Our Lady of Perpetual Help | Source: wikimedia

August 18, 2021
As this month’s alert is being prepared, two nations are experiencing tremendous suffering: Haiti and Afghanistan. Fr. Michael Barth, our JPIC board committee chair and general custodian of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, reports that their men are safe but invite your prayers.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, patroness of Haiti, please intercede for those who have lost their lives, for those who have lost their homes, and for those who are vulnerable to further harm in a time of political instability.

Caritas Italiana has said the following about the evolving conflict in Afghanistan: “Together with the staff of the embassies, even the very few priests, men and women religious who are in Kabul are preparing for their forced return.”

We unite our urgent petitions for protection and peace with those of the Order of Clerics Regular of Saint Paul (Barnabites) who have shouldered the pastoral work of the Mission Sui Iuris of Afghanistan for several years.
Encourage vote in favor of the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act

In a bipartisan, 19-2 vote by the Health, Employment and Labor Committee, the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (PWFA) was sent to the floor of the US Senate on Aug. 3. On Aug. 9, the US Bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life, and Defense of Marriage sent a rare joint letter of support to Congress urging passage of PWFA. The authors affirm the words of Pope Francis: “The State has the responsibility to pass laws and create work to ensure the future of young people and help them realize their plan of forming a family.”

Catholic Labor Network notes that women workers too often must choose between the demands of their jobs and the health of their unborn babies. The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act would require employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women in the workplace – for instance, assigning light duty to women in later stages of pregnancy if available. It’s a commonsense pro-life, pro-worker, and pro-family measure.

Ask your senators to vote in favor of this act with this sign-and-click action alert.
Faith leaders respond to climate change report

The recent release of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (summary here) has stoked an already burgeoning sense of urgency around the rise in temperatures on earth and a demonstrated loss of biodiversity. Climate scientists and faith leaders agree that action must be taken now with the latter emphasizing the need for hope-filled change.

Earth Beat reports thatOn Oct. 4, [Pope] Francis will host leaders of world religions and scientists at the Vatican to draft a statement to government leaders calling for greater global commitment to climate action at COP26” referencing the UN’s climate summit in Glasgow later this year.

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a professor of oceanography at the Scripps Observatory at the University of California San Diego and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, asserts, “We are at a crucial turning point…A crucial fork in the road, where we can take the right path. The compass is pointing in the right direction, but we just need more people to see the compass." 
Understanding the history and harm of boarding schools

Earlier this summer, calls were issued for organizations and religious congregations to share records and account for their role in schools that harmed indigenous children and families in areas now known as the United States.

Informal, yet intentional, conversations among various Catholic stakeholders across the U.S. have recently birthed a coalition formed around understanding and responding to the history and legacy of boarding and residential schools. 

The emerging group is meeting with the support and encouragement of Fr. Michael Carson, assistant director of Native American affairs for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, and includes input of impacted persons.

We anticipate the development of resources for learning, communication, and change in the months to come. Updates will be provided to CMSM JPIC coordinators at the next quarterly meeting on Sept. 21. 
Catholic Charities assists renters with accessing funds to prevent evictions

The COVID-19 public health crisis put nearly 6.4 million households behind in rent by early July 2021. Local agencies of Catholic Charities and grassroots neighborhood organizations have been working with renters, many of whom are eligible for federal funding that can be paid directly to the landlord. Unfortunately, the process to access these available funds has proven very complicated for many applicants and money has gone unused.

“Part of the sadness in this, we know that essential to the whole area of the social determinant of health and well-being is housing. When our folks are losing their homes, it just cascades into hunger, mental illness, physical illness, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” explains Catholic Charities president and CEO, Sr. Donna Markham, OP.

It is hoped that the recent extension of the eviction moratorium will allow agencies more time to help renters navigate the systems that govern these resources as well as more opportunities to educate vulnerable individuals and families on the money available to assist them.
Virtual discussions provide space to share ideas

Men and women religious continue to prayerfully discern plans for engaging with the emerging Laudato Si’ Action Platform. Five small-group discussions were held on Zoom this summer to hear from leaders about internal conversations and initial planning steps. Over 85 people participated, some in more than one dialogue.

There was significant consensus on the urgency of Care for Our Common Home, a desire for a common advocacy approach that might involve specific policy recommendations, and for clear direction from the Dicastery leaders about how to work across the seven intersecting sectors that feed into the platform.

Join September meeting to prepare for Oct. 4 commitment

Laudato Si’ promoters for men’s congregations are invited to attend the next virtual convening of the joint CMSM/LCWR group on Sept. 22, 12 noon ET, to prepare for the platform’s Oct. 4 commitment period. Even those who do not plan to commit this year are welcome to hear updates from the Dicastery and to learn more about the forthcoming guides and planning documents. Save the date now; registration link coming soon.

Men’s congregations look to solar as part of their LS action

In addition to the solar installations undertaken by the Passionists and profiled in a past JP Alert, Catholic Energies recently highlighted solar feasibility studies and projects being explored by the Salesian Society-Province of St. Paul the Apostle, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and Marist Brothers U.S. Province. This work fully embraces the call for a wide-ranging approach to energy conservation and limiting fossil fuels, including “removing from the market products which are less energy efficient or more polluting, improving transport systems, and encouraging the construction and repair of buildings aimed at reducing their energy consumption and levels of pollution” (LS 180).
Immigration Action in August
adapted from Justice for Immigrants

It has been almost five months since a bipartisan majority in the US House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), to provide legal status with a path to citizenship for millions of Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603), which would create an earned legal status program for undocumented agricultural workers and improve the existing H-2A temporary agricultural program.

Both bills were supported by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Neither has moved forward in the Senate. In the meantime, a July 16 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has blocked new DACA applicants from receiving relief and seriously threatens future protection for current DACA recipients.

What’s next?

American Catholics have been working toward long-overdue immigration reform for decades. The 117th Congress has an opportunity to address immigration in a positive, productive, and forward-looking way. Last week, the Senate adopted a budget resolution that paves the way for a reconciliation bill. The resolution includes instructions for the Committee on the Judiciary to draft language providing "lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants."

Reconciliation only requires a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate, assuming certain other conditions are met. This was the same mechanism used to pass the American Rescue Plan in March. With the budget resolution adopted in the Senate - which the House will also have to adopt in the coming weeks - Senate committees can now begin drafting the text of the budget reconciliation bill itself.

Bipartisan passage of the American Dream and Promise Act and Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the Senate would be preferable. However, since the Senate has not been able to move those bills forward as standalone measures, they should be included in the budget reconciliation bill. This might be the best opportunity we'll have for the foreseeable future to secure legal status with a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS/DED holders, migrant agricultural workers, and other undocumented essential workers.

Contact your senators and representative today!

Urge your senators and representative to support the enactment of immigration reform this year by completing these action alerts now:

Meet with your lawmakers

Use the August recess to meet with congressional lawmakers and their staff to support positive immigration reform. Use these resources:

Take other actions

Immigration: interfaith prayer plus volunteer at the border

Interfaith prayer online

Pathways Prayers for Citizenship, an interfaith effort to bring awareness to possible improvements to immigration policy, is hosting virtual programs in August. Share prayers and hear testimonies from DACA recipients and essential workers in upcoming sessions, and receive resources for actions to urge Congress to provide opportunities for citizenship for our immigrant friends, neighbors, and congregation members. Register for upcoming sessions:

  • Aug. 23, 12 noon ET: Prayers with Essential Workers
  • Aug. 30, 12 noon ET: Prayers with DACA Recipients
Volunteer at the border

While the situation at the US southern border changes almost daily (both federal policy and local regulations), two needs remain consistent: compassionate humanitarian relief for asylum seekers and support for local staff and volunteers.

Men from CMSM communities interested in short-term volunteer commitments (usually two weeks) are invited to contact Catholic Charities and Annunciation House. Depending on your situation, if you want to connect with other male religious while there for hospitality or fellowship, contact Bethany Welch at bwelch@cmsm.org for recommendations.

Preparing for World Day of Migrants and Refugees in September

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) will be celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 26, under the theme, Towards an ever wider "we." In response to his call to ensure that “after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’ but only ‘us,’” we are sending you some materials to help build this "we" together.

In a new video, Pope Francis asks us to learn to live together in peace and harmony, building a future enriched by diversity and intercultural relations.

You can plan your own WDMR events with these materials (eight language options). Resources include theological reflections appropriate for faith sharing groups and programs with young people. Plus, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Holy See welcomes written or multimedia stories, videos, and photographs from local churches and other Catholic institutions whose pastoral care for the most vulnerable demonstrates their shared commitment “towards an ever wider ‘we.’”
Video from Georgetown dialogue: Communion, Catholics and Public Life

The Georgetown Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life held a civil and substantive online gathering - now available on video - Communion, Catholics, and Public Life: Where Do We Go From Here? The discussion included a conversation with the papal nuncio, Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, and dialogue with South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who is leading the development of a statement on the Eucharist; Cardinal Joseph Tobin who opposed the effort; Mollie Wilson O'Reilly from Commonweal; Gretchen Crowe from Our Sunday Visitor; and John Carr and Kim Daniels from the Initiative. 
Jesuits commit to examining history with indigenous boarding schools

The Jesuit provincials of Canada and the US recently released a statement in which they commit to examining their history of boarding schools for Native students. The provincials acknowledge the harms done, which includes recognition of specific actions such as “We regret our participation in the separation of families and the suppression of Native languages, cultures and sacred ways of life.”

This is a very important initial step in what promises to be a long journey. In addition, the Jesuit Office of Justice and Ecology affirmed the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s recent announcement of a Truth Initiative on Indian Boarding Schools, with which the Society will cooperate. 
For many years, CMSM has coordinated a lectionary series that links Sunday readings to contemporary justice and peace topics. We are grateful for the many men and women religious and lay leaders who shared their insights. Capacity and interest have continued to change over time, and other outstanding resources now are available digitally, so we have decided it is time to conclude this resource.

Additional homily resources

  • Franciscan Action Network: Belonging Begins with Us uses video homilies from priests across the country to help find points of connection and shared experiences toward creating a more welcoming nation where everyone can belong. Catholic clergy interested in writing: contact Jason Miller
  • Catholic Women Preach: Text and video are used to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the Church today. This project is a deeply faithful, hopeful and joyful initiative intended to build up the Church.
  • We are Salt and Light: A lectionary index assists homilists in preparing messages that surface justice and peace themes plus see a homily help resource from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

See our last “Linking the Lectionary to Justice and Peace” submission, for Labor Day weekend. Many thanks to Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network, for this thoughtful reflection on the dignity of work.

Bethany Welch, Ph.D., CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace
Visit us online: cmsm.org/justiceandpeace