Peace & Justice

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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Catholic Charities and poverty

The Evangelist has two important articles about poverty in its most recent issue. The first looks at how cuts in government spending will impact the services of Catholic Charities.
In the Albany Diocese, Catholic Charities officials say the economy and the state’s fiscal uncertainty make progress difficult. Meanwhile, demand on Catholic Charities programs has increased.

This year, Catholic Charities has already served 25,000 more clients than last year. About 100 more people have looked to the agency for emergency assistance, and more families are using food pantries.

Millions of dollars were cut in June for many state programs that keep Catholic Charities running. For instance, the Supportive Housing for Families program, which funds Catholic Charities’ Housing Office program, will lose $2.4 million.

The rest of that article is here.

The second article looks at three people whose lives have been impacted by the work of Catholic Charities.

The Evangelist spent time with three people who have struggled with the anti-poverty priority areas established by Catholic Charities USA: income, education, hunger, health and housing.

The rest of that article is here.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Want to be a farm worker?

Have you ever wanted to be a farm worker? Well, here is your chance, as reported by the Associated Press:
In a tongue-in-cheek call for immigration reform, farm workers are teaming up with comedian Stephen Colbert to challenge unemployed Americans: Come on, take our jobs.

Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy, said Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers of America.

So the group is encouraging the unemployed — and any Washington pundits or anti-immigrant activists who want to join them — to apply for the some of thousands of agricultural jobs being posted with state agencies as harvest season begins.

All applicants need to do is fill out an online form under the banner "I want to be a farm worker" at, and experienced field hands will train them and connect them to farms.

According to the Labor Department, three out of four farm workers were born abroad, and more than half are illegal immigrants.

Proponents of tougher immigration laws have argued that farmers have become used to cheap labor and don't want to raise wages enough to draw in other workers.

Those who have done the job have some words of advice for applicants: First, dress appropriately.

During summer, when the harvest of fruits and vegetables is in full swing in California's Central Valley, temperatures hover in the triple digits. Heat exhaustion is one of the reasons farm labor consistently makes the Bureau of Labor Statistics' top ten list of the nation's most dangerous jobs.

Second, expect long days. Growers have a small window to pick fruit before it is overripe.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Capitol Compass

The June issue of Capitol Compass, the newsletter of the New York State Catholic Conference, is available here. It provides legislative updates as well an information about following the Conference’s activities on Facebook and Twitter.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Justice to immigrants

Participants at the Catholic bishops’ Regional Consultation on Migration in Washington, June 2-4 issued a joint statement calling for protection, hospitality, service and justice to immigrants throughout the hemisphere.

The bishops called attention to several issues that should be addressed on a regional level, such as the promotion of sustainable economic development in the hemisphere, violence and drug smuggling, human trafficking, protection of migrants, refugees and other vulnerable population, and special assistance to Haiti.

They also called upon the Congress of the United States and the Obama Administration to affirm the country’s tradition as a nation of immigrants and “reform U.S. immigration law to allow migrants who work hard in the U.S. economy to enjoy the benefits of legal protection.”

“This reform would preclude the need to impose criminal penalties on persons not lawfully admitted,” said the bishops. “It also would end deportations of family members and the breakup of families.”

The meeting congregated Catholic bishops and staff of Catholic agencies working with migrants in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Also present were Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People and representatives from the Latin American Council of Bishops’ Conferences (CELAM).

Full text of the statement is here.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Catholic Conference Action Alert

The New York State Catholic Conference has issued the following Action Alert:
Oppose Cuts to Services for the Poor and Vulnerable

Take Action Now
According to news reports, Gov. Paterson may very well put cuts to the human service portion of the budget in the emergency extender bill that the Legislature will be asked to vote on next week in the absence of a full budget. The Governor has submitted an Executive Budget that reduces funding for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) by $200 million from last year's level. He acknowledges these cuts will cause real pain to poor and vulnerable residents of our state.

The Majority Conference in both the Senate and Assembly have submitted plans that restore some of the proposed cuts, although neither does enough to protect the poor and vulnerable. To meet the need, TANF funding needs to be maintained at last year's level. The demand for services has increased during these difficult economic times. Potential cuts include funding for supportive housing for vulnerable populations, programs that help young people develop and lead productive lives, programs that support new and expectant mothers to ensure their babies get off to a good start in life, programs that service the developmentally disabled, programs that allow senior citizens to safely remain in their own residences, programs that strengthen families, and programs that provide services to people with alcohol, substance abuse and mental health problems.

The state cannot abandon its responsibility to help people who are struggling to live with dignity as they move toward self-sufficiency. Your action is needed to stop these proposed cuts.

Go HERE to send an pre-written, fully editable message to your legislators and Gov. Paterson. Just fill out the required form and press Send.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Poetry and action

Sometimes, we can get so caught up in matters of social justice that we let our spiritual life slip, devoting more time to action and less to prayer. Deacon Walter Ayres, a member of the Commission on Peace and Justice, reflected on how poetry can be one way to enrich our spirituality in a recent issue of the diocesan newspaper The Evangelist:
One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In “Thirst,” a collection of poems, she addresses her discovery of faith and how she dealt with grief after the death of her partner of more than 40 years.

My favorite, titled, “Praying,” offers invaluable insight for anyone who has struggled with how to talk with God: “...patch/a few words together and don’t try/to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest....”

Another poem, “The Uses of Sorrow,” takes just two sentences to provide a lifetime of reflections: “Someone I love once gave me/a box full of darkness./It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”

For me, reading poetry is like the ancient practice of lectio divina, the reading of and reflection on the sacred Scriptures. We read the text, select a portion and then reflect on it. Just as God speaks to us through His inspired Word, He also can speak to us through the poems we read.

God’s Word does not just inform us or give us knowledge; it transforms us. Good poetry can help change us as well, if we appreciate it in the proper way.

The rest of the article is here.

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