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January 13, 2010
‘One Family Under God’ project strives for an integration of hearts
Immigration reform, like health-care reform, is one of those tough issues that can quickly turn good people against each other. National security; the rights of undocumented workers; public safety and solvency; humane treatment for immigrant families whose children may have U.S. citizenship but whose parents don’t—when the concerns in a political debate are like these, so vital, so urgent and so seemingly contrary to each other, it’s a recipe for anger.
Searching for a political solution to America’s immigration crisis is important. Our current system simply doesn’t work. Worse, it has a high cost in human suffering. But the laws and public policies of a country reflect the character of its citizens. No matter how skilled our elected officials might be, we’ll never have immigration peace in our country until we’re willing to see—or at least try to see—the world through the eyes of persons who are different from ourselves. To put it another way: We can’t have lasting immigration reform until we reform our own hearts and attitudes.
Here in Colorado, we have a chance to do something about that, instead of piously wringing our hands. Since the late 1980s, Latino immigration into Colorado has sharply grown. Today, more than half of all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver have Latino roots. Many are unregistered and poorly served by the Church. Some of our parishes operate as if they were actually two parishes: one serving longtime Colorado residents; the other serving newly arrived Latinos; and neither understanding or cooperating with the other.
Over the past few decades, dioceses around the country have worked hard to develop Hispanic ministries to assist the growing U.S. Latino population. These ministries have been staffed by many gifted and committed people. Some of the programs have had wonderful success. But a recurrent problem in “Hispanic ministry” is that—quite apart from a chronic lack of funding—it can tend to stay too narrow in its focus, encouraging a kind of ethnic isolation. Worse, it can allow too many non-Latino Catholics to avoid their own responsibilities to seek out, welcome and work to understand newly arrived Latino Catholics. If we’re serious about our discipleship; if we really mean what we say about being “brothers and sisters in Christ;” then we need to change—and that includes all of us, both those who are new to our country, and those whose families have lived here for generations. We need to live our life as a diocesan Church differently. We need a Church built not on “separate but equal” services, or even on assimilation; but rather on a genuine integration of hearts, no matter what our race or ethnicity, into one, unified, Catholic community.
More than a year ago I asked Luis Soto, our archdiocesan director of Hispanic ministry, to help me develop a plan that might bring this new “integration” about here in Colorado. That plan for our local Church, “One Family Under God,” is now launching in four pilot parishes around the archdiocese. I believe in it strongly. I’m also very grateful to all of the people—Latino and non-Latino alike—who assisted my staff and myself by offering their expertise in creating it. What we learn from this parish-based testing will then be offered at every level of parish and archdiocesan life over the next several years. I urge you to read about it in this week’s Register (see “Program aims to unite faithful as ‘One Family Under God,’ Page 1). And I especially ask you to support, encourage and pray for this program as it sets the foundations for a new unity in our Catholic community.
This is the first week in Ordinary time of a new decade. There will never be a better time for new beginnings than right now. May God bless each of you, and the vital work of “One Family Under God,” as we begin the new year.
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Jan. 14: Presbyteral Council meeting followed by Priests’ Personnel Board meeting, JPII Center (10 a.m.)
Jan. 16: Respect Life Mass, Cathedral (noon)
Jan. 18: Martin Luther King Marade, City Park (10 a.m.)
Jan. 19: Committee of Vicars and Directors meeting, JPII Center (9:30 a.m.); Year for Priests Holy Hour, All Souls Parish, Englewood (7 p.m.)