This Week: The Glass is More Than Half Empty

 

This week the glass is more than half empty for me!

After the devastation caused last week by natural disasters, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and by the student stabbings in the Bronx, I, like so many others, am deeply pained.

I spent a good part of this week working on how Catholic Charities of NY might be of support for the individuals and families suffering in Puerto Rico.  Some of my time was spent talking with elected officials and staff in Washington D.C., other time with nonprofit and business leaders. Both the sadness and resolve was intense. 
 
Particularly strong prayer and solidarity goes out to one of our NY Catholic Charities affiliates, the NY Foundling.  The destruction in Puerto Rico hits especially close to home for this agency that serves nearly 1,500 children through Head Start and Early Head Start programs at 42 locations throughout the island. I have spoken with them and heard the sadness, hurt and concern for “our families” and also the immediate response and action they are taking. We are committed to figuring out the best way to lend our support.  Fortunately, we have a well-established relationship with Catholic Charities – (Caritas) of Puerto Rico.  While suffering themselves, they are there on the ground and positioned to help. We have talked with them and are arranging help and support through a number of partnerships.

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Closing Riker’s Island and Prison Reform

JoAnne Page & Liza Jessie Peterson

On this week’s episode of JustLove, Monisgnor Sullivan speaks with two guests focused on the Closing of Riker’s Island and issues surrounding Prison Reform:

Calling into the studio, JoAnne Page, President CEO of The Fortune Society a New York City-based non-profit that advocates for and provides services to the formerly incarcerated. On the show Msgr. and JoAnne talk about recent discussions surrounding the closure of Riker’s Island – New York City’s 413 acre facility administered by the Department of Corrections where on any given day 9,500 people – the bulk of the city’s prisoners. They also discuss how feasible the plans to close Riker’s Island are, and what priorities should drive this initiative if it is truly to benefit and rehabilitate those behind bars.

Poet, Playwright, and Educator, Liza Jessie Peterson joins Monsignor in the Studio. Liza Jessie Peterson has dedicated over 15 years of her life to teaching creative writing and poetry to incarcerated youth, including those held on Riker’s Island; Liza is also the writer and performer of the one-woman play “The Peculiar Patriot” – which is now playing at the at the National Black Theatre in Harlem. The story  follows’ the protagonist – Betsy LaQuanda Ross – over a series of visits to incarcerated friends where she shares family milestones and neighborhood gossip while revealing a shrewd indictment of the criminal justice system. Msgr. Sullivan and Liza talked about her inspiration for writing and performing “The Peculiar Patriot” which sprung from her own experiences and observations from working in and around the prison system.

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Responding in Charity to Successive Storms

Kim Burgo & Fred Parrella

On this episode of JustLove Monsignor Sullivan will discuss both the recovery efforts taking place in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, as well in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. He will speak about the changing context of marriage and family.

Calling in to the studio is Kim Burgo Vice President for Disaster Response Operations for Catholic Charities USA. She will be talking about the impact that Hurricane Harvey has had on coastal Texas and its surrounding areas as well as the impact that Hurricane Irma has had on the Florida how Catholic Charities USA is helping local Catholic Charities agencies respond to the storms, and how listeners can help as well.

Joining in the studio is Fred Parrella,  a Professor of Moral Theology in the Department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. Msgr. Sullivan and Professor Parrella will be talking about the changing context of marriage and family.

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In Honor of 4th of July Family Picnics & BBQ’s

One aspect of the administration’s executive order on the travel ban against nationals from certain countries merits special 4th of July attention, viz. what is a bona fide family relationship?

After the recent Supreme Court decision[1], the administration issued guidelines that interpreted a bona fide (real) family relationship to include parents, children and siblings. They left out grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts and cousins. They also initially excluded fiancées, but then subsequently included them. By that action alone, the administration demonstrated that there is discretion in the interpretation of a bona fide family relationship.

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This July 4th Weekend: Pledge Allegiance to One Another

The following message was sent to our Catholic Charities network for the 4th of July weekend.

Capitol of the United States

Capitol of the United States

Allow me a word of appreciation and thanks for all you do to make our world a better place – each, in your own way, as trustee, staff, volunteer, donor, or friend. 

I attach my own picture of the Capitol of the United States from the visit I made two days ago with Catholic Charities people from throughout NYS to visit with members of Congress and convey to them the need to enact policies and budgets that give due consideration to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.  Included among our discussions were Catholic Charities’ wide areas of concern: children and youth, those with addictions, the hungry and families needing affordable places to live, immigrants who are feeling particularly anxious and those dealing with emotional and physical challenges.

In light of this visit, and as we approach the 4th of July weekend, I am reminded that the title of the Declaration of Independence is both accurate and partially misleading.  It is accurate in that it is a declaration.  And, it is true that it declared the colonies’ independence from England.  Yet, the title can also be misleading because it fails to capture the values embedded in its non-severable concluding paragraph: God, honor, and solidarity:

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Continue reading

Diversity Reigns

Catholic Charities is a the center of building a more just and compassionate society. We engage in a wide range of activities and interact with many different people.

Here’s a collage for this week –

  1. Twelve consul generals from Latin American countries meet at the Catholic Charities Community Services Immigration and Refugee Resettlement offices. (Top Left)

  2.  Evi Siskos from Telemundo was the MC for Astors Services Junior Gala at the Supreme Courthouse in lower Manhattan. (Top Right)

  3.  Zoe Saldana was taping her guest satellite radio appearance in the same Sirius studios that JustLove was taping.  Here’s a picture of her as she was leaving. (Bottom Left)

  4. Two talented Catholic Charities immigration attorneys from our expert legal team. (Bottom Middle)

  5.  On the same day as Pres. Trump’s Executive Order on religious liberty, the Becket Fund held its annual dinner.  This photo demonstrates the breathe of religious freedom issues in the United States. (Bottom Right)

Hope & Holiness in Erbil

Day 3 in Iraq

Today’s visit to the school for children displaced from Mosul was more celebratory with the presence of Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Warda and Bishop Murphy.  An assembly of more than 440 students gathered in the central square of the school accompanied by marching music. CNEWA’s head Msgr. Kozar made sure that the visitors experienced the uplifting spirit of the school that the Dominican Sisters infuse every day. The deeply spiritual atmosphere of the school is exemplified by the volunteer French catechist and her Iraqi translator who teach the children how to pray to Jesus. CNEWA support and spirit are essential to making the school so successful.

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Hope & Courage Amidst Suffering & Persecution

Day 2 in Iraq

In the morning, we visited one of the medical clinics and refugee camps in Erbil.  The camp is overseen by one of the local priests and the Dominican Sisters are actively present.  The clinic is supported by and was built with the assistance of CNEWA.  More than 90 children are seen at the pediatric clinic each day.  Hundreds of adults are seen and administered other medical services at the clinic. 

The camp holds more than 1,200 families – most living in their own trailer.  Some families are doubled up.  About 50 families are living in single room containers in a large warehouse type building. While this is a refugee “camp,” it appears more like a makeshift “village.”  Families try to make the best of the situation – redecorating and renovating their trailers to suit their individual family needs.  Some small businesses have opened and are selling basic necessities.  In the “village,” more than 400 young people are preparing for their First Communion.  Continue reading

Education: A Path to Dignity for Christian Refugees

My First Day in Iraq

On the first day of a mission with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Cardinal Dolan I had an opportunity to visit both an elementary school and a university in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq.  Both were only built and opened within the past year to deal with the exodus of Christians fleeing the onslaught of ISIS around Mosul beginning in the summer of 2014. 

These photos reflect the vibrancy of both sites as their very existence brings dignity and hope to those being educated at these schools.   The Dominican Sisters operate the elementary school that is strongly supported by CNEWA and a number of other Catholic humanitarian and pastoral aid organizations.  The University is a public university that CNEWA has provided assistance in the form of furnishings and a generator.  It educates both Christian and Muslim students, men and women together for degrees in the humanities and business. Continue reading