From our Pastor

Latest notes from Fr. Sheridan


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Every year when Veterans’ Day rolls around it makes me think about war. Today, America is at war, as we have been in one form or another throughout many years of my life. If the war was not a “hot” war, it was a “cold” war; nevertheless it was war. And wars are never fought apart from soldiers on the ground, in the air, at sea and under the sea. Men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to defend a way of life, threatened by outside forces have always been the warriors who we call veterans when they come home. And all too often some returned damaged, disabled, bruised and broken. Others return to be buried by grieving loved ones. And on this national holiday dedicated to veterans we are to pause, recall the sacrifices of those who went to war and served in the military, and acknowledge their courage and sacrifice, with grateful hearts.

When I was in college, the Vietnam War was raging and the protests of those of my age were many and loud. It was difficult to find the space in my mind between loving my country and disagreeing with her policies. There were many who saw those who opposed the war as not being loyal to a true spirit of patriotism. It was a new experience for me. I was very willing to serve the country, felt I had an obligation to do so, yet, like many, felt the Vietnam War was illegal, immoral and wrong.

I ended up serving in the United States Air Force reserves and spent time at bases in Texas, Colorado and Maine. At several times during the six years we thought our unit would be activated and we would be shipping out to war. We never were. Honorably discharged from the US Air Force in 1974, I arrive at this Veterans’ Day more skeptical about war than ever before. I keep going back to look up President Dwight Eisenhower’s comments about war. One of the most decorated US Army Generals in World War II, later two term president often spoke of the wrongness of war: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.”

When former Secretary of State John Kerry returned from the Vietnam War as a decorated veteran, he became one of the most prominent voices against the war. I recall hearing him give a speech in Framingham condemning the war. I thought for the first time, sometimes being patriotic means disagreeing with your country’s policies. This was a veteran, who loved and served his country and I found his voice against war resonated with that of President Eisenhower.

So it is on this Veterans’ Day I share my country’s pride and gratitude for those who are serving and those who have served, and especially for those who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service to our country. While on this day we honor veterans, for me it is also a day to pray that all wars will end and that all those serving in war zones will return safely home.

At the same time, it seems fitting to exercise our patriotism by standing firmly in the camp that abhors war in every way and would seek that our nation work tirelessly to contribute to a world of greater justice for all, such that war is increasingly less likely. President Eisenhower addressed the graduating class at the United States Military Academy in 1947 and said: “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”

Fr. Ronan

Thirty-second Sunday Ordinary Time -November 10, 2019

In today’s second reading we hear Saint Paul urging the members of the community at Thessalonica to direct their hearts to God’s love through Christ. He wants them to be laser-focused on Christ, and nothing else. He desires that they be strengthened by the Lord and shielded from what is not Christ-like. Good stewards cultivate a “laser-sharp” focus on Christ; not on things that could give them false or superficial images or ideals.
Let’s think about our own daily focus:
Do we direct out hearts toward Christ or are there other “gods” that claim our attention? Our career? Material possessions? Sexuality? Favorite sports team? Political leanings?
Does our daily life point to Christ so that those who are younger and less mature in their faith learn from our example?


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The wind is howling outside and the gusts are succeeding in removing the leaves from the trees in the neighborhood. Looking out the window, folks, young and old, are bent against the wind and early autumn chill, making their way across the training field. This weekend we celebrate the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls. November is upon us and, no matter how much we would like to stave off the upcoming winter, it is approaching.

All around us are the signs of life changing. Nature herself is preparing for the change of seasons as the leaves drop from trees and bushes, yet small buds are evident, giving us hopeful signs of a springtime yet to come. To me it is virtually impossible not to see in the cycles of nature, a mirror of the cycles of our own life journey.

Years ago there was a popular book written by Daniel J. Levinson called, The Seasons of a Man’s Life. Some years later the author wrote another work called, The Seasons of a Woman’s Life. The point of both works is to understand the stages of development in adulthood, from the 20’s on. The popularity of the research is explained by the lack of understanding of the ongoing growth throughout our adult lives and not just throughout childhood and adolescence.

As adults, how are we changing and is our growth in life and faith a simple extension of our childhood or something new? Probably both. Growth in adulthood is both a continuation of our earlier years as well as adapting and learning, growing and struggling throughout the adult years. For myself, I am amazed at how much I have yet to learn and grow. The more the years pass, the more I am aware of how much I do not know!

And while this development applies to all aspects of life, I believe it applies very much to our relationship with God. Do I hold the same image of God today that I held as a child? With the depth of my life experience I see God as bigger and more amazing than ever. The compassion of God, the unfathomable greatness, and the immeasurable and all present love seems to me more evident today than ever. Jesus, the Church, the sacraments, Sacred Scripture and all of the revelations of God amaze me. And while I wonder about all of this on this November morning, I can’t help being filled with a deep gratitude for it all, this mystery called life.

Perhaps for each of us, November can be a special gift – watch, look around and wonder about all that is happening in Charlestown and in your own life. Examine where you have been, where you are and where you are going. Watch the changes, the leaves dropping and the buds wrapped tightly for winter. Delight in the mystery of God’s grace working in your life and in the world

Fr. Ronan

Thirty-first Sunday Ordinary Time Weekend November 2/3, 2019

The Gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus makes for an ideal stewardship reflection. So does today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom. Good stewards have faith in, and give thanks for, an almighty and powerful God who transcends the universe, but who gives personal attention to every human being. God loves his creation, his people. He lives in them, and through his Holy Spirit, instills a fundamental goodness in them. Good stewards recognize this movement of the Spirit as a gift, and make efforts to cultivate this gift and grow in their faith. Take time this week to stop and look around you, be aware of God’s awe-inspiring creation, and give thanks for God’s loving care and concern for each of us.

2018-2019 Parish Financial Report

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The Parish Finance Council is pleased to provide the Annual Financial Report of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish for fiscal 2018-2019.

We are grateful for the continued energy of our Parish thanks to the members of the community who engage in the life and support of the Parish. We welcomed 149 new registered parishioners, celebrated 66 baptisms and 20 weddings and had an increase in the number of students in religious education. The more people that connect with the Parish, whether newly arrived or newly supportive, the stronger and more dynamic our Parish will become.

God has gifted each of us with talents and skills and we welcome and encourage you to share those in whatever way possible with the Parish. Only a fraction of all the registered families have established giving plans or become active in our many ministries and social activities. We are working on several initiatives to engage busy members which include: our new on-line newsletter, increasing the number of parishioners using on-line giving and re-launching the young adult group.

Your financial generosity to the weekly and monthly Offertory, as well as the Grand Annual Collection, is the foundation of Parish operating budget. While the Parish staff and Finance Council work diligently to manage our expenses and budget, health and property insurances costs have risen dramatically in the last few years, the need for Food Pantry assistance has increased along with food costs, our old buildings require significant ongoing maintenance, and there are always unexpected expenditures.

Running a Parish is costly. After finishing 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 with operating surpluses of $31,390 and $21,728, respectively, we finished this fiscal year with an operating deficit of $82,975. Major factors that contributed to this deficit were: Grand Annual down $21,791, Sacramental Offerings down $9,902, Gifts & Bequests down $30,850 and Monthly Offertory down $9,348 versus 2017-18. Our budget for 2019-20 projects another deficit. Our expenses have increased and if contributions do not do the same, we will unfortunately need to take further measures to reduce Parish services and activities.

This was a unique year in that we launched the Inspiring Hope Campaign in the Fall to fund the interior painting and restoration of the artwork of our beautiful church, and various other ministries in the Archdiocese. Through the generosity of 126 parishioners, we were able to raise in excess of $600,000 in gifts and pledges – of which $125,000 will fund ministries in the Archdiocese. The remainder of the funds will stay with the Parish. It is important to note that these funds are legally restricted to this capital project and cannot be used for operating expenses. The project will be getting fully underway within the next month. As we move forward with this project and begin to see it come to fruition, we would ask that those who have not contributed or are new to the Parish consider contributing to the effort.

Despite the operating deficit, our Balance Sheet remained strong with $1.2 million in Net Assets as contributions from the Inspiring Hope Campaign more than offset this year’s operating shortfall. (A complete set of financial statements, including a detailed Balance Sheet, is available on our Parish Website,

Capital projects during the year included the completion of the Marilyn Doherty room along with an update to the security system at the Parish Center and a small upgrade to the sound system in the church. We still have a long to-do list of projects but getting bids has proved difficult for retaining walls at Parish Center and Food Pantry. There is also masonry work needed at the Church.

The Good Shepherd School renewed its lease for the next five years, continuing to strengthen our Parish community. The Parish is grateful for the ongoing support from parishioners and the Charlestown community for the Harvest on Vine Emergency Food Pantry. In addition to semi-monthly distributions of food and fresh produce to the ever-increasing number of those in need, Harvest on Vine was able to provide a food distribution to government workers during the government shutdown.

The Parish Finance Council is deeply appreciative of your past support and would earnestly ask that you consider increasing the level of your of financial commitment to the Parish so that we can return to a balanced operating budget without impacting any of our wonderful Parish services.

Rev. James Ronan (Chair), Nancy Higgins (Vice-Chair), Brian Fleming, Dennis Hanson, Maureen Moore, Tom Mosel, Robert Rooney, Kevin Walsh, James Santosuosso (Ex Officio)

Just the way I am

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As I was walking to my car, parked on a side street in a small town on Long Island, my nephew ran excitedly alongside me. When we arrived at the car, parked a block or so away from the apartment of my brother and sister-in-law, I asked my nephew, “Chris, do you want to drive?” This handsome child stopped in his tracks and looked at me seriously as he said, “I can’t drive, I am only five years old!” That scene took place a long time ago and I recall it fondly as a wonderful example of maturity. Maturity is nothing more than knowing who you are and accepting that truth.

It sounds so simple, yet for so many of us we are unsure about ourselves and often unaccepting of the person we believe we might be. What does it take to move us from doubt, uncertainty, and the insecurity of our own sense of self to a place of acceptance and peace? I am not sure if there is a magic formula but I am sure that the journey is a long and complicated one.

We are social beings. We define ourselves in relationships with others; how another speaks to us, sees us, cares for us, accepts us, and more are all fundamental in how we come to see our very selves. For example, there are numerous stories and studies of how a child performs in school to meet the expectation of the teacher. If a teacher, for whatever reason, has decided the child is slow and not too bright – too often the child’s performance is just that. The opposite applies equally. I recall having a slow start in college and in my sophomore year, turning in a sociology paper to my professor. Later, the professor called me to his office, held out the paper to me and said, “Ronan, you can do beer than this – here, do it.” I walked out of that office fuming . . . and then went and wrote a better paper.

Research is stunning about the low image teenagers have of their bodies. Both boys and girls in amazing numbers think they are not handsome or pretty. In fact, most people do not even have a clear sense of acceptance of their own body until they are in their 20’s. Whether it is one’s body, personality, aptitude or overall general appearance, how we get to a healthy place of self acceptance is a challenge.

For the Christian, however, there is another essential part of the journey. We celebrate that we are God’s creation, made in the image and likeness of God. Furthermore, we celebrate that God loves us unequivocally and constantly. Our relationship with Jesus as friend is for many of us a deep source of strength and a fundamental aspect of our maturity. By that I mean, as I recognize myself as a man, with all kinds of strengths and weakness, hopes and dreams, failures and embarrassments, I also know that I am loved by God.

The life and teaching of Jesus continually has taught that God’s love is neither dependent on my level of perfection nor impeded by my imperfections. God loves us because God is God and God is love. For young and old and everyone in between, maturity is saying “yes” to who and what I am and knowing that each of us is a work in progress. God is not yet finished with us – we are on that journey and maturity does not mean that our work is finished or we are perfected – it simply means accepting where I am today – and knowing that place is fine with God.

– Fr. Ronan

October 20 ~
Twenty-ninth Sunday Ordinary Time

“Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed. . . proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient”. Paul makes it very clear that the scriptures we hear are God’s inspired word for us. Therefore, when we pray with the Scriptures, we can be confident that God shows us where and with whom we are to “proclaim the word.”
So as the familiar hymn proclaims,
“Take the word of God with you as you go.
Take the seeds of God’s word and let them grow.


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Walking through the barrios of Guayaquil, Ecuador one of
the first impressions one has is the number of dogs that are
everywhere. My old uncle had a saying, “You could always
tell a poor man – because he has a dog; you can always tell a very poor man, because he has two dogs!”
Even when there is limited food for everyone in the family – the dog is in the midst of the family and receives a little of whatever there is. Of course here in Charlestown the whole dog thing is huge – and I confess that I add to the affection folks have with dogs with my own Labrador, Lily.

Yet, I find it troubling that the emphasis we place on our pets seems more
than our concern for people, especially people in need. When a person is found to be abusing an animal, that story might make headlines, especially if the person is some sort of a celebrity. On the other hand, when a person is found to be abusing another person, it is not such a big deal. But it is a big deal.

Naturally, human relationships are more complex than our relationships with our pets. Intimate relationships between friends and spouses are especially complex. When all is healthy, people understand the need of each other to express self in open and honest ways grounded in genuine love and care for the other. Yet all too often all is not healthy and one person in a relationship seeks to control the other by the use of physical, emotional, verbal, financial and/or sexual abuse. When this happens, it is called domestic violence.

The best definition of violence I have ever heard is: “Anything done or not done that diminishes the dignity of another”. When you think about that – all of us have been violent and been victims of violence. Yet domestic violence is the systematic use of violence to gain and maintain control over another. Perhaps the first response to this definition is to think I am speaking about something that is uncommon and certainly not in the neighborhood where I live. Sadly that is untrue.

Domestic violence affects anyone regardless of age, gender, identity, sexual
orientation, race, country of origin, ethnicity, culture, ancestry, socioeconomic status, religion, etc. It is estimated that 85% of domestic violence victims are women costing our country $5.8 billion each year. Recent statistics in the United States report nearly one in four women experience violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life. The picture is clear – Domestic Violence is a huge issue and needs to be brought out of the closet and into the light.

The more our community is aware of these realities the safer all persons in
our community will be. And while the men and women impacted are many, it is the children who are in families where there is violence who are profoundly impacted and often emotionally crippled in their own development. So what do we do? October is DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH. Look around. Learn about resources that are here in Charlestown and in our city that can help someone in an abusive relationship. Talk with a member of the local clergy, speak with a close friend. Often speaking about one’s suffering can be the first step toward receiving help – for everyone concerned.

In God’s eyes, each of us is precious, each life is to be respected, and no person, ever in any way shape or form, has the right to abuse another. When this happens, both the person abused and the abuser need help and need to find healing and support.

Fr. Ronan

HarborCOV 24-hour Hotline 617.884.9909 (Crisis Only)
P.O. Box 505754, Chelsea, MA 02150
Business Phone 617.884.9799

Twenty-eight Sunday
Ordinary Time
October 12/13, 2019

In today’s Gospel, we hear of the ten men afflicted with leprosy, and the one who glorifies God for being healed. It is a dramatic scene of gratitude. But in order for the miracle to happen in the first place, these men had to start walking in faith before their diseased conditions change one tiny bit. Good stewards of their faith realize that they cannot wait until their problems are over to start walking in faith. They praise God even in the darkest of nights, and in the worst of circumstances.
Do we walk in faith, offering the Lord our gratitude even when we are in difficult circumstances?

October is Respect Life month

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My Dear Friends in Christ:
Each October during Respect Life Month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launches a new cycle of the Respect Life Program – a year round, nationwide effort to help Catholics understand, value, and help cultivate respect for human life.

As Chairman of the USCCB Committee on ProLife Activities, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all you do to build a culture of life on a daily basis. Your efforts on behalf of the unborn, the dying, the elderly, the imprisoned, the poor, and so many others have a profound impact, both now and in the life to come.

This year’s theme, Christ Our Hope: In Every Season of Life, is particularly suited for the times in which we live. The attacks against human life seem to grow more numerous and callous by the day. Despite these challenges, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death once and for all. Through our Christian hope in the Resurrection, we are given the grace to persevere in faith. Our sacrifices on behalf of the Gospel of Life can contribute to the redemption of this current culture of death.

During the 2019-2020 Respect Life Program cycle, we also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the papal encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life), written by St. John Paul II. The Church’s teaching on the value and inviolability of every human life remains an indispensable source of truth for all people. As Evangelium vitae highlights, “together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love” (EV6).

We bishops need your help. While there may be opportunities for decisive political action, we know that to build a true culture of life, we must seek to change hearts and minds. And your witness is essential.

It is the vocation of the laity to go out to be leaven in the world, a light in the darkness. Your daily activities take you to places I cannot go; they bring you to those I will never meet. May you allow Christ to renew and strengthen you, that He may work through you in each moment of every day. Be assured of my prayers for you and for our common efforts to bring about a world in which every life is cherished. And so together may we “hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm” (Heb 6:18- 19).

Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas
Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Committee on Pro-Life Activities

October 6 ~ Twenty-seventh Sunday Ordinary Time

In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us of our responsibility as disciples saying, “Stir into a flame the gift of God that you have…”
When we feel that we do not have the courage to speak about Christ to others, Paul also reminds us that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love…” When the disciples were worried about their mission they turned to Jesus and asked for an increase of faith.
How about us?
Will we take God’s word to heart and share it with courage?

An Age Old Question

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Almost 40 years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner published a book with a captivating title: “When Bad Things Happen to Good People?” Everyone can relate to that question that has become part of common parlance. Rabbi Kushner wrote his reflection, almost as a meditation, after his young son was diagnosed with a fatal disease. Like millions of others, I read his book and it contains a wisdom and a compassion that has been a source of solace for many over these years. The question is, in fact, haunting and one that as a parish priest I have heard all too many times. Doubtless, you, too, have posed the question in one way or another.

It seems to me that one of the first responses many of us has when something bad happens is, “What did I do to deserve this?” Somehow, we want to connect our behavior with what happens to us; and often that is the case, but not always. In fact, the very nature of the question rather implies that bad things should happen to bad people and good things to good people. When we cannot find the “bad” we have done that seems to merit the suffering, many feel a sense of unfairness and anger toward someone, often God. Of course, we always want someone to blame for our suffering.

Yet, each of us knows that life is not fair and suffering is a part of life. Your mother suffered to give you birth; your father suffered to care for you and both parents suffered to raise you. The beginning of suffering is in the very nature of our broken human condition. A Christian traces this brokenness to The Garden and original sin. That original sin was placing human interest and will over God’s and ever since, we struggle with the consequences of that choice.

As I consider my own journey, now in its 74th year, it seems to me that we spend our entire life learning to let go. This begins when we have to let go of the safety and comfort of our mother’s womb and the “letting go” of our self-interest and selfishness continues from infancy into childhood through adulthood and finally arriving at our senior years. All along the way, we have to learn to “let go” and that is hard and often painful. The process means we live into the truth of our mortality; life is oh so brief and our destiny is not to be found here on earth.

For me this “letting go” about which I speak frees me to find and embrace what gives my life meaning and direction – a relationship with God. There is nothing more meaningful, more fulfilling and more capable to make whole my broken human condition. For this relationship brings me to Christ, the source of all that is Love. Living in a relationship with Christ leads me to others offering the hope and joy, the suffering and sorrow we know together. In the gift of these relationships of family, friendship and community, we find the authentic experience of love, learning to let go and to embrace – almost in practice for our final letting go and embrace.

Fr. Ronan

Twenty-sixth Sunday – Ordinary Time September 28/29, 2019

In today’s Gospel Jesus offers a warning about living selfishly in his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man holds sumptuous feasts and dresses in fine clothes. But despite his affluence he does nothing to relieve the painful hunger and debilitating condition of his neighbor Lazarus.
He neglects to love his neighbor as he loves himself and is sent to hell for his lifestyle and desire for self-gratification.
The Rich Man represents those who spend their money on their own personal pleasures with no regard for sharing their material possessions with the poor and needy in their own neighborhood.
Good stewards realize the practical implications of not only loving God, but loving their neighbor as they would love themselves.
Who are the less fortunate in our neighborhood?
Do we share a portion of our own blessings with them?

To Wonder

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We walked along the sidewalk and there were flower gardens, lawn, shrubs and trees all along the way. He was holding my hand – it was a stretch for both of us for he was only 2 years old. The weather was warm and lovely, typical for springtime in Virginia, and there were ants and various bugs crawling everywhere celebrating the rites of spring. My nephew caught sight of these critters and nothing would do but he had to let go of my hand and crawl along following a busy colony of something. He was lost in amazement, completely outside of himself in wonder as he crawled through puddles and over rock in pursuit of the mystery of this life.

I have always held that memory as a classic understanding of what it means to wonder. Wonder is very different than thinking about, analyzing, processing, discussing and debating, working through and a dozen other ways in which most adults stand in front of daily reality. With a “hands-on-hip get the job done” attitude none of us seem to have much time for … wondering. In fact wondering is likely considered a waste of time in many circles and that’s a shame.

Abraham Heschel, the late and brilliant Jewish theologian and philosopher, wrote a lot about wonder. I like these words: “The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.” To me the issue relates to how one stands in the world in front of the mystery and beauty of creation and all life. Not to wonder seems to leave two options: dismiss the great mysteries of life or believe everything can be understood and figured out. The latter opens one to unsustainable arrogance and failure and the former seems nothing short of foolish.

It is only our capacity for wonder that opens us to the transcendent and the mystery that is life and the universe. In one of his writings, Heschel says that the person who never wonders cannot find God. Is it possible that our present time of efficiency, productivity, and astonishing advances in so many levels have come at a price? The cost has been an increase of secularism and a diminishment of wonder – be it in art, music, theatre and religious practices.

Professor Heschel’s formula for a life well lived is as follows: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Once again, our children can teach us. Jesus was clear in His teaching – we are to become like children and perhaps that is so we can re-capture our sense of wonder in our everyday life for as Heschel says, “Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.”

Fr. Ronan

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 21/22, 2019

In Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Steward, we encounter a financial manager who has wasted his master’s wealth and faces dismissal from his position. To overcome the crisis confronting him, the steward reduces some very considerable debts owed by poor neighbors to his master in order to help them out. Though the steward has sinned against God and his master by squandering what belongs to someone else, both the prudent way in which he goes about resolving the crisis coupled with relieving people who are in need can be seen as a way to better steward the gifts entrusted to us by God. Although good stewards today acknowledge that they may never use their God-given gifts in a way that completely conforms to the demands of the Gospel, a commitment to using their gifts with prudence and for the purpose of helping their neighbors wins God’s favor.

Human Consequences of our Immigration Policies

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Immigration is as ancient as recorded history. It is driven by multiple factors — people move because they are afraid, oppressed, or to escape violence and chaos. Immigration is often accompanied by human tragedy. But not always — people also move because of hopes and dreams. They move to find new opportunities, and they move to contribute to their new country. Having worked with immigrant communities throughout my priesthood, I have seen how deeply patriotic they are when they are welcomed to this country.

Immigration in our time has far exceeded previous experience. The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people are migrating today. We live in a globalized world; in that context, movement is perpetual. Ideas move, products move, money moves. But people do not migrate easily. Obstacles abound.

Part of the reason is that our globalized world is structured and governed by sovereign states. It is a basic function of states to establish secure boundaries, defining the territory where they exercise sovereignty.

Security and sovereignty are part of the reality of immigration, but they are not all of it. Sovereignty has moral content, but it is not an absolute value. The immigration policy of states should combine security with a generous spirit of welcome for those in danger and in need.

That necessary combination of values is seriously lacking in the United States today. Principal responsibility for this moral failure must rest with the federal government, where policy is a product primarily of the president and Congress. But it also must be recognized that, as a society, we are deeply divided over immigration. Our divisions have produced severe human consequences — it is imperative to acknowledge some of them.

First, the most dramatic and dehumanizing consequence is to be found on the border with Mexico. To be sure, the challenge — thousands of adults and children seeking asylum every day — is unprecedented in recent history. But even a challenge of this severity, in a country of our resources and capabilities, cannot justify how these children and families are being treated. The overarching policy of the US government lacks justification.

Rather than a humane plan, existing policy in word and deed is more focused on castigating and confining young and old, male and female, in conditions often pervasively unfit for human life and dignity.

Second, rather than focus the efforts of all relevant agencies on the relief of suffering at the border, there are continuing threats made that the government will scour the country to remove people who have settled here and whose children are citizens.

Third, the dysfunction of our policy is acknowledged across the political spectrum of our country. The crisis at the border and the focus on removals leave the broader policy agenda unresolved in the executive and legislative branches of government.

To be sure, there are thousands at the border who require immediate attention. But there are also 11 million unauthorized immigrants in our midst with no policy to stabilize their existence and provide a path to citizenship — a policy objective advocated by the Catholic Church for decades.

Among the 11 million people are 3.6 million people brought to the United States as children, of which only 700,000 have temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is itself under threat. There are also over 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status who are living in limbo. They have come to the United States for various reasons — for some, their countries have suffered natural disasters and they have no viable option to return home. There are no policies in place to allow TPS holders, the majority of whom have lived in the United State for more than 20 years, to earn lawful residency and move forward in their lives.

The point of identifying these broad categories and consequences of existing policy is to highlight that practical, concrete choices are available to correct a dysfunctional policy. First, we should recognize that economic assistance to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico could assist people to remain in their home countries. In addition, the historic “guest worker” program, which provides temporary visas for workers, can contribute to the needs of the United States as well. However, our policies on Central America seem exclusively focused on threats, coercion, and punishment. This is surely misguided.

Developing positive solutions does not seem to be the motivating concern of existing policy. Instead, the current emphasis, we are told, is on “deterrence,” a term at home in military policy that is now being advocated to confront people with no power of any kind. The targets in this case are not an armed array of hostile attackers. They are women, children, families.

Fourth, while deterrence can have some role in law enforcement and has been used by other administrations, much depends on the spirit and motivation that animates our broader immigration policy. Current US policy and practices combine to project an attitude of animus toward immigrants. Most evident is the language used at times to describe people on our borders; it is often degrading and demoralizing.

Beyond language, there are the policies to reduce the number of refugees the United States will welcome. The numbers have been reduced substantially, and threats exist to reduce them to zero. The federal government recently announced it will expedite removals of undocumented immigrants without judicial appeal or oversight and move to provide for unlimited detention of families seeking asylum. The tenor, tone, and result of these policies communicate a distinct message: We have no room in our hearts and no space in our country for people facing life-and-death situations. This hostile spirit toward immigrants extends to proposals to expel some of those receiving crucial medical care. A similar spirit of lack of compassion and generosity is manifested in new proposals to focus immigration increasingly on merit-based applicants, leaving the poor excluded.

Our present moment requires civility and charity among the citizens of our society and toward those hoping to become citizens. As a country it is a good time to remember the biblical axiom: To whom much is given, much is expected.

Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley

Twenty-fourth Sunday Ordinary Time Weekend of September 14/15, 2019

Among the primary themes in today’s Gospel when we hear Jesus’ well-known parable of the Prodigal Son is forgiveness and the need to repent. But from a stewardship point of view what is also interesting is one of the secondary themes: the failure to use responsibly the gifts that have been so generously bestowed. The youngest son who demanded his inheritance and left home broke no laws or religious commandments. His wrongdoing was that he wasted his inherited wealth, the abundant gifts given to him. His sin was in his extravagant living; squandering his gifts in pursuit of selfish pleasures. Good stewards acknowledge that everything they have comes from God, and they are required to cultivate these gifts responsibly.
What are our God-given gifts?
Do we use them responsibly?
Do we exercise good stewardship over them?

Change is Tough

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

I was twenty years old and finishing my second year of college when my parents decided it was time to sell the family home in Dorchester. Some of my older siblings had already moved on and I was the youngest. The neighborhood had changed a lot and my Dad planned to semi-retire and make a move to a smaller home in the suburbs. I spent a lot of that summer cleaning, moving and packing, and remembering. What a great old house that was and how hard it was to say goodbye – to change and to move on.

My story and memories are no different then those of so many of you as well, I imagine. We have all gone through changes in life – it is simply part of the journey. And if there has not been too much changing in your life – just wait a minute – something will come along real soon! Changes in the Church are sort of like changes in our homes and families – they are so close and personal to us. Of course we all come to realize that change is inevitable in all but the most fundamental things.

For example, our faith that sustains us daily; the love we share in families and friendships and the hope that is ours for tomorrow and into the future. These are all constants and we depend upon them each day. Our faith, hope and love may grow, be challenged and be taken for granted – but they are cornerstones of our life. It seems so much else changes. People, relationships, experiences, work, institutions, products, places and on and on – all come and go, leaving us to cope with an ever changing landscape.

And how do we cope as men and women of Faith with the changes in our lives and world? Some see changes as conspiracy and are threatened by change. Others see changes as exciting and inevitable and positive. Some are indifferent, others passionate about holding on to whatever.

For me, 6 Percival Street is gone – forever. All that was important in my life that happened at 6 Percival Street is a part of me and my brothers and sisters and our lives. Saying goodbye was hard as it often is. But, saying goodbye usually means we are saying hello as well. And if my history is any indication of my journey, and maybe yours, God has always been active in both the goodbyes and hellos – sustaining, helping guiding. In fact, it is in exactly the act of letting go of what is comfortable and familiar that we are invited to trust in the God who knows us so well and loves us so much. Sustained by this trust, we can go forward with hope.

Fr. Ronan

Follow me !

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time September 7/8, 2019

At the conclusion of today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell a “great crowd” that “… anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” A few of Jesus’ immediate disciples, such as Peter, John and James, did just that: They responded to Jesus’ call, renouncing everything to follow him. How do modern disciples of Jesus respond when confronted with this apparently harsh command of Jesus? Surely the renunciation of possessions need not mean literally giving all one’s possessions away, does it?
Questions we might ponder this week though:
Do our possessions keep us from encountering Christ at Mass?
Do they distract us from our parish family?
Do our possessions interfere with our relationships?
Do they make us insensitive to those less fortunate?