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

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

Catholic Education

Catholic Charities

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

Vocations

CRS-Faith Confronts Desperation

Separating Families at the Border

A Father’s Day Message

Catholic Charities

Catholic Education

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/

Evacuation Centers:

• 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.

--END

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.

www.archdiosf.org

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

Dear Editor:

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

STATEMENT

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

March 2018

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

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."

Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202.541.3200

February 15, 2018

STATEMENT

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:

Senators

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

Representatives

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

STATEMENT

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

February 2018

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

Op Ed

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

Thank you.

Panel Discussions:

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

STATEMENT

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

STATEMENT

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,

The Installation of Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson on Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flanked by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, N.M., Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger concelebrates his installation Mass Nov. 29 at St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson, Ariz. (CNS photo/Karen Bonar, The Register)

What a wonderful celebration of Church! The Diocese of Tucson welcomed its new bishop, Edward Weisenburger who preached beautifully at his vespers and at the installation Mass.

It was a wonderful celebration which included the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony as well as many bishops, priests and wonderful members of the faithful who traveled from Salina Kansas, Oklahoma City and other cities around the country, to be part of the wonderful liturgy. The people of Tucson are wonderfully welcoming and hospitable. It looks like Bishop Weisenburger is off to a great start and as he begins his new ministry in Tucson with all of our prayers.

TAX CODE REFORM

Another item I’d like to address is that I am very concerned about the reform of the tax code. There are many worrisome areas, but one has to do with people with disabilities.

I saw that Tom Sannicandro, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), is very concerned about how people with disabilities will be negatively affected by the new law. He anticipates massive reduction or complete elimination of the public vocational rehabilitation program which works with one million individuals annually and assists them with appointments and other needs. He also sees massive cuts in Medicaid which not only provides health care coverage for 10 million individuals with disabilities but also provides funding for services that enable individuals to live and work in the community. Mr. Sannicandro also sees major reductions in Social Security benefits which provide an essential safety net of basic cash assistance for 15 million individuals with disabilities. There are other issues as well, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and public transportation as well public housing that could be affected and make it very difficult for those with disabilities.

Please join me in prayer that the decisions made by our nation’s leaders be focused on the well-being of those they serve, particularly our brothers and sisters with disabilities that they not be lost in the shuffle.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

November 22, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On Thanksgiving Day we gather with loved ones to celebrate those relationships that have made us who we are as we give thanks to God, the giver of every good gift, for all He bestows upon us, His children.

In particular, I pray that we will thank God this Thanksgiving for all those relationships that come to us from a loving and provident God.

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Archbishop John C. Wester

November 15, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I invite you to read my latest column below just published in People of God's November 2017 issue. Our archdiocesan magazine was distributed last weekend and is now available in your parish. It is also posted online at http://www.archdiosf.org and our social media platforms.

“Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres”

One of my favorite sayings is, “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres” (Tell me whom you run with [hang out with] and I’ll tell you who you are). It speaks to the fact that relationships are important. So important, in fact, that they help to determine who we are. As Catholics, this should come as no surprise. We are created in the very image of God, a God whose very essence is relational: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. By definition, God is a relationship of persons. Since we are created in his image, it stands to reason that we are relational by nature as well. Indeed, God wants us to be in a relationship with him and that is why he created us -- so that we might be one with him forever in eternity. And of course, as relational or social beings, we are also called to be in relationship with each other. This is how God made us. Our very existence begins with the relationship between our parents and with God who knit us in our mothers’ wombs ( Cf. Psalm 139). When a baby cries in the crib, it is not always because of hunger or a dirty diaper. Quite often, it is because the child wakes up alone and feels abandoned. That cry comes from deep within, a primordial scream if you will, that begs for companionship. In all my years of visiting assisted living facilities for the elderly I seldom encounter anyone who is afraid of dying but I do remember many who were afraid of dying alone.

Since relationships are at the heart of who we are, it is little wonder that they have such an important impact on our lives. As John Donne famously said, “no man is an island.” All of us are shaped and formed and fashioned by our relationships, relationships with God and with each other. And yet, how sad that we often take these relationship for granted. More and more, people are turning inward and isolating themselves. You hear things like “I am a self-made man or woman” or “I’m the captain of my own ship or “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, there may be a kernel of truth and even some laudable aspects to these assertions but they are dangerous in that they tend to cut off the very people who make us who we are.

In a recent article by Ruth Whippman, I read that Americans are not connecting with others as they used to. She said that “nearly half of all meals eaten in this country are now eaten alone. Teenagers and young millennials are spending less time just “hanging out” with their friends than any generation in recent history, replacing real-world interaction with smartphones. All in all — and that includes daily bouts of nagging, arguing and whining — the average American spends barely more than half an hour a day on social communication. Compare that to time per day spent watching television (three hours) or even “grooming” (one hour for women, and just over 44 minutes for men).Whitman even goes so far as to say that research is showing that a lack of social connection carries “with it a risk of premature death comparable to that of smoking, and is roughly twice is dangerous to our health as obesity.” She goes on to say that social relationships are “a ‘necessary condition for happiness,’ meaning that humans can’t actually be happy without them. This is a finding that cuts across race, age, gender, income and social class so overwhelmingly that it dwarfs any other factor.”

It appears that God knew what he was doing! He instilled within us a need for others, including himself, and to thwart this basic instinct is something done at our own peril. As St. Augustine reminds us, “Our hearts are restless” until they rest in the Lord and they are pretty uneasy without human companionship as well! No wonder Jesus prayed so fervently in John’s Gospel, “…that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you…” Jesus came to unite us, to gather us in, to fashion us as one people, one church, one body of Christ. It is in this unity that we find meaning, health, happiness and ultimate fulfillment.

In many ways, the articles that have appeared in this space in the past months regarding immigration are really a reflection on the importance of relationships. We are called as a church to “welcome the stranger in our midst.” That welcome nourishes us and the immigrant. It puts a human face on the whole topic of immigration and it allows us to build up the body of Christ by opening our arms to those in need, to those who are suffering, to those who are escaping violence and even death. The “Share the Journey Campaign” which we began last September 27 and will extend for the next two years is an invitation by Pope Francis to encounter others, to journey with immigrants, to reach out to those in need and to be their companions along the way. This all speaks of relationships.

Our “Feed the Hungry” day several weeks ago was another opportunity to celebrate the importance of relationships here in our archdiocese: relationships with those who go to bed hungry at night, with those who do not have nutritious food and with those who are begging for help at street corners.

Our constant and consistent call to respect life in the womb again underscores the importance of relationships. We see these children not simply as fetuses but as living human being who, as I have stated, are already in a relationship with God and with his or her mother. When relationships break down, when we treat others as different, or suspicious, or even worse, when we demonize them, then we see an increase in violence, whether in speech or in action.

This month we have an opportunity to celebrate relationships in a special way. On November 1 we honored all those with whom we are related through Baptism in the Communion of Saints. On November 2, we call to mind our relationships with our beloved dead who have gone to the Lord. On November 19, we will celebrate Pope Francis’ first “World Day of the Poor” in which he invites us to deepen our relationship with those who “seek protection and assistance” drawing close to them and thus encountering the God whom we seek. And on Thanksgiving Day we will gather with loved ones to celebrate those relationships that have made us who we are as we give thanks to God, the giver of every good gift, for all he bestows upon us, his children. In particular, I pray that we will thank God this Thanksgiving for all those relationships that come to us from a loving and provident God.

I sometimes recall the famous quote adopted by Fr. Flannagan of Boys’ Town, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.” Relationships really do make a difference in our lives. They sustain us, they form us and they lighten the load along the way. Tell me who you run with and I’ll tell you who you are.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

October 29, 2017

CATHOLIC AND LUTHERANS ON THE WAY TOWARD FULL, VISIBLE UNITY

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On October 29, 2017, I had the privilege to attend a historic event, A Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

“What unites is much greater than what divides us.” Pope John XXIII

Pictured above (l to r) include presiders: The Rev. Susan J. Quass, Executive Director, New Mexico Conference of Churches; The Rev. John Williams, Rio Grande Mission Center, Community of Christ; Ruling Elder Conrad M. Rocha, Synod of the Southwest, Presbyterian Church USA; The Rev. Randal W. Partin, New Mexico Conference, The United Methodist Church; The Right Rev. Michael L. Vono, Diocese of the RioGrande, The Episcopal Church; The Rev. Allan Bjornberg, Rocky Mountain Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe; The Rev. Dawn Rosignol, Tres Rios Southwest Region, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); The Rev. Sharon Littrell, Southwest Conference, United Church of Christ; Ruling Elder Bryan Beck, Presbytery of Santa Fe, Presbyterian Church USA; Ms. Angela Flores, Reader, Holy Family Roman Catholic Church; The Rev. Canon Jean Campbell, Diocese of the Rio Grande; and Ms. Ruth Hoffman, President, Conference of Churches.

Five imperatives were offered as a framework for moving forward.

During the ecumenical vesper service, the following five imperatives were offered as a framework for moving forward followed by the lighting of a candle. Before the ceremony, the presider announced” “Our ecumenical journey continues. In this worship, we commit ourselves to grow in communion.”

1. Our first commitment: We as Christians should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

2. Our second commitment: We as Christians must let ourselves continuously be trans-formed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith.

3. Our third commitment: We as Christians should again commit ourselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal.

4. Our fourth commitment: We as Christians should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time.

5. Our fifth commitment: we as Christians should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.

Reverend Susan Quass, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches gave a powerful sermon on “The Radical Power of Many-ness.” Sung prayer, led by an interdenominational choir, gave beautiful voice to the need for unity and for the grace to fulfill achieve it. Choral highlights included the world premiere of We Are the Body by Jeff Jolly and an original sung response to intercessory prayer by Fabian Yanez. The latter gave poignant voice to the unity given us by faith. The service offered compelling reason for us to continue on the way toward full, visible unity.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

October 27, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I would like to invite you to join me at the Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. An ecumenical service of song and prayer followed by a community dialogue on Sunday, October 29, 2017 from 2:30pm - 5:00pm at St. John's United Methodist Church. Please see the details below.

October 15, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Sunday, October 15 was a glorious day of thanksgiving as the faithful and leadership of Santa Ana Pueblo joined me, Reverend Larry Bernard, O.F.M. and Church officials for the dedication of their beautiful new St. Anthony Mission Church. New Mexico’s celebrated blending of traditions, both native and ecclesiastical, shone through at their finest.

Following their Santa Ana Pueblo tradition, men on horseback greeted me at the entrance to the Pueblo at Highway 313 and led a grand procession to the new Mission Church.

The women of the Pueblo laid their shawls on the walkway to the Church doors to honor the presence of Christ.

The women of the Pueblo laid their shawls on the walkway to the Church doors to honor the presence of Christ.

It indeed was a blessed and humbling day to meet and visit with the many faithful of the Santa Ana Pueblo community.

October 13, 2017

That We May Be One: Reflections on the Share the Journey Campaign

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Here is my latest column in the October issue of People of God which will be distributed this weekend, October 14, 2017

Several years ago, I heard a very important story that happened in the life of Sr. Marilyn Lacey, a sister of the Bay Area of San Francisco, and relative of the late Monsignor Lacey, former Vicar General of San Francisco. Sr. Marilyn’s ministry was to welcome refugees and others from the airport and then she would help orient them to the area. I remember her telling the story of greeting a woman who came in exhausted, having traveled many, many thousands of miles, and going through the long, involved vetting process of coming in to our country as refugee. Sr. Marilyn asked if this newly arrived, refugee woman was hungry and she answered, “Yes, I am.” Sr. Marilyn got some food and placed them in front of her, but she didn’t eat it. Sr. Marilyn said, “I’m sorry, is the food okay?” “Oh,” the woman said, “it looks wonderful. I’m very hungry.” And sister said, “Well, may I ask, why aren’t you eating?” The woman simply looked up to the sister and said, “But where are the others? Where are the others?” Sister said, “What others?” The woman replied, “Well, in my country, we would never ever eat alone. Eating is a communal activity. As a matter of fact, if you ate alone, it might be seen as a sign that you were hoarding and being selfish. We always eat with each other, strangers, friends, family.”

This story speaks of communion. It speaks of unity. And this really is at the heart of the Gospel, Matthew 25. The primary focus of what Jesus is telling us in this Gospel is union with Him, and with our neighbor. Jesus is saying that if you don’t accept those whom I send, you don’t accept Me. It’s one in the same. Jesus is uniting Himself with us. We are called to love both God and neighbor. You cannot love God and not neighbor, or the other way around.

This union with Christ and man’s unity with our brothers and our sisters with all human beings is fundamental to who we are. Now we know there are some over the years who have said that religion is the opioid of the masses, but actually, true religion, authentic religion, is perhaps our greatest challenge and offers our greatest reward. It’s not a crutch. It’s a demand to love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as our self. It is in this spirit that Pope Francis has inaugurated the “Share the Journey Campaign,” to live out this call of love God and of each other. For the coming two years, Pope Francis has asked us to specially focus on the stories of immigrants and refugees.

Many issues come up regarding the legal process of vetting refugees, and about our broken immigration system. In the face of these challenges, the words of St. John Paul II come to mind. He said, “An irregular legal status cannot allow the migrant to lose his or her dignity since that migrant is endowed with inalienable rights that can neither be violated nor ignored.” Yes, we must work for comprehensive immigration reform, we must do all that we can, but our first duty is to be one with Christ and one with our immigrant brothers and sisters. Jesus tells us that if we want to be one with Him, we have to be one with each other.

This unity between Christ and ourselves is key to who we are as humans. I’m fond of quoting John Pierre de Caussade, a 17th century French Jesuit priest, who says, “Jesus Christ lives in everything, works throughout history to the end of time, that every fraction of a second, every atom of matter, contains a fragment of His hidden life, and His secret activity.” How much more so, then in our immigrant brothers and sisters.

And furthermore, we’re made in the very image and likeness of God. In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church we read, “Since something of the glory of God shines on the face of every person, the dignity of the every person before God is the basis of the dignity of human beings before other human beings.” This notion then that we all have equal dignity because we’re created in the image and likeness of God is central to our social teaching and is central to our teaching about immigrants. All of us reflect the image of God. There’s our unity with God with Christ. And since we all reflect this image, we are one. It’s the same image, each one of us. As a matter of fact, when we all come together, the image of God is most complete. And when we refuse to welcome the stranger in our midst, the image of God is marred and fragmented and incomplete.

And a final connection is that Jesus joins us through the medium of suffering. He surrenders Himself and ‘became one of us not gaining equality with God something to be grasped.” That’s suffering, letting go, surrendering. And He died on the cross for us that we might have eternal life. That Jesus that raises us in judgment at the end of time - raises a hand with a nail hole in it, to symbolize his unity with all humanity. Because all of us suffer, and Christ suffers with us.

And so these are some of the ways that we’re one with Christ and one with each other. And we know that the Church has a special place in her heart for the poor, sometimes called a “preferential option for the poor.” And that is I believe, because the poor are the ones most in danger of not being united with us. They are the ones most in danger of dying of starvation, of disease, of being forgotten, of being trafficked, of being beaten down. It is the poor that we must reach out to first, and gathering to be with us. And clearly, it’s hard to imagine anyone who can be poorer than immigrants or refugees, with nowhere to lay their head, and quite often no laws to protect them, and sadly, sometimes, in some places, no warm welcome.

And so, our Holy Father asks us to journey together with our fellow pilgrims for these two years and beyond, so that we might give witness, advocate, pray and learn so that all of us together might be fellow pilgrims. I think Pope Francis actually gave us a beautiful context for these two years. Remember when he came to visit our country, not long ago and spoke before the joint sessions of Congress. He said, “we the people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you were also descended from foreigners. Let us remember the Golden Rule. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we wish 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. We are one with Christ and one with each other.”

May the next two years help us to extend this unity to everyone, as we ask over, and over and over again: “Where are the others?”

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Most Rev. John C. Wester

Archbishop of Santa Fe

September 29, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in christ,

On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 we the faithful of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe joined Pope Francis Pope Francis as he officially launched the SHARE THE JOURNEY campaign. Pope Francis is being joined by my brother bishops across the US and around the world to launch a global 2-year campaign to support our brothers and sisters who have fled their homes seeking a decent and safe life for their families. This historic campaign, “Share the Journey” will respond to some of the most desperate of God’s children and your leadership and inspiration are needed!

This effort fits well with my continued focus on the plight of migrants and refugees and our call to respond with compassion and love to their needs.

You can help our Archdiocese, your parish, school or other organization to participate in the “Share the Journey” campaign, along with Pope Francis, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities USA and the Church’s global charitable network, Caritas Internationalis. Through prayers, acts of compassion and support, you can help shape conversations and actions to answer God’s call to love our neighbors.

If you were unable to join us at the special Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi last Wednesday, I invite you to view my homily below to learn more about this wonderful two year campaign launched by Pope Francis. In Christ, Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe.

September 22, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

More “breaking news” announcements were made recently: Authorities say it could be four to six months before electricity is returned to Puerto Rico and its nearly 3.5 million people after being decimated by Hurricane Maria. At least 286 people have died as a result of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico on September 19, 2017.

The phrase “breaking news” has become a central element in our daily news cycle. Today and throughout these last few months, our brothers and sisters in the United States and abroad have faced deadly disasters, turning their worlds upside down. Let not our hearts be hardened by this daily barrage of disasters, but open to hope and healing during this time of turmoil and despair.

Our parishes in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe have been participating in special collections for those suffering from the recent disasters resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Today, I also sent out another request to the faithful of the archdiocese to please be generous in their offerings in an upcoming second collection the weekend of September 30 and October 1, 2017 to assist our brothers and sisters recovering from the earthquake in Mexico and Hurricane Maria. Please note, all monies donated to these special collections will be sent to Catholic Relief Services which directs 100% to disaster relief.

On behalf of the clergy, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, I extend our prayers and deepest condolences.

Sincerely in Christ, Archbishop John C. Wester

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Comforter of the afflicted and Mother Most Merciful, pray for us.

A Few of the Natural Disasters of Summer 2017

• Mexico: Earthquake • South Sudan: Floods According to the State Ministry of Health, it is estimated that over 119,000 people have been affected by flooding caused by heavy rainfall in 11 payams of Aweil North and Aweil West of former Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. More flooding also caused some deaths and injuries and has deeply affected the daily lives of over 650 households in eight villages of Bunj payam, Maban County, Upper Nile State. • Hurricane Maria Affected areas: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba (The Netherlands), British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe (France), Martinique (France), Montserrat, Puerto Rico (The United States of America), Saint Barthélemy (France), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten (The Netherlands), United States Virgin Islands • Mexico/Guatemala: Earthquake • Hurricane Irma Affected areas: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba (The Netherlands), British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe (France), Haiti, Martinique (France), Montserrat, Puerto Rico (The United States of America), Saint Barthélemy (France), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (France), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten (The Netherlands), Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands • Hurricane Harvey Affected areas: Southern and Eastern United States (especially Texas, Louisiana), Belize, Windward Islands, Suriname, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Yucatán Peninsula, • Africa: Floods – Mali, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan • Philippine’s: Earthquakes

September 20, 2017

Please join me on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 7pm at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi as we help Pope Francis lead the world in helping migrants and refugees.

September 5, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE – Tuesday, September 5, 2017–IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Archbishop John C. Wester has issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s decision on DACA:

I am deeply troubled by the president's decision today to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects more than 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. In my judgment, DACA has stood as a counterpoint to the voices of exclusion and now, without the action of Congress, this crucial support for these young immigrants has been taken away.

DACA recipients are talented, hard working, and full of potential and promise. Many live here in New Mexico. Having arrived here as minors through no fault of their own, they want to contribute their skills and allegiance to the only country they have ever known. They are committed to the principle that America is a country of fairness, opportunity and freedom--values upon which this nation was built--and are prepared to pursue the American dream with enthusiasm.

Sadly, with this decision we are betraying these values, dimming the hopes of these young people, and, because of it, are less as a nation. To deport them to countries they do not know would be nothing less than cruel.

I call upon Congress and the New Mexico delegation to expeditiously pass the bipartisan DREAM Act without compromise and for President Trump to sign it into law. These young leaders deserve a chance to become US citizens and contribute to the future of New Mexico and our nation.

I encourage all to contact their elected representatives and to ask them to support comprehensive immigration reform and the nonpartisan DREAM act.

Please take a moment to read the California Catholic Conference statement which provides more information on this decision. Click http://www.cacatholic.org/daca-statement or read the statement below.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

California Catholic Bishops Urge Immigration Reform for DACA Youth and Their Families

September 4, 2017

Pledge Abiding Solidarity with Immigrants; Denounce the Administration’s End of Program Offering Hope

The Catholic Bishops of California released the following statement today in anticipation of a Trump Administration announcement on Tuesday terminating the DACA Program in 6 months. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program to temporarily suspend deportation proceedings in the case of undocumented young persons brought to the United States as minors, many of whom have no memory of being raised in any other country but the United States. It is estimated that 800,000 people are covered under this program, 200,000 of them in California alone. Please attribute to the Catholic Bishops of California:

SACRAMENTO, CA -- The Catholic Bishops of California believe, along with many of our fellow Californians, that immigrant youth and their families are a critical part of California’s future vitality. We will continue to believe in them, pray for them, and work with them for a society where all God’s children may enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We invite all those who share this dream to join us as sentinels of hope for the hundreds of thousands of young people who have registered or are eligible for the DACA program. While the decision of the Administration may eclipse our common aspirations for them, we should not let our confidence be diminished. We have faith that this momentary shadow will pass and our hopeful light will continue to burn brightly.

Sustaining the status of DACA students against the current threats is imperative but more must be done. We urge all responsible political leadership at the state and federal level to work for comprehensive immigration reform and to put meaningful and effective immigration reform on the President’s desk before the DACA program expires. This is the most reasonable and sustainable remedy for the DACA students and their families, and for all immigrants.

DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was from the beginning a tentative and tenuous attempt to ameliorate the frustrating circumstances for many undocumented young men and women who through no fault of their own found themselves falling through the cracks of a broken immigration system and rejected by the only country they know as home.

The current actions by the Administration further aggravate years of bipartisan indifference and inaction on comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the moment for Congress to show courage and compassion despite the Administration’s capricious, ill-conceived action. The lack of political will has become a moral betrayal of America’s long-standing beacon of hope beckoning all those yearning to be free. The need for the political leadership on all sides of the aisle to work toward a bipartisan solution grows more and more urgent every day. Now they apparently have a clear deadline to craft reasonable and effective comprehensive immigration reform.

DACA students are not the so-called “bad hombres,” an insidious label used to instill fear in others and feed the racism and nativism that unfortunately is rearing its ugly head in our cities. Far from it, DACA eligible youth are high school graduates, in school or working on their GED. Many are now in college. They may be honorably discharged members of the armed services. No one convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor (or three misdemeanors) can apply for DACA.

These young people are working in businesses and professional jobs, harvesting our fields, building our homes, and providing many of the services of hospitality we take for granted. They have placed their lives on the line to defend our liberty and freedom. Most importantly, they are giving back to the only nation they have ever known. They are the hard working good neighbors America needs to compete in the global economy of today.

Catholics – both in our parishes and larger service organizations such as Catholic Charities and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) – will remain steadfast in offering assistance to immigrants. As Bishops, every day we see the impact of the failure of a political leadership that washes its hands while immigrants suffer. We choose to continue to serve, comfort, and protect our brothers and sisters. We will not protect serious and violent criminals and we will work with authorities in advancing security and other legitimate requirements. We will, however, not allow reckless rhetoric to bully us from the course of compassion and basic decency.

We are encouraged by the fatherly admonition of Pope Francis: “[C]hildren are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human.”

September 1, 2017

August 31, 2017

Arizona and New Mexico Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Youth

In light of increased tensions and speculation over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA), the Catholic Bishops of Arizona and New Mexico want to reiterate our strong and unwavering support for DACA youth so they do not have to live in fear of deportation. These young people entered our country as children and should have the opportunity to remain in our country to be educated here and to have opportunities to exercise their gifts for the enhancement of our nation.

Presently, DACA protects nearly 800,000 of these young people, while allowing them to live and work in our country without fear of deportation. Through DACA they have furthered their education, started small businesses and become integral members of our communities in Arizona and New Mexico.

While DACA is not a permanent solution, we support its continuance until a permanent solution can be found.

Accordingly, we urge our federal elected officials to move forward with permanent solutions that grant relief to these young people along with the chance to earn permanent residency and eventually to seek citizenship.

We ask that all people of goodwill join us in praying and advocating for governmental efforts to protect DACA youth and for reform of our broken immigration policies.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. John C. Wester Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted

Archbishop of Santa Fe Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. Oscar Cantú Most Rev. James S. Wall

Bishop of Las Cruces Bishop of Gallup

Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas

Bishop of Tucson

Most Rev. Eduardo A. Nevares

Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix

CONTACTS: Ron Johnson, Executive Director, Arizona Catholic Conference 602.885.0113 rjohnson@diocesephoenix

Allen Sánchez, Executive Director, New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops 505.319.3334 AllenSanchez@stjosephnm.org

August 29, 2017

On behalf of all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, I wish to express our sincere condolences to those who lost loved ones and those who were injured in the Clovis-Carver Public Library shooting.

Our prayers and support also go out to the community of Clovis and all those affected by this senseless act of violence. I would also like to express our appreciation for the pastoral presence of Father Simon Carian, pastor of Sacred Heart in Clovis. We ask our Risen Savior, the Lord of all life, to fill them with His grace and healing during this time of unspeakable sorrow.

May those, taken from us so suddenly, rest in peace. Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

August 29, 2017

Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Catholic Charities of New Mexico to provide relief assistance for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey

Please join me in prayer for the safety and wellbeing of the all the communities and each of the brave first responders and volunteers who are helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Catholic Charities of New Mexico are working collaboratively to provide relief assistance to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. We have set up a link on both websites to provide New Mexicans the opportunity to donate and assist with the Hurricane Harvey relief process.

Archdiocese of Santa Fe www.archdiosf.org

Catholic Charities of New Mexico www.ccasfnm.org

The donations collected will be given to Catholic Charities in Southeast Texas and Louisiana to provide relief assistance or to use the money locally if New Mexico is engaged in assisting displaced persons affected by Hurricane Harvey.

In addition to the online donations, all Archdiocese of Santa Fe parishes have been invited to participate in a second collection during the weekend of September 16-17, 2017 to aid those affected by Hurricane Harvey. These donations will also be given to Catholic Charities in Southeast Texas and Louisiana to help relief efforts.

To make a gift by mail, send your check made out to Catholic Charities to 2010 Bridge Blvd., SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105 and write "Hurricane Harvey" in the memo field of the check.

To make a gift by phone, call 505.724.4693

At this time, we are not collecting in-kind donations nor recruiting volunteers to go to Texas. Only volunteers with specific skills and the ability to be self-sufficient should even consider traveling to assist those in need and should find an agency like the Red Cross or other first responder groups to work through.

For more news, check out our website at www.archdiosf.org. Find out the latest news and Gospel readings by liking us on Facebook (Archdiocese Santa Fe Official), on Twitter (@ASFOfficial) and Instagram (ASFOfficial).

August 15, 2017

DACA helps people achieve the American dream, don't take it away

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to read my Op-Ed published today in THE HILL. You may read it below or click on the following link ow.ly/DYNq30eqIBw.

Today, Aug. 15 is an important day for immigrant youth and our country. It marks the fifth anniversary for when individuals were first able to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. While many of the approximately 800,000 DACA recipients will likely feel a moment of gratitude at this milestone occasion, the sad truth is that most DACA youth will continue to experience fear and growing uncertainty about their futures, in part due to a looming decision over the fate of the DACA program that must soon be made.

Brought to the United States as children by their parents, DACA kids are American in every way with the exception of their immigration status. They represent the best of what our country is known for: ambition, hard work and devotion to family. These youths have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation.

DACA is not legal status. It does not entitle those who apply for and receive it to become U.S. citizens. Instead, DACA allows for certain undocumented immigrants living in the United States, who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation and legal work authorization.

President Trump has stated in the past that he will do something regarding DACA that will make people happy and proud. Instead, DACA youth are awaiting the president’s action on a daunting Sept. 5 deadline imposed by 10 state attorneys general in a June 29 letter threatening a lawsuit against the DACA program. The AG letter requests the Department of Homeland Security phase out the DACA program if the administration fails to rescind it by Sept. 5. This imperils the DACA program and leaves the livelihood and future of approximately 800,000 youth in the balance.

Rescinding DACA would be a terrible loss for DACA youth, their families and our country. Such a shift would devastate immigrant communities. In addition to harming and potentially separating families, ending DACA would eliminate a steady stream of taxable income from our economy and would immediately force hundreds of thousands of young productive people out of the legal workforce.

My brother bishops and I have long supported DACA and volunteering in our parishes. We know DACA have been given a chance to achieve their God-given potential. For this reason, I urge the administration to continue their journey of achieving the American dream.

The fate of DACA youth, however, cannot be laid solely at the feet of President Trump. Congress has had a strong hand in this as well and bears large responsibility for our nation’s current immigration situation. The original legislation that was the inspiration for DACA, the DREAM Act, was introduced in Congress in 2001. It has been re-introduced many times in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was reintroduced in July in the Senate and the House behind the leadership of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (R-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Whether as a standalone bill or part of larger reform, the DREAM Act has never passed Congress. Now is the time. I call upon Congress to move on this bipartisan legislation and ensure a permanent legislative solution. Work across the aisle to ensure that 800,000 youth do not have the rug pulled out from underneath them.

It is time for the president and Congress to show the American people that they can work together to protect DACA youth once and for all. The president must not revoke or sunset DACA but instead must protect DACA and work with Congress to find a solution.

How we treat our youth is reflective of who we are as a country. Seeing the daily suffering and anxiety in the faces of DACA youth underscores for me the moral urgency of this situation. Now is the time for our leaders to work together and find a just and compassionate solution for DACA youth as well as repair our broken immigration system.

The Most Rev. John Wester is the Archbishop of Santa Fe.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. The Hill states it is a top US political website, read by the White House and more lawmakers than any other site--vital for policy, politics and election campaigns.

August 14, 2017

On Last Saturday's Charlottesville, Va. Tragic Events

Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Ms. Heather Heyer, who lost her life in last weekend’s car attack, and to the families of Virginia State Police Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates, who were killed in the surveillance helicopter crash. The tragic loss of their precious lives was senseless.

As citizens of the United States, we are proud of our Constitution that declares all people are created equal. Furthermore, as people of faith we know that we are all created in God’s image and likeness. There is no other “side” to this firm conviction and belief we hold as Christians. To deny the inherent dignity of each human being or to think that any one race is superior to another is in direct contradiction to God’s revelation and can never be accorded the dignity of a viable point of view. We must do all we can to stand squarely against the evil of bigotry and racism.

May Ms. Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates rest in peace and may we who remain never rest until we have done all we can to uphold the worth and sanctity of each unrepeatable human being.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

August 9, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to read my latest column below just published in PEOPLE OF GOD's August 2017 issue. Our archdiocesan magazine is being distributed this week and will be available in your parish this weekend. It is also posted online at www.archdiosf.org and our social media platforms.

ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION

By Archbishop John C. Wester

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.” Pope Francis, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2014)

In a previous column, published in PEOPLE OF GOD magazine's June/July issue available online at www.archdiosf.org, I addressed the legality or legal issues regarding immigration. Yet, to look only at these issues is like looking at an elephant but only seeing the trunk or the tail: you miss quite a bit if that's all you're seeing. To put the immigration debate into a wider context one must also look at the human face of immigration and at what is known as the push and pull factors that force people to immigrate in the first place. To that end, I continue our exploration of Catholic teaching on immigration so that we may fully understand global migration. I offer the following from the USCCB/Justice for Immigrants Campaign which examines root causes that drive people to migrate.

A root cause is the fundamental reason for the occurrence of an event, in this case, migration. Often, in the migration context, there are both push and pull factors with push factors being reasons why people would want to leave their home country and pull factors being reasons why people would want to come to a new country. In migration, push and pull factors can be economic, environmental, social and political. They include some of the following:

Safety Factors

Safety factors can cause danger to individuals, prompting them to migrate. Persecution and discrimination based on nationality, race, religion, political beliefs, or membership status in a particular social group will prompt people to move large distances in search of a safer living location where they can have freedom over their lives. Danger can be imposed upon individuals by something formal, like war, or informal, such as widespread gang activity. In 2016, the Northern Triangle, composed of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, was named one of the most violent regions in the world. All three Northern Triangle countries record thousands of crimes by local and international gangs and armed criminal groups, and most crimes are met with impunity. It is estimated that 10% of the Northern Triangle’s population has already left, and it is likely that many more will flee in part due to extreme violence.

Economic Factors

Economic migration, whether permanent or seasonal, is a commonly cited reason for migration. In general, it is believed that in economic migration people move from poorer developing areas into richer areas where wages are higher and more jobs are available. It is also common for people from rural areas to move to more competitive urban areas in order to find more opportunities.

Mexican migration into the United States portrays the importance of both push and pull factors in economic migration. All throughout the 20th century, seasonal Mexican laborers have crossed the border in search of work in the American agricultural industry, since the economic state of Mexico did not match the level of economic prosperity found in the United States. In the 21st century however, Mexican migration has slowed down significantly, and after the American recession of 2009, economic migration from Mexico to the United States began to decline. Studies show that Mexican household economies have improved due to factors like increases in access to education. As Mexico’s financial state improved and the United States temporarily struggled, both push and pull factors eroded, causing the dwindling of migration.

Environmental Factors

Migration caused by environmental factors is increasingly involuntary. Environmental factors cause displacement, or the forced movement of people by social or environmental factors. Crop failure for example, often results in both food scarcity and a drop in agricultural jobs, prompting people to move to a place with better job opportunities and climate. Pollution of water, air and soil in both urban and rural settings can also create a serious health risk to locals, forcing them to look for a better life for themselves and their children.

Devastating natural disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes are environmental factors that the news most often cover. In January 2010 for example, a deadly earthquake hit Haiti, claiming the lives of over 90,000 people, and displacing over 1.5 million others. Despite humanitarian aid, many suffered from disease and a lack of proper shelter and basic supplies. Likewise, recent studies cite global warming as a cause for the increase in violent conflict around the world. The recent example of the Syrian drought from 2006 to 2011 was catastrophic, causing many families to lose their farms and move into big cities. The drought also increased food prices, facilitating poverty. Although global warming did not create the conflict we are witnessing today, environmental factors are important in human migration.

Social Factors

Social factors motivating migration grow from the human needs and desires to achieve a better quality of life. Migrants often move to ensure better opportunities for themselves or their family, like sending their child to a better, safer school or finding a job that would have not only a sufficient salary, but also important benefits and career growth prospects. In terms of education, the United States graduate programs have been a particularly strong attraction for young, talented individuals around the world. Individuals can also migrate in search of services, such as life-saving surgery and medical treatment that are inaccessible in their home area.

Understanding of these factors does not mean that we must forget about the laws. We still must abide by laws and as I have noted before in prior articles, we must fix our laws so that they are appropriate for the situation. Nonetheless, understanding the push and pull factors and putting a human face on immigration helps us to put the laws in a wider context and to see that we must work tirelessly to help our immigrants who are suffering so much in our world today.

I offer this illustration: if a person gets hurt in an auto accident because he or she was speeding, we tend to the person first. The person does not simply get a speeding ticket and then is left lying there on the ground! In other words, to borrow from author Stephen Covey, “the main thing is to make the main thing the main thing.” When it comes to immigration, I believe that the main thing is to follow Christ's command to love one another as he has first loved us. The main thing is to welcome the stranger in our midst, a stranger fleeing serious threats. We continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform and a much needed reform of our immigration legal system but in the meantime we must tend to our neighbor, just as Jesus offers us in the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

June 16, 2017

We are one body of Christ, each with different gifts and each with different challenges.

I am delighted to see that we approved the new prayers and rituals for those with disabilities. It is so important to make sure that our liturgies and gatherings are open to our brothers and sisters with disabilities. Quite often, and without realizing it, our churches can be difficult for those with disabilities to maneuver. Not only must we get rid of those physical obstacles but we must also be sure that there are no barriers in our hearts that keep those with disabilities on the periphery. We are one body of Christ, each with different gifts and each with different challenges. As the University of NM says, "each of us defines all of us." We are all one in Christ. Each and every one of us is handicap-able, loved by the same God who gives each of us inherent worth and dignity. Copy this link in your browser to read USCCB News Release http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-104.cfm

Welcoming The Stranger Among Us: Unity In Diversity

Our June meeting in Indianapolis affirmed once again the importance of journeying with our immigrants, so many of whom are forced immigrants fleeing danger and in many cases, death. The working group of bishops, headed by Archbishop Gomez of Los Angles, has done an excellent job of providing us bishops with resources, educational materials and best practices for accompanying our immigrant brothers and sisters. We strive to welcome the stranger in our midst as Jesus did and the work of the bishops has been a great help to us in this regard. I am glad that the working group has had its mandate extended. Copy the link and paste in your browser to read the USCCB News Release http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-106.cfm

Synod on Faith, Youth and Vocational Discernment

I am excited about the upcoming Synod on Faith, Youth and Vocational Discernment. We bishops have expressed concern especially for those youth who are disillusioned or who are disinterested in life, finding themselves floating along without a purpose in life. I hope that as many of our youth and faithful in general will respond to the surveys online or in person by July 10, 2017 so that the Synod will be able to address the real needs of our youth. I am grateful to Bernadette Jaramillo and her staff for shepherding the process we have begun to find out what our youth are thinking and feeling about the Church and their situation in general.

Survey information is as follows:

There are two surveys. One for young adults 19-29 years old and one for youth 16-18 years old. Deadline: July 10, 2017. For more information, call the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries 505.831.8216. Copy the following links in your browser to complete the surveys. Thank you for your participation!

Young Adults Survey 19-29 years old. The link is https://goo.gl/forms/cDDU0mlaK2wrVyzq2

The Youth Survey 16-18 years old. The link is https://goo.gl/forms/VKMiDeVB528gfV6u1

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

June 7, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Last Saturday, June 3, 2017 I had the honor and privilege to ordain three fine men into the priesthood at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, NM.

The newly ordained pictured in the front row with Archbishop John C. Wester and Archbishop Emeritus Michael J. Sheehan are: Reverend Francisco Carabajal Barajas, Reverend Robert Bustamante and Reverend Christopher Hallada. Also pictured are Reverend Michael DePalma, ASF Director of Vocations; Reverend Clement Niggel, Associate Director of Vocations; and our recently ordained Transitional Deacons Christopher Martinez, Tai Pham and John Kimani.

Please click below to view a video of my homily.

Sincerely yours in the Lord, Archbishop John C. Wester

June 2, 2017

What’s the proper role of the Church in Politics? We put this question to Archbishop John Wester, who became the 12th archbishop of New Mexico in June 2015. In Wester, New Mexico Catholics have seen an archbishop who is highly engaged in “political” issues like immigration and education reform such as funding early childhood education through annual distributions from New Mexico’s $16B Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Recently he was singled out by the Albuquerque Journal for also advocating that Santa Fe’s soda tax be passed to fund preK, a directly political stance. At the same time he adheres to the church’s teachings against gay marriage and abortion, praising those who have come forward “to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves”. Bishop Wester has also set about to eliminate the stain of pedophilia from the Church including removing a priest in a very recent case in Los Lunas. Please join host Stephen Spitz and special guest Archbishop John Wester as we explore the proper role of the Church in today’s world.

Produced with the assistance of Roman Garcia and Lynn Schibeci.

Memorial Day, May 29, 2017 May God bless America!

This memorial and the following memorials are units of the National Mall and Memorial Parks located in Washington, D. C. They represent only a few of the numerous memorials in Washington, D.C. and throughout the world honoring our servicemen and women and our fallen heroes.

Today we honor and give thanks to our fallen heroes, our soldiers who gave up their lives for our freedom. We also honor our veterans who walk amongst us for their service to our great country.

The World War II Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II. The Freedom Wall is on the west side of the memorial, with a view of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial behind it. The wall has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. In front of the wall lies the message "Here we mark the price of freedom”.

May we never take for granted the freedom we enjoy daily is due to these great servicemen and women and others of goodwill who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1995. Its Wall of Remembrance and 19 stainless steel statues commemorate the sacrifices of the millions of Americans and allied partners who fought during the Korean War.

Please join me in prayer:

God of power and mercy, you destroy war and put down earthly pride. Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears, that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters. Keep in your mercy those men and women who have died in the cause of freedomand bring them safely into your kingdom of justice and peace. We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen—from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

May 18, 2017

Archbishop John C. Wester's Statement on President's May 4, 2017 Executive Order, HHS Healthcare Mandate

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Friday, May 05, 2017— IMMEDIATE RELEASE— I am pleased to see that President Trump has signed an executive order that will begin the process of bringing relief to religious persons and entities that find certain provisions of the HHS Healthcare Mandate impossible to follow due to conscience considerations.

In order to preserve our religious liberty rights, both federal and state governments have traditionally included conscience clauses in the formulation of new laws that allow religious groups, for example, to comply with the law without violating church teaching. I hope that this executive order will eventually lead to a return of such considerations that allow us to be faithful to our long-held beliefs and doctrines. As Cardinal DiNardo has stated, “Religious freedom is a fundamental right that should be upheld by all branches of government and not subject to political whims.”

Please find the full text of the USCCB statement at http://usccb.org/news/2017/17-076.cfm

May 9, 2017

Abide in Christ: Laws Are Meant To Protect Human Beings, Not Break Them By Archbishop John C. Wester, People of God, May 2017

As an archbishop, one of my key responsibilities is to promote unity in our local Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. With this in mind, I could not help but be saddened to learn that a statement I recently issued regarding immigration in light of recent presidential executive orders was seen, in the minds of some, as being divisive. A few wrote to me to say, among other things, that they are dismayed at my apparent lack of respect for our immigration laws. Even though this is a complex topic and not one easily addressed in the space of this article, I thought it might be helpful to point to some of the areas I see as pertinent to this discussion, hoping that even a brief exposition may promote a greater understanding and lead to greater unity.

Many times I hear people say, “What don’t you understand about illegal?” The presumption seems to be that supporting undocumented immigrants means that I must not respect the law. I maintain, however, that it is possible to both support the law and defend those who are in our country without legal status. One reason for this is that our immigration system of laws is broken and completely inadequate to deal with the immigration reality we face in our country and in our world. For years and years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been advocating for immigration reform precisely because we see the need for effective, comprehensive and sound laws that both promote the common good in our country and welcome the stranger in our midst. Good laws promote and connote respect for the law. Sadly, our elected officials have failed us in their inability to enact comprehensive immigration reform. They have come close, especially in June of 2007, but partisan politics and ideological myopia have prevented our representatives from crafting the necessary legislation.

Given this reality, I maintain that it is important to do what we can to respect the law to the extent that we are able without violating our consciences. What do I mean by this?

I often hear some people refer to undocumented immigrants as “those illegals.” What does that mean? Is someone speeding on I-25 an illegal human being? Are those who cheat on their income taxes “illegals”? First, it is important to establish that no human being is “illegal”. How we refer to one another makes a difference. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Holocaust survivor stated, “You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?” The word illegal is not a noun. It only refers to a person’s actions. Labeling people “illegals” who are here without proper documentation dehumanizes immigrants. It also assigns guilt to persons involved in complex legal circumstances that are, in part, created by a broken immigration system.

In our judicial system, the word “legal” or “illegal” means many things because there are many systems of laws and many levels of laws within those systems. There is divine law, natural law, statutory law, regulatory (administrative) law and common law, to name a few. Some laws are classified as criminal and other as civil. And within those categories we differentiate between felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. In reality, we all live under many systems of laws and we are called to respect these laws if we wish to be “law abiding”. But what if there are conflicts between these systems? How do I decide which laws to obey when, say, civil law quarrels with divine law? Even if I have to pay a penalty under a law that I have broken (not reporting for army duty) I may have a moral obligation to disobey that civil law in order to obey a higher law (God’s law) if my conscience dictates such civil disobedience.

In other words, and to my point here, I respect immigration laws in principle, even though they are terribly flawed just now. However, at the same time, I am obliged by my conscience to welcome the strangers in our midst, particularly if they are fleeing economic, political or religious persecution or if they are sure to become victims of violent and organized crime. Pope St. John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris wrote eloquently about the right of all human beings to migrate as well as not to migrate. Pope St. John Paul II added to this teaching when he wrote, in his address to the New World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Immigrants in 1985, “When there are just reasons in favor of it, [a migrant] must be permitted to migrate to other countries and to take up residence there. The fact that he is a citizen of a particular state does not deprive him of membership to the human family, nor of citizenship in the universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men.” Naturally, the United States has the right to protect and defend its borders, even an obligation to do so for the safety of all of us. But this is not an absolute right. We are a country that is greatly blessed. We have an obligation to welcome our brothers and sisters, especially those suffering from persecution of any kind. As Pope Francis said when he went to Lampedusa early in his pontificate to mourn the tragic loss of refugees who had drowned seeking freedom from oppression and suffering, “…we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility.” Elsewhere he lamented that we have accepted as normal the culture of indifference.

It is worth noting that from a moral perspective, intentionality and consequences are critical in determining the morality of an action. Immigrants are motivated by providing a life for their families, becoming loyal citizens one day, and, as I have said, to flee danger and in many cases, death. Furthermore, they make a genuine contribution to our society by enriching our culture, providing needed labor, enlarging tax revenues, forging enduring relationships and sharing their dreams and visions for a better tomorrow. To simply call some of them “illegals” does not do justice to the ethical and human reality of their situation. There is so much more that could be said but I hope these few paragraphs open up for some of us another way of looking at our immigration laws and those who try, but find it impossible to abide by them. Laws are meant to protect human beings, not break them. Sadly, our immigration laws are doing just that.

We are told we should fear the immigrant. The facts do not support such an assertion. Study after study has shown that immigrants are hardworking and God-fearing newcomers who contribute to the well-being of our country on a variety of levels. Indeed, if we are to fear anything, it should be those policies that rip apart the fabric of our country, policies that divide us, that demonize immigrants or any other group of people and that distract us from the real dangers to our safety and lives. The greater concern should be about the policies that isolate ourselves from the world community, that fail to enact common sense gun safety, that weaken our respect for the sanctity of human life through abortion or assisted suicide, and cause divisions in our democracy so great that dialogue and compromise are no longer possible. These are the real threats we face, along with failing to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Hopefully, we will achieve this elusive goal someday but it seems to always elude our grasp, administration after administration.

In the meantime, I urge us all not to be taken in by political soundbites or rhetoric that instills fear. Rather, let us take the time to hear the stories of those immigrants coming to our shores and borders. What don’t I understand about “illegal”? Well, there is a lot I don’t understand about it. We are speaking of human beings who have inherent worth and dignity. And I truly don’t understand why we cannot build on the rich legacy of our great country and welcome the stranger in our midst whenever we are able. As Bishop Robert McElroy said in his excellent article in America (February 6, 2017), “‘Who are the people in the United States? All of us.” And from my perspective, that includes the undocumented immigrant who is my brother or sister, a fact that is more compelling to me than his or her legal status and one that I truly believe carries more weight. If it is the law that is flawed, then let’s fix the law so that immigrants don’t have to break it, and it no longer breaks them.

May 3, 2017

I am saddened by the failure of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax in Santa Fe yesterday. Once again our children are not given the priority they deserve. We rank 49th in child well-being, number one in the highest number of children living in poverty and the second highest rate of children living in hunger.

I acknowledge there may be those who do want to help the children but just could not back this bill. I hope they and all of us can come together to help the children. Tons of money from outside our state helped to defeat Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax. Let's not let these outsiders sideline our children. Let's do something for them, and soon, like passing the constitutional amendment so that our permanent fund can be put to good use in providing for our most precious resource, our children.

I commend the City of Santa Fe for raising an awareness of the importance of caring for our children. All has to been lost!

April 27, 2017

“Remember, then, that you received a spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear. Keep safe what you received. God the Father sealed you, Christ the Lord strengthened you and sent the Spirit into your hearts as the pledge of what is to come.” St. Ambrose

Confirmation 2017

I am so grateful to our parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for their steadfast commitment in preparing the numerous candidates for the holy sacrament of Confirmation.

I join my brother priests, Archbishop Emeritus Michael J. Sheehan, Monsignor Lambert Joseph Luna, E.V., and Very Reverend John C. Daniel, V.G. in gratitude to all our parish teachers, staff and parents throughout our archdiocese for their steadfast commitment in preparing our numerous candidates for the holy sacrament of Confirmation.

I pray each of our confirmandi’s journey of faith continues to be strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and that they bear witness to the Lord in all their activities. The beautiful celebration of the Confirmation Masses will continue through Sunday, June 4, 2017. I invite you to continue to keep our confirmandi in prayer.

Archbishop John C. Wester conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation on the students of Our Lady of the Annunciation Class of 2016 last April. Also pictured with the confirmandi is Monsignor Bennett J. Voorhies, pastor, and Sister Lisa Marie Doty, FDCC, OLA Director of Youth and Young Adults.

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up as he greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis confirmed young adults last April at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In his homily, he encouraged the newly confirmed and his words are worth reflecting upon by all of us but most especially by the young people of our parish. Pope Francis states:

“And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey!

He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness.

The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people.”

Please copy and paste the link below in your browser to view the ASF Confirmation Schedule published in People of God Magazine, April 2017 issue. It is also available at your local parish. You may also locate the online version of People of God on our website at www.archdiosf.org

https://issuu.com/officialasf/docs/2017april/28

April 16, 2017

"Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia!

To all, I wish the fullness of Christ's Easter peace, praying that our risen Lord will deepen within each of us the profound and abiding joy that belongs to those who, through baptism, have died with Christ and are one with Him in His resurrection. In a particular way, I welcome with great joy our elect and candidates into full communion with us as we celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death. After 40 days of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, we enter 50 days of rejoicing and celebration, thanking God our Father for drawing us to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Without a doubt, we are truly God's people and "Alleluia" is our song!

One of the striking features of Christ's resurrection appearances is that His wounds are clearly visible. In fact, the risen Christ invites His followers to "Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." (Luke 24:39) In a way, it seems strange that Christ's glorified body would bear the marks of His cruel passion and death. We would like to think that all that pain and suffering was a thing of the past and pretend that it never happened, but the Paschal mystery, i.e., the suffering death and resurrection of Christ, cannot be compartmentalized. It is one mystery, one life-giving event that contains within it the unspeakable pain of Christ's passion, and at the same time, the seeds of new life. This is the great, central mystery of our faith. That Jesus Christ, our Savior, is constantly turning night into day, darkness into light, sin into grace and death into life. Every aspect of our lives, all that we are, is caught up in Christ's boundless love and bears the promise of new beginnings at every turn. Ours is not a faith that says, "don't worry nothing bad will ever happen to you." Rather, our faith says, "don't worry, bad things may happen to you but they are nothing to worry about."

It is only through faith that we can see the empty tomb as a sign that Christ is risen from the dead. It is only through faith that we can hold fast to hope even in the midst of our pain and suffering. Faith teaches us that Christ is always with us, particularly in our darkest moments. In Mark's narrative of the passion, it is the centurion who finally proclaims what we had been straining to hear throughout the first 14 chapters of Mark's Gospel: "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15: 39) He came to believe in the midst of the darkness: "at noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon." (Mark 15: 33) Paradoxically, it is in the darkness that God dwells (see 1 Kings 8: 12 and 2 Chronicles 6:1). The same is true for us. In our darkest moments, Christ is with us, leading us to new life. Only with the eyes of faith can we see a way out from our suffering. Only then can we believe that the risen Christ will save us once again. We may not understand it at the time, but we believe that Christ will not abandon us.

Our local Church is no stranger to pain and suffering and death. All too often, parents learn that their child was killed in a tragic accident or from a drug overdose. Parishioners worry about losing their employment or their homes, especially here in New Mexico where we have the highest rate of unemployment (6.8%) among the 50 states. So many times at the prayer of the faithful, we are remembering friends who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses. We see so many offenses committed against the sanctity of human life, either through abortion, including late term abortion, or the disturbing movement toward assisted suicide and the death penalty. Thousands in our archdiocese suffer from mental illness, rejection, loneliness, addictions, and fear of the unknown. We see many of our immigrants living in the shadows, afraid to go home and afraid to stay in what they would like to call home. Over 80% of babies born in New Mexico are eligible for Medicaid and yet our legislature will not address sensible and legitimate solutions within their grasp that would greatly improve early childhood education and nutrition through home visitations. Yet, in the midst of all this suffering, the light of Christ pierces the darkness and promises new life, new hope and new beginnings. This is not some kind of pie in the sky theology nor is it a naïve and "Pollyanna" view of life. Rather, it is the firm conviction, born of faith, that knows our Redeemer lives and that caught up in His unfathomable love, all will be well, all will be well (Cf. Juliana of Norwich).

Furthermore, it is this faith that allows us to bring hope to the world. We are called to give witness to Christ's resurrection and to remind people that the risen Christ continues to breathe life into His Church through the working of the Holy Spirit. One very good way to give witness to Christ is by showing mercy. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has extended Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy by declaring this an archdiocesan year of God’s Enduring Mercy. In that light, we are all encouraged to forgive as we have been forgiven, to seek forgiveness from those whom we have harmed and to allow the thread of compassion to weave its way into the fabric of our lives.

In other words, death does not have the final word. We believe that our daily trials and difficulties are subsumed into the greater drama of divine Providence which is always leading to the empty tomb and new life. During the holy days of Easter, I pray that we will all be a source of life for each other, wounds and all, as we continue to follow Christ, recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread. It is worth repeating: death never has the last word – Jesus Christ does! Indeed, He is the Word uttered by God the Father, in the Holy Spirit, calling us out of darkness and into His own, wonderful light.

@ABJohnCWester #Easter #ChristisRisen

https://issuu.com/officialasf/docs/2017april/4

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Chrism Mass

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

We celebrated the Annual Archdiocese of Santa Fe Chrism Mass last Thursday, April 6, 2017 at the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. A symbol of unity, the Chrism Mass is celebrated in dioceses throughout the world during this holy lenten season This is one of the most beautiful Masses that every Catholic must place on their bucket list…things to do before….

We gathered with members representing the entire ASF. During the Mass, I blessed the holy oils and then our priests and deacons renewed their promises to serve God and all His people.

The blessed oils are used during the year to administer the sacraments: the sacred chrism (sacrum chrisma), the oil of catechumens (oleum catechumenorum) and the oil of the infirm ((oleum infirmorum).

Rite of Election

Tuesday, March 28, 2016

Pictured here with Archbishop John C. Wester is Rev. Charles Ugochukwu, pastor of St. Helen Parish, Portales, staff and celebrants on March 18, 2017.

Recently, I had the honor to visit three of our parishes: Church of the Incarnation in Rio Rancho on March 1; the Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe on March 12; and St. Helen in Portales on March 18, to preside at their regional Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion liturgies for those preparing to enter the Catholic Church.

Participants were called forth during the ceremony and will later receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation during the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday), April 15, 2017 services in their local parishes. The Catechumens were called up by name to sign the Archdiocesan Book of the Elect during this Rite.

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 Holy Ghost 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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