Peace & Justice

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Go with God

In the latest edition of First Things, Stanley Hauerwas writes an open letter to young Christians in their way to college:
“The Christian religion,” wrote Robert Louis Wilken, “is inescapably ritualistic (one is received into the Church by a solemn washing with water), uncompromisingly moral (‘be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,’ said Jesus), and unapologetically intellectual (be ready to give a ‘reason for the hope that is in you,’ in the words of 1 Peter). Like all the major religions of the world, Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices and a moral code: it is also a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history.”

Ritualistic, moral, and intellectual: May these words, ones that Wilken uses to begin his beautiful book, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, be written on your soul as you begin college and mark your life—characterize and distinguish your life—for the next four years. Be faithful in worship. In America, going to college is one of those heavily mythologized events that everybody tells you will “change your life,” which is probably at least half true. So don’t be foolish and imagine that you can take a vacation from church.

Be uncompromisingly moral. Undergraduate life on college campuses tends in the direction of neopagan excess. Good kids from good families too often end up using their four years at college to get drunk and throw up on one another. Too often they do so on their way to the condom dispensers. What a waste! Not only because such behavior is self-destructive but also because living this way will prevent you from doing the intellectual work the Christian faith demands. Be deeply intellectual. We—that is, the Church—need you to do well in school. That may sound strange, because many who represent Christian values seem concerned primarily with how you conduct yourself while you are in college; they relegate the Christian part of being in college to what is done outside the classroom.

The Christian fact is very straightforward: To be a student is a calling. Your parents are setting up accounts to pay the bills, or you are scraping together your own resources and taking out loans, or a scholarship is making college possible. Whatever the practical source, the end result is the same. You are privileged to enter a time—four years!—during which your main job is to listen to lectures, attend seminars, go to labs, and read books.

It is an extraordinary gift. In a world of deep injustice and violence, a people exists that thinks some can be given time to study. We need you to take seriously the calling that is yours by virtue of going to college. You may well be thinking, “What is he thinking? I’m just beginning my freshman year. I’m not being called to be a student. None of my peers thinks he or she is called to be a student. They’re going to college because it prepares you for life. I’m going to college so I can get a better job and have a better life than I’d have if I didn’t go to college. It’s not a calling.”

But you are a Christian. This means you cannot go to college just to get a better job. These days, people talk about college as an investment because they think of education as a bank account: You deposit the knowledge and expertise you’ve earned, and when it comes time to get a job, you make a withdrawal, putting all that stuff on a résumé and making money off the investment of your four years. Christians need jobs just like anybody else, but the years you spend as an undergraduate are like everything else in your life. They’re not yours to do with as you please. They’re Christ’s.

You can read the rest of this article here.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Part IV of Bishop Hubbard's African Diary

The final installment of Bishop Hubbard's African diary is available here. This is excerpt:
When we hear about Africa on the evening news, often it is about ethnic, tribal or religious rivalries which have resulted in terrible massacres. One can easily wonder why it is taking the people of the African continent so long to resolve their problems and to create a safe and secure civil society.

However, we should recall our own U.S. history: Our nation was born of a bloody revolutionary war. While our founders had remarkable foresight in conceiving the great democracy our nation has become, it took a long time for some significant issues to be resolved: the rights of Native Americans, who ultimately became the victims of imperialism and broken treaties; the methodology by which our people would be represented, trying to balance the needs and concerns of large and small states; and, of course, slavery.

The latter contentious issue would polarize our nation for its first 80 years, erupting in the Civil War of the 1860s, which killed more than 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

Further, it would be another century before African-Americans gained their full civil rights. And the vestiges of racism still remain: for example, Bishop Ricard, our delegation leader, mentioned that recently in a letter to the editor in his local Florida paper, the author described the Civil War as “the Northern aggression.”

Women in the United States only received the right to vote less than a century ago. How representatives are chosen continues in contemporary debates about the fairness of the Electoral College for the selection of the president or the gerrymandering that takes place in determining districts at the federal and state level.

Even how ballots are cast and counted remains an issue, as the presidential election in 2000 and the new technological system for voting, which will be available at the polls for New Yorkers this November, remind us.

If we are tempted to be critical of African nations for not having resolved their basic social and political problems, we must put into perspective that most African nations have only had their independence for 60 years or less. Hence, their struggles are not all that dissimilar to what we have experienced throughout our history.

This entire trip reinforced for me the tremendous blessings we have in our country, especially security, due process, an institutionalized democracy, and a social safety net — blessings we take for granted, but for which we should be most grateful.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Work of Human Hands

The Commission on Peace and Justice is working with local churches to present the annual Work of Human Hands sale. All of the items being sold are “fairly traded,” which means that we participate in a system that not only aims to pay fair wages, but also creates long-term, direct trading relationships with farmers and artisans around the world based on dialogue, transparency, equity and respect. Fair trade is not about charity; it uses a fair system of exchange to empower producers to develop their own businesses and to foster sustainable development. We follow a set of internationally-accepted fair trade principles and practices that are designed to improve the livelihood of low-income people through alternative trade, including:

Commitment to fair pay for labor, equal opportunity for women, concern for the environment, respect for cultural identity, reasonable working conditions, and no child exploitation

This weekend there will be sales in Albany and Troy. For more information, call 453-6695.

Albany – St. Francis of Assisi parish.
Troy – St. Michael’s Church.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Eucharist and Mission

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a special web page dedicated to our Catholic faith in action. Although designed for college students, it has material for everyone. For example, the bishops discuss Eucharist and Mission:
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, #11). In the Eucharistic liturgy and our prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we encounter God’s presence in personal and profound ways. But the Eucharist is also social, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in Deus Caritas Est: “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”

The Eucharist, celebrated as a community, teaches us about human dignity, calls us to right relationship with God, ourselves and others, invites us to community and solidarity, and sends us on mission to help transform our communities, neighborhoods and world. Church teaching, rooted in both Scripture and Tradition, emphasizes both the personal and social natures of the Eucharist.

Here are two handouts to help you explore and understand how the Eucharist both transforms us and sends us on mission

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Part III

Part three of Bishop Hubbard's four-part diary of his trip to Africa is here.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sudan Diary

The second installment of Bishop Hubbard’s diary of his trip to Sudan is here. In the following excerpt, he describes some of the work done by Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

In Southern Sudan, CRS staff focuses on agriculture, education, health, peacemaking and emergency relief. During the civil war between 1983 and 2005, CRS staff endured all the dangers and humiliations that were experienced by the local populous. Because of this solidarity, CRS remains one of the most well-known and respected humanitarian organizations in Southern Sudan.

Given the high security risk in many parts of the South, international staff serving CRS in Southern Sudan cannot be accompanied by any family members. This is another huge sacrifice they make.

CRS Southern Sudan operates in an extremely complex environment. Large portions of the country are flood prone, meaning that above-normal rains can lead to displacement as well as crop failure. At the same time, a year without sufficient rain can be equally devastating, leaving drought-affected households unable to produce sufficient food supplies.

Insecurity, including intra- and inter-tribal conflicts, is a constant presence in Southern Sudan and forces tens of thousands of households into a state of internal displacement every year.

CRS Southern Sudan’s Emergency Preparedness and Response program provides support to these populations, including food, temporary shelter materials and essential household and hygiene items.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sudan video

Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Church are convinced that today, southern Sudan presents a rare opportunity to relieve staggering human suffering before it happens. View a powerful 5-minute video here.


Poverty in America

On the heels of a U.S. Census Bureau report that the number of Americans living in poverty soared by nearly 4 million last year, Catholic Charities USA said that its member agencies served a record 9.2 million clients in 2009 -- up 7.5 percent from the year before.

According to the Catholic Charities USA annual report released Sept. 21, 171 diocesan Catholic Charities agencies and their affiliates spent nearly $4.28 billion serving people in need, about 7 percent more than in 2008. Their revenue was about $4.14 billion, two-thirds of it from federal, state or local government funding.

The Census Bureau said the number of poor people in the United States climbed from 39.8 million in 2008 to 43.6 million in 2009, the highest number since the government began gathering poverty data in 1959. This means one in every seven people in the nation -- 14.3 percent -- was beneath the poverty line last year, the highest percentage since 1994.

The current poverty line is $22,050 in pre-tax income for a family of four. It is $10,830 for a single person.

Children were the hardest-hit by the recession -- 20 percent of them, or one in every five, were living in poverty last year, the bureau said.

From National Catholic Reporter. The entire article is available here.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Sudan Diary -- Part 1

As chair of the International Committee for Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Howard Hubbard recently traveled to Sudan and Nigeria. The first installment of his four-part diary of the trip appeared in this week’s edition of The Evangelist, our diocesan newspaper. It is available here.

Some excerpts:

In this most recent civil war (1983-2005), two million people from Sudan were killed and more than four million displaced, mostly moving from the South to the North.

In 2005, the United Nations, the African Union, the United States, Norway and Great Britain helped broker a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). This resulted in a cessation of armed conflict, an interim constitution with a power-sharing arrangement known as the Government of National Unity (GNU) in Khartoum, composed of the now defunct Northern Government of Sudan (GOS) and the semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan (GoSS).

The ruling regime in the North, the National Congress Party (NCP) is a mixture of military elite and the Islamists Party that came to power in a 1989 coup. The South is governed by the Southern Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Part of the CPA’s stipulation is that on Jan. 9, 2011, there will be a referendum wherein the South will determine whether it will secede from the North or remain in unity with the North.

There will also be a determination about the affiliation of three transitional areas along the North-South border: the oil-rich Abyei, the Southern Kordofan/ Nuba Mountain State and the Southern Blue Nile.

Abyei will have a referendum in 2011 to determine its own affiliation, while the other two areas will remain with the North but will be granted more political influence through local consultations.

. . . . . . . . . .

On Wednesday morning, we met with Cardinal Gabriel Tubier Wako at his residence. He has served as the archbishop of Khartoum since 1981 and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2003.

Although ailing recently, the cardinal has been instrumental in seeking the rights of Christians and other minorities in Northern Sudan. He is deeply concerned about what will happen to Christians in his archdiocese and in the North of Sudan if there is a separation between the North and the South.

The cardinal fears that if there is not strong action on the part of the international community and the guarantors of the CPA, Christians and other minorities in the North may be subject to Sharia (Islamic Law) and became further marginalized than they already are.

Further, if Christians who were displaced to the North during the Civil War should now to be returned to the South, there is the fear of the loss of education, jobs and even persecution without strong assistance from the international community.

. . . . . . . . . .

The USAID staff recognizes the need to assist the government in the South to develop its capacity for providing basic services to its people. They are very interested in hearing from Church officials the attitudes and needs of the people at the grassroots level, since the churches are the most respected institutions in the South, having stayed with their flock during the atrocities of the civil war.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

The Radical, Revloutionary Bible

"There's nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible. If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible."

- Desmond Tutu


Monday, October 04, 2010


The State Board of Elections issued the following news release today that we would like to share.

October 8th Last Day to Register
ALBANY, NY -- The State Board of Elections today reminds all state residents to register to vote for the November 2, 2010 general election. Mail-in voter registration forms must be postmarked by midnight, Friday, October 8th and received no later than October 13th to be valid for the upcoming general election.

Candidates for Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, United States Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate and State Assembly will be on the ballot this year, along with candidates for State Supreme Court Justice as well as other local offices.

Residents who have moved to a new county are reminded that they must re-register from their new address. Those who are currently registered and have moved to a new address in the same county should notify their county board of elections in writing of their move.

The New York State Voter Registration Form can be used by new voters or by movers for these purposes and can be obtained at

Persons who are unsure whether they are registered, or wish to verify their current address, may look-up their status at: .

Persons wanting to register in person may do so at their local county board of elections and at many state agency offices throughout the state, but must do so no later than October 8th, to be eligible to vote in the general election. However, new citizens and military voters have a later deadline. If you have been honorably discharged from the military or have become a naturalized citizen after October 8th, you may register in person at the local board of elections until October 22nd.

Requests for registration forms may also be made by calling 1-800-FOR-VOTE. Requests will be processed and the forms mailed to the caller's home or business address. Internet users may download a registration form by going to the State Board's web site at and clicking on the "Voting Information" link.

For more information on registering to vote in New York State, call your county board of elections or 1-800-FOR-VOTE.

For information on the new voting machines being used in your county, please go to the State Board's voter education website at:


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Diocesan Gathering

The 2010 Autumn Diocesan Gathering will be Saturday. October 23 at Christian Brothers Academy in Albany. A registration form and more information is available here.

The keynote address will be given by Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, an artist, writer, and speaker who explores the relationship between art and faith. His work and ministry have been featured in St. Anthony Messenger, USA Today, and many Catholic newspaper articles around the country.

Br. Mickey will share the many ways in which beauty heals our broken hearts and restores hope in these troubles times. Staying in touch with beauty reminds us that our God is indeed amazing, and that every ordinary day is filled with extraordinary possibilities for love.

After the address, participants can choose from 25 different workshops, including such topics as the Hebrew Scriptures, Eucharistic Ministry, Re-Visioning Your Parish Pastoral Council, and a Catholic View of End of Life Issues.