Archbishop John C. Wester's Blog Tuesday's Tapestry

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Embody the Good Samaritan

In these past few weeks, we have seen the immigration debate in our country reach new levels of emotional intensity, an intensity that often creates more heat than light. In response to the presidential executive orders regarding immigrants and refugees coming to the United States and those already here, some are elated, others scared and still others confused. The conversations I have been hearing often revolve around a concern for the rule of law, the fear of newcomers bringing acts of terrorism to our land and the desire to protect and preserve our way of life. These are not unimportant issues, but they are complex and they do not admit to easy solutions. For more than ten years, I have been speaking and writing about these very points, laying out the Catholic Church’s teaching about welcoming the stranger in our midst. In studying these issues, I am convinced that we can build bridges, not walls, that we can keep our country safe and our culture intact, and that we can find a path toward comprehensive immigration reform that respects the rule of law and still welcomes those who come to our shores, those who quite often are fleeing violence, persecution and hardship.

In all honesty, however, I find that when I am “speaking to the choir” there is great agreement with my position and when I am speaking to those who hold a completely divergent view then my facts, figures and statistics do little to change hearts. What changes hearts is the telling of the human story, encountering another’s heart and putting a face on the facts, figures and statistics. Furthermore, what changes hearts is the Gospel and that is my first duty: to proclaim the Gospel “in season and out of season” so that the light of Christ can illumine our immigration conversations and debates.

In that vein, I have been praying over Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37). It occurs to me that the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan had to decide whether or not to help the victim of robbers who was left half dead in light of the laws of the time, the genuine fear of getting involved in a violent episode and the desire to maintain their quality of life without risking their good reputation, their property and their peace of mind.

In Jesus’ time, the religious laws governed every aspect of a person’s life. There were purification laws that prohibited touching a dead body and engaging with people from other ethnic groups. The priest and the Levite could have rendered themselves unclean for touching the victim and the Samaritan could be liable for rendering the victim unclean if the latter were Jewish. Furthermore, it was dangerous to get involved in these types of situations. The roads were filled with robbers and unscrupulous people. Furthermore, if they stopped to help the unfortunate victim, they could be accused by his family of being the perpetrator. It was risky to offer help in such circumstances. And of course, it was far easier to just keep going. Why risk the security of their lives, why spend hard earned money on a stranger, why not just take care of yourself and avoid trouble? In other words, Jesus is fully cognizant of the laws and fears and desire for self-preservation that all three travelers had to take into consideration. Jesus knew that his audience would most probably agree that the priest and Levite were well within their rights – and even being prudent – to just keep going. Imagine their shock when Jesus said that the Samaritan stopped and helped the victim. And to make the point even more dramatic, it was a Samaritan, the hated enemy of the Jews, who offered help. And why? Because he had compassion for the hapless victim. Jesus says that the Samaritan was moved with compassion. He was moved beyond the limitations of the law, the paralysis of fear and the suffocation of self-centered interest to help a fellow human being in need. Jesus does not in any way dismiss the law, the fear, the desire for security. Rather, He holds up for imitation the heart of compassion that somehow finds a way to turn a passerby into a neighbor. Jesus is not abrogating the law, mitigating the fear or attenuating the desire for self-preservation. Rather, He is giving us a new law, a new freedom, a new way of living that finds its foundation in love and in compassion. There comes a time when we must act heroically out of compassion. Just laws and appropriate fears and enlightened self-interest serve a valid purpose in our day-to-day living. But compassion allows us to move beyond the norm and to follow a higher law that removes all fear and finds new life in surrendering our own interests as we put ourselves last and others first.

The Samaritan, Jesus tells us, became a neighbor to the victim. He followed his heart and through his action of mercy proved himself a neighbor. That is what discipleship is all about. It is about acting with love and compassion at all times, especially when our fellow human beings call to us in need. I understand that our country is locked in a fierce debate on this issue. There are many elements to the debate. But there is one element that must never be missing: compassion. Just as we exercise great passion in defending the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, so must we do all that we can to stand shoulder to shoulder with our immigrant brothers and sisters who are seeking to live. Their lives are sacred and we must do all that we can to protect them from the various challenges they face.

I find it compelling that Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the question of the young lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” For Jesus, the answer moves beyond legalities, fears and self-interest. Rather, it has to do with the preeminence of compassion. “Go, and do the same yourself” Jesus tells the young lawyer. In other words, be compassionate. We can debate all we want, but if we do not have compassion, then we are missing the point all together.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan. But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishop's Statement on the

Dignity of Human Life

March 6, 2017

We the bishops of the State of New Mexico speak for the Catholic Church. We work to uphold the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death through our pastoral ministries and through our legislative advocacy via the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. We encourage individuals to live and proclaim their faith; however, they must be steadfast in stating they speak for themselves and do not speak for the Catholic Church.

Recently, statements have been made by some Catholic legislators regarding abortion, doctor-assisted suicide and the Catholic Church. These statements may be confusing to the Catholic faithful and do not represent the teachings of the Church. It is not appropriate for elected officials to publicly invoke their Catholic faith and to present their personal opinions as official Church teaching. This misrepresents Church teaching and creates a public scandal for the faithful. Furthermore, this action publicly separates a person from communion with the Catholic faith.

We acknowledge that there are Catholic legislators who advocate and vote for some issues that are of moral importance to Catholics, including concern for poor people and immigrants. We applaud their work giving voice to the voiceless. However, we are concerned by public statements by some legislators that seem to say that a faithful Catholic can support abortion or doctor-assisted suicide. Support for abortion or doctor-assisted suicide is not in accord with the teachings of the Church. These represent the direct taking of human life, and are always wrong. Furthermore, we are convinced that proclaiming and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most effective way to change hearts and minds so that one day the scourge of abortion will be eliminated. Our message is consistent: All human life is sacred, from the moment of conception to natural death, and must be protected. As Pope Francis reminds us, "Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in His own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect (7/17/13)." It is not morally permissible for a Catholic to support abortion or doctor-assisted suicide.

We also acknowledge that God’s forgiveness is always available to us if we seek it, so that we may heal our soul and be reconciled with God, the Church and others. This is the case with abortion. Those who have had an abortion, participated in an abortion, or otherwise supported an abortion need to seek reconciliation with God and the Church through the sacrament of reconciliation. The Project Rachel ministry of the Catholic Church offers this hope for healing and reconciliation to men and women who have had or participated in an abortion.

We want to be clear. Individuals and groups do not speak for the Catholic Church. As bishops, we do. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the Diocese of Las Cruces and the Diocese of Gallup continuously preach Jesus' Gospel of Life in public and in private meetings with legislators. We visit the New Mexico Legislature when it gathers and host a time when together the priorities of the Church are made known to the legislators. We take the Gospel to the public square in public meetings and hearings as well as in private meetings and conversations with elected officials. We pray for all legislators and through the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops are here to aid in the formation of consciences. We will continue to collaborate with many others to uphold the dignity of the human person through a consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death.—END

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

FOR LENT 2017

"The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

1. The other person is a gift

The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means God helps. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

2. Sin blinds us

The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

3. The Word is a gift

The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them” (v. 29). Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31).

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbour. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favour the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

Abide in Christ: Teaching as Jesus Did

Archbishop John C. Wester visits St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Albuquerque.

My love for Catholic schools goes way back to 1958 when I accompanied my mother to visit Sr. Claire Maher, OP, the principal of Our Lady of Mercy grammar school in Daly City, CA. We had recently moved and Mom and Dad were eager to have me attend Catholic school. Despite the fact that this was a double grammar school with approximately 50 students in each class, there was no room for me at that time. As we drove home I remember my mother wiping her eyes and I asked her what was wrong. She told me how disappointed she was that there was no room for me. As it turns out, I was accepted the next year and spent the next five years at Our Lady of Mercy, followed by 12 years in the seminary, and several more years in Catholic graduate schools. There is no doubt that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Catholic education, and in particular, to all those wonderful teachers who mentored me and taught me along the way. What is more, I taught in Catholic high school for eight years, followed by two years of ministry in the Catholic Superintendent’s Office in San Francisco. Little wonder, then, that Catholic schools mean the world to me and I am deeply committed to their success, especially here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. It is not just my personal connection with Catholic schools that motivates me to support them. Rather, in looking over the statistics, it is immediately apparent that our Catholic schools are “delivering the goods.” Here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, we have a total of 4,074 students, of whom 91% are Roman Catholic. We are blessed to have 425 full-time teachers in our schools, which boast a graduation rate of 99% with 98% of our graduates participating in higher education. As you would expect, all of our schools are accredited. In addition to the core curriculum all schools offer music, art, physical education, technology, a sports program, and many other extracurricular activities. When it comes to grades and academic achievement, our schools are at the head of the class. St. Pius students score above the National and State level on their ACTs. Over 90% of our eighth grade students are at the mastery level of the New Mexico state standards. Our schools consistently score above the national average on the ACRE test which measures knowledge of the Catholic faith. Equally important, research shows that Catholic school students develop more effective academic skills and score significantly above the national average on standardized tests.

While these statistics are truly noteworthy, I am especially impressed by our archdiocesan schools because of their commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is this commitment that makes them so successful. Our schools are communities of faith where each student is cherished and affirmed as a person made in the very image and likeness of God. These are communities that are Christ-centered and seek to provide the best spiritual and academic formation for each child’s mind, soul and body. Catholic Schools provide opportunities for the reception of the sacraments, retreats, celebrations of the liturgical seasons and prayerful reflection on students’ personal faith journeys. For the millennial generation (born after 1982) individuals are nearly eight times more likely to attend Mass one or more times per week than those adults who did not attend a Catholic school (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA, 2014) ). In the United States, the Catholic school continues to be one of the Church’s most effective instruments for passing on the faith from one generation to the next (CARA, 2014).

For reasons relating to our Catholic faith and to excellence in education, there is clearly a strong case to be made for supporting our Catholic schools in this local Church. As you already know, it is not easy to maintain our schools in the current environment. There are many economic and demographic challenges that we face in keeping our schools open and thriving. That is why it is important for all of us to come together and support Catholic education in this archdiocese. The responsibility for maintaining, fostering and developing our Catholic schools does not belong solely to the local parish that has a school, nor to pastors of parishes with schools, nor to Catholic parents with school-aged children. Rather, this responsibility belongs to every parish, whether having a school or not, to every priest, whether a pastor with a school or not, and to every Catholic whether they have school-aged children or not. The responsibility for forming future Catholic leaders belongs to all Catholics as we seek to fulfill our baptismal commitment in promoting the faith, nurturing our children and contributing to the common good.

I encourage all Catholics to take a good look at our Catholic schools and to support them in any way possible. Your generous contribution to our scholarship programs is one very good way to do this. Another way is to support our schools by volunteering either as a teacher’s aide or by helping students after school. Many of our Catholic retirees have wonderful skills and knowledge that they can share with our students. I have been impressed by those scientists here in New Mexico who in their retirement spend time teaching mathematics, science and technology to our students. These wonderful volunteers tell me that they get as much if not more out of what they do than what they give. Whether it is by giving of your time, talent or treasure, I invite all to seriously consider actively and intentionally supporting our Catholic schools. It means a lot to me personally and it means everything to our marvelous teachers, staff, students, family families and alumni. What is more, it means everything to our Church. I hope that you will consider how you can support our Catholic Schools and that you will be supportive of our efforts to “Teach as Jesus did.”

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Most Rev. John C. Wester

Recently, I had the opportunity to tour Catholic Charities’ beautiful new Casa de Corazon building.

Pictured with me is staff member, Ms. Diane Lozano holding a child who is a member of their infant care program. Catholic Charities has already seen a 50% increase in participants in their Children’s Learning Center. Their Adult Education Center assists adults with GED, ESL and Civics classes. For more information contact 505.724.4693

February 3, 2017

Archbishop John C. Wester's Pastoral Letter to our Brothers & Sisters in the Immigrant Community

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Immigrant Community in the Archdiocese of

Santa Fe:

As your Archbishop, I address you today to reiterate what I have said many times: You are a blessing to our Church and to our community!

That being said, I know this has been a stressful week for many in the immigrant community. I know there is fear because of President Donald Trump's possible changes to policies on immigration and the threat of a wall being built on the US-Mexico border.

I want to tell you that in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe we will walk shoulder to shoulder with you during this time of uncertainty. We are are pilgrims on this earth together.

Although the Catholic Church cannot make changes to the laws or decrees of governments, I want to assure you that we offer our moral support and prayers on your behalf. I also want to assure you that we will use our voices to speak for you to local, state and national lawmakers to ensure that your lives and dignity are respected at all times. We will continue to advocate that your rights are protected and will work tirelessly to ensure that fair and adequate immigration laws are passed.

I ask you to rely on your faith. Trust that the Catholic Church advocates for you and your dignity.

Please, keep in touch with local organizations that can assist immigrants in legal matters such as Catholic Charities and the New Mexico Immigration Law Center and learn more about your rights.

This week I met with the Mexican Consul and he assured me that the Consulate of Mexico is also ready to help the Mexican community that resides in the state of New Mexico as much as possible.

I ask the whole Catholic community to pray together for the good of all.

Archbishop John C. Wester's Statement on the Executive Orders Relating to Immigrants and Refugees

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Friday, February 3, 2017— IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Archbishop John C. Wester’s Statement on the Executive Orders Relating to Immigrants and Refugees

In light of recent Executive Actions by President Trump, I am deeply concerned for many of our people in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and beyond who feel afraid and isolated. Indeed, during these unsettled times, there are quite a few of us who can easily give into the feeling that we are not safe and that we are in imminent danger from terrorists and other extremists. As a pastor, I believe that it is important to recognize and distinguish between real threats that should concern us and unreal threats that provoke fear because of rhetoric designed to play upon our anxieties as a society. Jesus offers us an alternative: to act out of love and not out of fear.

It seems to me that the recent Executive Actions imply that we should be afraid of those coming to the United States, even though we have a rich history of welcoming those who have made our country great over the last two centuries. The truth is that our country has not experienced an act of foreign terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, due in no small part to the rigorous, lengthy and effective security measures put in place for screening and vetting individuals and families fleeing violence and persecution. We must not believe the narrative that we are in danger from those who come to our shores after having been vetted properly and appropriately. In my view, such fear is politically motivated and limits our freedom to act in a more positive, Christ-like manner. I am fully aware of the terrible tragedies that we have witnessed in our country in the last few years. God weeps with us when we experience violence in San Bernardino, Orlando, Charleston, Boston and Newtown or even in our own families. These atrocities separate us, and tear at the heart of who we are as one human family. Yet, they do not define us. Rather, we must not give in to unsubstantiated fear but hear our Lord’s call to respond with love and compassion to those whose fear is genuine and all too well grounded in reality.

Many are experiencing horrific suffering in places like Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan where wars, terror and violence are common fare. The image of the body of the 3-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy comes to mind. Little Aylan Kurdi drowned and washed ashore in Turkey as his family escaped extreme violence in Syria, making their way to Canada. Our news media have shown us so many more images of unbelievable hardship that it is easy to become numb to such suffering. These are genuine fears; real threats that demand a response from us as followers of Christ. Many in our own Archdiocese of Santa Fe are now living with the real fear of being torn from the country where they finally found relief from persecution and the threat of death – this is the fear that demands a legitimate response from us. We have a moral obligation to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are legitimately afraid of separation from other family members by Executive Orders that have been ill conceived and poorly executed.

It is possible and necessary to stay true to our American values and to remember that welcoming the stranger and staying safe within our homeland are not situations that are mutually exclusive; we can do both—keep our nation safe and welcome and resettle immigrants and refugees who are fleeing extreme violence.

When fear rules, it leads to erosion of the values of freedom, democracy, welcome and the common good that are the bedrock of our country. For people of faith, fear has no place in a country such as ours. As Jesus states in the Gospel of Mark, “Fear is useless; what is needed is faith (Mark 5:36).” Pope Francis reminds us that we “are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.” History has shown that unscrupulous dictators and tyrants use fear for their own benefit to control and manipulate people at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Our country has potent and painful reminders of what happens when fear rules. For example, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the 1939 tragedy of the S.S St. Louis in which 937 German Jews were denied entry to the U.S., and most recently, the post 9/11 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) requiring “extreme vetting” and the discriminatory targeting of Muslims. Our experience tells us that such programs are ill advised and ineffectual, and fail to honor the basic human dignity of those in need. These responses are based in fear. Our Lord himself tells us that fear is useless, that what is most important is love, compassion, and God’s enduring mercy.

America is a nation of immigrants who have contributed much to our country and to the Catholic Church in the United States. Most of us have ancestors who were once strangers to these shores, and who came to America seeking opportunity for a better life. We owe a debt of gratitude for their struggle, their sacrifice and their hard work. As Catholics, we are proud of the first Catholic immigrants who came in the 1500’s. Yes, there is history of violent encounter in those first contacts, and I hope we have learned from those darker moments and atoned for those transgressions.

However, we need not be fearful of newcomers for they are coming with the same hopes and dreams, for themselves and their children, as our ancestors carried with them when they arrived in this country. Immigrants and refugees of all cultures and religious backgrounds are part of the strong fabric of our country. It is patriotic to welcome them. It is never morally correct to target a religious group. Our country has been richly blessed by the contributions of Muslims and so many other faiths in our great land. Catholic Social teaching reminds us of the moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us; we cannot allow one population to become scapegoats for our country’s problems.

As Catholics in New Mexico, we have the opportunity to stand with people of all faiths and of all countries as we journey with them. Our great Seal of New Mexico depicts an American Bald Eagle shielding a Mexican Eagle under its wings. This symbol embraces the complex history and relationship between Mexico and New Mexico. As New Mexicans, we know friendship, cooperation and solidarity with our neighbors. It is part of who we are. Welcoming immigrants and resettling refugees who are fleeing violence is part of the fabric of American democracy.

We are called to reach out to those on the margins. We stand with them and honor the human dignity of all people. As followers of Christ, we follow Jesus’ way of the cross, through life, death and the promise of new life in resurrection. Jesus demands that we not think of ourselves first but for the needs and cries of the poor, the refugee and those forced to migrate. We walk together in hope and courage knowing we are all part of one human family.

I want to remind us of what Pope Francis stated in his address to Congress in 2015:

Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

I urge all Catholics and people of good will to join me in responding to a request from the Franciscans to pray for peace in Syria by praying daily the beloved St. Francis’ Prayer for Peace:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred let me so love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Permanent Diaconate Ordination at Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City

Most Rev. John C. Wester ordains 15 men to the permanent diaconate in Salt Lake City, UT. (Photo courtesy of Diocese of Salt Lake City.)

It was a joy for me to return to my former Diocese of Salt Lake City to ordain 15 permanent deacons on Saturday, January 28, 2017. The deacons and their wives were extremely happy, as was the entire community. The ordination was the culmination of five years of study and formation, in which the deacons and their wives deepened in their knowledge of theology, spirituality, liturgy and so many other aspects of their ministry. This particular group was devoted primarily to the Latino culture, and the program utilized materials and resources pertinent to the various Latino cultures.

I congratulate my brothers and sisters from the Salt Lake Diocese and wish them Godspeed in their ministry ahead.

Vietnamese New Year at Our Lady of La Vang, Albuquerque

Congratulations to all of our Vietnamese brothers and sisters at Our Lady of La Vang Parish with whom I celebrated the Vietnamese New Year-or Tết- this past Sunday, January 29th. It was a wonderful celebration, as always, and we thank God for all that has been in this past year and past lunar year, and ask for His blessings for the year coming up, the year of the Rooster. To Fr. Bui, and to all of the wonderful parishioners, I express my deep gratitude, on behalf of Archbishop Sheehan and me for your warm welcome, and for the usual wonderful celebration. God Bless you all.

Lutheran/Catholic Prayer Dialogue at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Albuquerque

Bishop James Gonia, Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran, Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe

We had a wonderful prayer service to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at St. Luke Lutheran Church on Sunday, January 29th. Bishop James Gonia and I led a prayer service that was extremely meaningful and deeply spiritual. We expressed sorrow for our divisions and sins of the past in terms of how we relate to one another. And we also expressed hope for ongoing ways--for the future in which we will come together.

Upcoming Dialogue Dates & Featured Speakers:

Mondays through February 20, Church of the Incarnation, 2309 Monterrey Rd. NE, Rio Rancho, 7-9pm

Tuesdays through February 21, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church, 5415 Fortuna Rd. NW, Albuquerque, 7-9pm

Wednesdays through February 21, St. Luke Lutheran Church, 9100 Menaul Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, 7-9pm

The one-day conference, "On the Fruits of 50 Years of Lutheran – Catholic Dialogue" will convene on March 18, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1100 Indian School Rd. NE, Albuquerque. Presenters at the conference are:

Reverend Brian Kachelmeier, M. Div., Pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Los Alamos NM

• Dr. Ted Peters, Distinguished Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Center for Science and Technology, Berkeley, CA

• Dr. Jakob Rinderknecht, Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Pastoral Institute, University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX

More information regarding the conference will be provided in the February issue of the People of God or contact the Ecumenical Office at 505.831.8243 or rogarcia@archdiosf.org.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Allen Sanchez, Executive Director, New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, Very Rev. Richard A. Catanach, Vicar General, Diocese of Las Cruces, Steve Rangel, Associate Director, New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops

Please join me for the Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at the 12:00 Noon Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe.

New Mexico's three dioceses will prayerfully mark the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion.The day includes a Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe, a prayer procession, a rally at the Roundhouse and visits with legislators.

2017 Sanctity of Life procession to the Roundhouse at the State Capitol.

The Great Gift of Life

As we begin a new year, I am reminded of the great gift of life that God has given us, and the gift of our stewardship of all life. Everything we do with this great gift of life is marked by time that either seems to go too slowly, or too quickly. There never seems to be enough time!

I am also reminded that people of faith look at time differently from how others might look at time. Greeks had two words for time. Kronos time is the sequential, chronological march of time, marked by seconds, hours, days weeks and years. Kairos time, or “God’s time” is the unfolding of our journey of faith, of God’s revelation to us, of “re-membering”, putting back together what is broken apart. God’s time is not sequential. Sometimes God breaks into our lives with moments of revelation. Sometimes we wait for God for what seems like an eternity. Whatever it seems to us, God’s grace is present no matter what, working in all of us, wherever we are in our journey of faith, always inviting us to deeper relationship.

It is this Kairos time that comes to mind when I look at what is before us in January. January marks many events: The Vatican’s World Day of Peace, National Migration Week, Epiphany, the commemoration of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the opening of the 2017 New Mexico legislative session, the anniversary of Roe V. Wade and the Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day Mass/March/Rally, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Catholic Schools week. Many of these events focus on the gift of life, and our call to protect life in all its stages. I am reminded of the Scripture passage from Deuteronomy:

Catholics consistently choose life at all stages. We choose life by protecting children in the womb from abortion. We choose life and walk with women and men who choose to heal from their involvement with abortion through Project Rachel post-abortion healing ministry. We choose life when we support families and the social and educational networks that help to raise healthy children. We choose life when we support immigrant families, unaccompanied minors and refugees who come fleeing violence in their home countries. We choose life when we support people living in poverty, people who are hungry, people who are in prison, people who are victims of human trafficking. We choose life when we support the elders of our families and communities, and commit to walking with them at the end of their lives with dignity. The Church is here to journey with all Her children, wherever they are. We choose life!

We also choose life when we advocate for just laws. The Church consistently advocates for laws that protect the unborn, children, immigrants, those who are disabled, elderly, poor or vulnerable. Last June, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld New Mexico’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide. However, there is discussion by some State Representatives to introduce a doctor-assisted suicide bill in the 2017 legislative session.

At our Fall meeting in Baltimore, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chair of the Pro-Life Committee, challenged us all to renew our fight against doctor-assisted suicide. He stated, “Every suicide is tragic, whether someone is young or old, healthy or sick. But the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide creates two classes of people: those whose suicides are to be prevented at any cost, and those whose suicides are deemed a positive good. We remove weapons and drugs that can cause harm to one group, while handing deadly drugs to the other, setting up yet another kind of life-threatening discrimination. This is completely unjust. Our inherent human dignity does not wane with the onset of illness or incapacity, and so all are worthy of protection. The act of prescribing a fatal, poisonous dose, moreover, undermines the very heart of medicine. Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of their patients.” It is important to note that the New Mexico Medical Society, the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the National Council on Disability, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops and many more groups oppose doctor-assisted suicide.

To make matters more confusing, those that support doctor-assisted suicide use names like “death with dignity,” “aid in dying,” or “compassion in choices,” because they mistakenly believe that allowing someone to end their life on their own is a dignified action. However, there is no dignity or compassion in assisted suicide. Cardinal Dolan goes on to say, “What seriously ill – and often depressed -- patients need is authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain management as they enter their final days. Patients need our assurance that they are not a burden -- that it is a privilege to care for them as we ourselves hope to be cared for one day. A compassionate society devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives.” As Kronos time numbers our days, it is good to remember that Kairos time promises us that God is always at work in our lives, even in our vulnerable and dying moments, perhaps most especially then.

Catholics must join medical professionals, disability rights groups, and other concerned citizens in fighting for the authentic care of those facing terminal illness. I encourage you to participate as a faithful citizen in the discussions around doctor assisted suicide and learn more about this important issue. To read more about the USCCB statement To Live Each Day With Dignity: A Statement on Physician Assisted Suicide go to the USCCB web site, www.usccb.org. Several inspiring and short real life videos are also on our Archdiocese of Santa Fe web site for your viewing Here is one: http://bcove.me/tglb13es.

To you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter this new year praying especially for those who are seeking a new home, I ask the Christ Child to raise His arms of benediction over all of us in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as we grow closer together in the powerful ways of love. May the love of Christ that appeared to us on that first Christmas night, carry us powerfully through this life into eternity.

As a healing nation, let us become the visible face of enduring mercy and love.

Credits:

Retablo: Arlene Cisneros Sena Photos: Leslie M. Radigan/ASF Celine B. Radigan/ASF

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