JPIC News -- September 2014

This month, I had many experiences which made me think about our common commitment to identify with the poor and marginalized. This seems to me to be the essence of our profession and of our way of life, solidarity with the poor and love of poverty as opposed to social climbing, status seeking and hobnobbing with the rich, the well-educated and the privileged classes.

When I wrote about the children at the borders last month, little did I know that I would soon meet them face to face living near to me in South Jersey. I now understand that tubing has a different meaning for immigrant children, who when they have walked from El Salvador to the U.S. Mexican border, jump on tires which are tied together across the Rio Grande River and then, they walk across the desert. I have come to know children who were shot at in their home in Guatemala, who have gone hungry and who live in fear of the immigration authorities taking their parents away and leaving them orphans. Then there are those whose political status is in limbo because they were born in the U. S. although their parents lack the proper legal papers. Luckily, there are provisions for these children to get financial aid and go to college in some instances.

I also have come to know that these immigrant children are still not safe. There have been 15 murders in Cumberland County since January. Unfortunately, these immigrant children live there and daily have to fend off the drug dealers. They live with drive by shootings which occur when people are just sitting on the porch. Some of them have had people invade their homes through a window, attempting to rob them of the little that they have. It seems that poor people of all races are forced to remain in drug infested neighborhoods; especially sad are the cases of people new in recovery who cannot get a HUD voucher to move away from the “people, places and things” like the 12 step programs have told them to do.

Far be it from me to pretend that I have the answer to this social problem and please know that I get it that states are put upon to pay for educational and other supportive services for the huge influx of families who are poor and who are uneducated. But I think that it behooves us to think about this issue and take it to prayer. I am very aware that our country is tottering financially, what with the wars and other issues. I know that the United States must also look after its’ own interests and those of its’ citizens ; however, my point is that we as Secular Franciscans cannot turn a blind eye to this issue and hide our heads in the sand. I urge you to seek out information on this topic for yourself (especially helpful would be the site of the Catholic Relief Services).

It is not enough to just give a check and hope that these problems will go away. I believe that we are called to be in the forefront of promoting political change by calling on our legislators and studying these issues. I commend St. Maximilian Kolbe Fraternity for sending a sister to pray for our State at the State House in Trenton once a month in communion with other people of faith. This is exactly the kind of thing that we can realistically do, although we are small in numbers and have many health problems.

As our Serpahic Father Francis so famously wrote us “I have done my part; may Christ teach you yours.” Again, I believe that our fraternities should be places where we prayerfully examine the issues of our times. Certainly, these issues are among many which clamor for our attention.

We need to join forces with the other branches of our Order and other people of good will and work collaboratively. That being said, please do not forget the Human Trafficking Conference sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis at Neumann University on October 18 from 10 to 3 in the Franciscan Spiritual Center on Convent Rd. in Aston.

Also, I have just read that Robert Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator, will be speaking in Camden, NJ at Sacred Heart Church, 1739 Ferry Avenue @ 3:00 pm, October 4th. He is promoting urban gardens and environmental justice (just like us I think). For more information, please call 856-816-6373 and ask for Cathy Nevins or see their website www.cfet.org.

Peace and All Good.

Kathleen Agosto, OFS
JPIC Animator

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