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.

Our Life in Christ

By Sister Rosa Sofía Toledo, MHSH, Venezuela

Palm Sunday—the beginning of Holy Week and the celebration of the central mystery of our faith:  the Paschal mystery, the Passion, the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Palm Sunday in the town of Manzanita, in the state of Lara, Venezuela.

On this day, let us pause to contemplate and commemorate the triumphal entrance of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.  He rode on a donkey; the crowds spread their palm branches on the street and shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  On this day we celebrate with joyful acclamations to Jesus, our victorious king, who enters Jerusalem to fulfill the will of his Father.

Yet, what today is a joyful acclamation, tomorrow will be betrayal and death. Palm Sunday invites us to contemplate the beginning of Jesus’ Passion and death.

Have you ever experienced a sense of betrayal and rejection after having a joyful encounter with someone?  Have you ever felt a bitter disappointment that took you by surprise?

Jesus endured everything we go through as human beings—except sin.  He experienced the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, the abandonment of the disciples when he was most alone.  Jesus must have felt that his mission was a failure and that he had been forsaken by his Father during his darkest moments.  Yet, through it all, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to his Father out of love.  “There is no greater love than the one who gives one’s life for one’s friends.”

What does it mean to you to be faithful to Jesus through bad times and good times?  What is one of the greatest challenges you have faced? What speaks of God’s fidelity to you?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us: “Your attitude must be that of Christ” [2:5].

The saving power of God is being manifested in Christ, who humbled himself, obediently accepting death on the cross.  Because of that, God highly exalted him, and the glory of the Father was manifested in his Resurrection.

We are invited to put on the heart and mind of Christ Jesus, growing in the awareness of our false self to find our true self in him.  We are also invited to embrace the healing power of Christ to lift us up:  from sin to grace; from spiritual blindness to a new consciousness; from carelessness of our planet Earth to a new awareness that we are part of the Earth and that it is a part of us.  In this way, we can taste and see the joy of his rising from death to new life in us.

Our life in Christ invites us to experience his sufferings through  our brothers and sisters who are victims of domestic and institutional violence, addictions, illnesses, poverty, prejudice and injustice.  Ours is a world threatened by fear, insecurity, individualism, competition, consumerism and pleasures.

Having the same attitude as Christ Jesus is a response to a call to participate in his Mission:  “Touching lives, changing lives.”

What is your unique call to embrace the heart and mind of Christ Jesus?

How can you be a joyful witness to his Resurrection in a world crying out for redemption by Christ Jesus?

“See, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

                                                                                                                       [Isaiah 44:19]