New Catholics initiated across archdiocese at Easter Vigil Masses
When Ruth Marchetti joined the Catholic Church in the 1970s, there was virtually "no catechesis," she said. Even after becoming Catholic, she was still "basically a Protestant Christian."
But that changed 5 years ago when she volunteered to help with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in her parish.
The rite, generally a one- or two-year process of studying the faith and progressing from inquiry to acceptance and election, was an eye-opener for Marchetti.
She remembers thinking, "Why didn’t anybody tell me about this before?"
Today, Marchetti, with the help of her husband John, directs the RCIA at St. Patrick Parish in Anchorage.
One of the highlights of her work is "seeing the same kind of ‘aha’ moments in (other) sponsors that I had experienced," she said. "I wish every Catholic could go through this process."
Throughout the Archdiocese of Anchorage this year, 73 initiates were slated to complete the RCIA and be received into the Catholic Church last weekend at Easter Vigil services.
Initiates — those preparing to join the church through the RCIA — are divided into two categories.
A "catechumen" is one who has never been baptized and therefore receives all the sacraments of initiation — baptism, Holy Communion, and confirmation — at the vigil. A "candidate" has been baptized in a valid Christian faith and receives Communion and confirmation during the vigil Mass.
St. Patrick Parish and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish each had 15 initiates, more than any other parish in the archdiocese. But there are new Catholics at smaller parishes too.
For example, St. Francis Xavier in Valdez had one candidate, St. Mary in Kodiak had two catechumens, and Holy Family in Glennallen had one candidate.
The RCIA has ancient roots but was overlooked in the church for centuries, according to Katherine Bishop, parish director of Our Lady of the Lake in Big Lake, where one catechumen joined the church this Easter.
"In the early centuries of the church, it was the only way to be baptized," Bishop said.
It was a three-year process then, because conversion was a radical change from the Jewish or pagan religion that a person was leaving behind to join the new Christian faith.
Only adults were baptized.
As infant baptism became accepted, the RCIA gradually disappeared, only to be rediscovered and redeveloped in the 1960s.
By 1988, Bishop said, the church officially promulgated the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as once again the accepted way for unbaptized people to become Catholics.
The rite has been adapted to include those already baptized in a Christian faith.
Becky Korwes, who teaches in the tiny village of Levelock, population 50, was one of two catechumens joining the church at the Easter Vigil in King Salmon this year, where Father Scott Garrett, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Dillingham, officiated.
Although influenced by her Catholic husband and adult sons, Korwes said she was especially inspired by the Catholic witness of a teacher, Cruz Coronado, who works in the nearby village of Egegik.
Coronado, a former Catholic school teacher, agreed to be Korwes’ sponsor. Through weekly telephone conversations she guided Korwes through Catholic catechesis and the process of the RCIA.
"I’ve felt the calling for a very long time and finally decided to answer it," Korwes said.
Back in Anchorage, Nancy Seim became a Catholic at St. Patrick Parish.
"It’s been such a wonderful journey," said Seim, the daughter of a nonpracticing Catholic and a nonpracticing Jew. "My life has changed already, in how I deal with people. I have a whole new perspective; I look at things in a much more positive way."
Seim credits her mother-in-law, who lives out of state, with being the inspiration for her interest in the Catholic faith.
Initiates generally join the RCIA in the spring and follow the liturgical calendar in preparation for the Easter Vigil the following year.
Phase one is a process of inquiry, giving those involved a time to ask questions and become generally acquainted with the faith. This phase ends with the Rite of Acceptance.
Next begins a period of formal training during which the initiates choose a sponsor to walk their faith journey with them.
The second phase ends at the beginning of Lent with a "Rite of Sending," in which the parish "sends" the candidates and catechumens forth to a separate liturgy, the "Rite of Election," where the bishop formally calls them to the faith.
During the Lenten season, instruction is combined with an emphasis on conversion. Those already baptized receive the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time.
The process culminates with the Easter Vigil Mass.
The new Catholics then enter a post-Easter phase called "mystagogy," a time during which they are helped to enter more deeply into the life and mystery of the church.
At St. Patrick, Marchetti said mystagogy includes an introduction and invitation to the various ministries of the parish.
Most parishes rely on their members to invite people to consider the Catholic faith.
Many times, a friend or co-worker is just waiting for an invitation, said Marchetti, who uses the bulletin to encourage parishioners to invite their friends.
A joyful noise
Kenai Peninsula chorus impresses Italians
Imagine the horror that washed over the maestro of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome last month when the visiting choir — a group from America’s Last Frontier — filed in for the Sunday evening Mass in an assortment of attire dominated by sweat pants, T-shirts and tennis shoes. The group’s director and a few others wore the customary tuxedo or choir robe, but most were decked in couch potato garb.
It was 5:15 p.m., March 3. The Rosary was wrapping up, Mass was about to begin, and these mostly-not-Catholic singers were about to attempt to facilitate the liturgy in the most important Catholic church in the world.
Special permission for the Kenai Peninsula group to sing the Mass had been granted weeks ago; to seal the deal it took a letter with Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz’s signature sent directly to the monsignor in charge of U.S. visitors to the Vatican.
Now, the Alaskans had arrived, all 105 of them, and most looked like they’d slept in their clothes.
Well, many of them probably had slept in their clothes, several nights in a row.
The travelers had indeed arrived safely in Rome; unfortunately their luggage was somewhere in Spain. Most of them were wearing the same outfits in which they had boarded the plane in Alaska several days before.
Mark Robinson, the music director for the Alaska group, tried to explain the situation to the maestro.
"I think it would be fair to assume he was skeptical," Robinson told the Anchor last week from Homer, where he teaches music at the public middle and high schools. "I think he was unsure about who we were and whether we would sing appropriate music and so forth. He didn’t seem very welcoming at first."
But there wasn’t time to quibble. Songs had to be selected, and there was a logistical problem: The basilica’s choir area seats about 40 people, less than half the number in Robinson’s unkempt crew.
With one of the Alaskans who knew a little Italian translating, the maestro split the chorus into thirds, with two groups standing in the aisles of the choir and the third sitting in the middle.
When the maestro had approved four pieces the group would sing, the signal was given to move into place for the Mass.
Mary Ann Snowden, who normally attends Mass at St. John the Baptist Parish in Homer, stepped from behind an alcove into the choir area and realized she was about to sing from a position right next to the altar of St. Peter’s — the Vatican cathedral and the largest church in the world.
"That’s when it just washed over me and I realized where I was," she said. She wept through the first song, and kept weeping for the next few days.
"The Pieta, the cathedrals, just all of it!" she said.
If there had indeed been skepticism on the maestro’s part, it quickly evaporated. He soon joined the group in the choir area and sang the remainder of the Mass with them.
Afterward he clasped Robinson’s hands in his and said, " ‘Bene! Bene!’ " ("Good! Good!") Robinson said. He invited the group to return next year.
The first song the Alaskans sang at that Mass in St. Peter’s — "Adoramus te" — had immense significance.
Robinson had selected the piece because Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina had written it when he was serving as the basilica’s first maestro in the mid-1500s.
"He was one of the greatest composers of all time," Robinson said. "So to sing something that he presumably wrote for St. Peter’s — it’s beyond description."
"Adoramus te" has an intensely special meaning to 80-year-old Robert Booth as well.
Booth had sung the piece 55 years earlier at his infant son’s funeral Mass; the 18-month-old had died suddenly in the back seat of the family car from a burst thymus gland.
When Robinson signaled the start of the song, Booth heard nothing but his own voice ringing through the vast cathedral.
"Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi," the octogenarian sang ("We adore you, Oh Christ, and we bless you … ").
Then the rest of the voices hit his ears: " … quia per sanctam crucem Tuam redemisti mundum!" (… because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!").
So began a singing tour that took 105 singers from towns around the southern half of the Kenai Peninsula to some of the most renowned choir venues in the world: St. Peter’s, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, the duomos (cathedrals) of Florence and Milan, and the Cathedral of Assisi.
Although they sang lots of sacred music in Catholic churches, this wasn’t a religious tour; the group was made up of Robinson’s choir students at Homer High School and members of the Kenai Peninsula Community Chorus.
"When you go on a choir tour in Italy, (the cathedrals) are where you want to be able to sing," Robinson explained. And sacred music such as "Adoramus te," "Ave Maria" ("Hail Mary") and "Verleigh uns Frieden" ("Grant Us Peace, Lord") happens to be "some of the greatest literature ever written."
"Regardless of your faith, it was a great privilege to be able to sing there," the choir director said. "I’m not Catholic, but it was just very, very moving."
For 14-year-old Madilyn Flanigan, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in Homer, the experience has deepened her faith and opened her eyes to the wider world.
"Basically, St. John’s is the only church I’ve ever been to, and it was starting to get kind of boring," she said. "Being in those cathedrals made God seem a million times bigger."
The ceiling at the basilica has letters on it that Flanigan guessed were a foot in length; she was amazed to learn from the tour guide that they are actually 10 times that size.
And yet, Flanigan realized with a twinge of pride, there were similarities between the church in Homer and those she visited on the tour.
"Even though it was in Italian, I could follow along with the Mass," she said. "I didn’t really feel like I understood our religion until then."
Now back in Homer, singing again at her little parish church, Flanigan said her eyes have been opened.
"I’m proud of being Catholic (after) seeing these huge churches that you know people made hundreds of years ago and yet they’re still standing and people are still using them," she said.
Marilyn Hendren of Anchor Point said she, too, was proud of her faith and its rich heritage so prominently displayed in Italy.
"Of course through the ages there have been negative things too, but this was a beautiful aspect of our faith history," she said.
The tour was like a graduate level course in Catholicism for Cherish McCallum, who is in the beginning stages of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) at the parish in Homer.
"When Catholics say we are ‘one holy, Catholic, apostolic church,’ it’s really true," she said. No matter where you go in the world, you’re at home in the church, and you’re connected to every other Catholic Christian in the world. It’s hard to feel alone when you realize that."
McCallum has been a professional cantor and has sung in church choirs across the United States, including for the past six years at St. John in Homer.
But singing with a large group in the Italian cathedrals was an entirely new experience, she said. The acoustics are so superb that the music travels through the space, echoing and bouncing from walls and domes, for six or seven seconds.
"It truly feels like the angels are singing with you, especially when the sound carries on for so long after you have closed your mouth," she said.
So, how does McCallum feel about her modest church in Homer after having sung with the angels at St. Peter’s — a church that features Michelangelo’s Pieta, covers 5.7 acres and can hold 60,000 worshipers?
"It’s actually wonderful," she said. "It’s OK that this isn’t a great performance space, because we’re filling it up by truly singing joyfully in our parish."
Nun hopes to unite archdiocese’s three schools
Adrian Dominican Sister Ann Fallon’s expertise as a leader in the education field has landed her a new job in Anchorage.
She relocated from Adrian, Mich., this month to serve as "education consultant" to the Anchorage Archdiocese’s three parochial Catholic schools — St. Mary School in Kodiak and Anchorage’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School and Lumen Christi High School.
At least 50 years of experience as a teacher, principal, Catholic high school president and all-around school administration guru inform Sister Fallon’s new position. She is on loan from her religious community for a few years and serving here as a consultant at the request of Archbishop Roger Schwietz.
Sister Fallon, a fit 78-year-old, moved into her new office at the pastoral center early this month. In an interview last week with the Anchor, she said she hopes to help unite the archdiocese’s three schools as they evaluate their policies and discover commonalities.
The common mission, she said, should be to ensure that Catholic education consists of great academics and solid values, and is "in tune with the family" and affordable.
Sister Fallon will also be working to build the framework for a possible future superintendent of Catholic schools.
The Dominican said she sees her new position with the archdiocese as "simply to be helpful — not to run the place at all."
She’ll share her knowledge of what’s working for other Catholic schools around the nation, and educators here can discern what might work best locally.
While Sister Fallon’s new location may yet be unfamiliar, her work as a leader in the education field is not. In her soft voice, she speaks about the national trends of Catholic education, about the growing importance of development, and top-notch academics in Catholic schools that were once more plentiful and staffed by nuns, clergy and religious who were paid only a small stipend, keeping tuition costs way down.
Now, she said, highly educated parents, many of them products of those same schools, demand high-caliber courses and lessons in Catholic values for their children as well as affordability.
Those greater demands are "as it should be," she said. But they also require that fund-raising efforts often take center stage, she said.
Sister Fallon is a product of lifelong Catholic education. She grew up in Detroit and attended a Catholic elementary school in the 1930s and ’40s run by Adrian Dominicans.
Her devoutly Catholic parents believed in the value of a good education though they were not formally educated beyond high school, she said. Her father was a tool and die maker, and her mother raised five children as a homemaker.
At night, after the family ate dinner together, the parents quizzed the kids at the table.
"In our home, homework was essential," Sister Fallon said. "You never came home and said, ‘There’s no homework tonight.’ … If the Sisters didn’t give it to you, you made it up."
The Fallon dining room doubled as a classroom by night.
Ann, being the oldest, crafted assignments for her siblings to keep them busy at the table while she was studying. One sister liked math; her little brother would draw.
"That was, I think, where it all began. I always wanted to teach," Sister Fallon said. After childhood illnesses such as chicken pox ran their course, she never missed a day of school from fourth grade until she earned her master’s degree in education at the Adrian Dominicans’ Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. She completed additional graduate work at three more universities. Perfect attendance.
"I really did love school and wanted to be there," she said. "I guess I loved the nuns, for one thing, but I loved the learning."
One of the nuns she was so fond of, first-grade teacher Sister Mary Romayne, became her sponsor when she entered the Adrian Dominican order at age 17. Sister Fallon graduated from high school in mid-June and 13 days later was a nun in college.
Since then, she’s taught every grade and one summer of college courses. When she was 29, she got her first job as principal, and for 18 years led elementary, junior high and high schools. She’s supervised elementary schools and served the Archdiocese of Detroit as associate superintendent of its 36 Catholic high schools for seven years. She also served on various school boards.
Sister Fallon has cherished memories from her career in education.
Once, early in the fall, she got a phone call from five women, freshmen at Marquette University, who had graduated from a high school she headed up. As her charges, Sister Fallon had told them: "It is an all-girls school but you can be anything you want and nobody is going to stand in your way," she said.
Now they were huddled together in the hall of their university dorm letting her know they remembered her message. The five had decided together to run for office during their first semester at the co-ed university and all were elected to the student body.
Sister Fallon’s eyes disappear into a wide smile.
"I was thrilled to think that they remembered and they made it work and they said, ‘You know, you’re right, you can be whatever you want to be,’ " she said. "I thought that was great."
Settling into an apartment in Anchorage, Sister Fallon has unpacked her books, sewing machine and knitting tools. And after recovering from jet lag, she got back into her routine of hour-long evening weightlifting and calisthenics workouts.
She said she already misses her community in Michigan, but she added, "We live a life of change."
"I’ve been very blessed by this congregation (Adrian Dominicans). God’s goodness to me has to be returned by always saying ‘yes,’ " Sister Fallon said.
Alaska, she added, is "just another place to do God’s work."
Sister Fallon hopes to be joined by another Adrian Dominican, Sister Jo Gaugier, in the fall. Sister Gaugier is currently doing church ministry and lay formation work for the Saginaw Diocese in Michigan.
Vatican correspondent expects significant changes in Catholic Church
LOS ANGELES — Within the next few generations, the face of the church will look far less Western and European than it ever has in the past. That’s what Vatican correspondent John Allen told hundreds of Catholic leaders and educators (including a handful of Alaskans) at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress last month.
The reason? The rapidly growing church in the Southern and Eastern hemispheres.
Although the church has always been grounded in Western civilization, in the very near future, Catholic leaders in Africa, Latin America, and Asia will gain considerable sway in setting the theological and social agenda for the 1.1-billion-member church.
Allen is a CNN correspondent to the Vatican and a prolific author and journalist on Catholic affairs. He recently published "The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church."
Armed with a dizzying array of facts and statistics, Allen systematically laid out what he thinks Western Catholics should expect as their brothers and sisters in the South and East inevitably take the spiritual helm of the church.
In 1900, there were 459 million Roman Catholics in the world, Allen said. The vast majority (392 million) lived in Europe and North America.
A century later there were 350 million Catholics in Europe and North America, with 757 million living elsewhere.
"This is without a doubt the most rapidly sweeping transformation of Christianity in its 2,000-year history," Allen said. "It will change everything."
Unlike the Western church, which for the last 40 years has experienced declining numbers in terms of priests, Mass attendance and parishioner population, churches in the Southern Hemisphere are bursting at the seams, Allen said.
From 1900 to 2000, the African church has increased from 1.9 million Catholics to 137 million.
"Their population of faithful is expanding faster than priests can keep up," he said, adding that Americans should not expect to see a large influx of African priests to make up for the declining priesthood in the West.
"There is simply not a huge pool of priests in Africa with nothing to do," he said.
Overall, the U.S. remains the fourth largest Catholic nation in the world, with roughly 67 million Catholics.
That, however, is only about 6 percent of the worldwide church, Allen said.
"If you ever want to know why the pope isn’t thinking American thoughts when he gets out of bed in the morning, I would suggest that this may have something to do with it," he said.
Allen went on to explain that Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines are the three countries with the most Catholics, representing 340 million faithful. There, and in Africa, Catholic concerns are vastly different from those that tend to dominate debate in the Western church.
Papal authority, internal church reform, divorce and homosexuality are not pressing issues in the South, Allen said.
Instead, there is more concern about global poverty, economic justice, the arms trade, immigration — pressing quality-of-life issues that plague poorer parts of the world.
This, coupled with the fact that Catholics of the East and South tend to be more conservative on social issues such as divorce, women’s ordination and homosexuality, probably means that many of these largely Western issues will see little light on the worldwide stage in years ahead.
"When the South comes of age the church will be less likely to tolerate liberal or progressive positions on these issues," Allen said. "Some Western Catholics may come to feel that their concerns are being ignored or marginalized."
The future concerns of the global church might even seem downright bizarre to Western Catholics, Allen said. The theology of marriage in Africa, for example, is focused more on the problem of polygamy than on divorce and remarriage.
Church liturgy, too, will likely be pushed and shaped to these countries’ sensibilities and cultures.
"Southern Christianity tends to be more spontaneous with a more lively sense of the supernatural," Allen said. Loud liturgies, speaking in tongues, dancing and even public exorcisms are more common in cultures coming to the fore of the church.
The United States and many European countries hold a disproportionately large number of church leaders. The United States, for instance, has 15 cardinals, second only to Italy, while the three largest Catholic countries in the world (Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines) have 16 cardinals combined.
As the church in the Southern and Eastern Hemisphere matures, however, the overall leadership will increasingly reflect the Catholicism practiced there, Allen said.
News & Notes
Nun who served here in ’70s dies
Mercy Sister Eleanor Hine, who served in the Anchorage Archdiocese 1969-1975, died March 19 in Albany, N.Y. She was part of a group of Mercy Sisters who arrived soon after the formation of the archdiocese at the invitation of Archbishop Joseph Ryan of New York. She did parish ministry work during her time in the Anchorage Archdiocese, according to an obituary in the Albany Times Union newspaper. When she wasn’t working with parishioners, she liked to fish, said Mercy Sister Joyce Ross, who knew Sister Hine for many years and who is now parish director of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Kenai. Sister Hine went by the name Sister Mary Alphonsa during the early part of her 61-year stint as a member of the Sisters of Mercy.
One Bread, One Body will help keep parish money in parish
In the coming weeks, you’ll hear a lot about our archdiocese’s new annual appeal, One Bread, One Body.
The success of this effort to raise funds for archdiocesan ministries is important for two reasons: one, because it truly does take the involvement and commitment of us all to continue and grow our ministry programs; and two, because it solidifies for each of us that, though we worship and serve in many individual parishes, we are one church.
The One Bread, One Body appeal is a request for all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Anchorage to make a personal gift and become partners in serving others throughout Southcentral Alaska.
I realize individual parishioners face some of the same challenges as does the archdiocese: higher heating and fuel prices and increased health insurance costs, to name a few. It costs more now to operate and grow archdiocesan ministries.
However, I hope you view the ministries managed through the archdiocese and at your parish as important enough to warrant your investment.
A major goal of One Bread, One Body is to generate enough dollars to decrease the amount individual parishes must contribute annually to help fund archdiocesan ministries.
Every parish in our archdiocese pays a "cathedraticum" — a percentage of annual revenue — to help fund outreach to Hispanic, Alaska Native, Filipino and other minority communities; support for our Catholic schools; faith formation programs; vocations recruitment and support for seminarians; continuing education for priests and clergy; the programs of Catholic Social Services; ministries offered through the Office of Evangelization and Liturgy (including the Family Life Ministries); Holy Spirit Center, the archdiocesan retreat and conference facility; and youth ministry.
In addition to grants and generous donations made by individuals directly to the archdiocese, this parish support is what makes these important ministries possible.
Today, our parishes pay a cathedraticum of 15 percent. The success of One Bread, One Body will mean that parishes will have to contribute a smaller percentage to the archdiocese, so that more donations collected by individual parishes can remain there, funding vital programs, projects and ministries at the parish level.
The Archdiocese of Anchorage covers 138,985 square miles of the state of Alaska and encompasses an area larger than the six states in New England and New York combined.
When a faith family like ours is this spread out, it’s easy to forget that we have common goals.
In remote and rural parishes, the work to serve people is much different than in a parish nestled in an urban neighborhood. What happens in a parish dependent upon supply priests is markedly different than what happens in a parish with a full-time pastor.
We all have a stake in faith-filled and vibrant parish communities regardless of their location and available local resources.
We are, however, one church seeking to facilitate and help strengthen people’s deeper relationship with our loving God and with one another. For all those who desire it, we are here to provide support for people throughout their journeys to more meaningful spiritual lives.
We also must serve the children and adults in need throughout our archdiocese. We must continue to nurture our priests and clergy. We have an obligation to educate our youth and to help strengthen our families.
We are called to do these things, always, and can only accomplish them together.
In our church, we value the concept of stewardship — that all we have comes from God, and we do God’s work on Earth by sharing the gifts God has given us.
It’s critical that our stewardship extend beyond the parish level in order to serve people throughout our archdiocese. What we accomplish at our individual parishes is vital; what we accomplish as the larger, local Catholic Church also is vital.
As with all true expressions of stewardship, giving to the One Bread, One Body appeal is an opportunity to make a positive and real difference in the lives of other people.
I encourage you to learn more about the annual appeal and what it will mean for your parish and the archdiocese, to consider this particular request for your involvement with a heart open to our Lord’s call for your partnership in God’s work.
The success of One Bread, One Body will require our uniting as a faith community to accomplish more of God’s work than any one of us or any single parish could ever accomplish alone.
Massachusetts inspires on health care
In a model of bipartisan and multifactional cooperation, the state of Massachusetts just became the first state in the union to implement universal health care. We wish the citizens of Massachusetts well and hope that their counterparts in Alaska and other states are inspired.
For some time universal health care has been framed as in America as an idealistic socialist issue lacking practical grounding. But that position is eroding, particularly as other developed countries demonstrate that high-quality health care can be provided universally and affordably.
The growing number of uninsured Americans is also forcing society to examine the issue. There are now 45 million uninsured Americans — about 15 percent of the population.
The percentage of Alaskans without health insurance is 18.2 percent, a little better than last-ranked Texas (25.1 percent) but a lot worse than first-ranked Minnesota, where only 8.5 percent of the population lacks health coverage.
Massachusetts will soon claim Minnesota’s title. Republican Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Sen Edward Kennedy, a Democrat, got behind the effort for universal coverage and rallied their parties in the state legislature to action. A coalition of faith-based and other advocates for the poor created additional incentive by collecting 112,000 signatures to put a ballot initiative before voters.
The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the legislature, will divvy the burden of universal coverage among government, business and workers. The new system is expected to reduce the portion of uninsured to less than 1 percent over the next three years.
Alaska’s advocates for the poor and its politicians should look to Massachusetts for inspiration.
Easter-season rally for immigrants
Immigrants and their supporters are planning a rally in Anchorage to draw attention to the situation of those who come here with hopes for a better life. In the spirit of the season of Easter, with its themes of renewal, new life and hope, the Catholic community should feel perfectly at home at the May 1 rally.
While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is explicitly not endorsing the boycott that other immigrant-rights advocates are calling for May 1, the bishops have been among the most outspoken supporters of legislation that would transform the way immigrants are treated in this country.
The system is broken. People from Latin America risk their lives sneaking across the border, and are often exploited by U.S. employers emboldened to cheat them due to fears of deportation.
Some have summed up the political situation as a fight between one side that wants to preserve cheap labor for business and the other that wants to collect votes.
Everyone should be able to agree that the situation is in need of reform. Immigrants who keep the cost of tomatoes and hotel rooms and landscaping low deserve fair compensation and basic legal protections that other workers enjoy in this country. The immense pressure for cheaper goods and services must be balanced with the American (and Christian) ideals of justice and fairness for all.
This complex social issue would benefit from the input of Christians who analyze the situation through the lens of their faith. Catholic social principles of fundamental human dignity, the preferential option for the poor, and plain old economic justice can help shape debate as the nation’s elected leaders grapple with immigration reform.
Local Catholics and others of good will should stand in solidarity with immigrants and participate in the rally slated for May 1 in downtown Anchorage — and possibly in other communities around the state. There are similar rallies planned nationwide on that day.
For more information about the Anchorage rally, call the Anchorage Archdiocese, 297-7746.
Letter to the Editor
Priests are great; God is far greater
I know it’s difficult when a priest you love is taken from you because of outside circumstances. I have experienced this same sense of loss twice now with Father Al Giebel. Before Father Giebel, as a child, we also lost two other beloved priests in Eagle River, Fathers Joe Shirey and Peter Houck. The first time I lost Father Giebel I was tempted to leave Eagle River and follow him to St Benedict in Anchorage. I didn’t do that, but several years later I did wind up living in that parish. But then my family moved and again had to give up Father Giebel. I was heartbroken. My family also experienced a great sense of loss when Father Scott Medlock was transferred from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and again when Father Craig Loecker returned to Nebraska. And more recently, I am missing being able to play music for Father Luz Flores at the Providence hospital chapel. In all these times of loss, I’ve always eventually come to realize that each of these priests of such great impact in my life has contained and contributed some different personal treasure that has enriched my spiritual growth; and that, great and spiritually inspiring as these priests were, the faith given us by Christ, and his church itself, are far greater and far more inspiring than any single man. I share the sorrow and sense of loss being experienced now at St. Benedict, but I hope and pray that in its midst, people don’t lose sight of the treasure you have among you in the form of Father Flores, and of your faith, given by God himself, who will continue to bless and grow his church in your parish now and always.