Concern for Life

Pope John Paul II stated quite clearly his view of a Christian’s attitude toward this planet on which we livea moral matter, as I recall. I long wondered whether his message was being announced among the faithful, although several bishops’ groups have written pastorals on the subject.

It was therefore a joy to read, nearly a year ago, the article Where Are the Catholic Environmentalists? by Jeffrey J. Guhin (2/13/06), and to learn of the thinking of Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J. and Miriam Therese MacGillis, O.P.

And now, over the course of two months, three more articles have appeared with regard to our earth: about the universe, energy ethics and global warming. I hope there is a sufficient number of people reading this material, because I do not hear the topic being treated from the pulpit. Is not what happens on earth, to earth and subsequently to earth’s inhabitants a concern for life?

Sheila Murphy, O.S.U.
Malone, N.Y.

In a Mirror

Autonomous Individualism, by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (1/15), made several points I hadn’t even considered; and one word that it used, narcissism, is the word that I thought of instantly when the issue of Time magazine arrived to which he referred. Instead of looking outwardas Jesus didto see the displaced, the ill, the lonely, the starving and the oppressed, our culture is encouraging looking inward in a negative way.

Looking inward can mean self-examination, but in most of society it means being involved with the self in a way that is normal only for very young children. As Catholic Christians we need to have our eyes trained on the outward aspects of our faithfeeding the hungry, clothing the naked and so on.

We also need to teach our children that success is more than money and status and material goodsbling! It means practicing our faith, being able to see ourselves in a mirror without flinching, it means doing what is rightnot what is to one’s own advantage or what is easier.

Karen Mallozzi
Natick, Mass.

Write and Laugh

What a delight to see the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s words of wisdom grace America again (A Writer, or a Parish Priest Who Writes? 1/1). He says his Archbishop Blackie is pure delight, but I wonder if he realizes what an inspiration his own life and writings have been to innumerable Catholics for the past several decades. I’m rereading his The Great Mysteries first published in 1976, an imaginative catechism that interprets age-old questions like why God made us and who Jesus is. A good read especially today.

The great mystery to me is how this wonderful priest has survived the attacks of the institutional church and lived to write and laugh about it! From essential Catholic schools being closed to the loss of credibility of our leadership, the people of the church struggle on despite the church’s best efforts to restore a pre-Vatican II mind-set.

Great thanks to Father Greeley for his Irish-American stubbornness and wit for all these long years.

Edward J. Thompson
Farmingdale, N.Y.

Human Solidarity

In his article Priests and Nurses: A Tale of Two Shortages, (12/18) George B. Wilson, S.J., raises some very pertinent and provocative questions about the service of international priests to the church in the United States. As the director of an acculturation program for international priests, I was pleased that this issue is gaining attention, but I think the brevity of his article may have left some impressions that could be misleading.

First, this is not a new phenomenon. Since its foundation the church in the United States has been served by a significant number of foreign-born priests, and the number of incoming missionaries has been greater than the number of outgoing. The difference today is that the nations sending these missionaries are not from the Western Hemisphere and do not come to serve their own people exclusively. Despite the necessary accommodations, this hemispheric shift, north to south and west to east, has the potential to lead us to a new awareness of the global church, which Karl Rahner recognized as the lasting contribution of the Second Vatican Council.

Second, unlike the past, when missionaries made a lifelong commitment to serve in the United States, today a large percentage of these international priests are here for limited periods of time. While concerned about the brain-drain, Father Wilson rightly points out that many come to earn advanced degrees. Having enriched and been enriched by a different cultural and academic experience, many return to their countries and assume leadership positions. It is helpful also to remember that the cost of priestly formation in some countries is difficult to sustain. In these cases and where pastoral need is a major criterion, interdiocesan agreements offer mutual advantages.

Finally, I was troubled by Father Wilson’s stress on the economic motivation of international priests. While the affluence of the United States is attractive and there are documented situations of unsanctioned fundraising, this does not appear to be the norm. Father Wilson also seems to connect neglect of duty with the priests’ remitting of money to their native countries. Without research this nexus needs to be challenged to sort out perfectly legitimate charitable enterprises from exploitation of the system or violations of church policy, both of which tend to be more linked to individual character than to cultural norms.

In short, my experiences with priests from other countries cause me to thank Father Wilson for his insights and at the same time to encourage openness to these priests while they are with us. They can help us to draw away from our comfortably domestic perspectives into our global church, where we can recognize and appreciate our human solidarity across nations, languages and races.

Margaret John Kelly, D.C.
Jamaica, N.Y.

Justice for the Displaced

The moving description, More Than One Way of Dying, (1/15) by David Hollenbach, S.J., of the effects of long-term warehousing in camps for the world’s 33 million forcibly displaced people serves as a call to action for all citizens. Despite the concerted efforts of the international community to meet the needs of families displaced by conflict and natural disasters, the tragic fact remains that most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people have lived in displacement camps for an average of 17 years.

Father Hollenbach’s set of principles to redress the violation of long-term refugees’ human rights is poignant and necessary. Further advocacy initiatives need to be intensified by average citizens at both the national and international levels to assure the protection of refugees, who for the most part are vulnerable women, children, the aged and individuals with handicaps.

In recent years many other nongovernmental organizations, including Jesuit Refugee Service, have played a significant role in advocating actively for the rights of refugees. Examples include supporting resettlement in the United States and elsewhere for the many thousand Burmese refugees in Thailand and Malaysia and concerted efforts to resolve the tragic situation of 110,000 Bhutanese refugees who have spent the past 15 years in camps in Nepal.

However fragile the current 60-day ceasefire between government troops and rebel militias in Darfur may be, this real step forward is due in no small part to continued pressure for a peaceful settlement initiated by many university and high school communities, parishes and other concerned citizens both here and abroad.

Although such limited successes may seem scant in the face of the enormous needs of refugees, they reinforce Father Hollenbach’s point that an active citizenryboth nationally and internationallyis essential to ensure justice for displaced men, women and children.

Kenneth Gavin, S.J.
Washington, D.C.

The writer is director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

As Never Before

Once in a whilenot often, thank God, for you couldn’t handle it if it happened all the timeyou read something that makes you see, understand and begin to experience as you never have before. Such was the effect of my reading Laurie Johnston’s little jewel, A Mother Fears Death (1/18). It was similar to the revelation I experienced years ago when my motherfar and away the most brilliantly intelligent one in our large familytold me about the anger at her future son-in-law that she felt for a few days when she first heard about the marriage plans. He was taking away my daughter! My sister was already in her 20’s and was but one of seven siblings, but she was the first of the daughters to leave the nest. And Mom, at whose strength and intelligence we all stood in awe, admitted that, for a while, she almost flipped out.

Robert J. Daly, S.J.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.

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