October 2020 Newsletter

Immigration Justice

“We need to take children.” 

So opened a recent article in the New York Times chronicling the widely-reported (and much-maligned) policy shift that unfolded over the course of spring and summer 2018 regarding undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers on the US – Mexico border.  During the implementation window of what became known as “child separation,” thousands of children in detention centers were removed from the custody of their parents or guardians; just last week, the Times reported that 545 still have not been reunited with their families.   

Immigration justice is a central theme in the Catholic tradition and yet there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding among Catholics about this critical topic.  CFJ is pleased to launch a new resource page devoted to helping our followers to deepen their understanding of our Catholic call to “share the journey” of our migrant brothers and sisters.   

Up to and including his latest encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis has spoken often and with great clarity on the importance of welcoming the stranger, particularly when it comes to immigrants and refugees.  Most recently, he referred to the US policy of child separation as “cruelty of the highest form.”  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released several guiding documents on our shared responsibility to care for migrants and refugees; it has resoundingly denounced recent policy shifts related to the worsening situation on the border as “ineffective” and “immoral.”  Thought leaders like Sr. Norma Pimentel, Fr. James Martin, SJ and others consistently point to the ways in which current US policy is antithetical to the Church’s pro-life commitment. 

Based on our own border immersion experiences, CFJ is particularly passionate about this issue.  We have facilitated two BorderworX programs in May and November 2019, to McAllen, TX and Brownsville, TX/Matamoros, Mexico respectively. You can read more about our trip to McAllen here and more about Brownsville/Matamoros here.  Several staff and organizational friends participated in the Catholic Day of Action in Newark, NJ – one of many demonstrations across the country to protest inhumane immigration policies.  We were proud to host Sr. Norma Pimentel in November 2019 as the distinguished guest at our Magdalene Circle event.               

Despite the clarity of Church teaching on immigration, there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding among Catholics about how our faith compels us to respond.  This is because immigration (and in particular the current situation on our southern border) is wildly complex and hotly-debated.  It can be hard to separate fact from rhetoric. 

This page is not intended to be exhaustive, but is designed to get you started in “sharing the journey” with our immigrant brothers and sisters.  It includes articles, writings, films, podcasts, books, speeches, artistic depictions, and actions you can take. 

Please share other resources with us that you have come across and found helpful. We are all together in this sacred work of building a beloved community.        

September 2020 Newsletter

A Catholic’s Call to Vote

This year has been rife with challenges, from a global pandemic to a heightened awareness and media coverage of our country’s many injustices. All of this has happened against the backdrop of the upcoming presidential election.

Activists on both sides of the political spectrum, including many Catholic leaders, are engaged in efforts to amplify the vote. While the daily deluge of political information can be exhausting and confusing, it is important to remember that the act of voting is an essential component of what the USCCB describes as “faithful citizenship.”

According to the guiding document “Faithful Citizenship,” “bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.” By electing specific candidates, a Catholic is recognizing the moral quality of their decision, which further shapes the community in which they live. 

While voting is necessary, it is not always easy. As Cardinal Joseph Tobin stated in a recent panel discussion: “Neither political party fully represents the Catholic moral tradition … The problem is that we have to vote. We should vote.” It is natural to feel as though certain issues are not being discussed with the weight and seriousness they deserve. But just as voting helps further the formation of one’s conscience, it helps to further the formation of one’s community as well. By voting, Catholics can express which issues are important to them, and can therefore change policy – and one’s community – for the better.

For additional information and resources, check out:

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (full text)

Election 2020 (Coverage from America Magazine)

Nuns on the Bus 2020 Virtual Tour

Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching

Continued Success for NeXt Level

Even during these uncertain times, CFJ’s newest intiative, NeXt Level, continued with great momentum! Created in 2019, NeXt Level is a parish-based initiative for high school youth along with adult mentors to create and implement “passion projects” in response to social issue(s). Under normal circumstances, this program includes community gatherings, interactive retreats, and a weeklong service immersion experience in Trenton, NJ called Level Up.

Of course, 2020 has been far from “normal” in most respects and CFJ had to cancel most of its traditional programming. NeXt Level is unique enough, though, to allow us to improvise and innovate. We were able to modify the Level Up immersion to instead incorporate small parish-based experiences for youth and their mentors. Each retreat focused on leadership development, Catholic social teaching, community building, deepening of faith, responding to social injustices, and the importance of adaptability in difficult times.

“One year after our first immersion retreat, Next Level was another transformative and eye-opening experience. Our mentors challenged our team to step out of our comfort zones in all the best ways. They encouraged us to use our voices, equipped us with new servant leadership skills, and strengthened our bond with each other; all of this growth will continue to improve our passion project for the community and we cannot wait for what is to come!”  —  Angela, youth delegate, St. Augustine of Canterbury (Kendall Park, NJ)

“I am the most excited about the relationships that will be nourished during the next year. The plan to serve, grow, and replenish our community with love, hope, and justice.” — Alan, mentor, Christ Our Light (Cherry Hill, NJ)

“Peace of Mind (NeXt Level passion project) is extremely important in my life. I feel I’ve grown in many things, including speaking, connecting with others, and formulating ideas and teachings and sharing them with others. This has changed my life for the better, and I am so blessed to be a part of this awesome group. I’ve become a better person, a better Catholic, and a better leader!” — John Michael, youth delegate St. Augustine of Canterbury (Kendall Park, NJ)

Stay tuned over the next few months to hear highlights from our eight NeXt Level parishes to see what they are doing to meet the needs of their respective communities.

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