August 7, 2018
The August 2018 edition of People of God magazine is now available online and will be available in your parish this weekend, August 11, 2018. I invite you to pick one up after Mass.
Inside This Issue
Pope: Death Penalty is “Inadmissible”
Archbishop’s Letter: The Slow Track to Heaven
Icons of Christ the Servant
Immaculate Conception Parish Celebrates 150th Anniversary of Jesuits in Albuquerque
5th Annual Archbishop’s Luncheon with Pueblo Governors
The Gift of a Child to the Nation: Sr. Blandina Segale, SC
ASF Parish Gift Shops
Mary Untier of Knots
African American Catholic Community News
US Church Official Favor Balance of Priests, Laity in Marriage Prep
Strengthening the Will
Archbishop Wester’s Calendar
Abide In Christ: The Slow Track to Heaven
Ah, summertime, when the “livin’ is easy.” I always looked forward to summers when everything slowed down and the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life went into low gear. But, wait! What happened? As this summer continues to unfold, no one seems to be slowing down.
People are driving just as fast as ever on the Coors Raceway or the I-25 Indianapolis 500. As always, we seem to be jockeying for the quickest lane at the grocery store and throw our hands up in the air when we inevitably choose what turns out to be the slowest line. My friend still calls me, wondering why I have not answered the e-mail he sent to me two minutes ago. I am still having trouble waiting until the end of dinner before I whip out my smart phone to settle the dispute as to which picture won the Academy Award in 1980. (Put your phone down, it was Kramer vs. Kramer.). Maybe there was a time when things slowed down during summer but it seems long, long ago. Our fast-paced, digitally obsessed world is going faster and faster and our ability to “stop and smell the roses” is receding farther and farther into oblivion. We must as a people of Faith learn to be still and know the presence of God even in our chaotic and conflicted world.
This is why I believe the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, which we celebrate this August 15, offers an important lesson for all of us. Here in New Mexico, we have had a special relation to Our Lady. The oldest Marian devotion in the United States began with the arrival of Nuestra Señora de La Asunción. Brought to this land by the Friars her intercession has great meaning for the diverse cultural membership of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Mary was assumed into heaven not because she was adept at multitasking and getting ahead of everybody else but rather because she stopped long enough to ponder the Word of God in her heart and allowed that Word to take root in her life. Luke tells us that Mary” kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) She allowed for quiet time, peaceful time, down time in her life so that she could be present to the “still, small voice” of God. (1 Kings 19:12) We are at a moment as a society where we need to learn from her example and take the time to ponder, finding the stillness of our hearts to see God’s mystery. Mary lived in the now moment, not in the past with guilt nor in the future with fear. This allowed her to deepen in her love of the God who first loved her. It was in this context that she became the mother of God and the mother of the Church. Through her intercession as patroness of New Mexico she continues to show us this motherly care in our cities, at our borders, in our public discourse. Moreover, it is because of her ability to slow down and to be a present to the one who abides in silence that she was assumed into heaven through the salvific work of the Son she bore in her womb. It is this Incarnate Word that she draws us to, inviting us to open our hearts to God’s love. But we must take time to be still, to slow down.
This “slowing down” reminds me of a time when a dear priest friend of mine took three of us seminarians to a retreat in Sedona, Arizona. We drove from San Francisco for 14 hours straight and were making great time when we decided to stop in the middle of the Mojave Desert at 2 a.m. Despite our desire to get to the retreat house as soon as possible and disregarding our somewhat ridiculous goal of setting a new speed record, we pulled over, stopped the car, and spent 20 minutes gazing at the incredibly bright stars and taking in the smells of the night desert. In fact, it was then that our retreat had begun. We realized that in order to arrive you must stop along the way or you will never get there. Very often the order of grace unfolds unexpectedly, in the hidden hours and moments of our day. It is counterintuitive, somewhat confusing, but true. As T.S. Eliot said in Little Gidding, “…What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” This gets at what Our Lord meant when he referred to himself as “the way, the truth and the life.” The journey leads to Christ, it starts with Christ, it is Christ. Mary knew, as we found out in the desert, that in Jesus Christ we have already arrived. There is, therefore, no need to rush.
Yet, I confess, I do rush. I cannot seem to help it. There is so much to be done and so little time in which to do it. As Robert Frost said so trenchantly, so wistfully, “…the woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep." Perhaps a good prayer for us this August as we celebrate the Assumption is to ask Mary to pray with us for the grace to ponder more. Pray that we might be more deeply aware of how God is present to us in every moment of our lives. It doesn’t take much to realize that so many poets and pundits echo the words of Mary’s Magnificat. Elizabeth Barrett Browning knew this when she wrote, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit round and pluck blackberries." By rushing around so much, do I miss the real goal of my life, union with God who is one with me right now? Like Mary how can I hear the Annunciation of God’s voice in my spouse, my child, my parents, my loved one, when my ears are filled with the rushing winds of my fast-paced life? Am I humble enough to admit that my goals, my desires and all those things that I am rushing to achieve pale in the presence of an all loving and all merciful God who is with me in the present moment? Can I come to the humble recognition that I do not have to be the first one in line, the first one to know the answer, the first one to be recognized because God, whose love knows no bounds, has already made me number one, loving me into existence and calling me to himself for all eternity? What more could I want?
As we celebrate the Assumption this year, I am praying that we can deepen in an appreciation of the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Many of the things that occupy our attention and cause us to scurry about may be urgent but, in truth, they are often not that important. As I am talking to a dear friend over a cup of coffee, I begin to see that the ringing phone may be urgent but right now, at this moment, it is not important. Mary knew what was important. She knew that listening to God’s word, trusting in that word and allowing the promise of that Word to unfold within her as she is caught up in a divine dance with God himself is all that really matters. Mary teaches us that there are no fast tracks to heaven, only slow ones that prayerfully ponder God’s mysteries. We get there in due time, in Sabbath time, in God’s time.
So let us all take it easy this summer and let God set the pace, echoing Mary’s fiat voluntas tua –thy will be done.
July 31, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester issued the following statement regarding the “Retirement of the Entrada de Don Diego de Vargas”.
I am filled with hope by the decision to retire La Entrada de Don Diego de Vargas.
I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the esteemed group of dedicated community leaders representing the All Pueblo Council of Governors (comprised of 20 sovereign Pueblos), Los Caballeros de Vargas, the City of Santa Fe, and Santa Fe Fiesta, Inc., who worked diligently on the negotiation process and am grateful the Archdiocese of Santa Fe was invited to participate.
This outstanding group of men and women fortified the future of our community for the greater good through peaceful dialogue.
Rev. Franklin D. Pretto-Ferro (retired), board member, Los Caballeros de Vargas; Tomas Baca-Gutierrez, President of Los Caballeros de Vargas; Alicia Ortega, Executive Director, All Pueblo Council of Governors; Regis Pecos, Co-director of the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute; Mayor Allen Weber, City of Santa Fe; Manuel Garcia, board member, Los Caballeros de Vargas; Melissa Mascareñas, President, Santa Fe Fiesta, Inc.; Allen Sánchez, Executive Director, New Mexico Council of Catholic Bishops |Photo by Jarel LaPan Hill
We pray this historic step will allow for healing, and lead to further solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all cultures.
I invite you to take a moment to reflect on Saint Francis’ Prayer of Peace, our patron saint, as we continue on our journey to eternal life.
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow 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, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.—END
June 23, 2018
View video of Archbishop John C. Wester’s June 23, 2018 address at the United Against Family Separation Event,National Hispanic Cultural Center |Albuquerque, NM | https://youtu.be/TtR5q6dq9_Y
June 19, 2018
ALERT: Video Message from Archbishop Wester on
U.S. Policy Separating Families
On June 15, 2018 the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement expressing urgency in reversal of policy separating families. In this June 18th video, Archbishop John C. Wester expands on the unconscionable affects this policy places on our brothers and sisters from other countries seeking refuge from inhumane circumstances. Please view the message below.
June 5, 2018
The June/July 2018 edition of People of God magazine is now available online (www.archdiosf.org) and will be available in your parish this weekend, June 9, 2018. I invite you to pick one up after Mass. Check out highlights of the 2018 Priestly Ordination (https://youtu.be/wlhXGZ-qpD8). For the 2018 Transitional Diaconate video, visit https://youtu.be/MiBCmdIFF84
Inside this issue:
2018 Class of Transitional Deacons
Archbishop’s Letter: The Power of the Word
2018 Ordination of Priests
2018 Diaconate Ordinations
CRS-Faith Confronts Desperation
Separating Families at the Border
A Father’s Day Message
Sacraments of Communion & Confirmation
World & National News
Archbishop Wester’s Calendar
Safe Environment Training
Prayer for Rain
Abide In Christ: The Power of the Word
“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” These beautiful words begin the Gospel of John and remind us of the power of the word of God whose breath hovered over the waters and created life out of nothing. Of course, we Christians believe that the Word of God is Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, in whom and for whom and through whom all things came to be. We also believe that Christ continues His work of creation as the Body of Christ continues to grow through the proclamation of the Word and through the witness we give by building up the Kingdom of God through the words that come from our mouths.
Our words are powerful. God made us in His image and likeness and the breath that forms our words can also bring new life. Sadly, they can also tear down and destroy. Do we really appreciate the power of our words, for good or ill? As Edward Bulwer-Lytton said in 1839, in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” As Catholics, we have an even greater investment in our words. At baptism, Christ commissions us to proclaim the word of God throughout our lives. We are to be living embodiments of the word of God, speaking words of forgiveness, healing and love. Whether we like it or not, our words are far more important than we often realize.
Quite some time ago, a psychological study underscored the power of our words. Some psychologists formed three groups of students at random, telling the first group that they were quite intelligent, the second that they were of average intelligence and the third that they were not that bright. They then administered the same test to all three groups and as you might expect, the first group did really well while the second group received average scores and the third group mostly failed the test.
It seems to me that it is now more important than ever that we reflect on the power of our words. People use words in the public square today that are demeaning of others, negative, destructive and insulting. Instead of using the power of the word to build others up we choose to put them down, sometimes with tragic consequences as evidenced in those who have committed suicide after being bullied online in the social media. Moreover, it is not just the words we use with others. What we say to ourselves in the inner recesses of our minds, our “self-talk,” can be very revealing. When I make a mistake, what do I say to myself, “You big dummy” or “Oh well, I’ll do better next time.” The words I use in these situations can lead to even more mistakes in the future or a more positive outcome and a better self-image.
Psalm 141:3 gives us a beautiful little prayer to say before speaking to others or ourselves: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” What a beautiful prayer, asking God to help us to reflect on the words that we use and to give us the grace to say the good things people need to hear. As St. Paul says in Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29) All of us have said things that we wish we could take back. It would be nice to have a “five second delay switch” on our mouths! Asking God “to watch over the door of my lips” might make such a switch unnecessary.
Of course, there are special moments in our lives when we are very conscious of our words such as when parents name a child or when vows are spoken in marriage ceremonies, religious professions or ordinations. We are a bit more careful when we take an oath of office or swear to tell the truth or give somebody our word. However, we are less cautious in the ordinary parlance of our day and it is then that we need to ask God’s help before we speak. So often, we use words carelessly or without realizing the power that they have. At other times, when we could say something edifying, we choose not to because of jealousy, vindictiveness or just carelessness. Letting the power of those words lie fallow can be just as tragic as uttering words that hurt others. In any case, we do well to think twice before uttering our words. As Rudyard Kipling once said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
I often refer to the example of a couple who were having an argument. At one point, the husband spoke harshly to his wife, belittling her and demeaning her. She said to him, “Did you say that because you love me or because you want to hurt me?” He responded, “What kind of a stupid question is that?” and then walked away. Several days later, he approached his wife and said, “You asked me a question the other day and I never answered you. The truth is that I wanted to hurt you and I am sorry. I love you and I ask for your forgiveness.” Here we see the power of words to tear down and to build up. The choice is ours. I sometimes see people with a wristband that says, “What Would Jesus Do?” Perhaps another should be worn on the other wrist: “What Would Jesus Say?” Allowing our words to blend with those of Christ would certainly unleash the power of love, forgiveness, healing and encouragement in a way that could really change the world.
This Fathers’ Day we honor our fathers whose words did so much to make us who we are. I hope that they were for us words of encouragement, wise words that helped us to understand a little better the mysteries of life, words that assured sons and daughters that life is worth living, that there is hope and that forgiveness brings new life. We thank our dads, and all parents, this Fathers’ Day for uttering those words and pray that all of our fathers will strive to do the same.
In the beginning was the Word, and that Word echoes down through the ages, creating anew the human spirit and giving life to all. As Isaiah says in chapter 55:11: “The word that goes out from the mouth of God will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” That purpose seeks to find an echo in our words, words that give voice to the presence of Christ in our midst, the Word of God, achieving its purpose of building up his Body, the Church, and furthering his Kingdom.
June 1, 2018
STATEMENT: Archbishop John C. Wester’s Statement
On the Ute Wildfire
ALBUQUERQUE – Friday, June 1, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Archbishop John C. Wester issued the following statement regarding the Ute Wildfire in Colfax County:
“I pray for all those in harm's way and for all first responders and volunteers fighting the fire. We pray for all those who have been evacuated, that they are able to seek shelter during this time. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe joins all in prayer and stands ready to support those who are affected by this emergency.”
For the latest news regarding the fires, visit New Mexico Fire Information https://nmfireinfo.com/
• Eagle Nest Senior Center
• Cimarron Elementary/Middle School
• Raton Convention Center
Prayer for Rain
O God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
Grant us sufficient rain, so that, being supplied with what sustains us in this present life, we may seek more confidently what sustains us for eternity.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Roman Missal)
St. Florian, patron saint of fire/firefighters, pray for us.
May 8, 2018
The May 2018 edition of People of God magazine is now available online (www.archdiosf.org) and will be available in your parish this weekend, May 11, 2018. I invite you to pick one up after Mass.
Abide In Christ: Embracing the Risen Christ In All
As we continue to celebrate Christ’s resurrection during this Easter season, our hearts echo with the words from Luke’s Gospel, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). Luke is proclaiming to his community and to us that Jesus Christ is alive. Not only that, but He has passed into a completely new mode of existence. This is not a resuscitation, as incredible as that is, such as in the case of Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Naim’s son, or Jesus’ friend Lazarus. No, this is the beginning of something completely new; not only for Jesus, but for all of us since Jesus made us heirs of His Father’s love when He became one of us in the Incarnation. Like Lazarus, Jesus was also set free from His burial cloths and escaped from the tomb. However, unlike Lazarus, Jesus entered a new life, resurrected life, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father. Although you and I cannot completely comprehend this, like the women at Christ’s tomb in Luke’s Gospel, we can perceive with our earthly eyes and come to believe what the angels tell us. With Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and the other women, the Scriptures challenge us not to look for Jesus among the dead but among the living. Furthermore, we are able to experience even now the first installments of the eternal life Jesus makes possible through the Church and the sacraments.
In other words, Luke is telling us that we are called to live our faith. That is, we are not to waste our time looking for Jesus in the tomb, but rather we are to go and report, to evangelize, and to give witness to our faith just as the women in the Gospel did. While this has many implications, one clear message is that we are to rid ourselves of our assumptions, of our biases, of our often-erroneous perceptions and in the process come to embrace the risen Christ. The women in the Gospel of Luke were not able at first to make sense of what was happening. They had to abandon their mistrust of strangers and believe in the two men in the tomb. They had to abandon their conviction that dead people do not come back to life, much less a resurrected life. They had to resist the social mores of the time that would mock the idea that the risen Christ, the Messiah, would speak to women before men.
Luke’s message for his community and for us is clear. The resurrection of Jesus Christ moves us to see things in a completely different way, moving us from the tomb to the light of day where we are called to live our faith by finding Christ among the living rather than wallowing in our numbing and often deadly biases. Yet, this conversion is not easy! For one thing, we cling to those beliefs and assumptions that help us to make sense of the world and of our lives, even if they are erroneous. For another, it is not easy to discern what biases we have since they are so deeply ingrained in us. (I read the other day that a Swedish and U.S. study determined that 80% of drivers surveyed ranked their driving skills as above average. Think about that for a minute!)
Sadly, there are many modern-day examples of how our biases keep us apart and make it difficult for individuals or groups to realize their full potential. We recently read about the two black men who were arrested at the Starbucks in Philadelphia. We also know that women often face obstacles to success in our society. A report by an early-stage investment firm, Female Founders Fund, found that only 8% of startups funded by venture capitalists in the San Francisco Bay Area last year were led by women. Katherine Hays, the cofounder and CEO of venture backed Vivoom, an ad tech startup, said that she sometimes believes that if she were a 21-year-old male with a hoodie, her company would be even more appealing to venture capitalists. Her observation leads to another study that determined that males over 6 feet tall and who are handsome are consistently hired more, paid more and perceived as more powerful and successful. What I am talking about is our call to moral formation, shaping our hearts and minds to a new life in Christ.
While there are a myriad of examples of personal biases, there are also institutional biases that affect us as members of a society, a family, a company or an organization. For example, in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis laments that economic structures often keep people enslaved. Speaking of trickle-down economic theories, the Pope rightly commented that these structures push people to the periphery and quite often relegate them to a life of poverty and misery. As we witness the decimation of the Rohingyan people of Myanmar, the massacres in Syria, the never ending tensions in the Middle East and the abysmal prospects for so many of our children here in New Mexico, we cannot help but realize that institutional and systemic biases are at play. These are the sins of omission we commit out of ignorance and neglect.
Whether our prejudices and biases are personal or institutional, they keep us apart and they fragment the body of Christ. Christ’s resurrection calls us to move beyond these biases and to embrace a new way of being in which we treat people with mutual respect, dignity and affirmation. Jesus taught us in His ministry and in His personal example that we are to break down the walls that divide us. For example, He was respectful and affirming of women in a society where they had little or no standing whatsoever. In Jesus’ time, it was truly a man’s world. Yet, Jesus’ parables often spoke to women as He used examples that gave them a voice and with which they would identify. As Fr. Jose Pagola states in his book, Jesus: An Historical Approximation (2014), “Jesus does not restrict Himself to an androcentric language that considers everything from the man’s viewpoint. He also puts Himself in the woman’s place and makes them protagonists of His parable.” Of course, repeatedly, Jesus shows us by His example that we are to break through our biases as we reach out to the poor, the ill, the marginalized and the downtrodden.
Moreover, Jesus not only gives us an example of moving from the tomb of our biases to the light of day but He also sends us His Spirit whom we anticipate this coming Pentecost to enable us to shed our burial cloths of prejudice. The Holy Spirit enlivens our faith and enables us to unite with Christ and each other. The gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, courage, prudence, knowledge, understanding, piety and fear of the Lord) help us to break down the walls that divide us. The Holy Spirit sends us forth to find Christ among the living. As St. John Chrysostom, the second patriarch of Constantinople (344 - 407 A.D.) said so beautifully and alarmingly even for today, “Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn Him in His nakedness, nor honor Him here in the Church with silken garments while neglecting Him outside where He is cold and naked. For He who said, ‘This is My body,’ and made it so by His words, also said, ‘You saw Me hungry and did not feed Me and inasmuch as you did not do it for the least of My brothers, you did not do it for Me.’ What we do here in the Church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication.”
We must be dedicated to removing our burial cloths; removing the biases that prevent us from embracing the risen Christ in all His brothers and sisters. We will not find Christ in the tombs of our biases and prejudices but only among the living. It is when we treat each other with mutual respect, honoring the dignity inherent in each human being and seeing Christ reflected in them, that we are truly free. We are truly an Easter people who hope one day to live with Christ forever in the Kingdom He opened up to us in His Resurrection, and manifests daily in our love and care.
April 10, 2018
The April 2018 edition of People of God magazine is now available online (www.archdiosf.org) and will be available in your parish this weekend, April 14, 2018. I invite you to pick one up after Mass.
April 9, 2018
April 7, 2018
Letter to Albuquerque Journal Editor, published as "Bishops want compromise on immigration, Reform must address poverty, other root causes of migration" April 7, 2018
Bipartisan Solution Needed for Effective and Humane Immigration Reform
by Archbishop John C. Wester
Regarding the editorial “Too few really favor immigration compromise” published March 31, 2018, the editorial board of the Albuquerque Journal failed to do its research before writing its opinion.
There are several inaccurate assertions in the editorial.
First, it claims that advocates do not want to compromise on obtaining a solution for the plight of 1.8 million Dreamers. The facts say otherwise.
The truth is the Trump administration, which ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) September 5, 2017, has rejected several compromises which would have exchanged $25 billion for a border wall in exchange for a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented youth--most recently in negotiations on the omnibus budget bill. The Trump administration also worked against a similar compromise on the Senate floor February 2018 forged by a bipartisan group of Senators because they wanted the elimination of the family immigration and diversity lottery visa systems as well. Despite reservations with constructing a border wall, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) supported the compromise.
Second, the editorial claims that immigration proponents, in advocating for sanctuary policies, are unwilling to work with federal officials to deport immigrants who have committed crimes. Again, local jurisdictions, including Albuquerque, have not cooperated with federal initiatives such as Secure Communities, which require all immigrants who are detained—even if for a small infraction such as a broken tail light—to be handed over to the federal authorities. Families in New Mexico and across the nation live in fear, often terrified to go shopping, visit the doctor, or go to church, much less report crime.
In the interest of public safety, these local enforcement officials believe that keeping trust and cooperation with immigrant communities is in everyone’s interest, as it helps them better identify and prosecute criminals in our neighborhoods. In addition, local jurisdictions have few resources and no legal obligation to assist with civil immigration enforcement, which is the sole responsibility of the federal government. And, despite assertions to the contrary, officials across the nation do cooperate with federal officials to hold those immigrants they consider a threat to the community.
Finally, as to my position, I have consistently maintained that appropriate enforcement is an essential element to any reform of the current immigration system. This is consistent with Catholic teaching, which reaffirms the right of a sovereign nation to control its borders. I would question the efficacy, expense and ethics of a 2,000-mile wall; however, especially when, according to government statistics, net migration across our southern border is at its lowest point since the 1970s.
As I and the US bishops have advocated for years, the best way to address the challenge of illegal immigration humanely and effectively is to adopt immigration reform legislation which would include a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants with equities in our country, reform the legal immigration system, and address the root causes of migration, such as conflict and poverty, in sending countries. Such reform should necessarily include enforcement measures which uphold the rule of law in a manner that respects human rights and human dignity.
Sadly, Congress and successive administrations have failed to take this step, even after several tries. I, and many other Catholics and Americans of good will, continue to speak out until Washington does its job.
Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe
April 5, 2018
Abide In Christ: We Are Easter People
Often we hear it said that we Christians are an “Easter People.” This is quite true. Nevertheless, what does that mean? I suppose it can mean many things, all of which are rooted in Christ’s resurrection, His triumphant victory over sin and death. Most importantly, it means that our faith is not in vain: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). In our baptisms, we became one with the risen Christ as we received the promise of eternal life, the first stages of which we already celebrate as members of the Church, one with God the Father and with each other as the Body of Christ. It follows, then, that one very important aspect of this faith is unity. Through His passion and resurrection, Jesus conquers those things that divide us: sin and death. Christ unites us to Himself and as brothers and sisters of Christ, we become one with each other. Easter is a clarion call for unity: unity with our God and with one another.
John’s Gospel gives us a glimpse into the heart of Christ who prayed so fervently for unity: “And I have given them the glory you gave Me, so that they may be one as we are one…” (John 17:22). This unity is something that Christ feels very passionately. It is not frosting on the cake or a nice goal among so many others. It is essential to being a Christian and it is the fruit of the resurrection.
Our blessed Lord must have had many a moment of sadness when He witnessed such disunity around Him: Romans occupying His land, religious leaders quarreling over any number of issues and the rivalries between groups of people such as the Jewish people and the Samaritans. However, the most painful of all must have been the tensions and divisions among His own followers. We see evidence of real discord between the political views of Christ’s apostles and in their understanding of His message. There were jealousies and petty rivalries between them. No wonder Jesus prayed so fervently just before His passion. Are we any better? Look at all that divides us in our church and in our country today.
We see sad divisions between conservatives and liberals, those who see Vatican II as primarily opening the windows and others who see it more as going back to the sources (aggiornamento v. ressourcement). There are those who fly the banner of Pope Benedict XVI and others who favor Pope Francis. These divisions, and so many more, reflect the divisions in our country today as we debate such issues as pro-life, gun safety, immigration, and climate change. Despite all these divisions, we must never forget the challenge of the Gospel and the message of the resurrection: we are one in Christ. We can and will have our disagreements but we must never forget Christ’s prayer that we be one. How do we accomplish this?
Maintaining unity with each other is a daunting task. How do I remain united to the person I am debating, especially if the debate is something about which I feel passionate. While there is much one could say in response, I would suggest three ideas.
First, it is critical to listen. I notice that when I am engaged in a lively conversation (an argument, in other words) I do not always listen attentively to what the other person is saying. Rather, I wait for that person to breathe in so I can get in my licks. Unity depends on genuine, attentive and careful listening, a listening that tries to hear not only the words but also the conviction, the emotion and the truth behind what the person is saying. I must also listen with the idea of learning. This brings me to my second point: humility. Unity depends on the virtue of humility and is fostered by it. If I believe that I have all the answers, that I have nothing to learn or that mine is the only possible view, then the discussion will no doubt do more to divide than unite. More and more I have tried to say to someone with whom I was having a disagreement, “You may be right.” It stopped that person in his tracks and it cued me to be a bit more humble about my position. Finally, forgiveness is essential to unity. We are bound to offend one another when in the midst of a disagreement, especially in the heat of the moment. It is essential to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. This signals that while we may disagree on the issue, we see our relationship as something that is not worth compromising.
These three ideas of listening, humility and forgiveness are reflected in the Lord’s Passion, which we just commemorated and celebrated liturgically during Holy Week. Jesus listened intently to His Father in the garden of Gethsemane. He took up His cross with humility and He forgave His executioners. Jesus modeled for us the path to unity, a unity made possible by His resurrection from the dead.
Unity, real unity, is never achieved by using the tools of the world: power, money, violence and political chicanery. Rather, it is accomplished when we allow the light of the Gospel and Christ’s resurrection to shine brightly on the sad divisions that afflict our Church, our country and our world. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. That means we must seek unity at all times. It does not take a backseat to the other issues of the day. It is THE issue, the fervent and intimate prayer of our Savior and the demand of the Gospel. May this Easter bring you and your loved ones many blessings, especially the gift of unity.
2018 Confirmation Schedule
Please join me in praying for our confirmandi.
March 21, 2018
On the Seal of Confession
By Archbishop John C. Wester
ALBUQUERQUE – Wednesday, March 21, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— A recent news story from Erie, Pennsylvania raised questions about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance|Confession) and the seal of the confessional. There is much we do not know about the reported incident, but what we do know is the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the obligation of absolute secrecy imposed upon the priest is sacred and absolute.
I wish to assure all the faithful in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe that Canon 983.1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law is scrupulously observed by all of our priests and bishops. Canon 983.1 states, “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray, in any way, a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”
It is my hope as many Catholics as possible will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Easter, availing themselves of this precious gift of Christ to the Church.---END (En Español)
March 6, 2018
New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops
An Open Letter:
Children Come First
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Yesterday, I received an open letter from some of our state legislators related to the support the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to give to the NM HJR1 2018 (Land Grant Fund Distributions). Since the letter is directed to the Conference, we three undersigned Catholic bishops of New Mexico are responding today.
“ ‘Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth’ (1 Jn 3:18). These words of the Apostle John voice an imperative that no Christian may disregard. The seriousness with which the ‘beloved disciple’ hands down Jesus’ command to our own day is made even clearer by the contrast between the empty words so frequently on our lips and the concrete deeds against which we are called to measure ourselves.” This was the opening to the message from His Holiness Pope Francis on the First World Day of the Poor in November 2017.
New Mexico has the highest rate of children living in poverty and the highest rate of children suffering adverse childhood experiences in the United States. Our state has the resources to address these problems. The data speaks for itself. Numbers don’t lie. The condition of our children has raised the level of urgency; we must not only speak, but act. The status quo yields traumatic and inexcusable inequities, especially for young children of color. No one individual has been accused of racism. Rather, we’ve highlighted deep flaws in a system in dire need of substantial reforms. Pope Francis states, “We are called, then, to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude. Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts.”
Institutional or structural racism is constructed by policies and practices that, intentionally or not, produce the outcomes that place a racial group on an unlevel playing field. It is complex, and
this structural racism took root long before our time. For example, the history of the Land Grant Permanent Fund is based in inequitable and unfair policy practices. The lands that generate the revenue for the Fund are lands seized from the Native Americans by using treaties that were facilitated under coercion and then violated after ratification. Later, under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Spanish or Mexican claims to the land were denied through legislative and judicial procedures. Land produces wealth, and whole groups of people were deprived of the ability to accumulate intergenerational wealth as their land was taken away. As a community, we have a unique opportunity to change inexcusable inequities in our state. The fact that 90 percent of Native Americans and 83 percent of Hispanics are not proficient in reading at the 4th grade level should be of the utmost concern for us all. The horrible irony is that many of the children impacted are descendants of people from whom the land was taken. Pope Francis states, “We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life.”
In Brothers and Sisters to Us, the 1979 USCCB Pastoral Letter on Racism, the bishops state: "The structures of our society are subtly racist, for these structures reflect the values which society upholds. They are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority. Members of both groups give unwitting approval by accepting things as they are. Perhaps no single individual is to blame. The sinfulness is often anonymous but nonetheless real. The sin is social in nature in that each of us, in varying degrees, is responsible. All of us in some measure are accomplices. As our recent pastoral letter on moral values states: ‘The absence of personal fault for an evil does not absolve one of all responsibility. We must seek to resist and undo injustices we have not caused, least we become bystanders who tacitly endorse evil and so share in guilt in it.’ ”
We now have an opportunity to take an inward look to see how we can end systemic inequities that prevent our state from reaching its full potential. Together we must purge racism within our community; even the smallest component of racism is an offense against God. Racism is an affront to the dignity of the human person.
It is not enough to identify poverty and its impact on our community, all people of good will must act with urgency. Pope Francis speaks very clearly to this, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body; what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead (First World Day of the Poor 2:5-6.14-17).”
On behalf of the children of New Mexico, we bishops are very appreciative some appropriations for early childhood programs have been made; however those appropriations hardly repair the 2008 recession cuts. When 100,000 children are eligible for home visiting, and only 4,500 are enrolled, that reality should be alarming to our legislators. This year, only $1.5 million of “new money” was allocated to home visiting. Home visiting is the very instrument that brings stability and vibrancy to families and ends the cycle of poverty. Again, the words of Pope Francis, “The earliest community realized that being a disciple of Jesus meant demonstrating fraternity and solidarity, in obedience to the Master’s proclamation that the poor are blessed and heirs to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 5:3).”
For 15 years, Allen Sánchez, our advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, has served us and the Church well. Mr. Sánchez’ deep love for the Gospel, the Church and the people of God are shown through his dedicated ministry, and his extensive educational background which includes: BS Pastoral Studies College of Santa Fe, STB Theology Pontifical Gregorian University Rome, and MS Spirituality Pontifical Saint Thomas Aquinas University Rome.
Today’s unconscionable plight of our children has called for the Church to be a prophetic voice. God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. In the words of Pope Francis, “If we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization.”
We Catholic bishops of New Mexico respectfully request our elected officials keep their focus on the issue at hand: the plight of our children living in extreme poverty. We are grateful for our legislators’ open letter to us, and we pray they will leave no stone unturned as they transform their good will into action and provide for our children by passing HJR1 and bringing this vital issue to the voting public. That is what St. John meant in his first letter: we must "...not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth."
Respectfully yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Diocese of Las Cruces
Most Reverend James S. Wall, Bishop of Diocese of Gallup--END
Abide In Christ: Say "I'm Sorry" During Lent
Quite a few years ago a JAL 747 landed short of the San Francisco International Airport runway and ended up in the bay. Fortunately, no lives were lost. What I remember most about that incident is that the CEO of Japan Airlines went on television and apologized for the accident. He then made a profound bow that underscored the sincerity of his apology. Back then, I wondered why he apologized. First of all, he wasn’t flying the plane. Furthermore, I presume that the pilot did not land in the bay on purpose. And yet, the CEO was personally apologizing from the bottom of his heart. Contrast that apology with a rather common one in these modern times. Somebody makes a public comment about another person that is extremely hateful, disrespectful and damaging to that person’s reputation. Then, when called on it, replies, “If he or she is so thin-skinned as to be bothered by my innocuous comment then I guess I apologize.” Not quite the same, is it?
One could go a long time without hearing the words, “I’m sorry.” I suppose there are many reasons for this. For one thing, most of our cars carry in the glove compartment an insurance company reminder not to admit fault if we have been in an accident but only to give our name, license number and insurance information. We live in a litigious society and it may be that we are trained early on not to say, “I’m sorry.” Another possible reason may be that we are more and more pressured to look good, to find our self-worth in our accomplishments and to defend our honor at all costs. Certainly this kind of thinking makes admitting fault and apologizing for such rather taboo. I think this last point hits the mark. Our society values externals: how much money we have, what our titles are, how big a house we live in, how much power we have, how often we are “liked” on social media, how many people know about us, etc. Given this reality, it is far too dangerous to admit that I have sinned and even more dangerous to ask for forgiveness. It might lessen my perceived self-worth. Apologizing is seen as weakness when in fact it is a sign of real strength to admit our mistakes, apologize and become the better for it.
This modern mentality seems to extend to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). Of course, there are sound spiritual reasons for receiving sacramental absolution, for telling God we are sorry and receiving his forgiveness. Yet, look at how few Catholics go to confession compared to the “old days.” Why is this? I suppose the reasons are related to why we are so reticent to say we are sorry. To admit that I am a sinner is rather difficult when, as I have suggested, my self-worth comes from externals and from my own doing. We often make the mistake of thinking that God loves us because we are good. Father Michael Demkovich, OP, recently reminded me that according to St. Thomas Aquinas, the opposite is true: we are good because God loves us. Ah, there it is! When my dignity and worth come from God and his love for me then I more easily admit my sinfulness, my mistakes and my weaknesses, knowing that they do not lessen my self-worth because God never withdraws his love for me. Seeking forgiveness is the portal to growth, new life and a fuller expression of who I am. As a prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours has it, “Grant that where sin has abounded, grace may more abound, so that we can become holier through forgiveness and be more grateful to you.” Saying “I am sorry” does not diminish me but rather it directs me back to the God whose love gives me my dignity and worth in the first place. We do not have to become perfect in order to gain God’s love. He loves us from the first moment of our existence, in our mother’s womb, even before we have done anything that makes us “worthy” of his love. Or, as St. Paul reminds us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Call to mind the episode in Luke’s Gospel when a paralytic was lowered into a crowded house where Jesus was teaching so that he could be healed. Jesus, seeing their faith and knowing their thoughts, said immediately, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” That lowering down, that humble expression of sorrow, that implied, “I am sorry”, opened the floodgates of Christ’s mercy and love. We can do the same this Lent by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and hearing Christ speak through the priest, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” We will not lose face, self-worth or esteem. Quite to the contrary, we will be the better for it and filled with a dignity that only God’s love can give us.
Do you remember the 1970 movie, “Love Story”, with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal? One of its most famous lines was often quoted: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Ryan O’Neal starred with Barbara Streisand two years later in the comedy, “What’s Up, Doc?”, in which Streisand bats her eyelashes at O’Neal and says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The latter responds, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” I agree! Love means you have to say you’re sorry, over and over and over again. And it is love, especially God’s love, that makes it possible to say those seldom heard words.
February 22, 2018
STATEMENT FROM ARCHBISHOP JOHN C. WESTER
Support the Dreamers: Congressional Call-In Campaign
Please participate in the Call-in Day to Congress on
Monday, February 26, 2018!
ALBUQUERQUE – Thursday, February 22, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Please participate in the National Call-in Day to Congress on Monday, February 26, 2018. Your advocacy is critical to help the nearly 1.8 million Dreamers, young people who were brought into the United States by their parents as children. They may face deportation as soon as March 6, unless Congress reaches a bi-partisan deal to protect them.
I invite you to view the USCCB video with Bishop Joe S. Vasquez (Diocese of Austin) to learn more about the National Call-in Day for Dreamers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OL62uuq7EJWyx-EYhHTRBEPvGm9yIxte/view
I also invite you to please call 855.589.5698 to reach the Capitol switchboard, and press 1 to connect to your Senators. Once you are connected to each Senator’s office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver this simple message:
“I urge you to support a bipartisan, common-sense, and humane solution for Dreamers:
• Protect Dreamers from deportation and provide them with a path to citizenship.
• Reject proposals that undermine family immigration or protections for unaccompanied children.
• As a Catholic, I know that families are not ‘chains’, but a blessing to be protected.
• Act now to protect Dreamers, our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
Please call 855.589.5698 a second time to reach the Capitol switchboard again, and press 2 to connect to your Representative. Once you are connected to the Representative’s office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver the same message as above.
After completing your call, please go to http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org to learn more about Dreamers and find other ways to voice your support.
USCCB President, Vice President, and Migration Chair Announce
National Call-in Day for Dreamers for February 26
February 19, 2018
WASHINGTON—Late last week, the Senate failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to move forward with debate on legislation to provide relief to Dreamers. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB President; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB Vice President; and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, together issued the following statement:
"We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers. With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that Members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty.
"We are also announcing a National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers. This coming weekend, we will be asking the faithful across the nation to call their Members of Congress next Monday, February 26, to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process.
"Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters. We have done so continually, but we must show our support and solidarity now in a special way. Now is the time for action."
February 15, 2018
Urgent: We need Catholic voices to support the Dreamers.
Call our New Mexico Senators and Representatives now.
Time is running out for them!
ALBUQUERQUE – Thursday, February 15, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— As Catholics, we believe the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our immigrant and refugee children and youth, must be protected. The sanctity of families must be upheld. The Catholic bishops have long supported undocumented youth brought to the United States by their parents, known as Dreamers, and continue to do so. We ask you to engage with your elected officials to voice your support for these young people and call on your members of Congress to find a bipartisan legislative solution to protect Dreamers immediately. As we move closer to the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA, ending March 5, 2018), over 800,000 young people who entered into the U.S. and only know America as their home, may face deportation. Every day, these youth lose their status, and with it, lose their ability to go to school, serve in the military and work legally. Our church stands in solidarity with Dreamers. We celebrate the contributions of refugees and immigrants in our churches, communities and in our country.
Congress must pass bipartisan legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers.
1. Dreamers entered the United States through no fault of their own, but rather came to the U.S with their parents as children to seek a better future. They often know America as their only home.
2. These young people are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes.
3. They live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society. They should not be forced to live their lives in constant fear that they will be deported at any moment and separated from their families. If deported, they face real dangers of violence, poverty and family separation in a place they have never known.
4. These undocumented youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth. It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect them and allow them to reach their God-given potential.
5. Congress is now considering this important issue and must act to protect these young people by March 5, 2018. Please call your Senators and Representatives now and say the following (They will be on recess in home offices Friday, February 16 through the following week.):
“As a constituent, I urge you to stand in support of Dreamers, to publicly support Dreamers and pass a Clean Dream Act. The Dream Act offers qualifying immigrant youth ‘conditional permanent resident status’ and a path to full lawful permanent residency and citizenship. With the recent rescission of the DACA program, now is the time for Congress to work together to protect these exemplary young people. Find a prompt, humane and durable solution.”
Local, in district numbers:
Senator Tom Udall-Albuquerque 505.346.6791, Santa Fe 505.988.6511, Portales 575.356.6811
Senator Martin Heinrich-Albuquerque 505.346.6601, Santa Fe 505.988.6647
District 1: Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham-Albuquerque 505.346.6781
District 2: Representative Steve Pearce-Socorro, Los Lunas offices 855.4.PEARCE (732723)
District 3: Representative Ben Ray Lujan- Rio Rancho 505.994.0499, Santa Fe 505.984.8950--END
February 6, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester on the Passage of the HJR1 Early Childhood Constitutional Amendment
ALBUQUERQUE – Tuesday, February 6, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Archbishop John C. Wester has issued the following statement regarding the passage of the HJR1 Early Childhood Constitutional Amendment:
I congratulate the New Mexico House of Representatives for recognizing the needs of our children. Their critical passage of HJRl will allow New Mexicans to vote for a Constitutional amendment that brings the Land Grant Permanent Fund’s archaic distribution formula up to speed with science: learning begins at birth. This passage is responsible and admirable; we cannot continue with the status quo wherein our children rank in the highest percentage of those living in poverty in the United States.
We now pray the New Mexico State Senate will also hear our children’s voices and pass HJR1 so voters can participate in strengthening New Mexico for our children and our posterity. We can both protect the fund and create the educational system to change the future.—END
Christ Is Waiting for You
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
During the first week of January, we bishops of Region XIII made our annual retreat at the Redemptorist Retreat House near Tucson, AZ. The retreat house is located in the northern part of the Sonora Desert, nestled near the famous Picture Rocks, named for the ancient hieroglyphics found on them. Each day of the retreat, I enjoyed taking a walk into the desert which is at once beautiful and ominous. The saguaro cactus is abundant along with many other desert flora and fauna. I half expected to see Snoopy's brother Spike leaning against one of the cacti as he takes a nap! But the desert is nothing to joke about. It can be a very dangerous place. Though survival becomes one’s first priority, an opportunity presents itself to bask in its beauty
One of the beauties of the desert is how it demonstrates the tenacity of life, how it breaks through the cracked and dry soil. On my daily walks, I saw life springing up in so many ways. For example, I saw cactus growing out of boulders, showcasing how life is so tenacious even in the midst of a hostile environment. It then struck me that our church is just as tenacious in defending and protecting the precious gift of human life in all its stages. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin wrote eloquently on this topic, referring to the church’s stand as a commitment to hold sacred the “seamless garment” of life from conception to natural death. This approach underscores the beauty of life, the sacredness of it and the uniqueness of each unrepeatable human life.
Lent is certainly a time for us to deepen our appreciation for the gift of life. By stripping away all that is not essential - the superficiality, the glitz and glamour - I come to realize what really counts: the sacred gift of life God has given me and my relationship to the God of love who created me in His very image and likeness. Through my prayers, I relate to God more deeply which helps me realize what really counts… the gift of life. It’s not money, not possessions, not power, but the great precious gift of life and my relationship to the Author of Life.
Perhaps this is why Jesus went into the desert to begin His public ministry. He knew there He could strip away all that was not essential and deepen His appreciation for the gift of His life, God made man, lived in the presence of the Father. In the desert, Jesus would be alone, truly alone and He could hear more clearly the voice of His Father calling Him to do His will. In the desert, Jesus confirmed His decision to do the will of His Father as He began a ministry that would eventually lead to His death, resurrection and our redemption. The desert provided Jesus with the venue He needed to make sure He was on the right path even if it was a path fraught with peril and suffering. Of course, this path does not end with the cross but with the resurrection: no cross, no resurrection. It was in the desert that Jesus gathered the strength and the grace He needed to move forward in fulfilling the will of His Father, for Him and for all of us. During those 40 days and nights, Jesus emptied Himself so He could experience anew the love of His Father, the only gift that would truly satiate Him.
No wonder, then, that the church calls you and me to enter into the desert of Lent that we also might confirm our desire to do the will of God in our lives and to deepen in our appreciation for the gift of life. It is in the Lenten desert that we can strip away the superfluous, the unnecessary and do battle with our temptation to make ourselves the center of the universe instead of God, thus reestablish our commitment to follow Christ, no matter the cost. It is in the desert that we will follow the path that leads to the Easter mysteries in which we will celebrate Christ's resurrection and His triumph over sin and death. What does the desert of Lent look like?
Our Lenten desert is comprised of three elements: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. By fasting, we are reminded that we are hungry for God. By almsgiving, we are reminded that Christ’s body, the church, is hungry for God. By praying, we are reminded that we are hungry for eternal life with God. These Lenten practices put me in touch with my existential poverty and my journey in the desert reminds me to turn to God, not the world, if I wish to experience the fullness of life.
This Lent, the church invites us to enter into the desert as we place our trust in God’s love, aware of God’s deep desire to satisfy our longing hearts and souls. The desert can certainly be difficult: it is never easy to stand alone in the presence of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. But Christ reminds us that we are also in the presence of an all-loving God who wants nothing more than to fill us with his undying love. We enter the desert of Lent to become poor so that God can make us rich in his love and grace. I encourage us all to provide more time in our day for prayer, reflecting on Christ’s passion and death so that we will be prepared to celebrate his victory over the grave. I also encourage us to connect our fasting with our almsgiving. Fasting is far more efficacious if it serves as a reminder to reach out to others in need, not out of charity, but because I who am poor and hungry give to my brother or sister who is poor. Such “charity” reminds me that there are many ways to be poor and that in God’s presence, we are all poor in one way or another, standing in need of his love and mercy. It also reminds us that the greatest poverty of all is to fail to respect the sanctity of human life given by God to each unrepeatable human being so that we might be one with Him forever in heaven.
As you and I prepare for our Lenten journey, our Lenten retreat in the desert, remember the words of Hosea Chapter 2: “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.” Christ is waiting for you in the desert – may you have a blessed journey.
January 26, 2018
A Reflection on the Moral and Ethical Imperative
to Create Systemic Change to Transform the Lives of Our Children
When Pope Francis appointed me two years ago as Archbishop of Santa Fe, I was shocked to discover the poverty in which so many children live. Hearing their cries, I offer a reflection on the moral and ethical imperative to create systemic change to transform the lives of our children.
For eight years, there has been debate over funding Early Childhood programs, yet there has been no substantial investment to create an intervention that will change the trajectory of our children. Much time, but little paid effort, has been spent to fund proven programs. We cannot call 25% of children receiving Pre-K as a full effort. We cannot call fewer than 5% receiving Home Visiting a full effort.
The disparity is surprising, even more so when shown by the US Census that 36.2% of our children under the age of five live in poverty, while the state accumulates a Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) of $17.2 billion. State Investment Council and Legislative Finance Council members offer unfounded projections of LGPF doomsday scenarios, of the stock market crashing and gas and oil dropping. Yet both have come and gone and the fund has proven to be strong.
The true doomsday is the condition of our children. Adverse childhood experiences are at epidemic proportions in New Mexico. If we calculate the hardship and cost to society for crime, educational remediation and an unprepared work force, this is the doomsday scenario playing out right in front of us.
We are at the bottom of the barrel of all outcomes of children’s wellbeing, yet there is another barrel, which has become a golden calf, which is overflowing. Commissions paid on the management of the LGPF have been referred to as a drop in the bucket, yet asking for a distribution of 1% is a smaller drop than was paid in commissions. The proposition that this 1% would deplete the fund is not true.
The lack of programs is why our outcomes have not improved. Polls show that New Mexicans are ready to support 1% being drawn from the LGPF; to make real change we must place this issue on the ballot.
As a leader of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, I view this through the lens of the Gospel, echoed in the challenges to care for our children presented by Pope Francis. For Catholics, fidelity to the Gospel is a communal call for a preferential option for the poor. The reality is that if a great many of our children are in poverty, we all are impoverished.
An investment in human capital is recession-proof. A resilient society creates more profit for a state than the dependency on a trust gambled daily in the stock market.
Be assured of my prayers for the children of New Mexico. I urge all people of good will to keep our children in our hearts, in our minds, and in our voices to bring about productive change.
"None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice." Pope Francis
January 23, 2018
I wish to thank all those who attended the panel discussions on clergy sexual abuse last Tuesday, January 16 in Clovis at Sacred Heart parish. There were approximately 300 people who came to express their concern and prayerful support for all those who have been victims of clergy sexual abuse. I’m grateful to Father John Daniel, Vicar General; Annette Klimka, Victim Assistance and Safe Environment Coordinator; Judge Geraldine Rivera, Chair of the Independent Review Board IRB) and Dr. Paul Peloquin, mediator and member of the IRB for their participation in this very important meeting. We have one more scheduled which will be Wednesday, January 31 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Las Vegas, NM. Please join me in praying for all those who have been victims of clergy sexual abuse and join me in all of our many efforts to keep children and young persons safe from harm.
Legislator Breakfast/Sanctity of Life:
I want to thank all those who participated in and helped to host the Legislator Breakfast last Wednesday, January 17 in Santa Fe at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We had a marvelous turnout of legislators and others who are concerned about the well-being of our State. This afforded our Archdiocese an opportunity to thank our legislators for their service to New Mexico, to express our prayerful support of them and to share with them some of the essential teachings of the Catholic Church regarding social justice issues. I believe it was a wonderful and supportive day for all and I’m glad that it went so well. I’d like to extend a special thank you to Mr. Allen Sánchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’m also grateful to Bishop James Wall of Gallup who gave the beautiful homily at our pro-life Mass held at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. After Mass, we processed to the New Mexico State Capitol Roundhouse where we held a rally in support of pro-life issues.
Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal:
The Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal is kicking off. We had a wonderful meeting in Las Vegas at Our Lady of Sorrows’ parish hall last Friday night and then followed it with another wonderful meeting at St. Anne’s parish in Santa Fe. The Albuquerque meeting is coming up on Wednesday, January 24 followed by a meeting at St. Anthony of Padua in Fort Sumner on Saturday, January 27. I’m grateful to all the parish leaders who are attending these important meetings and who give great hope to the work and mission of our Archdiocese. Special thanks to Karin Wrasman and Kyra Klavetter for their work in shepherding this important process in our Archdiocese.
January 17, 2018
Sanctity of Life & Unity Day
"I join all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as we pray for the deepened awareness of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. On this anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade , we pray that we might find legal and moral protection for all children who are in the womb. Our prayers are with those who seek to reflect the sanctity of human life in all that we do by promoting the sanctity of human life by praying for an end to abortion in our country and in our world."
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Diocese of Gallup and Diocese of Las Cruces (New Mexico's three dioceses) and their ecumenical and interfaith families prayerfully mark the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion. Events included Mass and procession to the NM State Capitol for a rally led by the NM Conference of Catholic Bishops. We invite you to watch the video below.
January 16, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester Congratulates New President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson
ALBUQUERQUE – Tuesday, January 16, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Archbishop John C. Wester congratulates new president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson:
The news that Senior Apostle Russell M. Nelson, Sr., has been sustained as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cause for great joy not only for those within his Church but for so many of us who have had the honor and privilege of working with the leadership of the LDS Church over the years. I will be always grateful to President Nelson for his kindness to me during my time in Salt Lake City. His warmth and goodness were readily evident as he brought his healing skills from the medical profession into his service as an Apostle. As I congratulate President Nelson I also offer my prayers and best wishes as he assumes his new responsibilities. May God bless him with continued good health so that he may follow his call with a generous spirit and a joyful heart. --END
January 9, 2018
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we continue to celebrate the Christmas season, our thoughts focus on the Holy Family, forced to flee persecution and the threatened death of the Christ Child by Herod. Sadly, there are millions of people in the world today who also flee persecution, suffering, and in all too many cases, the very real threat of death. In this article, Archbishop Wester reflects on this reality and gives the following ethical perspective on immigration policy in the United States. It was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Albuquerque Journal. Due to its timeliness and importance, we’d like to also share it with you, our People of God family.
Celine Baca Radigan, Editor
You may be surprised by this, but Catholic teaching acknowledges the right of a sovereign country to control its borders and enforce its immigration laws. However, that does not mean that the human dignity and human rights of immigrants should be violated.
Over the past 30 years, U.S. immigration policy has been characterized by an increase in enforcement measures without corresponding updates to other aspects of the legal immigration system. Immigration enforcement funding has risen dramatically, with immigration enforcement, compared with other US enforcement agencies, now being the largest share of the annual budget. Moreover, enforcement policies and practices have been added to the system during this period, including the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, which has weakened due process protections for immigrants.
Under the current administration, an executive order has made all immigrants without legal status priorities for deportation, regardless of the length of time in the country, their US-citizen children, and other equities in the country—the same population which would have benefited from a path to citizenship in previous immigration reform bills.
While enforcement is an important element of any immigration system, so is fairness and justice. Too often we witness in our current system enforcement tactics or policies which prevent an immigrant from receiving the due process of the laws.
First, our system unjustly detains immigrants who are seeking asylum and are no threat to our society—even women and children. This prevents them from receiving community support and from accessing legal representation. In fact, our immigration detention system has exploded, with close to half a million immigrants detained yearly.
Certainly those who are a threat to our communities should be detained, but the vast majority of immigrants are not threats and have not committed a criminal offense. Instead of incarcerating them, our government should place them in community-based alternatives to detention, whereby community groups could provide them with housing and legal support. Such programs have been proven successful in ensuring immigrants show up for their hearings and are able to obtain legal representation, which also makes the court system more efficient.
Second, our immigration justice system should uphold the values upon which our nation was built—fairness and equal justice for all. Sadly, often our immigration court system does not meet this test, as it has been neglected and underfunded by Congress for years. Immigration court backlogs can last for years, depriving many of timely justice. Immigrants, especially those who are detained, have little access to legal counsel to navigate the complex court system, especially asylum-seekers.
Additionally, the use and expansion of expedited removal, a part of the 1996 act, deprives individuals of the opportunity to go before an immigration judge to seek relief from deportation. This policy adversely impacts the ability of asylum-seekers to have their claims adequately heard.
Third, state and local law enforcement officials, who are charged to protect the public, should not be required to enforce immigration laws. Changing the nature of their important mission would distract them from their essential task of public safety and undermine trust between them and immigrant communities. However, federal, state, and local enforcement officials should cooperate in identifying immigrants who may constitute a threat or have committed violent crimes.
Now more than ever immigrants are scapegoated for our social ills and are painted as criminals, even though their intent is simply to find work to support their families. The vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding and should not be demonized by public officials or others. Such rhetoric creates fear in immigrant communities, reducing cooperation with law enforcement and chilling legal immigrants from availing themselves of benefits for which they are entitled. It also demeans their human dignity, making them seem less than human and not deserving of human rights.
We can do better. Bi-partisan efforts to enact immigration reform have fallen short in the past ten years, but the need for reform exists.
Comprehensive immigration reform would restore the rule of law by increasing the legal avenues available for immigrants seeking to work in important US economic sectors. By bringing 11 million undocumented persons out of the shadows and into the light, we can ensure that all are included in a new system governed by the law, not illegal behavior, including by unscrupulous employers. It also would protect law-abiding immigrants and isolate those who are a threat to our communities.
For over three decades, U.S. immigration policy has been marked by increased enforcement, but our nation is still seeking an effective way to manage migration flows. Surely, another approach is needed, whereby our elected officials look at all aspects of the system together. Enforcement policies, fairly applied, are part of the solution—they are not a solution by themselves.
Migration is a global challenge, but also a global opportunity. Our nation has led the world in the integration of immigrants from around the world, to our great benefit. We must not continue to turn our back on this heritage, which has served our nation so well.
January 5, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester on death of Thomas S. Monson, President,
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
ALBUQUERQUE – Friday, January 5, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Archbishop John C. Wester has issued the following statement regarding the death of Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I was very saddened to learn of the death of President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was a man of great compassion who had a genuine concern for all God’s children and he will be missed, not only by those within the LDS Church, but by countless others who were touched by his gentle leadership and loving heart. I extend to all our brothers and sisters in the Mormon Church the sincere sympathy of the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and I assure you of our prayers for President Monson, his family and all of those who mourn the passing of this gentle shepherd.--END
December 6, 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we enter into this holy season of Advent, we are reminded that waiting is an essential part of life: a married couple waits for nine months for their child to be born; an athlete waits for an important game to take place; a student waits to take a final examination. Notice that in these examples as in so many others instances in life, waiting is not simply sitting back in an easy chair until the big event happens. Rather, we are actively involved in watchful waiting, attentive waiting, and active waiting so that we will be ready when the big moment happens. For me, this is what Advent is all about. The Church calls us together to actively wait, to prepare ourselves so that we will be ready to receive the Christ child this Christmas.
Unfortunately, we are losing our ability to wait productively with our attention fixed on our goal. We usually see waiting as a waste of time, a lost opportunity. That’s why we check our cell phones while waiting in a grocery line or read a magazine when waiting for a doctor’s appointment or work on our laptops while waiting for a plane. There is nothing wrong with any of these multitasking activities but they certainly can prevent me from being attentive to the now moment – the gift of the present. God is speaking to us during our time of expectation as I am sure any expectant mother would agree. By listening more attentively, without distractions and with mind and heart attuned to the coming event, I may find that watchful waiting makes life more interesting, less complicated and lived more fully.
It is in this spirit, then, that I invite you all, my brothers and sisters, to enter fully into this season of watchful waiting. As a community of faith, I pray that our local Church in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe may adopt the posture of Mary as we await the coming of our Savior this Christmas. Like Mary, I pray that we will be attentive to the “now” moment, a moment of grace. Quieting ourselves, externally and internally, let us take a collective deep breath and allow the Holy Spirit to take root in our lives, anchoring all our fears, worries, anxieties, concerns and problems to the life-giving and deeply refreshing breath of God. Instead of rushing to conclusions or finding quick, facile solutions, let us attempt to simply be in God’s presence and allow God to speak to us deeply within the recesses of our hearts. As my dear friend, Archbishop John Quinn often said, “God knows all we want and he has all we need.” Let that truth sit still in our hearts for a while and see where God leads us. It led Mary to the birth of our Savior and it will lead us to new life as well.
Our world has seen many tragedies this past year: hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, religious persecution, genocide, an increase of refugee flows, and so much more. On a personal level, so many of our brothers and sisters are carrying heavy crosses. We are waiting for new life, for peace, for freedom, for consolation, for answers and for whatever will lift us from all that weighs us down. God will not disappoint us for he is always faithful. The incarnation we celebrate this coming Christmas is living testimony to that fidelity. For now, for this moment, during this Advent, we await the new-born savior who will change our darkness to light, our sadness to joy. At the same time, I have always found it helpful to ask the question, “Who is waiting for whom?” Could it be that God is also waiting for us to open our hearts to the now moment, to his presence in our midst, to Emmanuel, to God with us? As the old bumper sticker said, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” Now is the time to open our hearts to the God of the now moment, the “God of more.”
I join you in praying that God will bless this graced time of waiting for the coming of the Lord this Christmas. And I pray with you that God will reveal himself to us in the here and now so that the journey of Advent will itself be our destination, the beginning of Christmas where we find Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. May this same Christ raise his hands of benediction over all of us in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, granting us every grace and blessing that emanates from the crib of the newborn savior.
December 5, 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,