Friday, May 22, 2009

Catholic Teaching on Economic Life

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has set up a new Web site on Catholic teaching about the economy. The site includes the major Church documents dealing with economic issues, an online quiz on Catholic social teaching in this area, documents organized by policy issue areas, and ideas on how to get involved as individuals and as Church including catechetical resources and lesson plans. From the Web site, here are:


1. The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.

2. All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.

3. A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.

4. All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, and economic security.

5. All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.

6. All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide for the needs of their families and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.

7. In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state.

8. Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.

9. Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. By our choices, initiative, creativity and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life and social justice.

10. The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences. Decisions on investment, trade, aid and development should protect human life and promote human rights, especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.


Gracious God,
We know that your love is infinite and that you care about all areas of our life.
In this time of economic insecurity, help us to trust that all of our security is in you.
Keep us mindful that you always have and always will provide for our needs.
Apart from you we can do nothing.

Merciful God,
We ask that you give our leaders the wisdom to guide our nation and the world
out of the current economic crisis.
Help us to protect the poor and all those who are struggling during this difficult time.
Provide for their needs and give them hope.
Open new opportunities for them and furnish the resources they need to live with dignity. Encourage those who have enough to share essential resources
with those who lack the necessities of life,
and to do so with humble, grateful and loving hearts.

We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Immigration News Roundup - May 22, 2009

1. Immigration Checks to Expand to Local Jails: The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is expanding a program aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. In four years, the measure could result in a tenfold increase in illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation. By matching inmates' fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable illegal immigrants before they are released from custody. David J. Venturella, program director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that the agency will give priority to deporting the most dangerous offenders: national security risks or those convicted of violent crimes.

2. Immigrants and the Housing Crisis: A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, Through Boom and Bust: Minorities, Immigrants and Homeownership, indicates that Latino immigrants have weathered the housing crisis better than US-born Latinos and African-Americans. In fact the rate of homeownership among foreign-born Hispanics rose from 36.9% in 1995 to 44.7% in 2007 and remained stable in 2008. Homeownership rates for US-born Hispanics rose from 47.2% in 1995 to 56.2% in 2005, but then declined to 53.6% in 2008. The Pew Center says that "the explanation for the relatively modest impact of the recent housing market turmoil on immigrants appears to lie in the changing characteristics of the foreign born. Among other things, the typical immigrant in 2008 had spent more years in the U.S. and was more likely to be a U.S. citizen than was the typical immigrant in 1995. Those factors, strongly associated with higher rates of homeownership, appear to have mitigated recent troubles in the housing market among immigrants."

3. Tierra de Todos: The well-known Hispanic journalist, Jorge Ramos, has just published a new book, Tierra de Todos: Nuestro Momento para Crear una Nación de Iguales (Vintage 2009) in which he offers ten reasons why the United States should develop a path for legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The bottom line, argues Ramos, is that we must become a nation of equals, not a two-tier society. "How difficult can it be to remove the first two letters from the word "UNdocumented"?, he asks.

4. "U" too can stay a while: Twenty former workers at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville have received visas under a law that protects crime victims. The first wave of women and children arrested last year at the plant have been granted U-visas by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing them to legally live and work in the country for four years. They can apply for green cards in the third year. Sonia Parras-Konrad, a Des Moines attorney who led the effort, said the visas are a big step toward vindicating the immigrants and giving them justice. “A government entity has found, indeed, that these women and children have been subjected to extreme emotional or physical harm by Agriprocessors,” Parras-Konrad said. “These people have been exploited, have been assaulted, have been humiliated, have been verbally and emotionally abused by this employer.”

5. Hispanic Want Immigration Reform and They Vote!: The country's Hispanic voting population is gaining political ground, rallying behind the new president, and keeping immigration reform close to its heart, according to poll results released this week. In interviews with 800 Hispanic voters from 13 states conducted between April 28 and May 5, Bendixen & Associates found that these voters identify more closely with the Democratic party than the Republican party, and that they view President Barack Obama as a leader sympathetic to immigration issues. Seventy-five percent said Obama had done an excellent or good job on Hispanic issues. The pro-immigration campaign America's Voice also sponsored the report.

A central part of the survey was finding how the 12-13 million Hispanic eligible voters are casting ballots. Seventy-one percent of respondents said the Democratic Party best represents the opinion of the Hispanic community on immigration issues, compared to 11 percent who mentioned the Republican Party. The survey also found that more Hispanic voters have shown up at the polls. In the 2008 election, 86 percent of the respondents said they voted, compared to 50 percent in the 2006 mid-term election.

Respondents were also asked about their views on national problems. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said immigration was "very" important. Seventy-five percent said they felt anti-immigrant sentiment against Hispanics was growing. Many respondents -- 69 percent -- said they knew undocumented migrants personally. Fifty-six percent said the country's weak economy weighed most heavily on them, and 13 percent cited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adolescent pregnancy rate among Latinas now 53%

This morning we woke up to the shocking news that over half of Latina teenagers get pregnant before they turn 20.

According to a new survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in collaboration with the National Council of La Raza, 53 percent of Latinas get pregnant in their teens, about twice the national average. In 2007, the birth rate among non-Hispanic whites ages 15 to 19 was 27.2 per 1,000, and 64.3 per 1,000 for non-Hispanic black teens in the same age range. The teen birth rate among Hispanic teens ages 15 to 19 was 81.7 per 1,000.

Of the 759 Latino teens surveyed, 49 percent said their parents most influenced their decisions about sex, compared with 14 percent who cited friends. Three percent cited religious leaders, 2 percent teachers and 2 percent the media. Three-quarters of Latino teens said their parents have talked to them about sex and relationships, but only half said their parents discussed contraception.

The survey also found that:

  • 74 percent of Latino teens believe that parents send one message about sex to their sons and a different message altogether to their daughters, possibly related to the Latino value of machismo.

  • Latino teens believe that the most common reason teens do not use contraception is that they are afraid their parents might find out.

  • 72 percent of sexually experienced teens say they wish they had waited.

  • 84 percent of Latino teens and 91 percent of Latino parents believe that graduating from college or university or having a promising career is the most important goal for a teen's future.

  • 34 percent of Latino teens believe that being a teen parent would prevent them from reaching their goals, but 47 percent say being a teen parent would simply delay them from reaching their goals.

  • 76 percent said it is important to be married before starting a family.

Obviously there is a huge disconnect between stated values and actual behavior in our community and, according to Ruthie Flores, senior manager of the National Campaign's Latino Initiative, it is having tremendous socio-economic consequences. Flores says that 69 percent of Latina teenage mothers drop out of high school, and the children of teen mothers are less likely to do well in school themselves and often repeat grades. Fewer than six in 10 Latino adults in the United States have a high school diploma and of all the children living in poverty, 30 percent are Latino.

Hermanos y hermanas, el poder para cambiar esta situación está en sus manos. Tenemos que hablar con nuestras hijas de las cuestiones sexuales, crear un ambiente en nuestras familias para que ellas puedan confiar en sus padres, y apoyarlas que vayan a la universidad y tengan una carrera profesional antes de casarse y formar una familia.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Padre Martín Avalos is coming!

One of my favorite charismatic preachers and his music group are coming to Arlington this weekend. I started photo’ing Padre Martín Avalos, a charismatic priest from El Salvador, a couple of years ago for the Renovación. At first I was skeptical. Eucharistic adoration was not my “thing”. As I told Father Hoyos, I see Jesus in the faces of our people, not in a little piece of wheat and water.

I expected that this would be just another photography gig but, unlike other preachers, Padre Martín got past my lens and into my heart, mind, and soul. His words and demeanor made me want to put the camera aside and curl up at his feet like Mary of Bethany and listen, just listen.

In person, Padre Martín is a kind and humble man with a great sense of humor. He is the kind of guy you could imagine sitting around sipping horchatas with. He talks of being bored by church as a child, but he still went on to seminary and then discovered a gift for preaching. He assembled the Dei Verbum choir – mostly university students – who play the kind of Christian music he likes – the kind we can dance and clap our hands to, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Padre Martín enjoys being in the presence of God and that joy is contagious and brings peace to his listeners.

Padre Martín and Dei Verbum don’t need fancy sets, sexy outfits, or glitzy multimedia extravaganzas to wow a congregation. The choir members are well-groomed – simple suits for the men, flight attendant-like uniform dresses for the women. Padre Martín just looks like a regular Catholic priest – no designer shirts or suits. But when Padre Martín and Dei Verbum start to sing, the place starts jumping and, during the breaks, the CDs fly off the shelves as people want to complete their collections and learn the songs before the next year’s retreat.

When he preaches, Padre Martín doesn’t show off. You do not lose sight of the Message because of the ego of the messenger. He is very much in touch with the human condition of people today and we often feel that he must know us intimately and is speaking directly to us. When he leads the Hour of Eucharistic Adoration – now my favorite part of the retreat! – he talks to Jesus in the form of the consecrated Host as if He were a personal friend.

I could go on and on, but instead I would like to invite all Spanish-speaking readers in the metropolitan Washington area to come and see for themselves. The retreat will take place this weekend, May 23-24, at the Bishop Denis O’Conell High School, 6600 Little Falls Rd., Arlington, VA 22213. It runs from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day and tickets ($15) will be available at the door. Children under 10 years of age can come for free, but child care is not provided. Come and let your spirit be renewed.

Photos: Just a few of my favorite Padre Martín photos from Arlington, Virginia and Santa Ana, El Salvador.

America's poor are its most generous givers

By Frank Greve
McClatchy Newspapers
May 20, 2009

WASHINGTON — When Jody Richards saw a homeless man begging outside a downtown McDonald's recently, he bought the man a cheeseburger. There's nothing unusual about that, except that Richards is homeless, too, and the 99-cent cheeseburger was an outsized chunk of the $9.50 he'd earned that day from panhandling.

The generosity of poor people isn't so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, America's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.

"The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity," said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. "The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give."

Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America's households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.

The figures probably undercount remittances by legal and illegal immigrants to family and friends back home, a multibillion-dollar outlay to which the poor contribute disproportionally.

None of the middle fifths of America's households, in contrast, gave away as much as 3 percent of their incomes.

"As a rule, people who have money don't know people in need," saId Tanya Davis, 40, a laid-off security guard and single mother.

Certainly, better-off people aren't hit up by friends and kin as often as Davis said she was, having earned a reputation for generosity while she was working.

Now getting by on $110 a week in unemployment insurance and $314 a month in welfare, Davis still fields two or three appeals a week, she said, and lays out $5 or $10 weekly.

To explain her giving, Davis offered the two reasons most commonly heard in three days of conversations with low-income donors:

"I believe that the more I give, the more I receive, and that God loves a cheerful giver," Davis said. "Plus I've been in their position, and someday I might be again."

Herbert Smith, 31, a Seventh-day Adventist who said he tithed his $1,010 monthly disability check — giving away 10 percent of it — thought that poor people give more because, in some ways, they worry less about their money.

"We're not scared of poverty the way rich people are," he said. "We know how to get the lights back on when we can't pay the electric bill."

In terms of income, the poorest fifth seem unlikely benefactors. Their pretax household incomes averaged $10,531 in 2007, according to the BLS survey, compared with $158,388 for the top fifth.

In addition, its members are the least educated fifth of the U.S. population, the oldest, the most religious and the likeliest to rent their homes, according to demographers. They're also the most likely fifth to be on welfare, to drive used cars or rely on public transportation, to be students, minorities, women and recent immigrants.

However, many of these characteristics predict generosity. Women are more generous than men, studies have shown. Older people give more than younger donors with equal incomes. The working poor, disproportionate numbers of which are recent immigrants, are America's most generous group, according to Arthur Brooks, the author of the book "Who Really Cares," an analysis of U.S. generosity.

Faith probably matters most, Brooks — who's the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington policy-research organization — said in an interview. That's partly because above-average numbers of poor people go to church, and church attenders give more money than non-attenders to secular and religious charities, Brooks found.

Moreover, disproportionate numbers of poor people belong to congregations that tithe.

Less-religious givers such as Emel Sweeney, 73, a retired bookkeeper, say that giving lights up their lives.

"Have you ever looked into the face of someone you're being generous to?" Sweeney asked with the trace of a Jamaican lilt.

That brought to mind her encounter with a young woman who was struggling to manage four small, tired children on a bus.

They staggered and straggled at a transfer stop, along with Sweeney, who urged the mother to take a nearby cab the rest of the way. When the mother said she had no money, Sweeney gave her $20, she said. The mother, as she piled her brood into the cab, waved and mouthed a thank-you.

"Those words just rested in my chest," Sweeney said, "and as I rode home I was so happy."

Pastor Coletta Jones, who ministers to a largely low-income tithing congregation in southeast Washington, The Rock Christian Church, thinks that poor people give more because they ask for less for themselves.

"When you have just a little, you're thankful for what you have," Jones said, "but with every step you take up the ladder of success, the money clouds your mind and gets you into a state of never being satisfied."

Brooks offered this statistic as supportive evidence: Fifty-eight percent of noncontributors with above-median incomes say they don't have enough money to give any away.

What makes poor people's generosity even more impressive is that their giving generally isn't tax-deductible, because they don't earn enough to justify itemizing their charitable tax deductions. In effect, giving a dollar to charity costs poor people a dollar while it costs deduction itemizers 65 cents.

In addition, measures of generosity typically exclude informal giving, such as that of Davis' late mother, Helen Coleman. Coleman, a Baltimore hotel housekeeper, provided child care, beds and meals for many of her eight children and 32 grandchildren, Davis said.

Federal surveys don't ask about remittances specifically, so it's hard to know how much the poorest fifth sends back home. Remittances from U.S. immigrants totaled more than $100 billion in 2007, according to Manuel Orozco, a senior researcher at Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy institute, who specializes in remittances.

By comparison, individual giving to tax-deductible U.S. charities totaled about $220 billion in 2007.

Much of the money remitted comes from struggling U.S. immigrants such as Zenaida Araviza, 42, a Macy's cosmetics clerk and single mother in suburban Arlington, Va.

Araviza, who earns $1,300 a month, goes carless, cable-less and cell phone-less in order to send an aunt in the Philippines $200 a month to care for Araviza's mother, who has Alzheimer's.

"What can I do?" asked Araviza, an attractive, somber woman. "It's my responsibility."

Carmen De Jesus, the chief financial officer and treasurer of Forex Inc., a remittance agency based in Springfield, Va., said low-income Filipino-Americans such as Araviza were her most generous customers.

"The domestic helpers send very, very frequently," she said. "The doctors, less so."

Why are they so generous? Christie Zerrudo, a cashier who handles Filipino remittances at Manila Oriental, a grocery/restaurant/remittance agency in Arlington, offered this explanation:

"It gives the heart comfort when you sit down at the end of the day, and you know that you did your part," Zerrudo said. "You took care of your family. If you eat here, they eat there, too. It would give you stress if they couldn't. But you love them, they are your family, and your love has had an expression."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mexico's Third Virgin: Nuestra Señora de Juquila

A recent article in America magazine by Deirdre Cornell, "Our Mother, Our Advocate" (5/18/2009) caught my attention. Deirdre talks about the Marian apparitions in Mexico, in particular the well-known Virgin of Guadalupe (La Número Uno), but also one I had never heard of: Our Lady of Juquila (For the record, Número Dos in popularity is Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos)

Our Lady of Juquila is not as easy to get to as La Guadalupana. Her sanctuary is in the mountains in a small town in the state of Oaxaca, Santa Catarina Juquila, that is only accessible by travelling a long distance over dangerous roads.

The diminutive Virgin (30 cm tall) came from Spain in the 16th century with a Dominican priest, Frey Juan Jordán de Santa Catarina, who was the first person to bring Christianity to the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca. He kept Her on his personal altar until he moved away in 1558. When he left, he gave Her to his indigenous house servant, a Christian convert from Amialtepec who had a great devotion to the Virgin. The servant kept Her on an altar in his hut and that's where She first began to perform miracles.

In 1633, the Church authorities took notice of this Virgin so well loved among the indigenous people and decided to build a church for Her so that they could they ensure that the image would be surrounded by a truly Christian cult and that the offerings people had been leaving to her would be used appropriately. The servant was at first opposed to this idea, but somehow he was persuaded to let the Virgin move out of his hut and into a formal sanctuary.

A few years later, a fire destroyed the village of Amialtepec including the church. The Virgin, however, was unharmed and the villagers found Her standing on Her sculpted agave plant, as She is still represented today. The fire stained her face dark as the color of the indigenous people.

Her miraculous survival made Her even more famous and a priest in the nearby town of Juquila, Fr. Jacinto Escudero, decided that the Virgin should be moved to his church. However, it seems that Our Lady wanted to stay with Her people in the mountains and so, the night after She had been brought to Juquila, She moved back to Amialtepec. The indigenous people were punished for stealing Her, She was brought back to Juquila and guarded day and night. Still, She escaped again and returned home. Even guards, chains and locks could not keep Her in Juquila. After the third escape, Escudero gave up...temporarily.

Escudero did not abandon his quest completely and appealed to the bishop of Oaxaca, who, in 1719 arranged once again for the Virgin's transfer from Amialtepec to Juquila. This time the image remained and gradually people accepted their Mother's new home. She appeased Her people by continuing to work miracles in both places.

To this day, pilgrims start at Amialtepec, which is 9 kilometers from Juquila. The next stop is the chapel of El Pedimento, a shrine high on a hill near the original site. The ground around El Pedimento is dense clay, which is considered sacred and is said to have healing properties. People use this clay to give shape to their requests, sculpting little clay houses, cars, body parts that need healing, whatever they are seeking. Then they lay their "request" at the feet of a large ceramic copy of the Virgin. On their return the following year they bring a cross with some type of sign on which they give thanks for the granting of last year's favor.

After El Pedimento, the pilgrims continue to Juquila. Many crawl the last two kilometers on rough stony roads, from the entry area to the actual statue, on their knees. Once at the foot of their Mother, many pilgrims make a promise, such as: "If you get me safely to the USA, I will come back here to give you thanks when I return to Mexico."

A final dimension to this popular devotion is that pilgrims must maintain chastity during the pilgrimage. A legend has it that one couple couldn't wait and stopped to make out in their car and were instantly turned to stone.

Finally, Our Lady of Juquila could be said to be the patron of economic justice. Part of the best known prayer to her reads: "care for the poor who have nothing and return the bread that has been taken from them".


Madre querida, Virgen de Juquila, virgen de nuestra esperanza, te pido perdón por mis pecados porque son muchas, tuya es nuestra vida, cuídanos de todo mal, si en este mundo de injusticias, de miseria y pecado ves que nuestra vida se turba, no nos abandones.

Madre querida, protege a los peregrinos, acompáñalos por todos los caminos, vela por los pobres sin sustento y el pan que les quitan retribúyeselos.

Acompáñenos en toda nuestra vida de pecado y libéranos de todo tipo de pecado. Amén


Beloved Mother, Virgin of Juquila, virgin of our hope, please forgive me my sins for they are many, yours is our life, deliver us from all evil, and if in this world of injustice, sin, and misery, you see that our life is disturbed, do not abandon us.

Beloved Mother, protect the pilgrims, be with them along every road, care for the poor who have nothing and return the bread that has been taken from them.

Accompany us throughout our sinful life and free us of all type of sin. Amen.

True love isn’t easy

The most important lesson President Obama gave to the graduating class at Notre Dame came at the beginning of his speech, after he was heckled by anti-abortion protesters. “We’re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes,” he said. The president’s words were reinforced by the example of his presence in the midst of conflict and controversy.

In St. John’s gospel last Sunday, Jesus also reminds His followers that while the greatest commandment is love, love is not always easy or comfortable. He challenges us: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

True love is not always easy or comfortable. I’ve been thinking about this with respect to two deaths that happened this week. The first is the death of my friend Gari’s little daughter, Yari. Yari was born with significant heart defects. She was a sickly child, requiring a lot of care and attention. Gari could have walked away from his daughter, leaving her mother to care for her alone. Many lesser men have done so. But Gari stepped up to the plate and was a true father to Yari until God took her home. Gari, a personal trainer by profession, brought Yari to the health club with him and she napped in her stroller while he worked with his clients. He loved his little girl deeply, even knowing her time on earth was limited.

The second is the death of Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, OMI, a priest who repeatedly put himself in harm’s way while serving the poor from Milwaukee to Recife to Guatemala, where he met his end at the hands of robbers. Again and again, Fr. Larry chose to live in uncomfortable conditions to be closer to God and His people.

It would have been easy for Gari to walk away or for Fr. Larry, who was in his 70s at the time of his death, to ask his order to reassign him to a safe and quiet post in the United States but, as the president told the Notre Dame students, a person of valor does not shy away from uncomfortable circumstances.

“Laying down one’s life” does not necessarily mean just physical death. It may be the sacrifices a parent makes for a sick child, not giving in to sexual desire in order to be faithful to a vow of celibacy, choosing to be poor with the poor instead of comfortably ensconced in a carpeted chancery office, going with a nephew to identify a brother’s body rather than letting him perform this painful task alone, or spending one’s leisure time teaching English to immigrants or visiting the elderly instead of watching TV or going to the mall.

A person of faith does not place their personal comfort ahead of following God’s call. We are all called to love, even when it is uncomfortable, by One who loved us all the way to the Cross.

Photo: Fr. Larry's coffin being transported to Guatemala City for funeral today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Padre Larry Rosebaugh, Presente!

Let's take a moment to pray for the soul of this fine priest who was a friend of the poor and a peacemaker. Fr. Larry was a member of the Milwaukee 14 anti-Vietnam War action and was on staff at the Casa Maria Catholic Worker House in Milwaukee. He worked in Recife with Dom Helder Camara and the poor, and he participated in the movement to close the School of the Americas. He recently published a memoir through EPICA, To Wisdom Through Failure: A Journey of Compassion, Resistance and Hope.

Former Belleville priest gunned down in Guatemala City
By George Pawlaczyk
May 19, 2009

BELLEVILLE -- The Rev. Lawrence Rosebaugh, a 74-year-old priest who studied at a seminary in Belleville but spent most of his life living among the poor in Central and South America, was shot to death Monday during a robbery in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

"As a priest he was not the collar type of priest," said his close friend, Sam Hladyshewsky of Shiloh, who attended the former St. Henry's Preparatory seminary in Belleville with Rosebaugh during the late 1950s.

"When you looked at him, you'd think he was the poorest of the poor. And those are the ones he served," said Hladyshewsky, a former priest.

According to a written statement from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, of which Rosebaugh had long been a member, the priest was murdered during an attempted carjacking. The statement said the funeral will be today in Guatemala City.

"He lived on the street most of the time because he ministered to the homeless," said the Rev. Allen Maes, an Oblate priest at the shrine.

However, The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Rosebaugh was killed during a robbery in which a gunman also wounded a Congolese priest. A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City said she could not legally provide any information about Rosebaugh's death.

Rosebaugh, whose late mother, Mildred Rosebaugh, lived for years in the apartment community at the Shrine, often returned to the metro-east and was looking forward to retiring here within a few years. He published his autobiography, "To Wisdom Through Failure," in 2006.

In April, Rosebaugh, who signed his letters "Lorenzo," sent emails to Hladyshewsky, telling his friend about his work at a Guatemala hospital ministering to AIDS victims and helping street people. He also spoke of working with the sisters of Mother Teresa and of providing a liturgy at a vigil for two boys, ages 13 and 16, murdered by gangs in one of the poorest sections of Guatemala City.

In another recent message, Rosebaugh wrote, "This Holy Week I had three good days of retreat by myself in a great quiet place with beautiful trees and nature, only to view the devastated living conditions of the poorest just across the way. To have that reality so close made for an even better Holy Week for me."

In 1977, Rosebaugh was mentioned in an article in the June 20 issue of Time magazine, after he and a religious worker were arrested in the streets of Recife, Brazil by local police while handing out vegetables to the poor. They were held for four days on charges later dropped that may have been filed simply to remove the poor from the area in advance of a visit by President Jimmy Carter, according to newspaper stories at the time. Rosebaugh and his companion later met with Carter's wife Rosalyn, who commented to a Time correspondent, "I have listened to their experience and I sympathize with them."

Rosebaugh, four fellow priests and nine laymen gained national attention in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War when they broke into a Selective Service office in Milwaukee and removed 10,000 service records, which they burned publicly with what they called "homemade napalm."

Through that act, Rosebaugh and his fellow protesters became known as the "Milwaukee 14." They were eventually convicted of the break-in and served about a year each in jail.

In the 2002 book "From Warriors to Resisters: U.S. Veterans on Terrorism" edited by Margaret Knapke, Rosebaugh and others continued their anti-war activities at Fort Benning, Ga. in the late 1980s. There they went at night to a pine forest near where hundreds of Salvadoran soldiers lived in barracks while being trained by U.S. advisors. Using a recording of Salvadoran Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero's last sermon against the war in his country, given the day before his assassination, Rosebaugh, another priest and a woman used a "boom box" to broadcast Romero's message to the Salvadora troops.

The narrator of the incident, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, later wrote that all three were arrested and, "...sent to prison for 18 months. But the truth could not be silenced and we spoke from prison."


Soeur Sourire: The Movie

Any Catholic alive during the 1960s remembers the Belgian woman -- then a nun -- known as "Soeur Sourire". To Americans, Jeanine Deckers was "The Singing Nun" and her song about her order's founder St. Dominic de Guzman, "Dominique", was on everybody's lips and on top of the Billboard Magazine music charts, beating out even The Beatles. A sunny, fictionalized version of her life, The Singing Nun, came out in 1966 starring Debbie Reynolds.

Deckers' real story was much different and belied her "Sister Smile" moniker. A new film, starring Cécile de France, has just come out that shows the woman behind the singing nun legend. In spite of her temporary musical fame, Deckers did not gain much. Most of her earnings were taken away by Philips, her producer, while the rest went to the Dominican Fichermont Convent. The production company even owned the rights to the name "Soeur Sourire", a marketing concept that Deckers never liked and that she called "fiction".

After the Debbie Reynolds' film came out in 1966, Deckers resumed her studies and tried to develop an interest in theology, taking classes at Louvain but that summer, convinced that she did not have a vocation and that religious life was an anachronism, she left her convent.

In 1967, she tried to resume her musical career under the name Luc Dominique. She released an album called "Je Ne Suis Pas Une Vedette" (I am not a star) and another called "La Pilule d'Or" (The Golden Pill), an ode to the birth control pill which was opposed by the Catholic Church, and finally "Dominicaine" (Dominican). A complete discography is available here.

In her final years, Deckers opened a school for autistic children in Belgium with the help of her lover, Annie Pécher. In the late 1970s, the Belgian government claimed that she owed around $63,000 in back taxes from her "earnings" as Soeur Sourire even though, as was said earlier, most of the profits went to the record company and the convent. She appealed to Phillips and to her former convent for help. The company gave her nothing but the convent helped her out a little by buying her an apartment in Wavre on the condition that she would stop bad-mouthing them and sign a document saying that they no longer owed her anything.

In 1982 she tried, once again as Soeur Sourire, to score a hit with a disco version of "Dominique", but this last attempt to resume her singing career failed.

Finally, Deckers and Pécher, overcome by their financial difficulties, depression and substance abuse, committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on March 29, 1985. Deckers was 51. The couple are buried in a common tomb in Wavre.

In this video, we hear Deckers singing "Luc Dominique" and laying her "Soeur Sourire" persona to rest:

A prayer/song by Jeanine Deckers:


Donne-moi, mon Dieu,
Un coeur vide, un coeur pauvre,
Coeur de mendiant,
Qui t'accueille en chantant.
Ton esprit, amour de feu
Viendra graver ta sainteté.
Donnes-moi seulement,
D'être pauvre, simplement.

Creuse en mon coeur le silence
La soif de ta transcendance
Creuse en mon coeur le désert
Pour l'abreuvoir de lumière

En ma pauvreté paisible,
A l'écoute de ta voix,
Réalise l'impossible,
Renonciation de ta joie.

Ta présence, foi et mystère
Me recrée, toute entière.
Pour être l'humble ostensoir,
Où l'on puisse t'entrevoir.

Web sites:

  • Soeur Sourire: The Belgian Singing Nun -- "fan" page set up by D. A. Chadwick, co-author with Florence Delaporte of Music from the Soul: The Singing Nun Story
  • Wikipedia: English / French -- the French entry is more complete for those who can read that language.

New study shows immigrants not responsible for unemployment

This is a translation of an EFE article that came out today. Click on the link to read the article in Spanish.

Opponents of immigration reform usually accuse immigrants of “stealing” jobs from U.S. citizens, but official data shows that they have little or nothing to do with unemployment in various zones in the U.S., according to a study released today.

Debunking the anti-immigrant myth

The study by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) seeks to debunk the myth propagated by anti-immigrant groups that foreigners are taking jobs away from those born in the United States, especially during times of economic crisis.

If that were true, the IPC researchers argue, then there would be high unemployment rates in the areas of the country where there is a strong immigrant presence, especially newcomers ready to work for less and in bad conditions.

However, an analysis of Census data “clearly reveals that this is not the case and that, in fact, there is little relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state or county level,” stresses IPC, which is based in Washington.

The 12-page study focuses on the impact of newcomers – not those who have been established for a long time in the United States – because a large part of the debate about immigration in Washington “centers on the effect of more recent immigrants, rather than those who came decades ago.”

There is no proof

The reasoning is that immigrants who came a long time ago and now have roots in the United States are more likely to have obtained citizenship and be “deeply integrated into the economy”, IPC explains.

The analysis, which examines the economic conditions in the country’s 3,140 counties shows that the places with high unemployment rates “do not necessarily have a large number of recent immigrants”, and vice-versa.

That is to say that unemployment in given locations doesn’t offer any indication as to the number of recent immigrants who live there, nor does the number of immigrants provide an indication of what the unemployment rate might be.

Recent immigrants are 8.4 percent of the population in the Pacific region, in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, and only 2.8 percent in states such as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, in the north-central part of the country.

In both regions, the unemployment rate is virtually the same: 10.8 percent in the Pacific region, and 10 percent in the other area.

Going where the work is

There are other examples: recent immigrants are 7.3 percent of the population in New Jersey, but only 0.8 percent in Maine, and in those states unemployment is 8.3 and 8.1 percent, respectively.

On average, recent immigrants are 3.1 percent of the population in counties with high unemployment rates exceeding 13.4 percent, the study shows.

Foreigners in that category are 4.6 percent in counties with levels of unemployment less than 4.8 percent.

The IPC researchers also noted that the highest rates of unemployment were in counties with a lot of manufacturing activity and in rural areas, places that in and of themselves have a relatively low number of recent immigrants.

Moreover, the analysis argues, newcomers tend to go where the jobs are – to metropolitan areas and non-manufacturing counties where unemployment is low.

According to the IPC researchers, the absence of a reliable statistical link between newcomers and unemployment should not be a surprise since they are an extremely small part of the United States labor force.

According to IPC, those who came in the last decade were, in 2008, barely 5.5 percent of the country’s workforce.

The study center added that, following historical trends, demand for labor continues to determine immigration to the United States – it increases in times of economic expansion and contracts in lean times, as is occurring during the current recession.

Untying the Knot

(2 of 3 parts of the IPC study are available online in PDF)

Catholic higher education under siege?

I am absolutely blown away by Trinity Washington University President Patricia McGuire's forthright remarks to her institution's 2009 graduating class. McGuire has used the Obama-Notre Dame controversy as a teaching moment and, to put it in the vernacular, she "kicks ass"!:

...While Trinity is thriving, we are part of a sector of American higher education that is increasingly under siege. The nation’s 245 Catholic colleges and universities are heirs to more than a century of progressive efforts to win acceptance in the mainstream of the American academy. The hard and thoughtful work of numerous Catholic scholars and educational leaders in the middle of the 20th Century modernized the governance, curricula and scholarly frameworks of our institutions. The previous great generation of Catholic academic and intellectual leaders --- including such luminaries as Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, former Notre Dame President Father Theodore Hesburgh, and Trinity’s own President Sister Margaret Claydon --- moved Catholic higher education out of the insular, parochial consequences of this nation’s 19th and early 20th century anti-Catholic, anti-intellectual propensities. These great leaders of the Vatican II era developed a rich and extensive body of thought supporting the fundamental premise that our faith should not fear freedom, but rather, embrace it; that we must engage with our culture, not shun it; and that Catholic universities must have the same high intellectual standards as all universities, nurturing academic freedom as the bedrock of excellence in scholarship and teaching. The progressive influence of Catholic higher education in the last 50 years propelled lay Catholics into the mainstream of our nation’s social and political life, opening doors to places where once we were held in suspicion or even barred because of rampant religious discrimination.

Today, a half century of progress for Catholic higher education is at risk of slipping back into those insular, parochial pre-Vatican II days. On this very day, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, a drama is unfolding that will affect the future of all Catholic colleges, and, indeed, will affect the place of Catholics in American life. As has been a tradition at the University of Notre Dame, the president of the United States is speaking at their commencement today. Notre Dame has invited many presidents in the past without fear or favor regarding their political positions. But the announcement of President Obama’s appearance at the Notre Dame Commencement triggered one of the angriest and most aggressively hostile efforts to block a commencement speaker ever endured by any American university. The fundamental issue is about the Church’s teachings on the right to life and the contrary policies of the Obama Administration. But there’s more to the Notre Dame case than the obvious clash between religious dogma and secular politics.

This is not about bishops exercising their rightful responsibilities to call Catholic institutions to fidelity to Church teachings. Nor is this about the right of individual Catholics to voice concerns about institutional actions. Disagreement and passionate argumentation are a normal part of university life, and religion sharpens the edges of any debate about university activities. For all Catholic universities, close and continuous dialogue with our bishops is an essential part of our stewardship of the Catholic intellectual tradition; Catholic college presidents frequently must exercise prudential judgment in making sure that the local bishop is not surprised by the appearance, if not the reality of dissent from Church teachings in university activities.

But something else is at work in the Notre Dame case.

The real scandal at Notre Dame today is NOT that the president of the United States is speaking at commencement, albeit causing some controversy among Catholics. The real scandal is the misappropriation of sacred teachings for political ends. The real scandal is the spectacle of ostensibly Catholic mobs camping out at Notre Dame for the specific purpose of disrupting the commencement address of the nation’s first African American president. This ugly spectacle is an embarrassment to all Catholics. The face that Catholicism shows to our new president should be one marked with the sign of peace, not distorted in the snarl of hatred.

The religious vigilantism apparent in the Notre Dame controversy arises from organizations that have no official standing with the Church, but who are successful in gaining media coverage as if they were speaking for Catholicism. The media love nothing more than a good Catholic versus Catholic fight, a self-destructive civil war that has no winners save the anti-Catholic underground that finds joy and vindication in watching Catholics strangle each other with litmus tests about fidelity. The self-appointed “watchdogs” of Catholic higher education also afflict Catholics in political life, acting as grand inquisitors who appear to want nothing more than to drive all Catholics away from public office. They have established themselves as uber-guardians of a belief system we can hardly recognize. Theirs is a narrow faith devoted almost exclusively to one issue. They defend the rights of the unborn but have no charity toward the living. They mock social justice as a liberal mythology.

Catholicism is not a one-issue faith. The social justice teachings that are central to our Church’s moral construction demand that we act in defense of the sacred dignity of all human life, from conception through salvation. Ours is a faith that demands peace and decries unjust war even as we demand that the unborn child have a right to live --- not mere life, but a life that can realize the full potential of the Creator’s divine plan as a matter of justice. Ours is a faith that is profoundly intolerant of racism and the exploitation of women, of poverty and the violence that economic injustice spawns. Ours is a faith that demands a more just sharing of the world’s resources, more pervasive global education to remediate the illiteracy that condemns children to repeat the cycles of poverty of prior generations. Ours is a faith that finds the use of torture for any reason an abhorrent offense against life. Ours is a faith that calls each member to take the option for the poor, to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on this planet, to exercise the responsibilities of our citizenship fully, to honor the rights and dignity of workers, to be moral stewards of God’s creation --- all in the name of life. This is what it really means to be “pro-life.”

Catholicism is a faith of charity and hope, not hatred, bigotry, self-righteous condemnation. To be Catholic is to embrace the world in all of the remarkable diversity that is part of creation; to be a university is also to embrace the world in the fullness of its intellectual scope and in the endlessness of the human quest for knowledge, meaning and, ultimately, Truth. A Catholic university realizes that the differences of opinion that are the plain reality of human thought are not at all a danger to our faith, but rather, a manifestation of the freedom that God has given to every human being to think, to learn, to engage the quest for that Truth that can never be fully known in this life. Those who claim to know the Truth already claim a power that is God’s alone.

The terrible danger of the siege at Notre Dame, and the ugly spectre of Catholic vigilantism’s efforts to intimidate Catholic academic leaders and politicians, is that Catholics will be driven back to the edges of American life, unable or unwilling to be elected to public office, as we once were, unable or unwilling to engage with our colleagues of other faith traditions in the difficult, bruising, uncomfortable yet utterly necessary debates about essential moral issues that contribute to the shape of our society.

The great opportunity in the Notre Dame controversy is the renewal of our commitment to the robust intellectual life of Catholic colleges and universities as the best possible means to ensure the vitality of our faith in public life. If we live the duality of our mission well, neither our freedom nor our faith will suffer harm, and both will be enlarged.

This is a mission that calls us to create campus communities that respect the human person; to minister to the spiritual as well as intellectual needs of these communities; to ensure that the teachings of the Church are fairly and accurately presented. Fidelity to those teachings does not require shunning all other forms of expression. We should make even greater use of the teachable moments when the clash of ideas reveals the need for better research and scholarship on the most critical issues we face, not just as Catholics but as citizens of a very complicated society. Catholic institutions of higher education should be contributing significantly more research and scholarship than we have thus far on those core issues where faith and politics collide: the right to life, economic and social justice, universal education, environmental destruction, equal justice, keeping the peace.

We live our mission as Catholic universities in the sunlight, not in caves; we teach and learn from the center of the culture, not on the margins. Evangelization’s best work occurs in uncharted territories among those who do not share our faith already. We engage every human being who is a child of God and part of his creation; and whether we agree or disagree with that person, every child of God belongs on our campuses. And when that child happens to be the president of the United States, so much the better for the fruitful opportunity to open new avenues of dialogue about the future breadth and depth and moral foundation and legal construction of that Good Society we so earnestly seek.

Here at Trinity today, let us take from the controversy at Notre Dame a renewed commitment to give witness to the fullness of our faith tradition, not indulging the moral relativism of repressing faith for the sake of getting along, nor cowering in fear of the moral absolutists who would have us hear no voices but their own. As a Catholic college with a long and proud tradition of educating leaders for the public sector, with a mission commitment to action for social justice that comes to us from our founders, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, we must not shy away from using our intellectual firepower to push the current debate away from the self-destructive precipice of Catholics set against Catholics. We must lead this debate toward the more life-giving mission in true Christian evangelization, teaching all nations the imperatives of justice and peace through which human life will, most assuredly, reap significantly greater protection than the current intractable arguments will ever achieve on their own...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Adios, Don Mario Benedetti!

The famous Uruguayan writer, Mario Benedetti, died this weekend at age 88 after a brief illness.

Benedetti was the author of more than 60 novels, poems, short stories and plays, winning numerous awards and honorary doctorates from the universities of Valladolid and Alicante in Spain, the University of Havana, Cuba, and the University of the Republic in his native Uruguay. His awards included Amnesty International's Golden Flame in 1986, the Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana in 1999, and the Premio Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in 2005.

Benedetti's 1960 novel "La Tregua" was translated into 19 languages and along with "Gracias por el fuego" (1965), heralded his inclusion in the Latin American literary boom in the 1960s along with Colombia's Gabriel García Márquez, Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa and Mexico's Carlos Fuentes.

Benedetti leaned to the political left, and as a result was forced to flee Uruguay's military dictatorship in 1973, spending 12 years in exile in Cuba, Spain, Peru and Argentina. He defended the Cuban revolution and called for Puerto Rican independence. When he returned to Uruguay, he became a leader of the March 26 Independence Movement, which joined the Broad Front leftist coalition that took power in Uruguay in 2005.

Benedetti's personal life was much less tumultuous than his public one. In 1946, he married Luz López Alegre and remained with her for 60 years until her death from Alzheimer's in 2006.

In honor of his death, we want to share two of Benedetti's poems and a video with you. The first is an improvisation on the "Padre Nuestro" which demonstrates the writer's skepticism about organized religion and the role it has too often played in upholding the economic and social status quo in Latin America. The second is a playful reflection on a question posed by his friend, the Argentinian poet Juan Gelman: "What if God were a woman?" The video is of a poem/song he composed with Joan Manuel Serrat, a Spanish singer-songwriter with whom he collaborated on an album of the same title -- "El sur también existe."


Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos
con las golondrinas y los misiles
quiero que vuelvas antes de que olvides
como se llega al sur de Río Grande

Padre nuestro que estás en el exilio
casi nunca te acuerdas de los míos
de todos modos dondequiera que estés
santificado sea tu nombre
no quienes santifican en tu nombre
cerrando un ojo para no ver la uñas
sucias de la miseria

en agosto de mil novecientos sesenta
ya no sirve pedirte
venga a nos el tu reino
porque tu reino también está aquí abajo
metido en los rencores y en el miedo
en las vacilaciones y en la mugre
en la desilusión y en la modorra
en esta ansia de verte pese a todo

cuando hablaste del rico
la aguja y el camello
y te votamos todos
por unanimidad para la Gloria
también alzó su mano el indio silencioso
que te respetaba pero se resistía
a pensar hágase tu voluntad

sin embargo una vez cada
tanto tu voluntad se mezcla con la mía
la domina
la enciende
la duplica
más arduo es conocer cuál es mi voluntad
cuándo creo de veras lo que digo creer
así en tu omnipresencia como en mi soledad
así en la tierra como en el cielo
estaré más seguro de la tierra que piso
que del cielo intratable que me ignora

pero quién sabe
no voy a decidir
que tu poder se haga o deshaga
tu voluntad igual se está haciendo en el viento
en el Ande de nieve
en el pájaro que fecunda a su pájara
en los cancilleres que murmuran yes sir
en cada mano que se convierte en puño

claro no estoy seguro si me gusta el estilo
que tu voluntad elige para hacerse
lo digo con irreverencia y gratitud
dos emblemas que pronto serán la misma cosa
lo digo sobre todo pensando en el pan nuestro
de cada día y de cada pedacito de día

ayer nos lo quitaste
dánosle hoy
o al menos el derecho de darnos nuestro pan
no sólo el que era símbolo de Algo
sino el de miga y cáscara
el pan nuestro
ya que nos quedan pocas esperanzas y deudas
perdónanos si puedes nuestras deudas
pero no nos perdones la esperanza
no nos perdones nunca nuestros créditos

a más tardar mañana
saldremos a cobrar a los fallutos
tangibles y sonrientes forajidos
a los que tienen garras para el arpa
y un panamericano temblor con que se enjugan
la última escupida que cuelga de su rostro

poco importa que nuestros acreedores perdonen
así como nosotros
una vez
por error
perdonamos a nuestros deudores

nos deben como un siglo
de insomnios y garrote
como tres mil kilómetros de injurias
como veinte medallas a Somoza
como una sola Guatemala muerta

no nos dejes caer en la tentación
de olvidar o vender este pasado
o arrendar una sola hectárea de su olvido

ahora que es la hora de saber quiénes somos
y han de cruzar el río
el dólar y el amor contrarrembolso
arráncanos del alma el último mendigo
y líbranos de todo mal de conciencia


¿y si Dios fuera una mujer? -Juan Gelman

¿Y si Dios fuera mujer?
pregunta Juan sin inmutarse,
vaya, vaya si Dios fuera mujer
es posible que agnósticos y ateos
no dijéramos no con la cabeza
y dijéramos sí con las entrañas.

Tal vez nos acercáramos a su divina desnudez
para besar sus pies no de bronce,
su pubis no de piedra,
sus pechos no de mármol,
sus labios no de yeso.

Si Dios fuera mujer la abrazaríamos
para arrancarla de su lontananza
y no habría que jurar
hasta que la muerte nos separe
ya que sería inmortal por antonomasia
y en vez de transmitirnos SIDA o pánico
nos contagiaría su inmortalidad.

Si Dios fuera mujer no se instalaría
lejana en el reino de los cielos,
sino que nos aguardaría en el zaguán del infierno,
con sus brazos no cerrados,
su rosa no de plástico
y su amor no de ángeles.

Ay Dios mío, Dios mío
si hasta siempre y desde siempre
fueras una mujer
qué lindo escándalo sería,
qué venturosa, espléndida, imposible,
prodigiosa blasfemia.