most pushed to the margins of neglect and powerlessness? It doesn't take a great social analysis to come up with some immediate answers in my own world and in the global situation today. Listening to the news - locally, nationally, globally - is a beginning. Who appears to be suffering? Who seems to be tremendously burdened? Not all the poor are in the news, but a sensitive scan of the news is a place to start.
More resources from the University are available here.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Can you hear me now?

John L Allen Jr. of National Catholic Reporter writes is his February 27 column, All Things Catholic, about the Social Ministry Gathering, which brings together more than 500 Catholic leaders for a week of issue seminars and knocking on doors on Capitol Hill. Here is an interesting portion:
In that regard, here’s a reading recommendation: Journalist Bill Bishop’s recent book The Big Sort offers hard empirical data to illustrate what he sees as a thirty-year trend in American life towards “homophilia” -- which in this case has nothing to do with sex, but rather love of one’s own kind. Bishop shows that over the last three decades, Americans have retreated into ideologically-defined ghettoes -- both physical and virtual -- in which we have systematically walled ourselves off from people with whom we disagree.

A few factoids from the book:

* In 1976, less than one-quarter of the American population lived in “landslide counties,” meaning counties in which the spread in the presidential vote was more than 20 percent one way or the other. By 2004, it was more than fifty percent, meaning that Americans are increasingly clustering near people who think like them.

* In 1975, moderates made up forty percent of the House of Representatives; by 2005, that number had fallen to eight percent.

* A 12-nation survey supervised by Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania found that Americans finish dead last in terms of the percentage of people who say they regularly talk politics with those who hold different views. Only 23 percent of Americans reported having such exchanges on a regular basis.

As Bishop observes, when people spend most of their time in like-minded company, a “law of group polarization” takes over. Positions become more extreme in the direction of the group consensus, and that’s exactly what we see in American politics. Alan Abramowitz of Emory University has found that over the last three decades, the percentage of Democrats who self-identify as “liberal” has gone up while the percentage of “moderates” has declined, and an equal-and-opposite phenomenon holds true among Republicans. In 2006, Abramowitz found that 86 percent of Democrats now call themselves “liberal,” and 80 percent of Republicans say they’re “conservative,” suggesting that the moderate middle has all but vanished.

All this concerns the world of secular politics, but in many ways American Catholics have reproduced this trajectory within the church. Mutz’s research offers confirmation of the point; in surveys in the late 1990s, she found that the overwhelming majority of regular church-goers, including Catholics, say the people they meet at church are “like them” politically. Applied to Catholics, this means that pro-lifers and those whose concerns skew towards anti-poverty efforts or immigration reform rarely rub shoulders. More often, they’re socialized to see one another as members of different tribes, with alien customs and worldviews.

Purely in terms of Realpolitik, this laceration within the church means that Catholics speak with a divided voice. Theologically, the problem cuts even deeper. The church is supposed to be the sacrament of the unity of the human family, which is difficult to pull off when we’re clustered into competing factions.
Here is the link to the whole article: