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May 31, 2017

Priests ordained in 2017 -
Factors that drive migration -
Deep roots of Catholic diversity -
Improving palliative care

In this edition:
1. Roots of church's diversity.
2. Factors driving migration.
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) 2017's new U.S. priests.
b) Fragility, not an ill.
c) Why voting matters.
4. Improving palliative care.
5. Identifying pro-life concerns.

1. Roots of the Church's Diversity

A message heard often nowadays fosters a fear of "people who are strangers, different from ourselves, outsiders and aliens lest they diminish or lower the standards of our identity or national and cultural purity," Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich said in a May 9 homily during a confirmation service for adults.

However, he added, "God's story calls this narrow reading of human existence into question and prompts us to pay attention to our own experience of how the sufferings of others and the diversity in the human family enrich us all."

The cardinal recalled that the story of the early church is a story about the spread of faith far and wide, indeed to strangers. The "seed of faith" was cast widely. Notably, this is a story that "defines who we are," he said.

Cardinal Cupich's homily accented the Catholic community's diversity today. Later, when the homily appeared as a column in the Chicago Catholic, the cardinal observed in an introduction how the church's diversity tends to become apparent during eucharistic celebrations.

"There is a great irony at work in our liturgical life and public prayer. We come to one place, calling ourselves a community that claims to be united in bonds that even death itself cannot break, for we are the body of the risen Lord. Yet many of us do not know one another or have never met," he wrote. A question to ask, he proposed, is "what it means for us strangers to say we are one body of Christ."

He recalled that "a great spiritual writer once noted that for any of us to believe, it is not so much a matter of making God an important factor" in our lives, among all the other things that preoccupy us -- work, family, aspirations. Rather, "it is about accepting that I am a factor in God's life, that I am part of the story of God's redeeming work."

The spread of the faith to all the nations in an ancient time of persecution - its spread "to all the diversity that makes up the human family" - is a story that "reminds us who we are," he said. It is a reminder that "we are a people who are proud to embrace the diversity that is part of humanity and the church simply because we know that it is the result of God's redeeming work."

And we know, he said, about "the countless contributions that people of every land and nation have made to our nation and our church, enhancing our human experience precisely because they are different."

2. Addressing Factors That Drive Migration

Today "the number of migrants crossing international borders is at its highest total in recorded history." But at the same time "the number of people displaced within their own countries far exceeds those moving across international borders," Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, said May 22.

During discussions of a proposed U.N. global compact on migration, he said that "a change of attitude toward migrants and refugees is needed" in today's world, a change "from defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization toward a culture of encounter and more creative forms of solidarity."

Man-made crises drive people to migrate, and the worst crisis of all is war and violent conflict, said the archbishop. War both displaces people within their homelands and drives people to leave their countries. He noted that "more than half of the world's refugees, forced migrants and internally displaced persons have been forced to abandon their homes and properties and, indeed, to flee their countries because of conflicts and violence."

These people face dangers such as human trafficking, "starvation and many forms of abuse," the archbishop stressed.

Archbishop Auza cited other factors that contribute to migration, including extreme poverty and the lack of basic goods and services, along with "severe environmental degradation and disasters."

The most effective way to prevent such people from becoming "involuntary migrants" is "to help distressed populations where they are, rather than procrastinating and hoping for the best," he said.

For, "when vulnerable individuals and populations are forced to move, human rights abuses and sexual-related violence against women and children become all too common; families are separated; many are forcefully detained upon arrival or fall victim to human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery."

Furthermore, "while in transit and especially upon arrival in countries of destination, forced migrants are often perceived as taking advantage of host communities, rather than hapless peoples who deserve assistance and human sympathy."

It needs to be remembered, the archbishop insisted, "that before the right to emigrate there is the right of all to remain in their countries in peace and economic security." Migration ought to be a choice, not "a desperate necessity."

If the proposed global compact for migration adopts such understandings, migration could become not only "voluntary, but safer, more orderly and better governed by agreed regulations," the archbishop stated.

But he said that if the right to remain in one's homeland is to mean anything and be effective, "the factors that constrain people to emigrate must be attended to through international cooperation founded in mutual trust, responsibility and solidarity."

3. Current Quotes to Ponder

U.S. Priests Ordained in 2017: "The class of 2017 follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-30s. The average age among all responding ordinands is 34 years old this year (ordination class of 2017). By comparison, responding ordinands were 35 years old on average in the previous year (ordination class of 2016) and 34 years old on average two years ago (ordination class of 2015). Since 1999 the average age of responding ordinands has decreased by approximately two months each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 34. . . . Four in five responding ordinands (82 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently the parish priest, friend or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation. One in three responding ordinands (35 percent) has/had a relative who is a priest or religious. One-half of responding ordinands (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or a family member (other than parents)." (Quotes from "The Class of 2017: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood." The annual survey is conducted for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The USCCB reported in a press release that the total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2017, 590, was slightly up from 548 in 2016 and down from 595 in 2015.)

Fragility, Not an Ill: "Throughout his ministry [Jesus] met many sick people; he took on their suffering; he tore down the walls of stigma and of marginalization that prevented so many of them from feeling respected and loved. For Jesus, disease is never an obstacle to encountering people, but rather, the contrary. He taught us that the human person is always precious, always endowed with a dignity that nothing and no one can erase, not even disease. Fragility is not an ill. And disease, which is an expression of fragility, cannot and must not make us forget that in the eyes of God our value is always priceless." (From May 18 remarks of Pope Francis to Huntington's disease patients and their families.)

Voting and the Vocation to Transform the World: "The Christian vocation to transform the world in the light of the Gospel commandment to love includes the duty to participate as informed and coresponsible citizens in the democratic process. This includes the serious moral duty to weigh up the issues at stake in each election, to carefully consider the position of individual candidates and to vote in the manner which each individual's conscience sincerely discerns will maximize the common good and diminish objective moral evil. It is regrettable that so many citizens today seem alienated and disheartened by the experience of politics, especially our younger people. The experience of prolonged political instability often diminishes trust and confidence in the noble vocation of politics. However understandable, it would be equally regrettable if Christians and other citizens disengaged from the political process by not voting. . . . A fundamental responsibility of every follower of Jesus is to transform the world with hope. Every vote in favor of a more just, peaceful and caring society is a concrete and personal expression of that hope. . . . When we vote . . . we have an opportunity to articulate our concern for the most vulnerable in society, for the environment in which we live and for the development of a peaceful and prosperous society. Engaging constructively with the democratic process can help build a just society." (From a May 28 statement by Northern Ireland's Catholic bishops prior to Britain's June 8 general parliamentary election.)

4. Interfaith Call for Better Palliative Care

"Far too little attention has been paid to palliative care" in public policy related to the aged, says a newly released Canadian interfaith statement calling for "the development of a pan-Canadian palliative-care strategy."

It explains that "as a comprehensive approach to end-of-life challenges, palliative care combines pain management with efforts to attend to a patient's psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs, as well as caregiver support." The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Canadian Council of Imams joined in the statement.

"How a country cares for its most vulnerable reflects our national values and priorities," and "those approaching the final stage of life are, unquestionably, among our most vulnerable," said the statement.

Palliative care, it stressed, should "not include interventions which intentionally cause the death of the patient." It referred to this concern as "a fundamental distinction that must be maintained."

The interreligious leaders observed that "while economic figures reveal the significant cost savings associated with palliative care," their "interest in this issue is rooted not in dollars and cents, but in the incalculable worth of every person."

A "robust, well-resourced national palliative care strategy," they pointed out, will require "increasing the availability of hospice and palliative care in all settings, and improving the quality and consistency of services provided."

5. What Are Pro-Life Concerns?

"To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life," said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who heads the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network based in Toronto, Ontario.

In a May 8 article posted on the Salt and Light blog, Father Rosica urged Catholics to embrace a full slate of pro-life concerns. Listing a number of pro-life concerns, he said that society is poisoned by:

1. "Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction."

2. "Whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself."

3. "Whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons."

The Catholic Church, Father Rosica wrote, "offers a consistent teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be pro-life." The goal for a pro-life person cannot be "tunnel vision," which favors one or two important issues while neglecting others, he suggested.

He commented that "being pro-life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and center!" Father Rosica discouraged what he called "the sight impairment and myopia that often afflict people of good will who are blinded by their own zeal and are unable to see the whole picture."

In addition, he cautioned, "being pro-life does not give us the right and license to say and do whatever we wish, to malign, condemn and destroy other human beings who do not share our views."The "principles of civility, Gospel charity, ethics and justice" should not be forgotten, he insisted.

He wrote, "If we are pro-life we must engage the culture around us and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us." Being pro-life today, he wrote, "is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world."