Anxiety and Freedom

Reflection for 5th Sunday of Lent by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 12th newsletter

AnxietyRecently, as I drove to immigration court to accompany a woman and her two daughters seeking asylum, I thought about anxiety. I felt anxious about getting there on time, parking, etc., yet I knew that my apprehension was nothing compared to what this family felt at that moment. I thought about the tremendous anxiety in our world and how much was caused by the inhumane treatment of other human beings.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is anxious as he prepares for his last public act, his crucifixion and death. In four words “I am troubled now.” (JN 12:27) Jesus gives all of humanity one last lesson, a lesson in what it is to experience and know the inhumanity human beings bestow on other human beings. Yet, through his anxiety Jesus continues to teach us. “Whoever serves me must follow me…I will draw everyone to myself.” (JN 12: 26, 32) Even on the cross Jesus did not reject any human being.

Jeremiah reminds us that God wants all human beings to be free – a freedom that cannot be given by executive orders, tweets, or legislation. “I will write it upon their hearts–all shall know me, from least to greatest; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (JER 31:33-34) If we believe that all human beings are made in God’s image and likeness, are we not disrespecting God when we disrespect one another’s differences? When we consider or refer to human beings as “other” or as “aliens,” what are we saying to God?

“This is the covenant that I will make.” (JER 31:33) What is God calling us to today as part of this covenant, with this freedom? Perhaps our prayer this day is that each individual in our family of humanity may be present to the God-given identity deep within each of us and echo the psalmist “A steadfast spirit renew within me…a willing spirit sustain in me.” (PS 51: 10,12)

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

FAN Board Secretary

Published in: on March 13, 2018 at 8:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Grace, Gift and Light

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent by Sr. Marge Wissman, FAN Board Member

This reflection was originally posted in our March 5th newsletter

Cross.GiftThe three readings for this Fourth Sunday of Lent speak of Grace, Gift, and Light.

Grace: Paul wonders at God’s great love for us, God’s extended eternal life to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. In Cynthia Moe-Lobeda’s book Resisting Structural Evil-Love as Ecological, Economic Vocation, “Jesus’s death was the price he paid for refusing to abandon the radical activity of love – of expressing solidarity and reciprocity with the excluded ones of his community… As Jesuit priest Philip Barrigan once quipped, ‘if you want to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood.”‘ I recently read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea about, “cheap grace” described as grace without discipleship, the grace we bestow on ourselves, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Gift: The initiative of the wonderful gift of salvation for humans belongs to God alone. “For God so loved the world, God gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but might have eternal life.” This is a pure act of love from God. This act of love needs a response from us. It needs a commitment of those who believe.

Light: God has provided all we need to save the world. We must make our own choices. Those who have faith, believing in Jesus, will not be condemned. They have chosen the light that came into the world. God has not given up on the world! In Chronicles, the prophets gave warnings, but they gave also oracles of salvation; Paul tells us that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” John tells us that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son….But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

Sr. Marge Wissman
FAN Board Member

Published in: on March 6, 2018 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Righteous Anger

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Lent by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our February 26th newsletter

Patrick.ArrestI often think about what Lent really means. It is often described as a time to give up things, a time for sacrifice. As a kid I grew up in a large, poor, Irish Catholic household. Every year, at the beginning of lent, my mother would gather us around the kitchen table so we could say what we were giving up. It was usually candy. Though one year being just a wee bit of a smart alec I said I was going to give up brussels sprouts. I got that look that said my mom was not appreciating my attempt at humor so I quickly restated and said candy. It might just be my imagination, but I believe my mom served brussels sprouts almost every day during that Lent.

I was at Mass in Connecticut on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The priest in his homily suggested that instead of giving up something like candy we should all give up making negative statements. Last Sunday, I was at another church in Washington DC and the priest challenged us, instead of giving up candy or alcohol, to do something that might help bring about change. This way instead of focusing on our own personal redemption we can focus on the common good, on building the kingdom here on Earth.

The beginning of Sunday’s Gospel from John is very interesting. We often think of Jesus as walking around being nice to everyone, maybe gathering folks in a circle, holding hands and singing “kumbaya.” In this reading we see a different side of Jesus. We see a Jesus who was angry and used that righteous anger for prayerful action. He was angry that people were turning his Father’s house into a place to buy and sell. What Jesus did was in violation of both church and civil law. He was committing an act of civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27th, I will be joining a number of Catholic leaders in nonviolent civil disobedience at the US Capitol standing with dreamers. We will risk arrest. We will do this because, as it says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights or the teachings of the Gospels.” So when we kneel in prayer and risk arrest, we will be following in the footsteps of Jesus and the teachings of the Catholic church.

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on February 27, 2018 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Immigration: Moving from Strength

Remarks delivered at rally of the NH Immigrant Solidarity Network rally, February 21, 2018, in Manchester, NH by Fr. Sam Fuller, OFM Cap of St. Anne-St Augustin

Fr. Sam Fuller, OFM Cap.

Fr. Sam Fuller, OFM Cap.

In difficult times, one is called to move from strength whether in terms of our personal lives or the life of our nation. We know that the strength of the human spirit and the spirit of America are intertwined; its history and its heritage are infused with the values of generosity, selfless giving, a sense of the common good and dignity of all along with the virtues of honesty and integrity. The Dreamers represent the best of who we are as a people. To enact a clean Dream Act as a stand-alone act is nothing but a reflection of the basic values of our humanity, our country and our faith.

That which serves to tear the fabric of families and communities serves no one. The values, hopes and richness of our immigrant nation are written into our personal histories and lives, our shared stories, our culture and our faith. From Pope Francis’ address to Congress to a Norman Rockwell poster, the Golden Rule of Do onto others what you would have them do onto you is the bedrock of human relationship, human society and all faiths.

With immigration the best of our nation comes to the fore. It is where we see the intersection of our country and our faith. The tremendous leadership and commitment shown by people of all backgrounds to help immigrants is well known. The efforts Sr. Frances Cabrini, the Catholic patron saint of immigrants are legendary. Here in Manchester, the efforts of Sr. Anastasia Smith, RSM or Sr. Jacqueline Verville, CSC are exemplary. Even to this day, in cities across the nation there are legions of volunteers working side by side with immigrants whether in parish centers, classrooms or learning centers- all discovering for themselves the richness of human relationship, all exemplifying the commandment of Love your neighbor and bringing to life the parable of the Good Samaritan.

An immigration policy based on the mediocrity of racism, obsessive fear and privilege will never succeed and will only breed more fear and violence.

As inspired by the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:
I know of a mighty woman with a torch lifted high and her name the Mother of exiles- the Statue of Liberty. From her beacon hand glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command the harbor of one of the greatest cities on earth. With silent lips she cries out words that we learned in school and are etched into the soul of our nation. If we need to hear them again to reclaim our identity so be it as this is our dream and our calling of what it means to be America.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We deserve a comprehensive immigration policy that affirms who we are as a people, that affirms basic values of faith and family, that is not mediocre in stature but that is true to the human spirit and to the spirit of America.

Published in: on February 26, 2018 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  

“If God is for us, who can be against?”

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our February 19th newsletter

God For UsThere are so many images from this week’s readings, the mind spins a bit, not knowing which to focus on.

In our first reading, Abraham willingly begins to offer his son to the Lord to show his devotion to God. I’m the mother of three and I must be honest with myself, I don’t think I could do it. Going so far as to pull out a knife and put it to the boy’s throat, all the while, I’m sure, Isaac must have been loudly protesting. How could I ignore my child’s cries and offer her as a sacrifice? I like to believe I would offer myself instead, believing in the potential of my child more than my own. Would that have been an acceptable sacrifice to God, I wonder? I find myself immensely grateful for Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, I’m reminded of a worship hymn from my formative years, “If God is for us, who can be against? If the Spirit of God has set us free?” With these words set to an upbeat tempo, this song consistently gave me hope that, in my life guided by the Lord, even as I encounter ‘enemies’ none will overcome. I accept this message eagerly, allowing it to fill me with the grace of God’s peace.

Finally, the transfiguration of Jesus in our Gospel. Up on a mountaintop, divine light shines through Jesus, through his cells as well as his soul. Alongside the dazzling image of Jesus, we hear God’s voice commanding us to listen to him. I begin to think this story is itself an invitation from God for me to look for the light in myself and others. This challenge can be a daily struggle. To see the inner glory and light of God in my teenager, who is rolling her eyes at me, in the coworker who challenges me to hold my tongue, in the mundane tasks of everyday life, may seem impossible. There is no way to accomplish this challenge without the loving grace of God. I pray, open my heart to the Lord, and want to remain in God’s presence. Like Jesus’ disciples, I want to stay on the mountaintop, building tents for the prophets and reveling in their grace. Then I am reminded of the old adage, God never gives us anything He knows we can’t handle. So I accept God’s challenge and head out in to the world to find His light in others. As I go, I am again comforted by the song composed from the words of our second reading, “If God is for us, who can be against?”

Each day, I commit myself to see holiness in every situation and do my best to bring out the holy in others.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on February 20, 2018 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Rainbows and Deserts

Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our February 12th newsletter

Rainbow Desert“I set my bow in the clouds to serve as the covenant between me and the earth,” proclaimed God to Noah after the great flood. Who doesn’t love a rainbow, sign of hope and promise? But without rain there is no rainbow. On this First Sunday of Lent, this translates into no resurrection without crucifixion and death. It is worth noting that God’s covenant is with Earth, not only two-legged humans. God’s creative and sustaining love is with ALL creation. We humans need this reminder as we continue to exploit, damage and kill other life forms, and harm air, water, and soil which try to sustain and energize our bodies and spirits.

The Gospel this week moves us from a rainbow to desert sand where Jesus struggles with wild beasts of temptation as he fasts and prays for 40 days. Exhausted, hungry, but victorious, he is ministered to by angels. Confirmed in his mission, he sets out to proclaim “the gospel of God… Repent and believe in the gospel.” In order to hear the gospel of love, mercy, forgiveness and faith we must repent of all that closes our ears and hardens our hearts to Jesus’ message.

As we embark on the Lenten journey, we ask ourselves what in our lives calls for repentance. What sins have we committed against our neighbors both close to us and, by negligence or indifference, those around the world? For what abuses of Earth do we need to repent and make amends? These readings of skyscape and landscape are intended to focus each of us on our soulscape. Rainbows offer hope. Angels in many forms provide comfort and strength as we face life’s challenges. Repentance sets our spirits free and offers joy.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on February 13, 2018 at 8:33 am  Comments (1)  

“I Will Do It”

Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our February 5th newsletter

BibleThe Gospel story this week brings a question as do the other readings from the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The question through the readings is the same and it is “Are we willing to Trust God’s Word?” And the follow up question should be “Am I willing to make an act of faith in believing God’s Word?”

These questions are a reflection about how open we are to God’s Love that we can be healed, we can be changed, and we can have our hearts turn from stone into the living, beating heart of God.

In our society, we love the success story, the retelling of how our struggles were turned around by our actions. We expect that each person will take care of themselves, will be responsible, will not bother others and should certainly not expect government help.

But God doesn’t just help those who help themselves. God helps those who ask and works miracles for those who believe and rely on God’s Word. How can I say that? All we have to do is read the stories of the founders of Religious Communities and Institutions, read about the lives of the Saints and the Blessed who are examples of believing and trusting in God’s Word and Action.

Jean Vanier the founder of L’Arche says it so well, “We are healed by those who are the most excluded and rejected, if we live with them in a relationship of friendship”.

May we all find this healing in our lives as we Encounter the other in our society.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on February 6, 2018 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Report on Honduras Delegation

Recently, our own Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini was part of a delegation to Honduras, heading down to show support for the Honduran people in their struggles with their government. Sr. Maria gave us this brief report.


The delegation consisted of about 50 people from varying faith traditions and from different parts of the U.S. There were a few clergy from different Christian denominations, several journalists, many activists and returning missionaries and few sisters in our group. It was quite powerful and energizing to feel the commitment of the group and their willingness to share their stories. We were invited by Jesuits, in particular Padre Melo and ERIC (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigation y Comunicación) in Progreso, to accompany them in this very difficult time, in a way to be their shields and protect them from the police and military reprisal.

We had a press conference as soon as most of us had arrived at the airport to make it known that we were in the country. They came to welcome us with a big banner with the pictures and names of the 30 people killed or disappeared since the elections in December. The signs and welcome from the people warmed our hearts. They were so grateful we were there, and at the same time watchful to see the reaction of the authorities.

On the first morning we had a presentation on Honduras, including the historical build-up to the current situation. In the afternoon we went to a Mass held in a nearby village to pray for hope and courage in a village terrorized by the police. After Mass, we walked through the streets, stopping traffic, hoisting banners, and following Padre Melo to show solidarity for the Honduran people. You could feel the tension; it seemed everyone was waiting for violence to break out. The people were very grateful for our being there. They felt that the delegation’s presence was the reason there was no violence during the mobilization. In fact, every time we were present, the police never intervened, even though the protesters were always afraid and expecting violence which had been the norm for the past weeks. The Honduran people are very much determined to continue fighting for their freedom and the right to choose their leader. The people have decided: this is going to be their struggle for the next few years. They didn’t choose it and they want their country back.

On Inauguration day, the delegation was on standby in case we were needed as witnesses to any violence that might break out. We again spent time in the streets, walking, witnessing, chanting, praying, holding banners. That day no violence occurred at the events we witnessed. The situation became real to me when, before joining the protesters, we were given a small towel wet with vinegar just in case tear gas were thrown at the protesters. Thankfully, there was no need to use it.

After one of the mobilizations, mostly done by teenagers 14 or 15 years old, they were so afraid the police would run after them that we decided to accompany them back to their village. We walked with them for five kilometers to assure they returned safely. Several groups were so thankful and grateful that we were there, they wanted protection, to be accompanied in their struggle even by just walking with them. Our presence was felt, and each time we were there, the police never intervened in the group’s activities. They lined the streets with all their paraphernalia and guns, but they watched and let the situation enfold. Some of the delegates who knew Spanish tried to engage them and show our friendly side.

The last two days we went to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, four hours drive from Progreso. We participated in a Prayer Vigil in the street in front of the American Embassy. It really warmed my heart to see the faith of the people and feel their warmth. The next morning we went for “a lobby visit” with the acting US ambassador, Heidi Fulton. It was a memorable moment to be able to speak truth to power. We were so proud of the ones who spoke for all of us. We asked our country to stop sending military aid to Honduras which is used to militarize the country and against its citizens. We do not think we touched the hearts of anyone in the embassy, but we did say what was in our hearts, especially to urge them to protect the life of Padre Melo and others who have received death threats. We wonder why we never learn from history, that what is happening to Honduras is a repeat of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

The last night was a FIESTA in great style with live band, “baleadas,” and of course dancing. It was the way for the people to say thank you for our presence, for having responded to their call for help. In reality the delegation owes them a big thanks for their welcome and hospitality. From the Sisters of Notre Dame who hosted us, to Padre Melo and every single person we met, we found a warm welcoming smile. I was once again reminded of how joyful Latin American people are. They have chosen not to allow the struggle to take away their joy. What a beautiful witness to choose to celebrate life, even if lost, in gratitude for the life given and the length of time it was given.

I found hope all around. There was a clear sense that the struggle will be long but determination to keep in the fight and do it together. The words on the tee shirt they gave us the last night summarizes it: “Con El abrazo de los pueblos, venceremos los miedos.” With the embrace of the people, we will conquer fears. (Padre Melo)

As we returned, we committed ourselves to raise awareness of the stories of the Honduran people that we have heard. There are plans to for a project to raise money to protect the radio station with bullet proof glass and rebuild the radio tower destroyed a few weeks ago by the government. These will be shared as plans are finalized and assistance requested. For a good information about what brought the situation in Honduras to this point please read this article.

There were many photos taken while we were there:

Day One:
Day Two:
Day Three
Day Three Demonstration:
Day Three Police Assault Reporter’s House with Gas:

Day Four Meeting Victims:
Day Four Blockade:
Day Four Safe Walk Home:
Day Four Demonstration:

Day Five Candlelight Vigil at US: Embassy:

Day Six:

Day Seven:

Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 8:25 am  Comments (2)  

Urgency of the Message…no time to waste

Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini

This reflection was originally posted in our January 29th newsletter

hourglassAccording to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday, this is Jesus’ first full day “on the job” so to speak. After being baptized in the Jordan, and spending time alone in the desert, choosing a few friends to hang out with, Jesus started to proclaim the Good News in the synagogue in Capernaum where his teaching is noticed, new and coming from someone who speaks with such authority that “even the unclean spirits obey him.” His reputation spreads fast and by the end of the day the whole town was gathered at the door of the house of Peter’s mother-in-law whom he has cured even before he could have dinner. Jesus then cures all those who were brought to him before going to sleep. A very long and busy day indeed.

The next day he rises very early and is off to a deserted place to pray. The peace does not last too long because he is reached by his new friends telling him that everybody is looking for him with many more people to heal. Jesus tells them “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.” And then he proclaims “For this purpose I have come”.

Jesus is on the move in Mark’s Gospel. I feel the urgency in his words and deeds; he has so many people to reach and the Good News to proclaim. It feels like he knows that time is short and he has too many things to accomplish and so many things to say on behalf of His Father.
The same urgency and sense of being sent for a purpose, is in Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians “for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!”

Where does my urgency lie? Do I really feel it? I too have been called by my Baptism to continue the mission of Jesus in our world today. Do I/we feel the urgency to proclaim God’s mercy and love to our world that seems to have lost His teaching as a compass? There are so many towns and villages that seem to have forgotten their Christian roots, so many people who need a word of comfort and healing.

There is no time to waste because our world needs help: Nuclear arms race being reignited; Social inequality growing larger and larger; gun violence rampant in our cities and our leaders unable or unwilling to act to help; health care seen as a privilege not as a right for all citizens; millions of people displaced and fleeing from their homes because of war and famine; millions of people in our own country living in fear of deportation, and a seeming unwillingness from our leaders to see their suffering and find a solution. And this is not an exhaustive list.

How can we face this daunting mission and not feel overwhelmed like Job who asks “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” Like Jesus and like Paul we can only rely on the One who chose us for a purpose, spend time daily, maybe like Jesus early before dawn, to renew our commitment to be the face of love, justice and compassion in a world that seems not inclined to hear it. We can only “offer the Gospel free of charge” knowing full well that “We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Bishop Ken Untener)

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 9:36 am  Comments (1)  

Belief and Action

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our January 22nd newsletter

cross.faithIn yesterday’s Gospel of Mark, Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him. Jesus’s words were so powerful, they left everything behind to follow Him. This week’s readings challenge us to remember the moment when God called us and stirred our hearts into action from our ordinary lives. But the true message of this week’s readings is, to have our hearts and lives changed or turned around by God’s word we have to believe in He who is speaking to us and to act on our beliefs.

Recently, our Capuchin Community in the United States rejoiced at the Beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey. He was a simple man who had a great belief in God’s Divine Providence. He taught us to “thank God ahead of time”, in answering our prayers and to trust in God above all else and at all times. That is the great beauty in the history of our relationship with God. When we believe and put our trust in God change happens, there is healing, and there are changes in our lives and in our society.

In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, we hear God proclaiming that, “I will raise up for them a prophet (like Moses) from among their people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who will speak to them everything that I command.” Now, we can assume that the word is true by virtue of their source in God, not everyone will believe. This is why God then adds: “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself shall hold accountable.”

The Word of God does or should not lead us to Passivity, but to change, or encounter with the other, or to action. But too often, we are similar to the Pharisees and ask for a visible sign or miracle instead of being changed ourselves or standing up for change in our safe social life and settings. We are interested, intrigued even, but we still aren’t ready to commit, to become the prophet or the agent for change and justice.

St. Paul in the second reading, really hits the nail on the head with the passage from 1 Corinthians, “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” We are simply too anxious about all the wrong things.

This week, we are again offered a choice; are we following and looking for signs or are we becoming a sign of believing and trusting in God’s word in our lives and for our society?

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap
FAN Board Member

Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment