Category Archives: Church in the World

Edith Avila Olea of Joliet, Ill., receives the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award during the June 10 spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review) See story to come.

The Cry of a Brown Person in the Aftermath of this Election

by Edith Avila, November 16, 2016

Like millions around this world, I’ve been going strong on the struggle bus. For me, there are several reasons as to why I have felt such darkness, but it wouldn’t be honest of me if I didn’t share that a great portion of that has come from our last election.

For years now, we, as a people, have lived through what I would call a traumatic experience due to the type of campaigns that were conducted. Like you, perhaps, I found myself in a tough spot. As a Catholic, I couldn’t comfortably support either of the candidates, and it cost me a great deal of peace.

Fast forward to the outcome of last Wednesday.

Allow me to share my experience of November 9th, the day after the election. Like any decent Catholic, I thought, I’ll go to mass to offer these negative emotions and find rest.

Until then, not a single tear had dropped. Well, I cried the entire celebration.

Two pews behind me, there was an older gentleman talking throughout the entire mass. He was celebrating our new President – elect. During the Sign of Peace, he waved, “It’s a wonderful day,” over and over again.

My reaction: sobbing tears.

After more prayer, I walked outside to overhear a conversation with the pastor and a few of his parishioners. I’m not confident in saying that they were celebrating, but they were at least talking in a positive tone, both in body and verbal language, of the outcome.

My reaction: sobbing uncontrollably in my car.

That’s when I realized that it was going to be four tough years ahead because I’m called to love, especially those who have hurt me. Of this commandment, I found myself extremely stressed.

I have never felt more isolated, more persecuted, or more betrayed in my life.

For clarification: my grave concern isn’t that Trump or Clinton hurt me; it was that my own brothers and sisters hurt me. It was after all, people who placed them as the top runners. It is the White, Evangelical Christians and Catholic vote that gives me the greatest pain and fear.

I sat in mass thinking, how can we as a Church be so divided? When did we become a one-issue Church? And why does it feel like I’m choosing a side, when I never saw myself as that person – I only saw myself as Catholic.

It’s my expectation to not fit in the world – I never thought that I would not fit in my own Church.

It’s foolish to think that we stand united when we are surrounded by advocates, church leaders, and pastors persuading people how to vote, and then celebrating the outcome.

It insinuates that we are lacking the ability to feel our brother’s and sister’s fears, pain, and being.

Thus, I find myself completely and utterly at a loss of words or a desire to fight. I don’t know how to move forward. I only know what I feel – I only know my story.

Perhaps if each of us took the time to truly hear each other’s story we would be more empathetic, we’d be more aware, sensitive, and caring. Out of my love for all my brothers and sisters, born and unborn, I’d like to share a glimpse of my story because love must triumph. My hope is that those who do not understand my grave sadness and despair might have their hearts softened hearing the story God has allowed me to live.

My story is one of both love and deprivation.

When I was a little girl, I used to avoid the sun because I didn’t want to get darker. I wanted to be white because I wanted to fit in. In fact, up until college, I worked very hard to fit in with the Anglo community. It hasn’t even been 10 years since I started learning how to love myself.

Growing up, my mother and father worked one, two, or three jobs. My grandmother became my second mom. In the beginning, my dad walked from one job to another to another. And my mother worked up until the day before most of her seven births.

I haven’t seen my grandma in nine years. I lost my grandfather in high school; I only met him twice; and could not go to the funeral. My other set of grandparents, I’ve only met twice. I have 8+ sets of uncles and aunts, 15+ cousins that I have not seen in 11 years. My mother and father haven’t hugged their own parents or siblings in 11 years. My relationship with most of my family is broken simply because we cannot see each other. We cannot relate to each other. It’s not because we don’t desire it or because we hate each other – that would be very contrary to the Latin culture, it is because they live across the border.

If you know about the current immigration system, you know that, contrary to popular opinion, it has never been easy to apply for documentation. It’s a waiting game. A waiting game filled with anxiety.

In my family, our children are all scared of the cops because we know that they may take us from our parents.

In my family, our children don’t know another homeland. We can barely speak our native language because the American culture demands that we strip ourselves of our native identity. To fit in, we are forced to learn and accept the current system of deprivation.

I lost count the number of times one of my family members has been pulled over for driving without a license. Despite the number of times, with every single phone call, my stomach falls, my heart skips a beat. I wonder when was my last interaction with them? I think of my cousins and we all sit in silence with each other. We rally because we are all we have in this country. The last time one of our uncles was pulled over was in August in Georgia. The bail was $10,000. The family and local community of us pulled our piggy banks together and rallied for him. He’s out. But now, he has a pile of increasing debt for driving with a tail light that went out during that one drive. Oh, and his children were in the car with him when it happened.

In my family, documented and undocumented, we are all scared all the time, but we say our prayers and live our lives. In my family, we are afraid to think that any of our family members in our native land may pass away because we will not be able to visit them to say goodbye. Two days after last year’s Thanksgiving, my 10-year-old niece lost her father due to the drug cartel. Three men were murdered in my hometown that night, all of which had relatives living in the U.S. None of them were able to go to the funeral.

As Catholics, we have the tradition of praying a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe after someone passes away for the eternal rest of his/ her soul. I lost count of how many novenas we have prayed over the last three years – at least 15.

In my family, we stand by each other no matter how much we might fight from time to time because we understand that it’s us against the world.

In my town, I have met brilliant, 4.0 GPA, undocumented students; some who have discontinued their education after high school because of fear and disbelief in the system. These students see walls every day without people having to build them.

In my home parish in Georgia, there have been countless experiences of racism between the Anglo and Hispanic community. Within the last 10 years, we were forbidden to use the same microphones. Even today, we, the brown people, are still not allowed use of all their, the white people’s, equipment. For our Christ Renews His Parish retreats, we are not allowed to use the parish kitchen so our moms cook everything in their homes for the retreaters. Two years ago, the parish had a bilingual, bi-cultural Christmas party. This Hispanic community’s assignment was cleaning after the event — assigned by the pastor. Our people didn’t even attend the party, but our leaders showed up at the very end to make sure the church was clean for Sunday masses. I could go on and on and on.

I could also ask my family to make a list; every single person of all ages would have a racial experience. We have all bawled; we have all felt hopeless; we have all felt fear; All due to the color of our skin, our ethnicity, and culture.

Today, I go through seasons of great anxiety, panic attacks, severe insomnia, depression, self-doubt and (especially today) despair. People seem to always be surprised by my list of troubles. And they wonder why.

Brothers and sisters, all I ask is that you don’t dismiss the reality of today. Just because your life goes on the same doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone else. Believe me, you likely have neighbors right down the road to your home, work, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants who will be affected by your action or silence. The fear that people are living with is real and valid. Do not dismiss this anguish. Acting like it’s not important will only push us into a deeper separation and desperation.

Christian brothers and sisters, we have a moral duty to make a preferential option for the poor and marginalized. I don’t believe a utopia will ever exist, for we would have to be in heaven, but I do believe that brotherhood and community is possible today. I also believe we must strive and work towards it.

Over the last few nights, I’ve had nightmares. I’ve cried nearly every day. My heart is on my sleeve for not just my own personal fears, but for the fears of my brothers and sisters who carry heavy crosses.

I can empathize because I have experienced my own walk.

I implore you; we cannot forget that we belong to each other.

The longer that I’m here, the more I look forward to leaving this Earth. I fit less and less. I’m neither from here or there, literally. I long for my eternal home, but until then, I will be here, fully present to the cry of those who suffer from injustice.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t have all the answers. And my story is not unique. In fact, mine is the story of millions in this nation.

I only have my voice, my faith, and my life. I don’t fully know or understand my need to write this, but I felt compelled to say something because silence has never been the solution. To let others decide how the poor and marginalized will be treated is to fall to sin and prolong injustice.

If our only mission in life is to love, then love demands action. If Mother Teresa would have simply prayed for people to save each other, her life would likely not be the legacy it is today. Her love of the Lord led to action. If Blessed Archbishop Romero would’ve simply prayed for the violence to stop, he would have never faced the accusations he lived through and likely, he’d be alive. His love of the Lord, of His people, led him to be the martyr we pray through today.

The hate and division in our society cultivated in this election is offensive and personal. I cannot, will not, compromise my faith to appease such a vote. My fear is not nonsense and useless.

To share my story is to love.

I don’t have a lot. I only have my faith, the promise of heaven, and the communion of saints.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, you appeared to an afflicted Mexican nation used and abused by the Spanish, hear my cry.

St. Teresa of Calcutta, beloved by those hurting greatest in the world, hear my cry.

Blessed Romero, hero of the afflicted by violence and economic injustice, hear my cry.

Dorothy Day, defender of radical Catholicism in a culture of increasing secularism, hear my cry.

Jesus, Lord, you who converted the heart of St. Paul, convert us all daily, hear my cry.

Dios te salve, Reina y Madre de misericordia, vida, dulzura y esperanza nuestra, Dios te salve. A ti clamamos los desterrados hijos de Eva. A ti suspiramos gimiendo y llorando en este valle de lágrimas. Ea, pues, Señora, abogada nuestra: vuelve a nosotros esos tus ojos misericordiosos. Y después de este destierro, muéstranos a Jesús, fruto bendito de tu vientre. Oh clemente, oh piadosa, oh dulce Virgen María. Ruega por nosotros, Santa Madre de Dios, para que seamos dignos de las promesas de Cristo. Amen.

 

Edith Avila Olea is an active young adult Catholic. She works as the Parish Outreach and Board of Young Professionals Coordinator for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet. In 2015, she was awarded the Cardinal Bernardin’s New Leadership Award given by the United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops at the summer Bishop’s Assembly. The summer of 2013, she interned for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at the Office for Human Dignity at the Diocese of Joliet.

POR MÉXICO ¡ACTUEMOS! Mensaje de los Obispos de México

Este mensaje fue publicado en la pagina de la Conferencia Episcopado Mexicano.

Cuautitlán, Izcalli, Edo. de México, 30 de abril de 2014

Con mucho cariño, a todas y a todos les hacemos llegar el saludo de Pascua con las motivantes y esperanzadoras palabras de Jesús resucitado, vencedor del mal y de la muerte: ¡La Paz sea con ustedes!

Con ustedes y como ustedes sentimos gran preocupación por el futuro de nuestro País. Por eso, ante las recientes Reformas Constitucionales aprobadas hacemos nuestras las inquietudes de nuestro pueblo y nos preguntamos de qué manera serán benéficas sobre todo para los que han estado permanentemente desfavorecidos, o si serán una nueva oportunidad para aquellos acostumbrados a depredar los bienes del País.

¿Qué garantizará que la Reforma Educativa impulse un verdadero desarrollo integral para todos; una reforma en la cual se reconozca el derecho fundamental de padres y madres de familia, y la sociedad en su conjunto asuma la responsabilidad que le corresponde; y no venga a alimentar una nueva estructura burocrática que sólo defienda sus propios intereses? ¡Sin educación de calidad no hay personas, ni pueblos libres!

¿Qué garantizará que la Reforma Fiscal fomente una contribución verdaderamente justa, equitativa, corresponsable, clara, sin complejidades y que sea utilizada con honestidad y transparencia para construir un país con menos desigualdades, que favorezca el empleo digno y bien remunerado y las inversiones productivas; o será una maraña en la que puedan evadirse o esconderse quienes se benefician de los recursos del pueblo de México? ¡Sin honestidad, veracidad y transparencia los recursos seguirán siendo botín de pocos!

¿Que garantizará que la Reforma Política consolide una auténtica democracia y una real participación ciudadana que supere las artimañas de los más habilidosos para lucrar con el poder? ¡Sin verdadero amor al prójimo, sólo habrá una búsqueda ambiciosa de pedazos de poder!

¿Qué garantizará que la Reforma Energética haga que los recursos del País se inviertan para superar los graves atrasos de gran parte de la sociedad mexicana, y que las inversiones públicas o privadas, nacionales o extranjeras sean promotoras de progreso social, humano y comunitario, y cuidadosas del medio ambiente, por encima de intereses particulares? ¡Si la persona humana no está por encima del dinero, el dinero le pondrá precio a cada persona!

¿Qué garantizará que la Reforma en Telecomunicaciones ponga al alcance de todos las ventajas de la tecnología, la calidad de los contenidos y el respeto a la dignidad y privacidad de los ciudadanos? ¡Sin verdad y sin justicia los monopolios sólo cambiarán de manos, la manipulación de la opinión pública y de los contenidos la definirán los intereses dominantes!

Las reformas son necesarias para adecuarnos al presente en la búsqueda de un futuro mejor. ¡Pero no nos engañemos! Si no se reforma la mente y el corazón, si no se reforma la conciencia que genere una auténtica escala de valores y nuestra capacidad de encuentro y fraternidad solidaria no habrá reforma que nos ayude a superar las intolerables desigualdades e injusticias sociales que nos llevan a estar más atentos por la vida privada de los artistas, que por el sufrimiento de los migrantes arrojados de un tren por no tener para pagar a los extorsionadores; o a ver como estadística y nota periodística los secuestros, la trata de personas, la impune actividad del crimen organizado, las cuotas forzadas, la violencia y los cadáveres decapitados en fosas clandestinas.

No podemos acostumbrarnos a tener en la pobreza a más de cincuenta millones de mexicanos, muchos de ellos en una miseria que les condena a morir sin atención médica. Esa indiferencia cómplice en contra del valor de la vida humana, es la que hace que se festeje que miles de niños en gestación sean sacados del vientre de la madre para ser arrojados a un bote de basura. ¡Nos falta una verdadera reforma interior para que el País sea mejor!

Aunque esta visión de la parte dolorosa de nuestra realidad podría llevarnos al fatalismo que nos vende la idea que ante el mal no hay solución; que es mejor legalizarlo en la droga o transar con él en el crimen, los creyentes, y en particular los cristianos, sabemos que el camino para superar todo lo que destruya la vida o la dignidad humana, necesita siempre la entrega generosa de la propia vida.

¡Cristo venció el mal y la muerte con el poder del bien y del amor! Él nos dice: “No tengan miedo, yo he vencido al mundo”. En consecuencia los cristianos católicos no podemos rendirnos, ni sentirnos derrotados, sino urgidos a participar con la fuerza del Espíritu de Cristo Resucitado.

A todos nos urge ser positivos y propositivos. No podemos lamentar el mal sin actuar contra él. La búsqueda personal y sincera del bien, la vida familiar como transmisora de valores y de comunicación armónica, los diversos grupos e iniciativas sociales que buscan el mejoramiento de la vida política, económica, cultural, familiar, social, laboral, etc. son espacios de participación. ¡Esa participación debe ser cada vez más consciente, organizada y oportuna! No dejemos que las decisiones queden en manos de unos pocos que miran a sus propios intereses. ¡Actuemos!

Nadie esta dispensado de actuar para hacer el bien. El País es de todos; y entre todos tenemos que sacarlo adelante haciéndonos más participativos. Sin participación social nos hundiremos.

Los recién proclamados santos, San Juan XXIII y San Juan Pablo II, trabajaron en medio de múltiples obstáculos por un mundo mejor para todos, por su fe en Jesucristo y amor al prójimo. Ellos son un referente para nuestra desafiante tarea. La Iglesia mexicana seguirá contribuyendo a generar paz y unidad en nombre de Dios.

Que Santa María de Guadalupe interceda por nosotros para que Dios nos conceda la inteligencia, la sabiduría y la valentía de construir juntos un México mejor.

Por los Obispos de México.

† José Francisco, Card. Robles Ortega                                    † Eugenio Lira Rugarcía
Presidente de la CEM                                                               Obispo Auxiliar de Puebla
Arzobispo de Guadalajara                                                         Secretario General de la CEM