Pope Francis' Address to Congress: Entering into Dialogue

francis at congress


Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress was an historical milestone.  His message, not surprisingly, called on Congress and all Americans to be beacons of light and hope, especially for the poor, the elderly, the immigrant, the young – indeed, all God’s people.  He called on all of us to put aside the polarizing stances that we often adopt and work together for the betterment of all people and the environment. Francis invoked four influential Americans in communicating his message: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  The text of his address, as published by America Media, is linked below.

Leave a comment below telling us what most inspired or challenged you about Francis’s address to Congress.


“…Development that does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.”

                                                                     –Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
                                                                      “Laudato Si” (Praised Be)

 Following is the third and final set of excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant in Washington, DC, and published on June 18, 2015. The first segment was posted on this site on June 19; the second on June 23.


The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.

Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.

consumerism_black-friday 3Many people know that our current progress and the mere amassing of things and pleasures are not enough to give meaning and joy to the human heart, yet they feel unable to give up what the market sets before them.

Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption.

A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment.

Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full.

Share our wealth_separar-donativosWe must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.

Digital Distraction

When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.

True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.

It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.

Sustainable Business

The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. By itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.

A technological and economic development that does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.

destroying the forest 2The principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very nature of the economy. As long as production is increased, little concern is shown about whether it is at the cost of future resources or the health of the environment; as long as the clearing of a forest increases production, no one calculates the losses entailed in the desertification of the land, the harm done to biodiversity or the increased pollution. In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved.

Future Generations

Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.

fruitfulness 2 planting-earthIntergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.


“A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.”

                                                                –Pope Frances, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
                                                                “Laudato Si” (Praised Be)

 The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC, and published on June 18, 2015. The first four segments were posted on this site on June 19; the final three will be posted on Tuesday, June 23. 

Climate Change

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes that produce or aggravate it.


If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.

Climate change is a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, political, and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.

Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources that can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.

The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.

epa00162905 Women sell coconuts in the Abobo community of Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, on Monday, 29 March 2004. The French-speaking Ivory Coast was once one of the richest countries in Africa due to its valuable ivory exports. However, droughts in the region and economic recessions have hit, causing the country to experience hardships.  EPA/Herve Gbekide

We must maintain with clarity an awareness that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities. As the United States Bishops have said, greater attention must be given to “the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests”

Individual Actions

This simple example [of cooperative action] shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land.

Group of environmentalists walking with wheelbarrow and potted plant in park

Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls. Unless citizens control political power, national, regional and municipal, it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.

recycle_childrenEducation in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.

If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond.

caretakers of earth-handsThere is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions.

Along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society.

The Faith Perspective

We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.

This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world.

Climate 7 polar bearsClearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

Everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice, and faithfulness to others.

Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by a love which calls us together into universal communion.

hand of God 2Creation is of the order of love.

A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.

When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequalities, injustices and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model is the ideal of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus.

most-beautiful-nature-images-world-5The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.

All of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.

Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.

brother son sister moon care of the earth[This conversion] entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.

We do not understand our superiority as a reason for personal glory or irresponsible dominion, but rather as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith.

Encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature.

Integral Ecology

We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

environmental issue 2Every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective, which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.

If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships.

We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis that is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.

world globe_social responseNature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live.

NOTE: The final three segments of the Encyclical will be posted here on Tuesday, June 23, 20

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”

–Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
“Laudato Si” (Praised Be)

The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC., and published on June 18, 2015. These are the first four sections of the Encyclical highlights; the next four will be posted on Sunday, June 21, and the final three on Tuesday, June 23.

pope-environmentThe Problem

This sister [our common home] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

Pope Francis_the green vision of Pope FrancisNever have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.

Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.

Policy and Political Leadership

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

The establishment of a legal framework, which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems, has become indispensable, before the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm overwhelm not only our politics but freedom and justice as well.

A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

Negative effects of Fossil Fuels 5International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.

Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.

True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.)

What is needed is a politics which is farsighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.

Reality of the Problem and Necessity to Act

Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.

Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent.

Calls to Action

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.

Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

Pope encyclical 1Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it.

Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively and replaced without delay.

Negative effects of Fossil Fuels 2Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.

Truly, much can be done!

Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.

A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.

Climate 2-change-and-cocoa-Chocolate-firms-action-to-temperature-riseNOTE: The next four segments of the Encyclical—Climate Change, Individual Actions, The Faith Perspective and Integral Ecology will be posted on 6/21/15. The final three sections will be posted on 6/23.

Celebrating Earth Day 2015

“The earth will not continue to offer harvest except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”

–Pope John Paul II



April 22 – Earth Day – It was the brainchild of Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a two-term governor and three-term senator, who wanted to raise public awareness that our planet was at risk and put the national spotlight on environmental issues.

“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves”                                                                                    –Davis Orr 

Since the first celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 1970, we have seen the following legislation enacted: The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Senator Nelson rejected the suggestion that the economy take precedence over environmental protection:

“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

simple conceptGaylord Nelson and his like-minded colleagues changed the nation’s perspective on the environment. Today we continue to push back against those who would weaken the air and water protections that were established decades ago. And we add new technologies like fracking and offshore oil drilling to the list of environmental concerns.




As we take time this week to think about our planet Earth, here are some observations and images that might shine a new light on our reflections.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but not everyone’s

  –Mahatma Gandhi


earth not dying


“It is horrifying that we have to fight our government to save the environment.”                                                                                              

–Ansel Adams



“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the
last fish been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.”
                                                                                                –Cree Indian Proverb


“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of the land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”                                                                                                 –Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Man is the most insane species.  He worships an invisible God and slaughters a visible Nature…without realizing that this Nature he slaughters is this invisible God he worships.”

–Hubert Reeves

“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course we are all familiar with the first book, namely Scripture. But God has written a second book called creation.”

–Francis Bacon        

“It’s amazing what a congregation of women can do!”

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

–Excerpts from a homily given by Bishop Denis J. Madden on
October 10, 2014, at a Mass marking the beginning of the
Community’s yearlong anniversary celebration

Bishop Denis J. Madden delivering the homily at the Mission Helpers Anniversary Mass.
Bishop Denis J. Madden delivering the homily at the Mission Helpers Anniversary Mass.

In the annals of the Mission Helpers we read, “United in their love for the poor, early Mission Helpers banded together to incarnate God’s love for all those who are spiritually or temporally in need.”

Mother Demetrias (Mission Helpers’ foundress) took to heart the words we heard this evening from John’s first letter:

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.”

Just the other day…I saw a man with a bent back walking down the street. I could not see his face, only his hunched back. And by the grace of God I could see and experience the presence of God in him. I thanked God for that visit and at the same time wondered how often have I missed His other appearances.

You, my dear Sisters, have not missed these sightings of the Lord; you, my dear Sisters, have not missed the Lord coming among us for the last 125 years in various shapes and forms—now that’s a lot of sightings!

With no anxiety but in a spirit of thankfulness at being able to serve the Lord by serving others your missions have taken you all over the United States, to central and south America, and your ministries have extended beyond the borders of the classroom to faith formation, spiritual direction, hospital ministry, care of the elderly…You have served in centers for those with special needs and offered shelter and protection to abused women and extended a welcome to asylum seekers.

Pope St. John Paul II said: “To welcome the weakest, helping them on life’s journey, is a sign of civilization. These persons belong in every way to the category of the poor whom Jesus reminded us in his beatitudes ‘will inherit the Kingdom of God’.”

The Mission Helpers bless the congregation while singing Sacrum Cor Jesu.
The Mission Helpers bless the congregation while singing Sacrum Cor Jesu.

My dear Sisters, you have been doing this for 125 years, and I am especially thankful that you have been doing it here in this Archdiocese where you have served in more than 150 parishes and countless social service centers.

From your earliest days you were known as “new kinds of Sisters.” You were not the traditional school teachers or nurses. Instead you went out among the people, reached out to those who were the most alienated or neglected by society, and responded to their needs.

It’s amazing what a whole group, a congregation of women, can do! It’s amazing what a group that takes the Gospel seriously can do.

How sorely the world and this local Church today still need your presence and your service so filled with love. You, the good Mission Helpers, change people’s lives, you give hope when there is no reason to hope, and you bring joy when lives are surrounded by darkness. Can anyone thank you enough for this? I don’t think so, but at least we can try.

Bishop Madden and Seminarian John Martinez, St. Mary’s Seminary
Bishop Madden and Seminarian John Martinez, St. Mary’s Seminary

May God continue to show His face to you and bless you with His most favored Blessings.

Mission Helpers' Annual Flea Market 2014



9:30 AM to 1:30 PM

It’s Fall.  And as sure as the leaves are turning red and gold and the air is becoming crisper and cooler, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Annual Flea Market will take place on the first Saturday of October.

IMG_1846.2There will be the traditional Flea Market fare—china, glassware, kitchen staples, linens, jewelry, household goods, books, CDs, linens, gadgets and gizmos of all kinds.

But there’s more at the Mission Helpers Flea Market—Sisters’ crafts, watercolors, ceramics, decorative pillows and BAKED GOODS.  Come early! The baked goods and sweet treats go quickly.

Hot dogs, chips, sodas – Clowns and balloon sculptures for the kids!


It’s a tradition!  See you there, Saturday, October 4.

We Stood Together on September 11

A Reflection on September 11, 2001

By Fr. Paul Wierichs, C.P., who was a chaplain in the New York Office of the FBI on that date.

Sept 11Everyone remembers, and will probably always remember, exactly where they were and what they were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I was chaplain for the FBI’s New York office. After returning to my office after my morning run, but before I got to my desk, all of my phones began ringing – my beeper, my private line, my business phone – all ringing simultaneously. All were people alerting me to the horrific events that had begun to unfold, starting with a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Traveling into New York City I was struck by the number of New York firemen and police being called back to work. Before I entered into the Queens Midtown tunnel, I stopped for a moment and looked over in the direction of the World Trade Center and saw nothing but billowing smoke. As I rushed into the FBI’s New York office, close to the World Trade Center, the office was frantic – faces were grim – something I had never seen in this office.Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see in person at Ground Zero: the dust that permeated the air, the acid smell, the carnage, workers putting their own lives at risk to find survivors. I had lived in a monastery while many of my generation served in Vietnam. I could never truly appreciate the horror they went through. When I talked to people at Ground Zero who had served in Vietnam, they said this was more horrific.

During the first couple of days, standing there with my FBI raid jacket with “chaplain” on the back, I was overwhelmed by the number of firemen, policemen and other rescue people who came up to me saying, “Chaplain, may I speak to you for a moment?” I heard more confessions in two weeks than I had in years.

As a Passionist, I am called to preach the passion of Jesus. For me that means entering into the passion of people’s lives, particularly when they are called to carry a cross. We offer them hope, consolation, and love. I am honored that I was able to be part of heroic people’s lives. Looking into the eyes of everyone around I saw an inner wound to the soul itself. God was also present in those eyes, giving us all the strength we needed to go that extra mile.

Most law enforcement and emergency workers do not express emotion. This was not the case that day. I was standing inside the American Express building when six firemen brought out the body of one of their own. I said, “Let me offer a prayer.” The lieutenant called them to attention, hats off, and brought those men but also myself to tears.

What struck me about the heroism of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers was their total dedication to the task at hand. When people were running out of harm’s way firemen were running towards the crisis, risking their own lives to help others who needed assistance.

Their unyielding hope in looking for survivors amid all the tons of rubble, dust, glass and steel for more than two weeks showed the true character of each of them. Their outpouring of generosity reflected the outpouring of generosity from all people of all faiths, with their prayers and donations. People came together in unity that day. We can all remember where we were on 9/11, because we were all together.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Fruit of D’Vine

This past Saturday evening, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart launched the first annual “Fruit of D’Vine” wine tasting event at Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson.  Over 300 people, many of them new friends of the Mission Helpers, turned out to sample over 30 different varieties of wine spread over 17 tables and to select from the delectable food offerings of over a dozen local restaurants and food specialty shops.

Live and silent auctions contributed to making this a very successful event in support of the Mission Helpers’ ministries.  Auction items included a Caribbean vacation cruise, a week’s stay on St. Martin, a diamond necklace, tickets to a Broadway play, a well-stocked golf accessory bag and many other enticing things.

Guests enjoyed mingling, getting to know the Mission Helper Sisters and staff and enjoying a night of fine wine and food in support of the varied ministries of the Mission Helpers in the United States and Venezuela.

We are looking forward to the 2012 edition of “Fruit of D’Vine”.  Keep an eye on our website for next year’s date, and plan to be there!