Our Readers Respond


God’s gardener

A friend of ours passed last week. I will reference him only by his first name, Dimas. Dimas, in historical terms, is derived from the name Dismas, the good thief who died on the cross with Jesus. Dismas the good thief is the patron saint of so many people because Our Lord chose him as a symbol of His mercy.

I felt moved to comment on his final farewell that was probably one of the most beautiful that I have ever experienced. His obituary gives a glimpse into his life: a construction laborer for more than 30 years who had a passion for gardening and enjoyed spending time in his backyard where he grew countless varieties of plants, trees, and flowers.

The prayer card given to all at the funeral home is the most beautiful I have ever seen because of the poem “God’s Garden.” A few words taken from this poem continue the life of Dimas: “God looked around His garden, and found an empty place. He put His arms around you and lifted you to rest. God’s garden must be beautiful He always takes the best.”

Like the full garden Dimas enjoyed at home, this funeral home was also full with loving family and friends. His three children certainly contributed to this blossoming of love.

The church was also a full house. One could only ask, “Who was this man who was so loved?” Grandchildren were the readers, accompanied to the lectern by one of the sons dressed in formal Army uniform. How touching a scene was this? As the old saying goes, “You had to be there to understand.”

The homily from the priest was so appropriate, also mentioning that in God’s House there are many different rooms, just as in the garden of Dimas there were so many different plants, trees and flowers, all giving glory to God.

I love violin music, and we were treated to the most beautiful violin music during the Mass. There was no traditional eulogy from a family member, instead there was a solo violin tribute from a life-long family friend, who played the “Ave Maria.” Wow. Our hearts soared to Heaven during this tribute, and tears watered our cheeks as water from the hands of Dimas must have watered his plants and flowers.

A long line of mourners took him to his final resting place in Notre Dame Cemetery, aptly named for the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the music of the “Ave Maria” still ringing in our ears.

Daryl Gonyon
Fall River


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Sharing the American Dream

Let’s change the conversation about immigration. It’s hard not to hear the negative narrative today about the would-be immigrants who wait at our southern borders. As people of faith, how do we respond to these negative messages? As members of Pax Christi at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, we have been wrestling with this issue.

It is important to recognize the contributions and achievements of immigrants and realize the importance of welcoming talented and hardworking individuals from around the globe. Most immigrants have had to struggle through hardships to create opportunities for themselves. They are hardworking people of good character who value family life. Unfortunately, unauthorized immigrants tend to live in the shadows, while a few notorious immigrants make the news and infect public opinion. It is important to keep in perspective that violence and social problems are caused by a small minority. 

Immigrants also come with talents and skills. They are founders of high-tech companies, inventors and small business owners. A study by Sari and William Kerr in the Harvard Business Review notes that immigrants account for about one-quarter of entrepreneurs and inventors, even though they represent only about 15 percent of the U.S. workforce. (1) Immigrants have also excelled in sports, the arts and other fields as well. Foreign-born journalists, entrepreneurs, entertainers, teachers and public safety personnel are part of the fabric of our society. We have favorite restaurants featuring ethnic foods of every description. 

Newcomers contribute to the economy by producing goods and by being consumers.  They have the potential to grow the economy. They are often willing to take jobs that others would not want. According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, 85 percent of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy are handpicked by farmworkers, many of whom are immigrants. (2) 

Undocumented immigrants pay at least seven billion dollars in Social Security taxes. They also contribute an estimated $11.64 billion in state and local taxes. (3) Many people think that unauthorized immigrants get welfare and public health insurance benefits. This is not true. Federal law requires that even legal immigrants must wait five years for these benefits. (4) 

As Catholic Christians, we believe in the God-given dignity of each person. We are called to welcome the stranger and have compassion on those in need. How shall we treat those who come to the U.S seeking a safe place to raise their families, a living wage and the opportunity for a better life? Are these not the hopes and dreams all of us share? The current group of Central American asylum seekers are fleeing violence, rape, gangs and drug cartels on top of crushing poverty. They are risking everything in hope of entry to the U.S., even their very lives.

Internationally, the developing countries have taken in most of the world’s refugees, despite limited resources. U.S. policies have severely limited acceptance of refugee populations, while we can afford to accommodate them. In our Christian Scriptures, even the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt to protect the life of the child Jesus. Like most refugees, they did not have many options. 

Pope Francis has urged us to especially remember the plight of migrant children: “Among migrants, children constitute the most vulnerable group, because as they face the life ahead of them, they are invisible and voiceless: their precarious situation deprives them of documentation, hiding them from the world’s eyes; the absence of adults to accompany them prevents their voices from being raised and heard.” (5) We are called to welcome, protect, promote and integrate newcomers. We need to keep families together and support them as they enter and adjust to a radically new life.

We have much to gain from opening our doors to immigrants. When we are talking with others about this issue, we should interject positive comments and not perpetuate the negative narrative. It is time to put aside fear and selfishness, and to share the American dream. 

Jane M. Griffin
Elaine L’Etoile
Linda Johnston
Sheila M. Matthews
Elizabeth Monteiro
Members of Pax Christi,
National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette

References:
1. Sari Pekkala Kerr and William R. Kerr, “Immigrants Play a DisproportionateRole in American Entrepreneurship,” Harvard Business Review, Oct. 3, 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/10/immigrants-play-a -disproportionate-role-in-american-entrepreneurship.
2. National Center for Farmworker Health, “DemographicsFact Sheet,” January 2016, http://www.ncfh.org/uploads/3/8/6/8/38685499/naws_ncfh_factsheet_demographics_final_revised_.pdf.
3. Lisa Christensen Gee, Matthew Gardner, and Meg Wiehe, “Undocumented Immigrants, State and Local Tax Contributions, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy,” https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/immigration2016.pdf.
4. Public Law 104-193 “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996,” Aug. 22, 1996, https://www.congress.gov/104/plaws/publ193/PLAW-104publ193.pdf.
5. Pope Francis, 2017 World Day of Migrants and Refugees Message, Sept. 8, 2016.


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Editor’s note: The following letter is the summation of the thoughts and suggestions of a group of parishioners who met several times to discuss the scourge of Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church.

On Aug. 21, 2018, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., of the Fall River Diocese wrote a letter to the people of the diocese in response to a “Letter to the People of God” by Pope Francis about the abuse of power and suffering brought about by clerical sexual abuse perpetuated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons within the Church. The letter was shared that weekend by Father James Fitzpatrick at all the parish Masses.

Bishop da Cunha’s letter came at the time of the revelations regarding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury.

Father Fitzpatrick suggested that we take the conversation away from the Sunday Mass setting and gather on the following Wednesday evening in the lower church for coffee and discussion of the abuse crisis. So, on August 29, 45 parishioners and friends gathered for a “spirited” discussion.

The two-hour discussion was an opportunity for Catholics to air their feelings, concerns, anger, questions, and disbelief of how this could be happening within the Church they have been so faithful to all their lives. Father Fitzpatrick facilitated the evening. Although he did not attempt a “presentation” on the abuse crisis, he presented some points for conversation. All were in agreement that while apologies, letters of empathy and pledges to do more were nice, there never seems to be a resolution to the pandemic. It was decided that we meet again in another month, this time to discuss ways for the Church to take steps that will assure Church members that the hierarchy is serious in its intent to bring justice to the victims and accountability to the abusers and those who covered up the sin of abuse.

On September 26, the group met again. We spoke about updates since the McCarrick case broke and that attorneys general are beginning to pay attention to the status of clergy abuse within their own states. Here are some of the “concrete” actions the Church might employ in order to give some assurance to Catholics who seek a more transparent Church of the future:

— Vetting candidates for the episcopacy should include input from lay people to assure that a candidate brings a blameless reputation to the office.

— A letter of resignation should be submitted to the pope by any bishop or cardinal who either has been accused of abuse or who has knowingly transferred a priest who he has known to have abused. The resignation should be accepted.

— Civil authorities should assume diocesan investigations in abuse and cover-up cases. The Church has failed to show its ability to police itself in the matter of clergy sexual abuse.

— A priest who is accused, who is later found to be innocent, should be reinstated as a priest, so as to regain his rightful reputation.

— The Dallas Charter of 2002 should be amended to include all bishops and cardinals, so as to be held to the same accountability as priests who are accused of abuse.

These are the conclusions reached by the group of concerned Catholics who wish that the Church of the future be the way, the truth, and the life.

Parishioners and Friends of
St. Louis de France Parish
Swansea


How many Catholic Church’s are there within 4.8 miles of my home?

I like to jog. On my adventures on the road, if I come across a Catholic church, I like to make the Sign of the Cross on my head. I began to realize that I was doing this multiple times during the same run. One night, I began to wonder how many Catholic churches were close to my house. I did some research on masstimes.org and set the search for 5.0 miles from my house. I was amazed. I was so dumbfounded, that I have been quizzing friends and family and regularly get answers like three, five, 12 and even 18. All wrong. There are 26 Catholic churches within 4.8 miles of my house. This does not count parishes that have shut down or even those that have burnt down. What a great heritage we have been given. What opportunity to nourish our faith. I pondered the idea of Masses options this gives me the opportunity to attend. Can I find a Mass that works for me?

On any given weekday, I can access Mass morning, noon and night. On most every day there are 15 different daily Mass start time options within five miles of my house. I can attend as early as 6:45 a.m. at Holy Ghost in Central Falls and as late as 7 p.m. at St. Theresa’s in South Attleboro on Wednesdays. If I extend my zone out to seven miles, I can attend Mass at Providence College Chapel at 9 p.m. just about every night of the week.

Sunday Mass options are even more impressive. There is something for everyone and nearly a Mass every hour on the hour. There are a total of 85 Sunday Masses with 22 different start times within the 27-hour window of time between 4 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday, including Masses in Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, and Creole. There are options for Roman, Latin and Melkite rites.

Remember, this is only 4.8 hours from my house in South Attleboro. Let’s up our game this Advent and start to get to Mass in order to grow closer to God. The opportunity is there.

Shawn Seybert
South Attleboro


We are all disgraced

Father Roger Landry’s article in the September 12 issue of The Anchor was forthright and comforting in that it was chock full of truisms. It didn’t gloss over the most egregious scandal plaguing the entire Roman Catholic community of millions and was a valiant effort at consolation for the demoralized.

Nevertheless, with that said, quoting directly from that piece: “Failure to address the larger context of the sexual abuse of minors would be to repeat the inadequacies of the U.S. bishops’ response in Dallas in 2002, which partially led to the problem we’re facing in 2018,” and reflecting on these words, is there any reason whatsoever to assume that the laity can now blindly believe that anything is really going to change? All of the lip service up to this point has been nothing but flatulence. 

We the faithful have endured a lifetime of catechism (now known as CCD) classes) homilies, Bible study, retreats, etc. and have been imbued with guilt over run-of-the-mill transgressions (i.e. lying to our parents, missing Mass on Sunday, lust in our hearts, extra-marital affairs with consenting adults, divorce, even in the case of an abusive spouse because “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” Mk 10:9) — and then somehow now to be expected to accept horrific behavior coupled with cover-ups by higher-ups, which incidentally have been used to euphemistically describe the real issue. Suppressed is the reality of it.

As faithful followers and as a community we are all now disgraced and incensed by these actions. Therefore in these trying times, my trust lies solidly with the old proverb: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Jeanne L. Richard
Taunton


What would Jesus do?

All I can say is — finally! Father Roger Landry’s column about the clergy scandals (Sept. 21 edition) addressed, among other points, a seeming lack of anger among many leaders in the Church. His response is the first I’ve read that feels authentic. And Father Landry is correct — there is a “lack of sufficient horror at what has been done.”

According to associate professor of Theology Shelly Rambo, “The trauma survivor occupies a space like Holy Saturday, between life and death, between an ending and a beginning.” Further Rambo writes, “the gloss of redemption is the greatest enemy to those who survive trauma; it provides a promise often unaccompanied by forms of life that can deliver on that promise.” For some perpetrators there is a statute of limitations. Not so for survivors.

Church leaders should also be aware that these heinous crimes cast a long shadow. The media coverage of the scandal, as in all coverage of sexual abuse cases, can be a trigger for other sexual abuse survivors. So the damage is more far-reaching than one might imagine.

There is no undoing what has been done. But to move forward there has got to be more than words such as “transparency” and “accountability” in church newsletters. There has to be action — swift removal and appropriate legal judgment of perpetrators, a willingness to listen to victims and their families until they feel heard, and healing services to provide some semblance of solace. Perhaps the leaders of the Church might ask themselves — What would Jesus do?

Joan C. Borgatti
Pocasset




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