Response to Migrant Crisis
On Friday, September 16th, I issued a statement in response to the unexpected arrival of migrants on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, September 14th. I began with the Gospel of St. Matthew, where Jesus makes quite clear how we are to care for strangers: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Mt 25:35).
This mandate was clearly evident in the inspiring response of the Martha’s Vineyard community as a whole to the plight of some 50 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, who were literally left stranded on the island on Wednesday. Shelter, food, and basic needs assistance were quickly provided in accord with the dignity due all migrants, who are -first and foremost- our sisters and brothers in the human family regardless of birthplace or legal status.
Last Friday, the state relocated the migrants from the island to a military base on Cape Cod. Susan Mazzarella, who directs our Catholic Charities-Diocese of Fall River (Catholic Social Services), and members of the agency’s staff were there to help welcome them and to assist state officials. Two staff members are bilingual and were able to help with translations; other staff served meals and worked on acquiring toiletries, clothing, and other personal items for the migrants, and the Catholic Charities immigration attorney was on hand too to assist as needed.
The Diocese is also ensuring that pastoral service is available to these migrants. As a sign of our care and concern not only for their physical well-being but for their spiritual well-being as well, I will be visiting them and celebrating Mass for them at the military base on Cape Cod this coming Sunday afternoon. Moving forward, Catholic Charities is offering its resources to the agencies now leading the state’s response to continue to provide support in any way they are able.
These newcomers to our area have endured a difficult journey, and the challenges they face are many. Our welcome to them must be marked by respect and compassion and be coupled with our prayers for them in the weeks and months ahead.
Parish Leader Convocation
We were blessed by the presentations given at the September 10th Parish Leader Convocation by Deacon Bob Rice, who reminded us of the need to rely on Christ for everything we desire to do, particularly in bringing the Good News to those we minister to in our Diocese. Most importantly, to do so with joy and peace this world cannot give, modeling the faith and the hope we have in Jesus by our lives. In today’s blog, I wish to share my remarks offered during the Convocation.
In the movie Apollo 13, there is a famous scene where we hear the line, “Houston, we have a problem.” In a recent New York Times article, Max Fisher asked the question, “Is the World Really Falling Apart, or Does It Just Feel That Way?” While the world has experienced many tribulations in the last few months and years, trials in the world are not new. The Church has survived crisis after crisis in its over two-thousand-year history. The faithful of our Diocese hold an essential role in planting seeds of faith that will produce incredible fruit over time.
When we proclaim Christ by our lives, we make a difference. Going back to another scene in the movie Apollo 13, after one man declares, “This is the worst disaster NASA has ever seen.” Another man answers, ‘With all due respect, sir, I believe this will be our finest hour.” For us, spreading the Good News as joyful evangelizers, equipped as ministers and catechists to share the faith in this new day, we can be part of the Church’s finest hour.
We cannot ignore the growing secularization of our society, and many do not recognize the need for ritual, the sacred, or even for God. People are influenced by technology and modern life and think it is enough, but we know it is not enough. We can play a significant role and nourish the next generation’s faith so they can come to know and experience Christ’s love for them.
Religion is local. The parish is where everything happens, and we need to create ones that are alive—welcoming, reaching out, and not waiting for people to come to our doors but inviting in everyone. Our Liturgies should feel enriched, encouraging, and inspired. They should be prayerful and Gospel-centered. The laity must work alongside our priests to bring the shift back to focus on what is truly important in our world–embracing a life of faith and being a Eucharistic people. Using our gifts and talents, we can restore credibility to the Church, witness our faith beyond the Church’s doors, and make this world a better place as it encounters Christ in every one of us.
We cannot do it alone; it will require each and every one of us to rely on the grace of God. We know we cannot rely on ourselves—only through the grace of God can we succeed in our ministries. I chose for my episcopal motto, “Suffict tibi gratia mea” [My grace is enough for you]. These words echo those spoken by the Lord when St. Paul was encountering difficulties, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). While our Church may grow smaller, we can be assured the faithful will grow stronger by leaning on the grace of God.
Thank you all for your faith, your witness, your perseverance, and all that you do to bring the Gospel alive to other people so that they may encounter Jesus Through Good Deeds, witness, and Faith. The world needs people like you; this can truly be our finest hour.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha