I knew him when

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis. (Photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion) See US-CARDINALS-TOBIN Oct. 10, 2016.

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis. (Photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

It appears in high school yearbooks at some point — the grateful appreciation from a classmate who writes, “When you’re a (fill in the blank) I’ll be able to say ‘I knew him when…'”

Now, I can say the same about Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who was chosen Oct. 9 by Pope Francis to join the College of Cardinals. Not that Cardinal-designate Tobin and I went to high school together. But I really did know him when.

The setting: The parish center (i.e., former convent) of St. Raymond of Pennafort Church in Detroit in the early 1980s — possibly 1982. I was there making a weekend retreat called “Exercise in Christian Living” for young adults in college or a bit older. I had been invited to bring my guitar, so I did. Apparently, the same invitation was issued to my friend Pat. At the time, the two of us were preparing for our annual St. Patrick’s Day set of Irish music. Taking a cue from the Blues Brothers, who were big a few years before, I billed us as the Blarney Brothers. But we had some practicing to do.

We carved out some time in the parish center basement, where then-Redemptorist Father Tobin, then assigned to Holy Redeemer Parish in Detroit, was hearing confessions of retreat participants. One song in our set that needed work was Tommy Makem’s classic “Four Green Fields,” an allegorical tale of the split between the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland and the Protestant-majority Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom. But knowing that there were confessions nearby, we had to keep it quiet. And so we did.

Not quiet enough, apparently. Before the night was over, he saw us with our guitars and said, “Here I am hearing confessions, and then I can hear ‘Four Green Fields’ over it all. I thought maybe I was already in heaven.” Hey, how were we to know the Detroit-born priest was not only a Redemptorist, but Irish, too?

It was a charming moment, but was quickly stored away in my brain until I noticed in 1997 a CNS story that said he had been elected superior general of the Redemptorists. I was doubly impressed, since I thought that such leaders tend to come from Europe and not Detroit — the Galilee of our time — and at only 45 years of age.

Then Father Tobin became archbishop of Indianapolis in 2012. Then I started thinking, wow. And that wow is minimal compared to last Sunday’s news.

Last year, I had an opportunity to interview Archbishop Tobin on an entirely unrelated topic. Once I had wrapped up the interview, I related the story of “Four Green Fields” on the retreat. And he remembered! Or at least he said he did.

I don’t have much occasion to break out into Irish tunes these days, but maybe I’ll pull out the guitar tonight, for old times’ sake.

 

Processing images of poverty, crime and war

Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are seen in the back of a Mexican police vehicle in this 2014 file photo. (CNS photo/Miguel Sierra, EPA)

Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are seen in the back of a Mexican police vehicle in this 2014 file photo. (CNS photo/Miguel Sierra, EPA)

Editor’s Note: Judith Sudilovsky is participating in an Egan Fellowship awarded by Catholic Relief Services.

By Judith Sudilovsky

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — I scroll down my Facebook feed trying to decompress after an intense first day in Honduras.

Some of the interviews we have had today as CRS Eileen Egan Fellows have been emotionally draining for me.

This morning Catholic journalist Janeth Lagos of Fides described a visit to the Guatemalan-Honduran border 2 years ago to meet a busload of returning migrants sent back by the Mexican government, never having made it across the border to the U.S. She made it a point to explain that she does not use the word “deported” in order to protect the dignity and self-esteem of those migrants who are sent back to their country of origin. Among those on the bus who made the 20-hour-ride from the U.S.-Mexican border, across Guatemala to the Honduran border was a little boy — she put his age at 3 years old — curled up alone on one of the seats sleeping from exhaustion. He was dressed in a little white T-shirt. Next to him, she said, was the bag with a water bottle and sandwich distributed to the migrants for the ride.

No adult took responsibility for the child. There was no way of knowing who he was, if his mother or father died along the way as they sought a better life, or if he was sent by grandparents or other relatives with a “coyote” smuggler to join his parents in the U.S. But what was clear was that someone along the Mexican border dealing with migrants thought it was OK to put this boy on the bus alone.

The image of that boy curled up, abandoned, in his seat haunts me as, later in the day, we went into one of the sprawling “colonias” that have invaded the city, spreading up the sides of the mountains surrounding the capital city of Tegucigalpa, to interview participants in one of the CRS-sponsored programs.

Details about the program, about the location and about the people will for now not be shared because CRS wants to protect the people interviewed. There will be no pictures of people, either, for the same reason. And there are no pictures of the shantytown because it was too dangerous to take the camera out, even from the car window — which we had to keep rolled down to make sure we were not suspected of being police and to also assure that there was no case of mistaken identity by any possible gunman on motorcycles.

Honduran migrants deported from the United States are seen in Tegucigalpa's international airport in this 2006 file photo. (CNS photo/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

Honduran migrants deported from the United States are seen in Tegucigalpa’s international airport in this 2006 file photo. (CNS photo/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

Last month here one young woman and her family found themselves diving for the floor of their house as a neighbor was gunned down in a gangland murder. It was the fourth such murder in her neighborhood that month.

A young woman has not seen her father since he left for the United States when she was 1. Every month he sends back money allowing her to study. She has given up on believing his promise that he will come back to see her.

Another young mother, now also a widow, tries to comes to terms with the separate grizzly murders of her brother-in-law and husband. Sometimes gangs — known as “maras” here — carry out reprisal attacks of unspeakable torture ending in murder because of something a family member did or did not do, or there have been cases of people being killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Last month another 19-year-old student, from the established, normative part of town who had gone out on his first job, disappeared and was found the next day with his hands and feet cut off. The case has already been closed by police for lack of evidence, and the family has been left helpless and stunned at the murder of the young man.

As I scroll through Facebook, one of the first images I see is the bloody face of a young Syrian girl who was taken to a hospital following a bombardment in Aleppo. Another post is a rerun of a 1952 episode of the reality show “It’s Your Life.” It is about the life of a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. as a refugee after the war and later married, uniting her with her brother she had not seen since before they were sent to Auschwitz.

So for me at the moment there is no escape from the images of human suffering and destruction caused by poverty, crime and war which exist today just as they existed in the past. But today more than ever, it is too hard to say “We didn’t know.”

 

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 9, 2016

"He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." -- Luke 17:16

“He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” — Luke 17:16

 

Oct. 9, Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 2 Kings 5:14-17

      Psalm 98:1-4

      2) 2 Timothy 2:8-13

      Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

I am terrible at sending thank-you notes. If I don’t do it right away it usually doesn’t get done. It is not that I am not thankful; I am truly grateful for the service or gift I have received. I am just forgetful, especially when the next day is filled with more activity and soon the thought of thanking the individual slips from my radar.

My negligence in sending thanks in a note is much like my neglecting to give thanks in my prayer life.

When I teach about how to pray I use an acrostic for the word “pray”:

Praise and thank God.

Repent for your sins.

Ask for what you and those you love need.

Yield to God’s will in your life.

This can be used as a prayer formula or just as a guide to make sure you are, at least from time to time, including all the basic aspects of communication with God in your life of prayer.

I am pretty good at the asking part, and through music, Scripture and Mass I regularly praise God. The examination of conscience and sacrament of reconciliation help me repent of my sins, and I try to always end my petitions with the prayer: “God grant me all of these things, or in your wisdom give me something even better.” This is my way of yielding to the Lord’s right of way in my life.

What I too often miss is thanking God for all he has given me and for answered prayers. Things often play out as they do in this week’s Gospel.

I beg God for help and when he comes through for me, I am happy and go along my merry way glad to have my prayer answered. I tend to be like the nine lepers that do not return to thank God for the blessings that have been showered upon me.

It is not so much that God needs our thanks, but more that we need to thank God to complete the initial request. Just as it is the right thing to do to send a thank-you note to a friend, so it is right to send a thank-you prayer to God for the gifts he has given us.

QUESTIONS:

What are you most thankful to God for? How do you express your gratitude to God?

Seeking migrant justice in Guatemala

Editor’s Note: Judith Sudilovsky is participating in an Egan Fellowship awarded by Catholic Relief Services.

By Judith Sudilovsky

GUATEMALA CITY — The plane landed at the Guatemalan Air Force airfield behind Guatemala City’s commercial airport and its weary-eyed passengers disembarked onto the tarmac in a straight, organized line.

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter, confers with staff as they wait for the planeload of recently deported migrants to be processed and released from the immigration hall. (CNS/Judith Sudilovsky)

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter, confers with staff as they wait for the planeload of recently deported migrants to be processed and released from the immigration hall. (CNS/Judith Sudilovsky)

One by one, these 200 mostly young men recently deported from the U.S. filed into the receiving hall past us — three journalists participating in a Catholic Relief Services Egan Fellowship to Guatemala and Honduras to learn about the push factors for migration; one feisty Brazilian Scalabrini priest who directs a shelter for migrants; and Lucrecia Oliva, a CRS consultant on migration issues.

As each person entered they were registered by Guatemalan immigration officials before they could leave. Oliva greeted them with a polite “Good afternoon.” She had met with groups of expelled migrants before, but she had not seen them as they first returned.

Now she blinked heavily to keep back the tears.

This time it was different. She saw their individual faces. They were tired and scared. A few were, at least temporarily, jubilant and brash.

Four days a week, three times each day, flights arrive full of migrants deported from the U.S. For many of the young men it was not their first return trip home.

One man, 27, who had lived in New York for 11 years, said he might try to take the perilous journey across Mexico again as soon as the next day.

Though most people we spoke with agree that violence in Guatemala is not as serious as in neighboring El Salvador and Honduras, it does exist. Some of the youth may have been escaping gang or drug violence; others came seeking work to support their families in a country where half of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

A new government has been in power for less than a year, after the former president, vice president, and half of their cabinet were forced from office and are now serving prison terms for financial corruption. The new leaders have promised to tackle some of Guatemala’s pressing needs, but assert that it will take time to correct even the smallest of the ills of their predecessors who left the national till empty. People are waiting to see what actually gets done.

guatemala-2016-318Oliva said she can understand the need Americans feel after 9/11 for security and caution about who enters their country. However, she realizes that the times have changed since she was given generous assistance when she landed in the states years ago and how it seems that Americans have forgotten their history as a land of immigrants.

She was an undocumented migrant, fleeing her homeland when Guatemala’s military dictatorship ravaged the country, killing those who dared to speak out demanding justice and equality. As young idealistic university students, she and her husband decided to leave for the U.S.. They left behind their young daughter who eventually joined them. Oliva also gave birth to another daughter.

She spent 18 years in Chicago where a family welcomed her and initially gave her work as a nanny for their baby daughter, eager for her to teach the girl Spanish. Oliva became an active member of church in a Mexican neighborhood, helping migrants even less fortunate than she was.

She never felt she was doing enough though.

In 1986 she was able to gain legal residency in the U.S., but in 1998 her heart told her to return to Guatemala and contribute to improving life in the country she loves.

“I was so young, and when I came to the United States people were so good to me, they helped me, I had that gift, and now I saw how these people were so rejected and that hurt me,” she explained. “Maybe they were not escaping violence, but they were escaping for a reason and now their dreams are shattered. It pained me that they were returning to their same reality.”

Though the story of migrating people who are seeking brighter horizons is not a new phenomenon, she said, it has become more public because of social media and the internet. As long as Guatemalan society does nothing to improve the social and economic inequalities or increase job opportunities for rural communities, migration will always remain an option, she said.

“We are wasting the lives of these youth and people. We are turning our backs on them. We are pushing them to leave because we as a country are not offering them a quality of life to reach their dreams and the ability to have land, human rights, education, and proper health care among others,” Oliva said.

“This is not acceptable. If we as a country are not capable of providing them with their rights, if we are not capable of protecting our citizens, we are accomplices in pushing them into the street defenseless. I feel responsible.”

So she is taking responsibility. Next week she also will begin working with the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter with whom CRS works to facilitate job placements for returning migrants.

How you can help emergency response to Hurricane Matthew

A woman walks on a highway blocked by rocks Oct. 5 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Guantanamo province in Cuba. The powerful hurricane left serious damage at the eastern end of the island, with landslides, toppling electricity poles and cutting off roads by flooding. (CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters)

A woman walks on a highway blocked by rocks Oct. 5 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Guantanamo province in Cuba. The powerful hurricane left serious damage at the eastern end of the island, with landslides, toppling electricity poles and cutting off roads by flooding. (CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters)

With slow-moving Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the East Coast, aid organizations were responding to emergency needs from flooding, winds and landslides in Cuba and Haiti.

Meteorologists said 24-30 inches of rain had fallen in some regions of Haiti, with devastating winds affecting much of the central Caribbean region.

A man wades through floodwaters Oct. 4 in Fonds Parisiens, Haiti. (CNS photo/Orlando Barria, EPA)

A man wades through floodwaters Oct. 4 in Fonds Parisiens, Haiti. (CNS photo/Orlando Barria, EPA)

Donations are being sought to meet emergency and long-term responses to the storm.

Among those accepting cash donations are:

— Catholic Relief Services. Donations can be made online; via mail to P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Maryland, 21297-0303 and indicate Hurricane Matthew in the memo; or call toll-free 877-435-7277 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

— Catholic Medical Mission Board online.

— Malteser International, Order of Malta Worldwide Relief organization online.

Development and Peace/Caritas Canada online.

Salesian Missions online.

St. Boniface Haiti Foundation online.

Catholic News Service will list other agencies accepting donations for hurricane response as they are received.

Mass on a stud farm, near a Triple Crown winner

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., raises the Eucharist during Mass on Sept. 21 at Ashford Stud Farm. On the left, 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah watches Mass from his stall. The Mass was part of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Manz's pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22, 2016. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., raises the Eucharist during Mass on Sept. 21 at Ashford Stud Farm. On the left, 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah watches Mass from his stall. The Mass was part of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Manz’s pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22, 2016. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

By Joyce Duriga

LEXINGTON, Ky. — “American Pharoah is on this farm,” Karen said.

“Shut. Up,” I said. “Really? Do you think they’ll let us see him?”

“Nah, he’s probably in a secure area,” she said.

Well, it turned out that not only did we get to see American Pharoah but we participated in the first Mass ever to be said next to his stall where he now lives at Ashford Stud Farm in Lexington.

If you don’t know, American Pharoah is a rock star horse who won the Triple Crown in 2015 — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Before American Pharoah, the last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. Only 12 horses have ever won the Triple Crown in the 147-year history of the three races.

We ended up at the Mass because Karen Callaway, photo editor for the Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper, and I were covering Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz’s pastoral visit to migrant workers on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. Every year he makes a trip to some part of the country to meet with workers. This year’s trip focused on those who work in the horse racing industry.

Ashford Stallion Manager Richard Barry introduces American Pharoah to Bishop Manz on Sept. 21. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Ashford Stallion Manager Richard Barry introduces American Pharoah to Bishop Manz on Sept. 21. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

While the bishop did meet with the workers at Ashford, the visit to the stud farm was sort of a perk. The owners of Ashford are Catholic and often donate American Pharaoh’s halters to be auctioned off at Catholic school fundraisers. They, with other local Catholic farm owners, provide scholarships to students in Catholic schools that will follow them all the way through to high school.

So American Pharaoh is used to the attention. You can walk right up to his stall and talk to him. I had a moment with him by myself and I told him we were going to have Mass right there and Jesus would be made present in the Eucharist (Yes, I talk to animals.) His ears moved back and forth as he stared me down.

During Mass he kept sticking his head out of the stall, especially when we were singing, and he and the other two stallions in the pristine and gorgeous barn, whinnied several times. I was convinced the Triple Crown winner was moved by the service and by the Eucharist. Afterward I asked the stallion manager about it.

Nope, the manager said. He was just hungry because we were having Mass during his normal dinner time. Sigh. On the retelling some have said to me that he was hungry for the Eucharist. Maybe.

Workers from Ashford Stud farm joined the bishops for Mass. Auxiliary Bishop Jon Manz made a pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Workers from Ashford Stud farm joined the bishops for Mass. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Karen and I have retold our story of Mass with American Pharoah to many people and their reactions vary. We’ve received some glazed over looks and people asking, “Who?” To “No way!” One guy got so excited when I told him that he pleaded that I text him one of Karen’s photos from Mass. On my way out he put his arm around me and said I was his connection to American Pharaoh. He’s from the South, of course.

Karen, who has photographed major events like papal visits and World Youth Days, says this ranked up in her top three favorite assignments. Number one was shooting St. John Paul II in Central Park in 1995. I agree with Karen. While it doesn’t compare with the heavenly banquet, a barn with Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah was one of coolest settings for a Mass I’ve participated in so far.

– – –

Duriga is editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 2, 2016

"The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint." -- Habakkuk 2:3

“The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” — Habakkuk 2:3

Oct. 2, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

      Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9

      2) 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

      Gospel: Luke 17:5-10

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

When Jesus walked the face of the earth, the science of psychology hadn’t yet been invented. Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis wouldn’t come along for another 1,800 years. But this week’s Gospel shows Jesus way out on the cutting edge of what the psychological world calls the power of positive thinking. The spiritual world calls it faith.

Jesus tells his followers they can accomplish unimaginable feats “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed.” He uses a bit of hyperbole — being able to uproot a large tree by a simple voice command — to explain that faith can strengthen us to overcome normal human limitations when we face challenges in life.

Today, psychologists continue to examine the effects of positive attitude. For instance, much has been written about improved responses to medical treatment credited to the positive mindset of patients. In one article, noted author and medical doctor Deepak Chopra suggested the “placebo effect” (improvement in patients given a placebo when they believed they received a prescription drug) showed that positive thinking could produce a positive physical response.

“Expectations are powerful,” he pointed out. “If you think you’ve been given a drug that will make you better, often that is enough to make you better.”

Although he concedes that medical research has found no proof that positive thinking can actually cure disease, Chopra emphasizes, “The real point isn’t to rescue a dying patient but to maintain wellness.”

That’s the real point for Jesus, as well.

Just as positive thinking is a source of strength for someone battling illness, faith gives us strength and hope in the “wellness” of God’s spirit with us when we struggle.

Even more thousands of years before psychology, the prophet Habakkuk told us to seek God’s positive promise when we are troubled: Write down the vision clearly, so you can read it, he said. “[It] will not disappoint … it will surely come.”

Whoever relies on God’s vision, he added, “because of his faith, shall live.”

Faith, in fact, employs positive thinking. However, it is more. It opens our spirit to the vast possibilities of our life in God — where we will be rescued from dying.

QUESTIONS:

How do you describe the similarities of positive thinking and faith? How does your faith in Christ affect your response to difficult situations life throws at you?