Recently, the Catholic Church has been in the news. Last Friday, we were front and center in Washington, D.C. for one of the largest March for Life turnouts in recent memory. On that same day, one of the Church’s important charities, the resettlement of refugees, was impacted by the new presidential administration. And this week, Catholic Schools Week began.
While these may seem like rather disparate issues, all coming into focus in the span of just a few days, they’re not. Each one has to do with what God has taught.
That we must not kill. That we must welcome the stranger. That we must educate the ignorant and spread the faith.
In our diocese, we have very strong Pro-Life outreach. I was so pleased to be greeted by many parishioners and students from our schools who participated in the March in Washington. It was wonderful to see our people, especially our youth, walking through the nation’s capital proclaiming respect for life. One of the first groups to come up the avenue at the beginning of the march was our own parish, Mater Ecclesiae with their parish banner held high. Behind it the parishioners and their pastor prayed the rosary as they peacefully demonstrated for the sanctity of life.
In the days that followed, we again saw the Church and the community drawn together in support of refugees. I was heartened to read statements from Church leadership across the country reminding us of the importance of complying with the biblical injunction to welcome refugees. “You shall not oppress an alien,” (Exodus 23:9) New Jersey’s new Cardinal Joseph Tobin wrote, “the Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation.”
Then this week, our South Jersey Catholic Schools threw open their doors to everyone who wants to learn more about faith based education in their communities. In our schools, students are encouraged to learn the faith and to make it a central part of their daily lives. Our schools educate the whole student — mind, body and soul. I kicked off Catholic Schools Week at a prayer service at Sacred Heart School in Camden. The children prayed with lively faith and sang with youthful enthusiasm. Their pastor, Msgr. Michael Doyle, beamed as he listened to the youngsters speak about reaching out to the poor and needy in the community. What a gift this Catholic school is to the City of Camden. A place where they learn to do for the least among us. What a gift is each of our schools to South Jersey. Catholic schools need the support and encouragement of our Catholic people. Catholic education makes a difference in the lives of the students, their families and our communities.
With these three areas of our faith coalescing into one time period, I think it’s providential that last Sunday’s Gospel featured the Beatitudes. They are the perfect building block for our students and for all to understand how we Christians need to treat and act toward others.
As Catholics, we must always be on the side of right. Our actions must be for the good of all. I am so pleased that in our diocese we have many programs, ministries and services that operate from this conviction. From Catholic Charities to VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services, from our parish religious education programs, our youth and young adult programs to our Black and Hispanic ministries, we work tirelessly to serve all and to support and assist those who are in need.
This weekend, the House of Charity – Bishop’s Annual Appeal will begin. This year’s theme is Encounter the Living God, which is a perfect message for our times. It is through encounters that we understand those who are going through difficulties and that we can help them. With that understanding we are able to know what is right and what must be done. Your support of the House of Charity enables the Church to sponsor throughout the six counties of South Jersey programs, ministries, schools and Catholic Charities that encounter and assist the needy among us.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden