How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

college open house 1A few months ago I accompanied my nephew on a campus tour geared to prospective college students. The tour was led by an upper class student who belonged to a group called “College Ambassadors.” The student was welcoming and enthusiastic.  He was trying to give a positive impression of his college as he walked backwards leading us through the campus in hopes that some young people in our group would be moved to apply for admission.  My nephew seemed impressed and was listening to every word.

As the tour continued, I wondered what kind of an impression I have made on the people I have encountered over the years.  In particular I was remembering the many international students I met as a campus minister.  I recalled how my experience with them had helped to broaden my understanding of so many cultures around the world as well as how interconnected we are within the global marketplace.  Then I remembered the times I have traveled abroad, and I wondered what kind of an impression I had given others about the United States. Continue reading “How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?”

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 1

2015_WPCU_Poster_inner_240x349INTRODUCTION:

Annually, Christians everywhere gather together throughout the world in prayerful communion with Jesus Christ in his prayer, “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). This annual celebration unites Churches in the common quest for Christian unity. This special week was first observed in 1908 and continues to be celebrated annually in January.

This year our scriptural theme comes from the Gospel of John where Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Give me a drink.” In our quest for Christian unity Jesus will give us the living water we need for our journey. Please join us once again as we pray and work for the communion of all, joining our prayer to that of the Lord Jesus Christ, “that all may be one” (John 17:21).

SCRIPTURE:

  • Genesis 24:10-33, Abraham and Rebekah at the well
  • Psalm 42, The deer that longs for running streams
  • 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, The generosity of the churches of Macedonia
  • John 4:1-4, He had to go through Samaria
 MEDITATION:

Jesus and his disciples traveled from Judea to Galilee. There was a certain prejudice against Samaria and the Samaritans. The negative reputation of Samaria came from its mix of races and religions. What does the Gospel of John mean, when saying, “it is necessary to go through Samaria”? For Jesus, it is a choice. Going through Samaria means that it is necessary to meet the other, the different, the one who is often seen as a threat.

The conflict between Jews and Samaritans was old. For Jews, Samaritans became a people “mixed and impure.” Samaritans in their turn, also had difficulty accepting Jews (John 4:8). So resistance to dialogue came from the two sides.

John makes it clear that “going through Samaria” is a choice Jesus is making; he is reaching beyond his own people. In this he is showing us that isolating ourselves from those who are different and relating only to people like ourselves is a self-inflicted impoverishment. It is the dialogue with those who are different that makes us grow.

 PRAYER:

God of all peoples; teach us to go through Samaria to meet our brothers and sisters from other churches! Allow us to go there with an open heart so we may learn from every church and culture! We confess that you are the source of unity. Grant us the unity that Christ wills for us.

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

A Sense of New Life

Background: On April 27, 2011, a category EF4/EF5 tornado struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, killing 45 people and destroying homes and livelihoods in a six-mile-wide area in the heart of the city.  The hardest hit communities—such as Alberta City and Rosedale Court—were predominantly poor, black and Latino and included public and low-income housing.  The business district, which employed many neighborhood people, was also destroyed. In total, an estimated 7,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

 FEMA, the Red Cross, Catholic Social Services and state and local government agencies were on the scene assisting the victims, many of whom were homeless.  But for undocumented Latinos, and households sheltering them, the “establishment” agencies were not an option.  The people feared future investigation by the INS if they sought help from mainstream organizations.  (This occurred following Hurricane Katrina.)

 These Latinos, as well as others in the poor neighborhoods, turned to the nearest Catholic Church—Holy Spirit Parish—and Sister Celeste Burgos, MHSH, who is Pastoral Associate for the Hispanic Community.

By Sister Celeste Burgos, MHSH

Rosedale Court destruction

Alabama is noted for its tornadoes, but it has never experienced a tornado of this magnitude.  It is ironic that this happened during the first week after Easter, because Easter means rebirth, and suddenly there was total devastation and death.  It was a very sad and very traumatic thing, but at the same time, out of that chaos a sense of new life has arisen in the people who were affected.

The people came to the church, telling us that they had lost their homes, all their possessions and that the only things they had were the clothes they were wearing.

They lost loved ones; they all knew someone who had died and people who were in the  hospital.  All of this grief affected them; it affected me, also, as I listened to the stories of every person who came for help.

But something else affected me, too.  The parish hall was set up as an emergency shelter, where about 200 people spent the night.  They gathered together as a family to help one another.  People who were not affected by the tornado came; they shared food, clothes, everything that they had.

The unity there so impressed me.  We had Hispanics, African Americans as well as Anglos—everyone came.  There were people from other parishes and other religious groups that came to help.  This was a beautiful experience that has stayed in my mind and my heart.