Catholic Relief Services: Social Justice in Action

Yesterday, I received an email from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), perhaps you did, too. If not, they are people you’ll want to know.

CRS extends the charity of Catholics of the United States overseas.  CRS is working in Somalia to address the worsening famine. If you would like to know more about the famine, please read CRS’s East Africa Drought Fact Sheet. It provides excellent background information explaining the situation, what CRS is doing, and how we all can help.

If you’re unfamiliar with CRS, sign up for their newsletter, here, read their blog, here, and learn how effective and efficient they are with our donations, here.



Why do famines keep happening?

Keeping Faith August 4, 2011

Josette Sheeran Visits Horn Of Africa

Tuesday I saw starving Somali children on the news, almost too hard to watch.

Wednesday night the One Campaign sponsored a conversation by phone on the drought in Africa. Honestly it was encouraging to hear from people

Josette Sheeran from the United Nations World Food Programme comes on the phone. She remembers the famine in Ethiopia of 1984. “It was preventable,” she says. It’s what drew her into humanitarian work.

Why do famines keep happening? Isn’t the Horn of Africa a black hole for international aid? Do any of the aid dollars make a difference? How can we help the children?

Droughts may not be preventable but famines are. Kenya and Uganda are proving more resilient to the drought than Somalia. Why?

Famines happen not because there is no food but because people lack access to food. A third of the 12 million people that the drought effects have not had to leave home. Governments and agencies saw the drought coming when the fall rains failed and ramped up stocks of food.

International aid has improved roads, so crops get to market and markets grow. Storage gets built. Organizations such as the World Food Programme and Maize Without Borders buy locally. International aid now recognizes 75% of the farmers in these areas are women and targets their agricultural supports at them. Aid is paying off. After all, emergencies cost more.

Somalia proves the point that famine is avoidable. Its failed government prevents humanitarian access. Organizations have supplies of PlumpyNut and other therapeutic foods, but workers can’t get through to the two million people at risk. Somalia lacks roads, storage, and assurance of safety from the government. The world knows about its pirates at sea. It’s a nightmare that has cost aid workers’ lives. Somalis in the United States agonize as they connect by phone with family in the midst of the disaster.

The United Nations has officially declared famine in areas of south Somalia. Famine by definition means 30% of the people are malnourished and 15 people per 10,000 are dying every day. Famine affects children first and worst. Those who live by pasturing animals have lost 80% of their livestock.

The world can rise to emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina or the flooding in Pakistan if countries allow humanitarian organizations access. That’s what people on the phone conversation insist. They do the work.

To respond to famine emergency, the United Nations is appealing for $2.2 billion. It has $1 billion so far, half from the U.S.

Your Call to Action:  

Visit the World Food Programme for 10 Ways You Can Help

Do 1 or 2 or all of them.

Then tell me about it in the comment section below.

Has your faith group adopted this as a cause? What creative things are you doing?

2011: The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew is the focus in 2011.

The First Sunday of Advent begins the new Church year and a new cycle of Sunday scripture readings.  In 2011 the Church reads from Matthew’s gospel, the second gospel written.   Matthew writes about AD 85 for Gentiles, seekers like the magi, who believe in Jesus and his new law as a result of the apostles’ preaching his good news to all nations.

Matthew’s gospel follows Mark’s gospel, the first gospel written, and adds more sayings, parables, and stories.  If Matthew were alive today, perhaps he would be a librarian because he  arranges the gospel like a library with sayings in chapters 5-7, miracles in chapters 8-9, parables in chapter 13, advice to Christians on mutual love in communities (chapter 18), parables of judgment (chapter 25).

The Advent Sunday gospels from Matthew feature the voice of John the Baptist, who promises one is coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire and sends messengers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one?”  Matthew’s Christmas story features Joseph, who keep the law compassionately and accepts the child in Mary’s womb.

In 2011 the Church will read most of one of Matthew’s most distinctive parts, the sermon on the mount (chapters 5-7).  Matthew creates a scene in which Jesus sits on a mount and teaches his disciples and a crowd his new law.  The scene echoes the setting in which Moses receives the old law on Mt. Sinai.  Matthew wasn’t us to see Jesus as the new Moses.

The sermon begins with the beatitudes that challenge us to bless the poor, the sorrowing, and the lowly, to stand with the persecuted, to bring the hungry to our tables, thirst for justice, make peace, and act with mercy.  In these sayings Jesus calls us to be salt of the earth and light to the world, to recognize we cannot worship God and carry anger toward our neighbors, to love our enemies, to keep our word, to put God first in our lives.  The sermon continues until Lent begins.

Now in late summer, we read that Jesus makes a messianic banquet of five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21)

How do you share the bounty of your life?

Your garden?

Your faith?

Building Community

With Sunday by Sunday Catholics pray, read, and reflect together about the Sunday gospel.  Adults experience gathering in Jesus’ name as a small community.  Their friendships strengthen parish communities.  Their insights move into action in their neighborhoods.  Their living the gospel infects families and coworkers.

Simple Things to Know About the Gospels

Many people feel they don’t have enough knowledge of the bible to lead teen or adult faith-sharing groups.

But Jesus teaches in stories, parables, and saying that almost all of us can understand. In fact, an ability to remember and narrate events develops in children as they start school. “And then, and then, and then,” they recount, putting happenings in sequence.

We can read the bible; it’s meant for all of us.

The work of scholars can help us deepen our understanding and know more about Jesus’ time.

Simple Things to Know About the Gospels

The four gospels narrate four accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In earlier centuries theologians tried to harmonize the four gospels into one composite story. Today we value the distinct portrait of Jesus that each gospel draws. Jesus is:

  • a dynamic prophet and healer in Mark’s gospel
  • a teacher and lawgiver in Matthew’s gospel
  • a Spirit-filled prophet who brings good news to the poor in Luke’s gospel
  • Wisdom incarnate in John’s gospel.

Each evangelist writes in different decades for unique communities.

About AD70 Mark writes for fear-filled Christians, either those who fled Jerusalem ahead of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 or those in crisis in Rome after the martyrdoms of both Paul and Peter.  Because the original eyewitnesses have been martyred or are growing old by this time, Mark gathers together oral traditions and writes them down for future generations.

About AD 85, Matthew writes for Gentiles, seekers like the magi, who believe in Jesus and his new law as a result of the apostles’ preaching to the ends of the earth. He follows Mark’s narrative and adds many more of Jesus’ sayings.  He organizes many of the sayings into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew emphasizes that forgiveness and mutual love make Christian communities work.

Also about AD 85 Luke writes for educated Gentiles who want a formal, orderly, and inspiring account of Jesus’ whole life.  Luke uses Mark’s narrative and adds more sayings and stories, emphasizing Jesus as a man of prayer who challenges us to invest in the poor.

In the AD 90s John writes a unique narrative for a community that washes one another’s feet and proclaims that Jesus is the Word who, like Holy Wisdom in the Old Testament, was with God from the beginning.   Jesus is living water, living bread, the best wine, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life.

Which evangelist resonates with your faith community? your family? your friends?

St. Donatus Centennial Reflection, July 10, 2011

 St. Donatus Catholic Church in Brooten celebrated its Centennial  on July 10th. Sister Joan Mitchell delivered this gospel reflection.

Since Einer Jensen didn’t recognize me with grey hair last Sunday, I’ll introduce myself: Joan Mitchell, a Sister of St. Joseph.  In the litany we sang and prayed we have placed ourselves in the company of generations of our families who have gathered in this parish community before us, our local communion of saints.  The litany took 10 minutes to pray the names; it took 100 years of living and worshiping as a Christian community to get to this moment.  Among those names are infants, the Schmidt babies, Ron Essler, a soldier killed in Vietnam, and people who lived among us into their nineties.  We have celebrated life, love, and death together.  When Father Jeff baptized my brother Warren’s grandchild here, Madeline was the sixth generation to come to this church or Padua, my uncle Jim Mitchell one of the first to be baptized here.

If we had picked scripture readings for our centennial, we couldn’t do better than those the Church reads today.  The gospel parable describes Jesus as a farmer who sows the Word of God.  This parable promises that in good soil the seed will yield 30, 60, and 100-fold.  The promise looks beyond Jesus’ ministry and its end in his death and resurrection.  The promise of 30, 60, and 100-fold reaches across the centuries.  It is the promise of the gospel making progress in our world and transforming us as we hear the word Jesus taught and live it.

Farmers know about seeds and soil.  Seeds only multiply if we plant them.  Yearly we take the risk, sow seeds in the earth, and hope for a bumper crop.  Actually seeds don’t fall into the earth and die, they germinate.  The life inside them swells with warmth and moisture, outgrows their hulls, and sprouts into new plants.  A wonderful image of Jesus, who like the seed germinates in the earth, swells with new life, and yields in his new life the hundredfold—the communities of Christians planted here, throughout the world, across the centuries.

Christian life is about planting the Word of God in our lives.  Each generation hands on the Word of God to the next by living it.  In a small parish like ours we remember people who by living the Word handed on the Jesus’ message to uss.  I remember Peter Pletschette faithfully sitting in the pew in front of us every Sunday, third pew from the front, right hand side.  He signed the original articles of incorporation for the parish as a trustee.  At age three and four I found his totally bald head about the most interesting thing in church.

I remember Mr. Rausch whose legs were stiff and bowed but who nonetheless slowly made the double genuflection we used to do for adoration at the end of Holy Thursday liturgy.  That gesture was a seed of living faith for me.  Another seed got planted in sixth grade.  We kids got to putty the new windows on the north side of Church.  Puttying was a new level of belonging and ownership.  Many men helped build the parish house and then the new Church.  Some of you here may remember assembling the beams overhead.  When we kids puttied the windows, it was for me a kind of sacrament of belonging.  Confirmation is the Church’s sacrament, puttying was mine.

I remember the Essler’s standing at the altar here in the new church on their 50th wedding anniversary.  Father Tony asked family to touch them on the shoulders to bless them.  It’s a big family.  Soon a whole web of maybe 50 people surrounded them, a beautiful testimony to all marriage can be.  We celebrate the beginnings of marriages—what seeds of faith fall into good ground in celebrating a family that has thrived.

Even though we are a small, rural parish, the great movements in the universal Church have touched and stretched us.  I am the only person I know, that is not from this parish, who grew up reading the Catholic Worker, learning about conscientious objection from Ammon Hennessey, who was often writing from jail.  Of course, Dorothy Day, who started hospitality houses for street people in the Bowery in New York, came to speak.  Probably the Church will one day declare her a saint.

We lived the liturgical movement in this parish.  Every religion class began, “What is the liturgy?”  Answer: The public worship of the Church, the public work and worship of the Church, centered in Eucharist, the sacraments, Holy Week was a workout for us all.  Our worship has nurtured talented voices and church musicians who have gone on to help other communities pray.

My vocation started in release time religion class.  Father Fehrenbacher wanted us to come to daily Mass for Lent.  The Eucharist is the Church’s greatest prayer, he said, better than giving up candy.  He asked us one by one if we would come to Mass.  Jim Halvorson and Jack Marthaler said yes; they were serving.  I said no.  I had responsibilities at home, so Mother could leave early to teach country school.

The next morning the beds were made and I was done with dishes, staring at greasy dish water with pancake buttons floating around, when I noticed the clock said 7:45.  Mass was at 8, school even later.  I could go Mass.  What to do?  Dirty dish water or Mass, which was more important?  So I started to go to Mass.

When the Second Vatican Council turned altars around and invited us to worship in English, we were ready in this parish.  We knew we are the Church, the People of God, worship is our work and requires our talents and commitment.  Leonard and Martin Schmidt started serving as young adults and graduated to ushering.  Women have been leaders in the parish.  Women have kept us singing and praying, organized us—Anna, Ruth, Margie, Francis, Hilda, Audrey, Bonita, Fran whose dressing is better for being made in her wash tubs.

More recently immigration has touched and stretched us.  When migrant workers came to Bonanza Valley after we began to irrigate the sandy land and plant different crops, Sister Adela Gross and Sister Mary Weidner came to help us welcome them.  Priests came who spoke Spanish and linked us with our diocesan mission in Venezuela.   Our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters enlarge our community and teach us about the bigger church of which we are a tiny part.  They call us out of our silos.  We remember that we  have all immigrated or migrated here from somewhere.

As the parish celebrates its centennial, the Village of Brooten is celebrating 125 years.  It’s not a Catholic town.  Who knew Stearns County was 95% Catholic?  I was the only Catholic kid in my grade in elementary school.  Our parish community has a long history of living with neighbors who went to other churches.  I remember my grandpa Steve Mitchell going out on the sidewalk to talk to Pastor Bodin in Norweigan when he walked by.  St. Donatus also has a history of cooperating with other Catholic parishes—with Sedan as our mission, with St. Anthony of Padua and now with Belgrade and Elrosa.  As the Holy Spirit leads us into the future, we bring resilience to contend with change.

Today we gather at this Eucharist to celebrate our parish and families that have cultivated the Word of God in our lives.  The future calls us to do what farmers always do: keep planting.  We may never know for whom our lived faith plants a seed.  Mr. Rausch never knew.  We are good ground.  Jesus promises yields abundant.

Fourth of July Blessing

from Blessing Rites for Christian Lives by Shawn Madigan, CSJ

“The Lord loves Justice and will not forsake a faithful people” (Psalm 37:28)

Holidays celebrating the liberty and justice for all that our nation claims are a good time to renew efforts to make that dream come true.  A table can have the usual colors of celebration and a candle symbolizing both Christ our Light and freedom’s light of Lady Liberty.

LEADER: Today we give thanks for the freedom Christ’s light brings and for Lady Liberty’s torch that shines forth as a sign of care for the tired and the poor from all nations.
ALL: Trust in the Lord so you may live in the land and enjoy security.

PSALM 37:3-11 Pray antiphonally.An old patriot
1. Trust in the Lord and do good;
so you will live in the land and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
who will give you the desires of your heart.
2. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in God and God will act.
Your vindication will shine forth like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
1. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently.
Do not fret over those who prosper in their way
or over those who carry out evil devices.
2. Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.
Do not fret; it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
1. Yet a little while and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
2. But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
ALL: Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy security.

LEADER: Today we remember with gratitude all of the countless people whose lives have been given for the good of this nation in times of war and in times of peace. Brief silence.

READER 1: The wisdom of Solomon and of Jesus reflect ideals for a community living under God. If your enemy is hungry, provide food; if thirsty, provide drink.  In this way, you will heap coals on the head of your enemy and God will reward you (Based on Prov 25: 21-22).

READER 2: Blessed are those who are poor in spirit: the kingdom of heaven is theirs.  Blessed are those who are mourning: they will be consoled.
Blessed are those who are gentle: they will inherit the land.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice; they will have their fill.
Blessed are those who show mercy to others: they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are clean: they will see God.
Blessed are those who work for peace: they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their struggle for justice: the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Matt 5:3-11).

LEADER: You are the liberty of the world. Shared reflection: What does it mean today to live as “light” of liberty and justice for all?
LEADER: God of our ancestors in this land, God of all nations and peoples, God who still calls us to be agents of liberty and justice for all, we thank you for this service of all our people who have died defending the ideals of this nation.  With gratefulness, we pray:
ALL: God bless America, land that I love.
LEADER: Jesus Christ, who invited all who were heavily burdened to come to you, bless all the people in this land whose lives say with Lady Liberty “Bring me your tired and your poor.” Withe gratefulness for these witnesses of care, we give you thanks and we pray:
ALL: God bless America, land that I love.
LEADER: Spirit of Wisdom, whose insight is freely given, guide our leaders and our nation’s people to discern and remove oppression of our own people and of all peoples. We ask that true liberty and justice for all come soon in our land as we pray:
ALL: God bless America, land that I love.
Sing “God bless America” and exchange peace.

Happy birthday, Sister Barbara!

Happy birthday, Sister Barbara!

If you’ve ever ordered Sunday By Sunday, chances are you’ve had a conversation with our sales specialist, Sister Barbara.  Today is her 70th birthday!

Sister Barbara is taking some time off to celebrate her birthday, visit family in South Dakota, and cheer on her beloved Minnesota Twins.  She’ll be back at Good Ground Press next month.

PS:  If you want to make Sister Barbara’s day, renew your Sunday By Sunday subscription now!

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