Re “Building on Diversity,” by Tara García Mathewson (10/31): Ecelente artículo Sra. Garcia. My family lives on the East Coast, and my career is in the medical field. We attend the cathedral in our diocese as our parish and I was a member at one time on the cathedral social justice committee.
Whenever I suggested that we should do outreach to Latinos in our area to my committee colleagues, I met siloed hearts. Their argument was that a Latino parish ministry already existed in the diocese across the river from us, and that Latinos should go to the Latino parish ministry if they needed anything. I pushed back, stating that we Latinos are found everywhere, not just on the other side of the river and not only within a diocese’s geographic radius. I further argued that the cathedral, flush with cash and centrally located, needed to reach those Latinos in our midst. Latinos are found on the streets, in the city park across from the cathedral where they receive food with the homeless, at local second-hand and consignment stores, at markets and at medical clinics, where I tend to them.
Yet the committee members would not budge. It was a “duplication of services,” they said. I responded saying, “So is collecting food for the poor.” When I was shut down, I was dumbfounded and disappointed. Although these were well meaning people, as the committee’s only Latino I eventually dropped my position.
The silo mentality is sadly very pervasive in our parishes. Having one Latino parish diocesan ministry is not enough. We don’t send the poor or those seeking Communion to assigned parishes. You might consider exploring this theme in future articles in America.
Embrace Learners of English
Re “Filling Empty Seats,” by Anthony J. Zavagnin (10/31): As a coordinator of the program for English as a new language at the University of Notre Dame, I too have been witnessing the phenomenon of increasing numbers of international students in Catholic schools. We work with Catholic teachers to improve their expertise in instructing learners of English, and in recent years there has been a notable increase in high school educators participating in our program precisely because they want to better meet the needs of the international students in their classrooms. The challenges noted by Mr. Zavagnin are consistent with the stories we hear from our teachers who serve in schools across the country.
It’s important, however, that readers understand the greater landscape of which these international students are a part. English learners are the single fastest growing population of students in the United States. Approximately 80 percent of English learners in the United States speak Spanish as their native language, and an overwhelming number of those Spanish-speaking students are Catholic. Ensuring that English learners thrive in our schools is vital. It has long been a legacy of Catholic schools in America and is a challenge we should embrace, not run away from.
Not Very Helpful
Re “Hate.Net” by James Martin, S.J. (10/31): We know quite a lot about human behavior now, and we realize how much of it is shaped. If the church has told us that we should defend the faith (and this has been my experience), clergy should offer appropriate techniques and parameters of the defense. Most people have to figure it out for themselves and, online, “primitive” people seem to emerge. Name-calling is the easiest kind of humiliation and says, “You are an idiot and I am not like you.” Not very helpful.
Lob the Grenade
Father Martin, you are so, so right. But I'm not sure Catholics are different from others. The comments on many news stories have the same kind of reactions. So many people just feel angry all the time. And they want to hurt someone because it hurts them so much. All the better that they can lob their grenade and escape without being reproached. If you want a real firestorm, say something about gun control and hashtag it.
It's not just Catholics. Something about social media gives latent bullies the courage to say things they would never say in person. Just take a look at the political scene this year. When many (otherwise mild-mannered) women and men sit down and type out their meanest inclinations, they are overcome by a sense of empowerment to annihilate an opposing point of view.
I read the impassioned endorsement of Catholic education by Matt Malone, S.J. (Of Many Things, 10/24) very carefully, and felt sad for the good, faithful Catholic parents who will read that article, and whose children are not enrolled in Catholic schools. By tying Catholic education to the realization of “God's dream of us all,” I can't help but think of the many Catholic families for which Catholic school simply isn't an option: families with a child who needs specialized educational services that Catholic schools cannot provide, families who cannot afford Catholic schooling because of unemployment, family illness or other economic realities, families who don't have access to a Catholic school, families who opt for the local public school because it's the best educational option for their children.
Might the parish’s religious education programs, situated firmly in the life of the parish, also be able to claim that they “cultivate a distinctly Catholic culture,” “nourishing imagination, allowing our children...to dream” and help children “realize God's dream for us all: so to live a life in faith, hope and love in a just and prosperous world”?
The future of the Catholic Church depends on strong Catholic schools and, going by the numbers, on strong religious education programs. Both should be diligently supported and recognized as equally wonderful, albeit different options for delivering the moral and ethical qualities that are needed today.
Faith and Reason
This is far more than a paean to Catholic education. It is a stirring call to Catholics and non-Catholics to use their education in the service of solving today's problems. They are not intractable.
That Irishman who asked, “Why not?” also cautioned against an over-reliance on our gross domestic product. saying “it measures everything...except that which makes life worthwhile.”
With a true liberal education and wisdom gained through pain, that Irishman had a moral imagination that helped him clear away the materialistic clutter that often blinds us.
He, a student for a time of the Benedictine monks, blended faith and reason (and action) as he sought to make life just and gentle. In the words of Pope Francis, that Irishman—Robert F. Kennedy—decried indifference, which seems to have taken away our ability to weep for the poor and oppressed.
So a round of applause for all those who see that faith and reason are conjoined friends, and let us pray that our leaders once again will embrace those qualities for the common good.
Watering the Seeds
Re: “Third Party Revolution,” by Ross McCullough (10/24): Though the choices for president from the two major parties trouble many, that the author misses so critical a feature of a meaningful third party is astonishing.
Consider Teddy Roosevelt, Ralph Nader and Ross Perot; then consider the candidate leading the American Solidarity Party McCullough recommends. Each of the first three, before mounting a presidential bid,had a national profile, a national following and financial resources. No matter how attractive their platform might be, as far as I've been able to determine, the American Solidarity Party is essentially nowhere beyond its online presence. Until they do the groundwork, a vote for them is as much a throw-away a vote as Mr. McCullough insists a vote for Donald J. Trump or Hillary Clinton is.
In his dismay that the masses hold to a myth that their vote matters, Mr. McCullough could have been more persuasive had he proposed that no one other than residents of the "king-maker" states bother to vote. Going forward, better if he invests his skills in the task of watering the seeds and culling the weeds of a nascent alternative party rather than grasping at an imaginary reap-ready harvest.
Inspiration and Scripture
Re: “The Word,” by John W. Martens (10/24): It seems to me that Dr. Martens has addressed the doctrine of God's inspiration and scripture when he writes: “Each [biblical] text was written by human authors who ‘made use of their powers and abilities’ and with God ‘acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which he wanted.’” Thanks for your writing each week. I have found your reflections on the Sunday readings inspirational! God's blessings Dr. Martens, in your work and ministry.