I will follow you wherever you go

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Vice President, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our June 23rd newsletter

The readings this week are not speaking about the usual things we talk about.

In fact most of Sacred Scripture’s language is gently potent. But biblical texts are not usually wordy, nor do the biblical characters really elaborate their feelings. Words are offered to be pondered, measured and considered and most importantly to be responded to. In other words, to have us reflective upon their meaning in our lives and more especially in the times we live in.

Take the first reading, the prophet Elijah came to anoint Elisha to take his place as God’s prophet. Elisha’s reply to his summing the role was a desire to first say goodbye to his family and then respond to God’s anointing. But Elijah calls him to “Go back again; for what have I done to you.” Elisha understands, and slaughters his animals, cooks them and feeds them to his people.

It is for this same reason why Jesus in this week’s Gospel rejects the question asked by James and John as they passed through the Samaritan village. The choice of following Jesus is a personal one and each individual is responsible for the choice that they have made.

Saying yes to God’s call in our lives is always a difficult choice. Many times that call comes to us to drop what is good, and to do something different. It is always a difficult choice and may always remain an inner struggle in our lives. But the good news is that, in the midst of our struggles God walks with us and calls us to follow Him wherever He goes.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Vice President

Published in: on June 25, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Reflections on Refugees in America

Catherine Juliano is a math and political science major at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She is assisting our communications coordinator this summer as an intern.

By Catherine Juliano

Since its inception, the United States has welcomed refugees fleeing persecution and war: it is what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes, with her torch lifted high above New York harbor to light the way for ships in the distance. When they arrive on our shores, refugees are emerging from rough waters and they need our help. However, despite their rocky entrance to our country, many often go on to make some of the most outstanding contributions to American society. Think about it: Albert Einstein was a refugee who fled the persecution of the Nazis and came to America in 1933; Sigmund Freud also fled from the Nazis in Austria; even Freddy Mercury was a refugee who fled Zanzibar in 1964 for England. What would the world be like without these innovators? Jesus Himself was forced to flee the Holy Land because of King Herod. Because He was able to live, he went on to teach us “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 40:25). As a follower of Christ, St. Francis cared for the poor and the outcasts of his own society.

The anti-refugee and anti-immigration attitudes that pervade the political landscape today are anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Franciscan. Inspired by our call to social justice and mercy, FAN supports refugees and asylum seekers who are fleeing traumatic and often violent situations. We believe that refugees have a right to be welcomed into America as a home. We also feel that refugees should be supported in their efforts to find meaningful work because as history shows, refugees provide lasting contributions to our society as a whole.


Published in: on June 21, 2019 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

What’s Really Happening at the Border? My Experience in Laredo, TX.

By Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF (pictured) is a Sister of St. Francis of Oldenburg, Indiana and Secretary of FAN’s Board of Directors. After seeing a call for help from Catholic Charities through the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the community sent 5 volunteers to the border to assist for two weeks, from May 18-June 1. This is the story of their time there.

Today was our first day at the center. There were about 50 men, women, and children eating pizza for breakfast when we arrived. After helping with breakfast we were given a short orientation about the place and the drastic change that had happened on May 10th.

Until that day, the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had been just dropping off those people they were letting through the border at the Greyhound bus station, without money or a place to go. Greyhound said they could no longer do this. So Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) talked to Catholic Charities and now CBP drop off 100 to 150 people twice a day at the Catholic Charities center where we are assisting. This just started last week so things are somewhat disorganized. When the people get here, they get processed, get a snack, clothing, then a shower, and finally a meal. Some only spend a short amount of time at the center because their families in the US buy them bus tickets, a few get airline tickets, about 60 spend the night due to their travel plans. At the most they only spend one or two days here.

The Sleeping Space
I want to tell you a little about where we are staying, which is thanks to Sr. Kathleen Branham who emailed several communities in Laredo asking if they would have room for us to stay. The Sisters of Mercy directed us to this hacienda. It is owned by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Poor. I am not sure of all they do but they have a Home for Children who stay here and go out to school everyday. The sisters have been very nice and good to us. There is one sister who checks in with me almost every day.

There are three dogs on the grounds. They are mainly watch dogs but very friendly. Two of them were here when we left for the center the other day. I love their unconditional love!

We hear helicopters every day patrolling the river – the Rio Grande which is right behind us. A sister told us today that it is mostly Venezuelan’s coming across the river.

We return from the center every day to a really great place to stay. It looks like a Mexican hacienda when you pull up. There are decorative iron gates that we enter through to a porch-like area with chairs. Each of us has our own bedroom and bathroom. We have a kitchen where we can fix our own meals. We have a washer and dryer. Many times I feel guilty coming home to such great surroundings. The inner courtyard is open to the outside. There is a green space with plants and a fountain (though, it’s not working) and birds constantly fly through. We are very worn out when we get back so this space is very welcoming.

The Work
Since we have been here in Laredo we have been running the used clothing section of the center.

One of the reasons I like this is, we get to meet all the people who come here. The center is the second stop after the visitors get in to the U.S.. We have met people from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and even Romania. You can read in their eyes the tiredness, exhaustion, gratefulness and a certain relief that they got this far. They do have court dates when they reach their destination. Some destinations we have heard are Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, Chicago, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Minnesota and many others. After they get clean clothing someone escorts them to get a shower. And then our whole process starts all over again, when the next group is brought from the border.

We give them one set of clean donated clothing including, socks, underwear, and shoes if we have them. It has been really hard to give pants for men because the people we see are all so skinny and donations we get are mainly from large men. Yesterday, we had no pants and only a few shirts for the men. We have lots of large sizes that hardly anyone can wear. After having to wear the same clothes for a long time, it is really hard to tell them we have nothing that fits them. We had to do that yesterday and even closed the door to the men’s clothing room for a time. Then Tracy called Salvation Army and asked if they could trade some clothing with us, exchanging skinny pants and shirts for our large clothes. They very graciously said yes so we could once more open the men’s clothing room.

No matter what we give them, they are all so grateful and they all say “gracias” when they leave. They remind me to be grateful for any small thing I receive.

As we come to the end of our time here in Laredo, I reflect on what I will remember: (in no particular order)

Watching for a border patrol van to come every morning around 11:00am. Then seeing how many will get out and line up against the wall and be taken in for processing. It is close to a hundred including men, women and children. They are tired, hungry, and in need of clean clothing, followed by a shower.

Meanwhile, we are straightening up the clothes in the area called ‘the closet.’ At this time, waiting for the people to come for clothes before they take a shower. Straightening clothes was a never ending job.

I remember the helicopters flying over where we are staying to catch people crossing at the shallow part of the Rio Grande.

I remember people checking for a confirmation number for the bus or train they need to appear on the wall chart.

I remember the woman who had been left at the airport and her confirmation number was wrong and she did not know anyone, but recognized someone from the center and ran to get her for help, so she could get back to the center. They figured it out and she flew out the next day.

I remember how many people, as they left with a clean set of clothing, gave us what I considered our best reward – a smile, and said “gracias.”

I remember the children who wanted to play with us and the children who clung to their parents.

I remember how few skinny pants we had for the men and how bad I felt for them after they had worn their same clothes for so long.

But most of all I will remember their faces. Faces that showed exhaustion, worn faces, worried faces, grateful faces, beautiful faces, glad they got this far. May God who brought them into my life remain with them as they continue their journey. Amen.

Published in: on June 20, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Corpus Christi: “Could be…”

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our June 17th newsletter

Catholic Christians are asked to accept much on faith: Trinity, three Persons in one God; Word made Flesh in the womb of a virgin; Resurrection of Jesus from the dead; the real presence of Jesus Christ in bread and wine, Corpus Christi, Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Mysteries beyond human reason, not verified by scientific facts, but accepted by a God-given gift of faith. It is a gift that can be tested by doubt and questioning during one’s lifetime.

On this feast of Corpus Christi, the readings remind us that Jesus gave himself to us not as a Host in a monstrance, but as Bread, food to be eaten in order to nourish and transform us. I recall with gratitude a story shared by a priest several years ago. During a Liturgy when members of the province were gathered, the provincial presided. When all the priests had received Communion, a disheveled, probably homeless man who had sat in the back of the chapel, shuffled up. When the priest held up the Host and said “Body of Christ,” the man paused, then nodded and responded, “Could be.” The priest gave him Communion.

In moments when we cannot say “Amen” with strong conviction, “could be” is a sufficient act of faith, acceptable to an understanding and loving God. “Body of Christ,” an infant in a virgin’s womb; “Body of Christ” risen from the dead; “Body of Christ,” the whole of Creation; “Body of Christ,” in bread to be eaten so I, too, can be Christ in the world. Amen! Or on days when faith trembles, “could be.”

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on June 18, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The Best-Kept Secret of the Catholic Church

By Tony Magliano

The Catholic Church has a very big secret. It is so powerful, challenging and relevant, that if every bishop, priest, religious and layperson was committed to communicating and implementing this secret, it would turn society upside-down and literally transform the world!

However, revealing its contents, and urging the full application of its message, would surely cause great controversy. The church’s leaders would come under attack from both conservatives and liberals. They would be characterised as naïve and acting outside the acceptable bounds of church leadership.

Therefore, most church leaders have opted… READ MORE

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

Published in: on June 14, 2019 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Something is Lost and Needs to be Found

by Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network

St. Francis of Assisi, who is considered the patron saint of ecology, looked at life through the lens of all creation. He had a relational connection from which blossomed a perspective of deep empathy. He looked for ways to defend the environment according to the needs of each living being. Rather than viewing creation from ‘anthropocentrism,’ which literally means human-centered, Francis saw creation as ‘biocentrism’ which means life-centered. It is from this vision that Pope Francis talked about integral ecology in his encyclical Laudato Si, which celebrates its 4th anniversary on June 18th. We are not separate from the environment in which we live; rather we are connected as part of the natural environment. We are all part of and one with creation. Pope Francis coined the phrase, “care for our common home.” With both St. Francis and Pope Francis, we see a concern, not just for humans but for all creatures and for the place where they live as well. Their theologies offer an invitation to care for all of the habitat, thereby protecting the integrity of the ecosystem.  

As people of faith, we often look at the climate crisis from a 10,000 foot level. We know there is a problem, but we tend to look at others as the problem and look to others for a solution. We blame the fossil fuel companies, the government, others. We believe that the Earth was created and should be viewed solely from the human perspective. A belief that allows us to interpret the world in terms of human values and experiences and grants us the right to use Earth for our slightest whim. Environmentalist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir contested the Christian concept of human dominion over natural resources. Muir was a very religious and spiritual person. While most Christian thought in Muir’s time was centered on anthropocentrism and the belief that Genesis taught that God gave man dominion over all creatures, Muir developed a different theology. He saw the spirit in everything natural. Muir wrote: “most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” He believed that in order to address the environmental crisis, we first have to examine our own attitudes toward nature. Muir believed that we had to experience the “presence of the divine in nature”.

Today (June 13th) we are celebrating the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. St. Anthony was one of the early followers of Francis of Assisi, known for his preaching and his willingness and to engage in vigorous debates. But perhaps Anthony is best known for being the patron saint of lost things. There is a very simple, special prayer people say when they have lost something and are trying to find it:  

“Dear St. Anthony, Please come around
Something is lost and needs to be found.”

What has been lost, environmentally? Possibly, a humility and reverence for our Earth. Maybe, it’s the sense that all creation is sacred. Perhaps, the spirituality of relationship with all creation that St. Francis expressed so beautifully in his poem ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ has been lost.  We have most certainly lost our connection to the spirituality of all creation.

St. Bonaventure a 13th century Franciscan theologian described the created universe as the fountain fullness of God’s expressed being. As God is expressed in creation, creation in turn expresses the creator. The 11th century mystic Hildegard of Bingen said, “the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth. This means that no creature whether visible or invisible lacks a spiritual life.” If all creatures have a spirituality and reflect God, perhaps our paradigm should be as St. Francis taught-one of humanity in service to creation not creation in service to humanity. Gandhi said “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Living the change is about more than driving less or eating less meat. While those are important, we need to find our spiritual connection to creation as well. I invite you to join me in praying to St. Anthony of Padua to help us find it.

Peace and All Good

Patrick Carolan is the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. He is a co-founder of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, a recipient of the 2015 White House Champion for Change Award for his work in the Climate Change arena, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Earth Ethics.

Published in: on June 13, 2019 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Global Solidarity: A Web of Relationships

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our June 10th newsletter

On this Sunday when we celebrate our Trinitarian God we are reminded that, as human beings made in the image and likeness of our God, we are interconnected with all of God’s creation. Human beings are social in nature. The interpersonal relationship of the Trinitarian God reveals to us that all creation is interdependent on, and connected to, each other. Our news media is replete with examples of how an injustice to one part of God’s creation affects us all.

In Laudato Si Pope Francis, referring to the teachings of the Franciscan Saint Bonaventure stated: “the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. Creatures tend towards God, and in turn it is proper to every living being to tend towards other things, so that throughout the universe we can find any number of constant and secretly interwoven relationships.” Laudato Si 240

The Trinity teaches us about community and belonging. The Trinity challenges individualism and self-serving behavior. The Trinity challenges all walls and borders that divide us. We are not a collection of independent individuals. We need each other and paradoxically, the more we think in terms of “we” vs “me” the more truly we are who we are created to be as an individual.

Pope Francis again refers to St. Bonaventure when he states: our interconnectedness “leads us not only to marvel at the manifold connections existing among creatures, but also to discover a key to our own fulfilment. The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures.” Laudato Si 240

With Pope Francis, may we pray to “develop a spirituality of global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity”.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on June 11, 2019 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Making a Difference: Pope critical of ‘meanness’ toward migrants and refugees

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

“The signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of ‘the other,’ the unknown, the marginalized, the foreigner,” and thus many migrants seeking a better life end up as recipients of this meanness, said Pope Francis in his recently released 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message.

The Holy Father warned that when we allow fears and doubts to “condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even – racist” – there is a serious problem. For “in this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself; it deprives me of an opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

This wonderful idea of actually encountering the Lord, and all others, is one of Pope Francis’ major themes. He is trying to inspire us to… READ MORE

Published in: on June 5, 2019 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Reflection for Pentecost Sunday by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our June 3rd newsletter

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be With You”. (John 20:19) When the disciples were together again in one room, it was not a peaceful scene. As related in Acts: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were,” followed by tongues of fire which parted and settled over each of them and each one in the room spoke in a different language that all understood. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s coming was not one of peace, serenity, and calm. In fact, the Jews who heard the noise and heard them speak in different tongues wrote them off as bewildering and probably drunk.

But at that moment the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach about Jesus and resist those who misjudged and dismissed them. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples found strength, joy, and pride in preaching and upholding the life and prophecy of Jesus.

Why should we be surprised when we receive the same destiny as the disciples? If our destiny is to bring peace and justice to this world, are we willing to work against the injustices of unequal pay, denial of the gifts of women, lack of health care, racism, denial of rights and compassion for the refugee and immigrant population, compassion for the poor, care of the earth and the many more injustices? By receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit – fortitude; knowledge; piety; awe, wonder and fear of the Lord – we are strengthened to end the injustices. Every time we are confronted by an injustice, we know we can handle it because we know we are not alone. Today as we say “Come Holy Spirit” let us be aware of what we are asking for. Can we live up to and embrace the destiny that is ours?

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on June 4, 2019 at 9:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Franciscan minority for white people — Messy Jesus Business

Watercolor painting “Revolution of the Heart” by Annemarie Barrett, AEB Art

Reblogged from Messy Jesus Business

It is common for white people to not know where to start when it comes to discussing racism. There are academics literally studying white culture and white fragility; why we white folks have such a difficult time talking about racism and why we have an even more difficult time addressing our role in it. For […]

via Franciscan minority for white people — Messy Jesus Business

Published in: on June 3, 2019 at 12:01 pm  Comments (1)