A Spirituality of Hope
Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right thing? These questions are my constant companions in my personal life and in relation to Casa Romero's mission. St. Ignatius asks us to assume God's vantage point of looking upon the expanse of the world and the situation of all people and later poses a similar set of questions: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?
People of faith have forever nurtured the spiritual formation of people in the hope that they will carry those lessons very tangibly into t;he public square and work to create a world that we Christians would describe as a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, or the world that Jesus envisioned. I have given much of my life to this project.
But Saint Oscar Romeo challenges me, and I think us, to consider whether this is often an incomplete response. Through the suffering of many people both in our communities and throughout the world, I imagine God working hard to capture our attention and trying to elicit a fuller response.
No, we cannot right every injustice, but have I chosen a response that is just a little too comfortable? Am I overly optimistic about the rightness and efficacy of my good deeds?
I don't know the answer to these questions, but they are in a very good way, disquieting for me personally and in regards to the future mission of Casa Romero. I hope they are challenging for you as well. I would welcome your reflections.
To enrich this consideration, I have asked two great and generous souls to share their thoughts. Valencia does great work at Casa Romero in shaping hearts and minds. Barb gives her life to the more immediate concerns of preventing injustices from being inflicted upon the immigrants that Scripture calls us to welcome.
Shape Hearts and Minds for Tomorrow
At Casa Romero, we aim to shape the hearts and minds of young people one retreat at a time. Many of the middle schools we serve are in the inner city where students are affected by poverty, segregation and associated family programs. Our youth appreciate having a safe place to share with peers, release their emotions, reconcile with their friends, and learn to make positive choices. Casa Romero offers a sense of hope to people through intentional listening, understanding, and sharing our personal experiences with them. A key step in this process is the Ignatian practice of placing ourselves within a Gospel story to help encounter and understand Jesus' heart.
During a recent 8th grade retreat activity, girls were challenged to look into a mirror and affirm themselves. Melissa struggled with this activity because she cold not find anything she liked about herself. Through her tears, Melissa spoke about how her mom did not want her because she was not proud of the circumstances under which she was born. During our retreat, she was able to share her story. The other girls were able to comfort her and affirm her. We listened to her, prayed for her and gave her hope during a time when she needed it. In this way, we planted a seed of hope that she can grow and cultivate to share with others - on her way to becoming strong, loving and wise.
-Valencia Laws is Casa Romero's Youth Programs Director. Valencia and her husband, Jonathan, are proud parents of Eli and are eagerly awaiting the birth of their second child.
Prevent Harm Today
I knew little of Catholic Social Teaching until a Marquette University faculty member spent a recent afternoon discussing it with us. Somehow, through all my years of Catholic education, this brilliant aspect of Catholic thought escaped mention. But for a group of beleaguered immigration attorneys it was like manna in the desert. We have spent last year seeing our clients in immigration law harm the most vulnerable. Domestic violence, victims, abused children and those seeking protection from persecution are treated as though they chattel. But anyone who knows our clients knows that they are decent, kind, strong and smart. Many may not have much formal education but never confuse an education with being smart.
The seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching speak eloquently of what each of our attorneys believes; Catholic Social Teaching speaks to why each of us loves what we do each day. It speaks of our affirmative duties to other people. We have the exceptional privilege of being able to help clients navigate the almost endless immigration maze and to come out the other end with lawful status. With this they can leave society's margins and find work to support themselves and their families. We can take stands against unjust laws and help immigrants find what justice is available. We can help society to recognize an immigrant's innate dignity through outreach and education.
From time to time it may feel like we are banging our heads against a wall, a very expensive wall at that. But Catholic Social Teaching reminds us of why we love doing it.
-Atty. Barbara Grahm is the Director of Legal Services for Immigrants, a program of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.