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August 26, 2015

Slaking the world's great thirsts -
Euphemisms for lives considered expendable -
The deposit of faith and resurrection newness -
Families need a living wage

In this edition:
1. Mass for peace in troubled city.
2. Slaking the world's great thirsts.
3. Religious orders: working together.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Day of prayer for creation.
b) Euphemisms for the poor.
5. Labor Day and a family wage.
6. How a pallium involves everyone.
7. Deposit of faith, resurrection newness.

1. Mass for Peace in Troubled City

With a steep increase in the number of homicides this year in Milwaukee, Wis., and amid concerns for the city's well-being, a Mass for peace was celebrated Aug. 13 at St. Francis of Assisi Church, a parish located in a part of Milwaukee that has witnessed considerable violence.

The Mass concluded with a procession to a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki commented that King's "concern for the poor and neglected continues to be a model for all of our citizens."

In a homily during the Mass, the archbishop said that "we must pledge ourselves to be salt and light for communities, understanding that we begin with prayer and that our action leads us to proclaim his peace in building up one another." He explained, "We pursue what leads to peace, casting a light on what is good and pleasing to God, and dispelling what harms God's family."

In a message to the archdiocese afterward, Archbishop Listecki expressed his concerns for the city. "Traditionally, the city has attracted many immigrants," he wrote. In the past they established neighborhoods and churches that reflected wide diversity. But, he observed, "as social and economic mobility occurred, many of these city residents moved to the suburbs and outlying areas."

Today, he said, "the city still attracts a diverse population, but economic difficulties have led to neighborhood decline, with violence and social instability."

Speaking about the Mass for peace, he said that those who participated in the Aug. 13 gathering called upon God "to assist us in our struggles to promote peace and justice in our urban area." The congregation that evening, he noted, "was composed of men and women who represented every section of our archdiocese, from our city parishes, our suburbs" and even further away.

"We were there as believers," he wrote, "placing our trust in God to shine a light on the needs of our brothers and sisters who are struggling in our urban communities." Among those present was the city's mayor, Tom Barrett.

"We ended with a prayer for peace and a blessing of our city," Archbishop Listecki said. He wrote:

"As I looked at all who attended the Mass and journeyed in the procession, I realized that love for our city and the men and women who make up our neighborhoods are still very strong. I trust in God that our faith has and will make a difference because we follow Jesus' call to love one another."

2. Called to Slake the World's Great Thirsts

The Holy Spirit is "stirring up the thirsts of the world and calling us" to join in slaking those thirsts, Divine Word Father Stephen Bevans said in an Aug. 13 keynote address to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious annual assembly, held in Houston, Texas. Father Bevans is a professor emeritus in the field of mission and culture at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

"Thirst is a grace. It is evidence of that 'yearning for something more' that is the sign of the presence of God's Spirit," the priest said. We inhabit "a world that is graced with deep thirsts" that the Spirit, as the font of life, and Christ, as the living water, "can help us recognize and help us quench," he told the religious order leaders.

He recalled words of Blessed Paul VI, echoed by Pope Francis, that "ring so true: These days people 'thirst for authenticity.'" Father Bevans continued, "They do not listen to teachers but to witnesses, and if they listen to teachers at all it is because they are witnesses."

That is the reason, he proposed, that "leaders and figures of transparency are so refreshing and important to people today." Men and women such as the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, or Blessed Oscar Romero, or Dorothy Day and others "have been raised up by the Spirit to help us recognize our deep thirsts," said Father Bevans.

"These women and men offer long drinks of the cool, clear water of authenticity, the authenticity for which the world thirsts."

The world today thirsts for authenticity, but also for hope, justice and beauty, said Father Bevans. He said, for example, that the Holy Spirit "is active in this unjust world, calling forth a thirst within women and men that can only be met by the nectar of justice."

The priest explained that nectar "is the drink of the gods in Greek mythology" and that "the thirst for the nectar of justice is the thirst to work with God's Spirit in bringing about a world of justice and freedom, of equality and participation, of mutuality and liberation."

Father Bevans said that "through the amazing grace of God, some women and men, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, have been anointed by the Spirit in a concrete and sacramental way to share and continue Jesus' mission - begun by the Spirit from the first moment of time - of slaking the thirsts of the world."

These people "have been gathered and sent as God's church - God's holy people, the prolongation of Christ's body, the temple of the Spirit - as the sacrament of the thirst-giving and thirst-quenching mission of the Spirit," Father Bevans told his audience. Here he added that "this church does not have a mission." Rather, "God's mission of thirst-giving and thirst-quenching has a church."

"To live this mission worthily," Father Bevans said that "the church, like the God in whose mission it participates, practices" what he and a Catholic Theological Union colleague, Divine Word Father Roger Schroeder, "have termed 'prophetic dialogue,' an openness in contemplation to discover the thirsts of the world and a determination in humility to work for the slaking of those thirsts."

(The text of Father Bevans' speech, along with the speech by Sister Janet Mock discussed below, can be found on the website of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, www.lcwr.org/calendar/lcwr-assembly-2015.)

3. Religious Orders: Working Together

The leaders of women's religious orders need to work together "across congregations" in order to achieve their major goals, Sister of St. Joseph Janet Mock said in a keynote address to the Aug. 11-15 annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, held in Houston. She is a former LCWR executive director.

"Working together has become a way of being for us," she said. "Instead of threatening our individual charisms, we find working together enhances them because these charisms illuminate a way of approaching ministry that together makes our service so much richer."

Sister Mock asked, "Can we continue to work across congregations to assure our place among those most in need as we are now doing to address immigration, ecological advocacy, human trafficking, to name just a few areas?"

The formation of new entrants is among areas in which different religious orders might work together, she suggested. She noted that "today there are approximately 1,200 women in the United States who are in initial formation in religious congregations."

She observed, "If even half that number are called to permanent commitment, it is at least twice the number of sisters who came to this country in the early 1800s and laid the foundation of viable education, health and social service systems" in the United States.

Analyzing what these new entrants need, she said:

"They need a future to believe in, and they need mentors who are excited about engaging and discerning our future as women religious." On this point she challenged religious order leaders to consider whether their "household conversations" tend to be about "the past" or about "the present and future."

Among other points, Sister Mock stressed that women entering religious orders "need a broad, solid education in liberal arts and theology, as well as the fields in which they will minister, in order to have a credible voice at the tables where they will sit."

Here she noted that "their lay counterparts are educated to be ecclesial leaders in the church and in the world, and women religious must be academically and spiritually prepared to join them as peers."

These new entrants also "need to be prepared intellectually, spiritually, psychologically" to live in an increasingly "complex world and cosmos. They must learn to engage complexity critically" and with "honesty, humility and awe," she insisted.

Moreover, new entrants "must be at home with diversity -- cultural, ecclesial, economic." Sister Mock told her audience of religious-order leaders that "our communities must be places of welcome for the kind of diversity" now encountered by "citizens of the United States and of the world."

The speaker stressed that new entrants in religious orders "must have been touched by the call of God. They must first and foremost have a thirst for God and the things of God to be genuinely called to religious life." In addition, "they must have the capacity for self-reflection and self-transcendence, for their lives must be entirely for others."

Sister Mock said, moreover, that new entrants "must be secure in their vocation so they can encourage and appreciate the vocations of others within the church and beyond."

She asked, "What if we addressed these needs across congregations together, because, after all, these women are ours? They are part of a larger sisterhood, and there is no greater investment in the future than to place our resources together to assure that we have spiritually formed, intellectually prepared, psychologically mature women religious to face the challenges that lie before us in the world."

A way must be found "to do together what many communities cannot do alone in order to secure religious life in the future," said Sister Mock.

4. Current Quotes to Ponder

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation: "I have decided to institute in the Catholic Church the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which beginning this year is to be celebrated on Sept. 1, as has been the custom in the Orthodox Church for some time. As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. . . . The celebration of this day, on the same date as the Orthodox Church, will be a valuable opportunity to bear witness to our growing communion with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. We live at a time when all Christians are faced with the same decisive challenges, to which we must respond together, in order to be more credible and effective." (From the letter of Pope Francis dated Aug. 6, 2015, establishing the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation)

Euphemisms for Lives Considered Expendable: "If you want to hide something that is morally evil, give it a good name. 'Collateral damage' means innocent bystanders who were killed in a military or terrorist attack; 'expendable' refers to lives that may be sacrificed as inevitably necessary to achieve an objective. They are euphemisms for the belief that human beings are disposable. Such labels let us avert our eyes from the intolerable, perhaps to avoid being overwhelmed by the immensity of a situation that seems beyond solution or as a way of sloughing off an evil occurrence as 'not my concern' -- someone else's problem. The media talk about the 'invisible poor.' Poor people are not invisible. We just avoid looking at them." (From an entry to his blog on the diocesan website by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, Texas)

5. Labor Day: Families Need Living Wage

"We must not resign ourselves to a 'new normal'" - to "an economy that does not provide stable work at a living wage for too many men and women," says the 2015 U.S. Catholic Conference Labor Day message issued by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

His message accents the necessity of decent-paying work for family life, but laments that "even with some economic progress, things have not truly improved for most American families." It says, "In demanding a living wage for workers we give hope to those struggling to provide for their families, as well as young workers who hope to have families of their own someday."

It has been reported often in recent years that more and more young adults in America are choosing not marry or start a family. It is suggested that lack of job opportunities and poor wages are major factors in this scenario.

"Couples intentionally delay marriage, as unemployment and substandard work make a vision of stable family life difficult to see," the Labor Day message says.

It also points to the pressures low wages place on existing families by forcing parents to work more than one job and reducing the time they have for each other and for their children. "Too many marriages bear the crushing weight of unpredictable schedules from multiple jobs, which make impossible adequate time for nurturing children, faith and community," the message states.

Today, "the majority of jobs provide little in the way of sufficient wages, retirement benefits, stability or family security, and too many families are stringing together part-time jobs to pay the bills," according to the Labor Day message. It adds that "opportunities for younger workers are in serious decline."

The message comments that "wage stagnation has increased pressures on families, as the costs of food, housing, transportation and education continue to pile up." It asks, "Is there any question that too many children feel the tragic pangs of hunger and poverty commonplace in a society that seems willing to accept these things as routine, the cost of doing business?"

Today, it says, "millions of children live in or near poverty" in the United States, and "many of them are latch-key kids, returning to empty homes every day as their working parents struggle to make ends meet."

Archbishop Wenski writes that on "this Labor Day the violation of human dignity is evident in exploited workers, trafficked women and children, and a broken immigration system that fails people and families desperate for decent work and a better life."

Society's renewal must be "built on authentic solidarity and rooted in faith," the Labor Day message affirms. It is necessary, it says, to reject "the individualism and materialism that make us indifferent to suffering and closed to the possibility of encounter."

Today, the message concludes, "we are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives."

6. Archbishop's Pallium Involves His People

The wool pallium that every new archbishop receives is a reminder of the heart of his ministry and a sign of unity with the pope. When the pallium was placed on Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich's shoulders Aug. 23 in Chicago, he spoke in a homily not only about the pallium's meaning but about his call - along with the call of all in the archdiocese -- to serve others in new ways that reflect the newness of the resurrection.

He described, too, the kind of unity that a pope witnesses to in the church.

We are accustomed to reports of new archbishops receiving their palliums in Rome, but recently Pope Francis enacted a new policy. Under the new policy archbishops still receive the pallium in Rome, but it later is placed on their shoulders in their own archdioceses by the pope's representative.

This allows an archbishop to share the occasion with the people of the archdiocese. Archbishop Cupich spoke pointedly in his homily about the way the people share in the ultimate meaning of the pallium placed upon his shoulders.

A pallium, he said, is "made of lamb's wool, marked with crosses and stained at the ends in black to resemble hoofs of the sheep." In placing it on an archbishop's shoulders, it serves as a reminder to "the one who wears it and the entire church he serves that we are a community that goes after the lost sheep," Archbishop Cupich explained.

It is a community, he added, that goes after "not only those who have strayed, but those who are ignored, forgotten or overlooked." Moreover, he said, "the task is not just to find them and bring them home, but to lift them up high, to shoulder level, where they can begin to see and live a new life, the life of faith."

The celebration in Chicago was an opportunity, he suggested, to "reflect on what is being asked of us. . . . And, I do mean us, for I know I cannot carry this important responsibility by myself."

7. The Deposit of Faith and Newness

What kind of unity with the pope is signified by an archbishop's pallium?

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich commented Aug. 23 when the pallium was placed on his shoulders that "God is doing great things not only in every age, but in every place around the world today," and "it is the pope's ministry that draws us out of a narrow provincial view that reduces our experience of church to just what is happening in my parish, my diocese, my country. The pope's travels around the world similarly offer this service."

A pope "not only keeps safe the entire treasury, the entire deposit [of faith] as it has developed over 2,000 years, but he keeps it before us in its entirety, reminding us of the whole story of God's mighty deeds, which continues to develop in each age with the guidance of the Holy Spirit," the archbishop said.

He pointed to the role of the successor of Peter "as a witness to the full meaning of the resurrection." St. Peter, he said, instinctively sensed "that there is something new about this Jesus of Nazareth" when he called him "the Holy One of God, which literally means the one who is alive with the creative life of God."

Peter understood this fully when Jesus was raised from the dead, said the archbishop. We are reminded today "that the resurrection cannot be limited to an event that happened 2,000 years ago. It is about the risen Lord, whom Pope Francis constantly tells us is always doing something new."

Archbishop Cupich looked ahead in his homily to the October general assembly in Rome of the world Synod of Bishops, whose discussions will focus on marriage and the family. He said:

"It is clear that the Holy Father is calling the church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration."