Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Advocacy in the Church

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A guest blog from Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM. Fr. Jacek is a Franciscan friar. Since August 2017 he has been leading our work in Parish Community Organizing and Advocacy.  

Ramon woke up in the middle of the night in a grip of anxiety, 16 years have passed, but he still hears an echo of the deadly gunshots fired at his older brother by a criminal gang near their family home in El Salvador.   Ramon was told that he would be next.   Not wanting his wife to become a widow and his children orphans, he fled to the United States, settling in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area.  Eventually, this young husband and father received Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allowed him to work legally in the U.S. and shielded him from deportation.   A few years later, Ramon’s wife and one of his children made the perilous journey from their native El Salvador. They, too, were fleeing violence and wanted to be reunited with their husband and father.  Since coming to the United States, Ramon and his family have become very active members of one of the local parishes where they have volunteered countless hours serving others and contributing to the common good. 

These days, however, Ramon, his wife, and children once again feel on edge.  The current administration has indicated that it may terminate TPS for all 320,000 recipients.  These individuals would lose their jobs, and potentially their families, as they would face deportation and the prospect of returning to their very troubled countries.  Like Ramon, more than 70 percent of TPS holders have a child, spouse, or sibling who is a U.S. citizen.  Tearing apart families or putting vulnerable people, especially children, in harm’s way is wrong.  It goes against the core Gospel values.  It also violates the respect for life that the Catholic Church upholds. 

This past Sunday, we heard from the Book of Exodus: “Thus says the LORD:
‘You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.  You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.  If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.” 



The Church pays attention to the cry of the vulnerable and marginalized.  Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington has been equipping a number of local parishes with tools to help carry out an advocacy campaign in support TPS recipients such as Ramon.   

Thousands of Catholics have signed the letter to President Trump and Department of Homeland Security.  They urge them to renew TPS designation for the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua.  In a similar
vein, they encourage Senators in Maryland and Virginia to sponsor legislation that would preserve the ability of TPS holders to live and work legally in the U.S., if they have lived here lawfully for many years and face extreme hardship or be in danger of losing their lives if deported. 

Among parishes that have collaborated with Catholic Charities in our advocacy efforts are:  St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, St. Mary’s Church in Landover Hills in Maryland, as well as the  Shrine of the Sacred Heart and Cathedral of Saint Matthews the Apostle in Washington D.C.

When fellow Catholics act in solidarity with our brothers and sisters holding TPS, I am filled with hope.  It is inspiring to see others responding to Pope Francis’ call and building a culture of encounter.  Together, we follow Jesus with two feet: charity and justice.  The narratives of fear, callousness, and hatred try to dissuade us from the Christian path.  Yes, we refuse to give in to cynicism and despair.  We are the people of hope and Alleluia is our song.     

Please consider taking a minute to advocate in support of TPS at http://bit.ly/2lrO91D