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USCCB Decries Opening of Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas

Dilley DetentionWASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, decried the opening of a 2,400-bed detention center in Dilley, Texas, constructed to house, among others, families fleeing persecution in Central America.
 
The detention center, operated by a private, for-profit group, was inaugurated December 15.
 
“It is inhumane to house young mothers with children in restrictive detention facilities, as if they are criminals,” said Bishop Elizondo December 16.  “Already traumatized from their journey, these families are very vulnerable and need care and support, not further emotional and psychological harm.”  Studies have shown that detention has a harmful psychological impact on children.
 
Bishop Elizondo added that the Obama administration’s pursuit of a deterrence policy– including detention and interdiction– against children and families fleeing violence undermines basic human rights.
 
“Many of these families are fleeing persecution and should be afforded the full benefit of domestic and international law,” Bishop Elizondo said. “As we saw in the case of Artesia, detention denies mothers and children with valid legal claims meaningful access to due process, including legal representation.” A temporary detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, housing families was recently closed down, in part, because of strong opposition to due process violations and conditions there, especially for children. The average age of children detained in Artesia was six and a half years old.
 
Bishop Elizondo added that humane alternatives to detention exist, particularly community-based alternatives based on a case management model.  
 
“Past community-based programs have shown that vulnerable groups such as families can be placed in a community setting and still appear at their immigration hearings, provided they are given the proper support,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The government should explore this humane alternative and not cause further harm to these families, particularly children.”


Cardinal DiNardo's Statement on President Obama's Executive Order on Immigration

cardinalWhile the recent announcement by President Obama regarding Executive Action on immigration is certainly welcome, it also serves as a reminder that there is much work that needs to be done in regards to immigration reform. I am grateful that this action will provide temporary relief for families living in constant fear of deportation and detention. But this action is only temporary and that is why I, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, continue to urge our lawmakers to fix a immigration system in desperate need of repair.

As stated in Matthew 25: 35: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’ the dignity and welfare of the human person is paramount to our existence, without exception. Through effective policy, we must find a just resolution to this crisis which leaves so many of our brothers and sisters vulnerable and in dire circumstances. We will continue to urge the President and Congress to address this issue with undocumented immigrants and their families not through limited temporary measures, but comprehensive legislative reform.


Tell Your Congressperson You Support Immigration Reform

Justice for Immigrants logoThe Justice For Immigrants Initative of the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops is conducting a National Call-In to Congress campaign beginning next Tuesday, December 9 through Friday, December 12.

The purpose of the campaign is to discourage federal lawmakers from attempting to deport millions of undocumented immigrants amid continued efforts to achieve bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. Please call your Congressman at 1-855-589-5698 to share this simple, direct message:

“Please do not neglect efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the coming Congress. As part of that effort, please oppose language that would bar the President from using his authority to protect immigrants and their families from deportation in the midst of the immigration reform debate.”

The Catholic Church supports immigration reform that is merciful, charitable, and compassionate to those here simply working for a better life, while also recognizing the legitimate responsibility of the federal government to maintain control of our nation’s borders. Catholics derive our special concern for immigrants from the many biblical accounts of immigration, including the Holy Family's flight into Egypt.

Find out more about the USCCB's Justice For Immigrants at http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/. We are one family under God.



Devotion To Mary

bishop-farrell-thumbnailDevotion to Mary is an essential part of our Catholic faith. For Catholic children learning the Hail Mary is an important spiritual rite of passage. There are many traditions about the Blessed Virgin. She has revealed herself in numerous apparitions. Some, including those at Lourdes, at Fatima and Tepeyac, have been accepted by the Church as conforming to Catholic teaching. Others are under discernment.

Mary has been the subject of two ex-cathedra definitions of Catholic doctrine. The first, by Pope Pius IX in 1864, concerned Mary’s Immaculate Conception; the second by Pope Pius XII in 1950, involved her Assumption into heaven. These two events are now dogma. Beyond that, Mary’s role in the Redemption has been debated in councils and by theologians through the ages and still is today.

I like to think that her role is best described in the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2: 1-12). When the wedding steward reveals they have run out of wine, Mary mentions it to Jesus, who responds that his hour has not come. Nevertheless, she tells the steward, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus responds by turning water into wine.

This Gospel passage reveals two important things about Mary. First, her role is to point us toward Jesus, telling us to do whatever he says, to follow him and become disciples. Second, we see that her intercession with her son is powerful and that we may turn to her in prayerful petition.

December is an important Marian month that gives us the opportunity to honor our Blessed Mother in a special way. Early in the month we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8. Then, on Dec. 12, we commemorate her apparition to St. Juan Diego as a Mestizo woman as a reminder that Spaniards, Indians, and the new race emerging from their union – the Mestizo, the dignity of all human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

Let us pray that we have the courage to heed Mary’s call to become disciples of her son and to treat all of our brothers and sisters as fellow children of God.


USCCB Welcomes Relief For Immigrant Families

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

In a statement issued Thursday, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed President Obama’s decision to defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.
 
Even though the bishops applauded the effort to keep families together, they also reaffirmed their call for both the President and the U.S. Congress must work together for permanent reforms. 
 
“I strongly urge Congress and the President to work together to enact permanent reforms to the nation’s immigration system for the best interests of the nation and the migrants who seek refuge here. We will continue to work with both parties to enact legislation that welcomes and protects immigrants and promotes a just and fair immigration policy,” Bishop Elizondo said.
 
View the USCCB's full statement on Bishop Elizondo's comments at http://www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-196.cfm.


Texas Bishops Featured at USCCB Fall General Assembly

Bishop SisThe bishops of Texas played prominent roles in the 2014 Fall General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on November 10 – 13, in Baltimore. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, M.Sp.S. of San Antonio was selected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.  The man he is succeeding in that post, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, delivered a stirring presentation on underserved communities and Catholic schools.  In addition to the committee chair elections and discussions, the bishops also approved several liturgical items and endorsed the sainthood cause of Father Paul Wattson.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller outpolled Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, by a 160-60 margin to become chairman-elect of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. The committee assists dioceses in bringing Catholics from various culturally diverse communities into a fuller participation in the faith, life, and evangelizing mission of the Church. The committee focuses on building awareness of cultural diversity, including Pastoral care of Hispanic Catholics, African American Catholics, Native American Catholics, Asian Catholics, African Catholics, Pacific Island Catholics, Catholic migrants and refugees, and people on the move.

In other voting of note, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, former Shepherd of the Diocese of Austin, was selected as USCCB secretary-elect in a narrow 100-94 vote over Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services.  Archbishop Aymond will serve one year as secretary-elect and then serve a full three-year term as secretary.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville addressed the General Assembly about diversity in Catholic education, with Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska. “Welcoming more children from diverse populations in our Catholic Schools, and particularly making an effort to reach out to underserved communities, is important for the future of Catholic schools and of our Church,” he noted.

Bishop Flores quoted from a 2014 Boston College study, which found that Catholic schools are less available in areas where the Catholic population has experienced rapid growth recently, fueled by the rising number of Latinos in the South and the West. Major initiatives by dioceses to provide consistent cultural competency training and financial investments have produced positive results. The percentage of Latino children enrolled in Catholic schools in the United States has grown from 12.8 percent to 15 percent over the last four years. “The needle is moving in the right direction, even if slowly,” Bishop Flores remarked.

In other activity, the bishops approved several liturgical items and voted overwhelmingly in favor of a request by the USCCB's doctrine committee to proceed with a revision of a section of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, dealing with Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships. Participants in the General Assembly also accepted a 2015 budget of just under $189.5 million for the USCCB and endorsed the sainthood cause of Father Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Society of the Atonement and a leading advocate of Christian unity.



Bishops Seek Protection for Foreign and Domestic Programs to Aid Poor

Migrant ChildrenIn a letter to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) urged for a metaphorical “circle of protection” to be placed around appropriations for U.S. programs serving the poor and vulnerable both at home and abroad.

The letter, signed by Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, pressed the newly elected Congress “to protect poor and vulnerable people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good.”

“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. These voices are too often missing from public policy debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources,” wrote Bishops Wenski and Cantú, who serve as chairmen of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.

They highlighted several domestic programs that are in jeopardy of being cut, including nutrition, affordable housing, healthcare and workforce development.  The prelates also stressed the importance of preserving international humanitarian assistance, global disaster relief, long-term development, and international agriculture programs.

As Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines said on behalf of the USCCB in July, “We cannot separate the humanitarian crisis of migration from the fundamental ‘root causes’ existing in these countries … violence, gang activity, narcotics, weapons and human trafficking, inadequate institutions of law enforcement and corruption/impunity, poverty, as well as unequal and inadequate economic development. These factors mutually reinforce one another.”

In an attempt to curb this vicious cycle, the Obama Administration and the Inter-American Development Bank recently announced that they are scaling up their investments in Central America over the long term and providing migration processing for some child refugees in their home countries. This plan also includes collaboration initiatives with faith-based organizations to provide at-risk youth with life skills, job training, and recreation activities, as well as a strategy to improve 900 schools.

“The announcement for a long-term strategic investment in Central America is critical to address the root causes of the economic, social, and political crises in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for Government Relations and Advocacy for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “For far too long, children and youth have borne the brunt of these crises.” 


CRS and the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services plan to advocate for an expansion of these programs to serve even more Central American children in need. “Too often, so called economic development has not reached the poor and marginalized,” O’Keefe said. “Economic success in Central America will be measured in job creation, educational improvements and school attendance, and strengthening of families.”

Fall Sparks Activities for Texas Catholic Youth and Young Adults

YouthAflame14GroupThe cooler fall temperatures have given rise to more activities for Catholic youth and young adult ministries across the Lone Star State.  These activities offer attendees a much-needed spiritual break from the busyness of their active lifestyles. From the Piney Woods to the River Walk, young Catholics and the ministers who serve them are able to deepen their faith through a vibrant combination of dynamic presentations, social media, music, and sacred liturgy. 

The “8th Annual Youth Aflame Retreat” attracted over 100 young Catholics from across East Texas to Twin Oakes Ranch, near Lindale, on the weekend of November 14-16. The Diocese of Tyler teamed up with Kerygma Texas to take these attendees beyond Confirmation and start them on the path to discipleship. The goal of the retreat was to spark a desire for missionary work so that the youth may be motivated to share the Gospel of the Lord to their parishes and communities. 

Father Justin Braun, Vocations Director of the Diocese of Tyler, celebrated Holy Mass for the young Catholics and Bishop Joseph Strickland sent a buzz through the crowd by sending a “selfie” video greeting from his travels. Kerygma Texas and the Diocese of Tyler are planning three more retreats for youth, young adults and women in early 2015. Complete information on these upcoming events can be found at http://kerygmatexas.com.  

That same weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, hundreds of young adults also came together for the “THRIVE: Transforming Our Culture” conference at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Coppell. This third-annual event was designed to inspire attendees to be reinvigorated in their spiritual lives.  The young adults were challenged by a series of candid breakout sessions, covering the difficulties of being a Catholic in the modern culture, and a compelling roster of nationally recognized speakers.  The crowd also enjoyed contemporary Catholic musicians, social time, and liturgical activities like Eucharistic Adoration, Holy Mass, and Reconciliation.

Before the start of Advent, thousands of youth and campus ministers, religious education leaders, clergy and religious, young adult ministers, performers, artists and volunteers will gather at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center on San Antonio’s River Walk for the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) on December 4-6. The NCCYM is the largest event in the country for adults who minister to Catholic youth.

These three days of the NCCYM will be filled with keynote presentations, workshops, prayer and worship, extensive networking, hundreds of resource exhibits, and uplifting Catholic entertainment. Programs are conducted in both English and Spanish.  One of the unique features of this year’s event is the onsite and online Catholic Parent Revival. This track aims to support the daily effort of growing deeper in faith as a family and breathe new life into the vocation of parenthood. More details on the NCCYM conference are available at http://www.nccym.info.



Texas Catholic Conference Touts Tax Credits Before Senate Committee

Senate HearingWhile the 84th Texas Legislature does not open until January 13, 2015, the Texas Catholic Conference got an early start in promoting the public policy agenda of the Texas Bishops. 

Education will be a top issue of the upcoming Texas Legislature and the Senate Public Education Committee scheduled the last of its hearings on interim charges before the new session starts.

Jennifer Carr Allmon, TCC associate director, testified before the committee on the Bishops’ support for school choice tax credits to provide equal educational choices for low-income families.

Allmon pointed to a similar tax credit scholarship program that was established in  Florida in 2001 to encourage private, voluntary contributions from corporate donors to non-profit scholarship funding organizations that award scholarships to children from low-income families.

“A Tax Credit Scholarship program in Texas would allow businesses to invest in their future workforce by receiving a tax credit from state taxes when they contribute to nonprofit agencies that award scholarships to students with financial and academic need. These scholarships would defray educational costs so parents can choose the best education for their children,” Allmon said.

Allmon responded to critics of parental choice for a child’s education who complain that scholarships drain schools of both funding and students.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth. A Tax Credit actually provides an opportunity for public schools to increase their per pupil spending because the local property taxes are not reduced by the state tax credit,” Allmon said.

The Texas Bishops maintain that Universal education has long been a foundation of the Catholic faith, and it is an issue of equity and justice for families who want to make the best choices for their children.  They strongly believe that parents have a right and responsibility to educate their children, including choosing the best school for them.


 


Catholic Church Ready to Kickoff A Year of Consecrated Life

Year of Consecrated Life LogoPope Francis has called on the Catholic Church to celebrate a Year of Consecrated Life (YCL) throughout the world, beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014. It will close on the World Day of Consecrated Life on February 2, 2016. The purpose of the YCL, as stated by the Vatican is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past,” while embracing “the future with hope.”

This special year will mark the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Church. These documents serve as “signs and guidelines to help all consecrated persons to be witnesses of God's transfiguring presence," according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations is promoting “Days with Religious” initiatives and resources to help families learn about the consecrated life of religious men and women. YCL activities will focus on sharing prayer, service and community life with those living a consecrated life. Numerous tours, open houses, receptions, family activities, and presentations on the history of religious communities will be held at convents, abbeys, monasteries and religious houses across the country.


Another highlight of the YCL in the United States will be the first-ever visit from Pope Francis on September 25, 2015, for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Officials are expecting tens of thousands of Catholics for the conference, as well as up to 2 million people for Holy Mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway two days later. Few details of the Pope’s visit are confirmed, but the Holy Father is also expected to announce additional stops in New York and Washington, D.C. to address the United Nations General Assembly and a Joint Session of the United States Congress.


A Thanksgiving Blessing

archbishop-gustavo-thumbnail"A happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday."

With the following words, President Abraham Lincoln established the fourth Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and a national holiday: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens … and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”1

Reflecting on the spirit of his proclamation, we can see that his intention went beyond just words and banquets, but expressed his deep desire to inspire a gratitude that had a wider purpose. Today, as we live in a nation that is deeply divided in so many ways, we would do well to share in President Lincoln’s hope for the healing of its wounds and disunity. As we give thanks we should remember that the many blessings we enjoy are not ours to keep, but ours to share. Let our prayer of thanksgiving be an expression of gratitude to God and love for one another, coming to the realization that thanksgiving is more than a feeling, it is a way of life.

President Lincoln established the Thanksgiving holiday in one of the darkest times in this nation’s history. The Civil War had raged since 1861 and soon would experience the Battle of Gettysburg, in which 51,0002 casualties resulted. President Lincoln’s desire to give thanks, even in the darkness of the worst of times, showed us that we must give thanks to God even in the moments when we discover how fragile our tranquility can be and how dependent we are on the grace of God for the peace we seek. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians: “And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.”3

Our thanks should not only provide us with a contrast to the burdens and suffering that others experience, our gratitude should also awaken in our hearts a desire to heal the wounds of others, feed their bodies and souls, mourn their suffering and bring about freedom and dignity to those who have such great need that our many blessings are evident by any comparison.

As we give thanks for the abundance God has placed in our lives, let us recognize the many people who have enriched us in so many ways. Pope Francis reminds us, “Saying thank you is such an easy thing, and yet so hard. How often do we say ‘thank you’ to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common.” However, let us not thank only those who give to us, but also let us give thanks for those who provide us the opportunity to be generous in faith and love. Our salvation comes in our love and service to the poor and the marginalized, the suffering and the stranger among us who is isolated and afraid.

Our thanksgiving is authentically expressed as we share our providential inheritance, not to possess, but to share all that we have been given as a gift from God. I wish you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

1. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VI, “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” (October 3, 1863), p. 497.
2. The Gettysburg Foundation website. http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/37
3. Colossians 3:15-17

 
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The Texas Catholic Conference is the association of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas. We accredit the state's Catholic Schoolsmaintain records that reflect the work of the Church in Texas, and represent the Bishops in the public policy sphere.