Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dignity is God’s gift to all

By Jeannette Arnquist
Director, Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice

The car pulled into a gas station in East Texas. It was 1959. A bored 14-year-old, I hopped out and headed for the rest rooms. I was confronted with three doors and three signs: “Men,” “Women,” and “Colored.” I knew that segregation existed in the United States and especially in the South. I had heard the stories. But as a girl from the West, I had never before seen the blatant signs. Perhaps I would not have been so shocked if there had been four doors and the signs had read “White Men,” “White Women,” “Colored Men,” and “Colored Women.” I got the implication that “Colored” were not men and women. During my seven-year stay in the South, I even heard one of my friends defend the continuation of segregation, arguing that Blacks don’t have souls.

The pre Civil Right’s Act racism in the United States was an affront to the human dignity of a whole class of people. It allowed society to dismiss Blacks as less than human, to make them “other.”

Our faith teaches us that our dignity comes from God as a gratuitous gift, not earned by our prayer, or faith or activities. This belief in dignity is the basis of the Church’s teaching that every human being deserves respect and should have the opportunity to realize his or her full potential. The way we treat others individually and as a society should be based on God’s love for them, not what they deserve.

The challenge for Catholics is to grow in our respect for all, even if they are “other” - those who perhaps are different from us or difficult for us. How do we respect the driver who endangers others on the freeway, the person who disagrees with our strongly held political opinions, the person who makes our life difficult? How do we involve ourselves in public policy discussions or decisions so as to show respect for the human dignity of all? When we look at public policy through the lens of our faith, we must be sure not to demonize individuals or classes of people. It is too easy to fall into the trap of listening to the voices that make “other” of whole classes of people such as the undocumented, gays or persons of a different political party. It helps to remember that God really does love them too!

“Human Life and Dignity: The fundamental starting point for all of Catholic social teaching is the defense of human life and dignity: every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and has an inviolable dignity, value and worth, regardless of race, gender, class or other human characteristics. … Human dignity is not something we earn by our good behavior; it is something we have as children of God.”

- Quote from Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration, USCCB 2000, p. 21

Monday, July 19, 2010

La confirmación marca un nuevo comienzo

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Junio marcó la conclusión de la temporada de confirmaciones y para mí, para el Obispo del Riego, Monseñor Wallace y el Padre Selección ha sido una vez más un privilegio y un obsequio el caminar con tantos que completan su iniciación cristiana en la Iglesia. Este año, casi 7,000 personas en nuestra diócesis fueron selladas con los dones del Espíritu Santo en el sacramento de confirmación y damos gracias a Dios por esta infusión de vida a nuestra Iglesia.

Este año me ha conmovido el espíritu entre quienes reciben la confirmación y sus familias. Están emocionados pero conservan la reverencia. La identidad católica, a la cual a menudo hacemos referencia, es el frente y el centro durante la temporada de confirmaciones. Este año he dicho que cuando veo la emoción de los padres de los confirmados, pienso que así deben sentirse los padres mormones cuando envían a sus hijos en su misión.

Estamos enviando a nuestros católicos recién confirmados a un tipo de misión, también. Al celebrar con ellos su plena iniciación en la Iglesia Católica, ruego a Dios para que vayan y sean testimonios de nuestra fe en sus familias, lugares de trabajo y comunidades. Esto es lo que significa ser católico. Vivir nuestra fe.

El año que sigue a la confirmación debe ser un tiempo para profundizar la comprensión que uno tiene de los misterios de Cristo, un periodo que llamamos la mistagogia. Puede haber muchas cosas compitiendo por nuestra tención en estos momentos: universidad, carrera, matrimonio, familia, por mencionar algunas.

Nosotros, quienes hemos acompañado a nuestros jóvenes (y algunos adultos también) hasta este punto de la jornada, no podemos asumir simplemente que “están listos.” Se les debe dar un buen recibimiento, animar y dar oportunidades, tanto formales como informales, para que practiquen nuestra fe. Ellos, junto con nosotros, deben continuar estudiando nuestra fe para que la vivan a mayor plenitud. La confirmación no es como una ceremonia de graduación. Es asumir nuestra función como testimonios de la presencia de Dios en nuestras vidas y un envío, como miembro de la Iglesia, a transformar nuestro mundo. Este mandato es para todos nosotros. Somos enviados al mundo como católicos, comprometidos a vivir nuestra vida de fe en cualquier vocación que elijamos. Debemos ser los nuevos apóstoles del Evangelio en nuestro mundo actual. Nuestra jornada no termina con la confirmación.

La analogía de aprender a montar una bicicleta funciona bien aquí. La confirmación se puede comparar con quitarle las llantitas para aprendices. Ahora comienza el verdadero viaje.
Por favor únanse a mí en oración por nuestros nuevos hermanos y hermanas en la fe. Que Dios continúe bendiciéndoles y acompañándoles en su caminar, siendo ellos un testimonio de la bondad de Dios para que las vidas de las personas se llenen de esperanza.

Confirmation marks a new beginning

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

June marked the conclusion of the confirmation season and for myself, Bishop del Riego, Monsignor Wallace and Father Seleccion it has once again been a privilege and a gift to journey with so many people completing their Christian initiation into the Church. This year, nearly 7,000 people in our diocese were sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation and we give thanks to God for this infusion of life into our local Church.

I have been moved this year by the spirit amongst those being confirmed and their families. They are excited yet reverent. Catholic identity, to which we often refer, is front and center during confirmation season. I have said this year that when I witness the excitement in the parents of those being confirmed I think that it must be how Mormon parents feel when they are sending their child out on mission.

We are sending our newly confirmed Catholics on a kind of mission, as well. As we celebrate with them their full initiation into the Catholic Church I pray that they go out and be a witness to our faith in their families, workplaces and communities. This is what it means to be Catholic. To live our faith.

The year following confirmation should be a time of deepening one’s understanding of the mysteries of Christ, a period we call the mystagogia. There can be many things competing for our attention at this time: college, career, marriage, family, just to name a few.

For those of us who have accompanied our young people (and some adults as well) to this point in the journey, we cannot simply assume that they are “good to go.” They must be welcomed, encouraged and given opportunities, both formal and informal, to practice our faith. They, together with us, must continue to study our faith so that they might live it more fully.

Confirmation is not like a graduation ceremony. It is assuming our role as witnesses to God’s presence in our lives and a sending forth, as a member of the Church, to transform our world. This mandate is for us all. We are sent into the world as Catholics, committed to live our faith life in whatever vocation we choose. We are to be the new apostles of the Gospel in our world today. Our journey does not end with confirmation.

The analogy of learning to ride a bicycle works well here. Confirmation can be likened to removing the training wheels. Now the real riding begins.
Please join me in praying for our newest brothers and sisters in the faith. May God continue to bless them and walk with them, witnessing God’s goodness so that people’s lives are filled with hope.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The parable of the Good Samaritan: a call to love and forgiveness

By Deacon Mike Jelley,
Vice Chancellor - Ecumenical Services

Some of Jesus’ stories have become so popular they are handed down from one generation to the next. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a story many of us know almost by heart.

A lawyer challenges Jesus and tries to trap him with his questions. His first loaded question is ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life.’ Now if someone asked you that question today how would answer it? “I don’t know ask Father Al,” or “Ask Deacon Mike, he thinks he knows everything!” Perhaps you might say, “Accept that Jesus paid for our sins with his life and all we have to do is turn away from sin, accept God love and follow him.”

But Jesus apparently never answered a question directly. He almost always answered a question with a question. And so he asked the lawyer, “What does the law say?” He was speaking about God’s laws as handed down to Moses, not about one of Rome’s laws, which had nothing to do with saving souls. Kind of like all our laws today, right? None of the thousands of city ordinances, or our state and federal laws help us to attain eternal life. So Jesus makes the man answer his own question when he said, “What is written in the law and how do you read it?” The lawyer quotes directly from scripture.

Jesus tells him, and us, “…do this and you will live.”

But like most lawyers he wasn’t satisfied he wanted to get Jesus to misspeak. So he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” And again Jesus answers him by turning the words around and making the man answer his own question. And that’s what Jesus does to you and me today, too! Instead of answering the question directly Jesus tells a story and then asks him of the three main characters, who was a good neighbor to the victim of the robbers?
The lawyer could not even say the word Samaritan, there was so much hatred between Jews and Samaritans. But he was forced to admit that the one who treated the robber’s victim with mercy was neighbor.

It’s not just what we say it’s what we do. Think about someone you just don’t like, perhaps you may even hate them? If you were in trouble would you accept help from them? I can hear some of us now, “I would sooner die than accept help from (blank)!”
There’s a family I know where all the children are grown up and some have kids of their own. One of the adult children has gotten into serious financial problems to the point that they are out of food, their debts are piling up, their vehicles are broken down and they seem to have used up all their options. The husband blames his mother for the troubles in his life even though he’s over 50 and it’s his own choices that put him the predicament he’s in now. Some folks cannot take responsibility for causing their own problems, they just have to blame someone else; a family member, the cops, society, the government, illegal immigrants, the church, God, anyone.

In spite of this wall of fear and anger and hatred the man has created, his mom has found a way to save the man’s home, pay his utilities and put food in his belly. She is a good neighbor whether or not the man shows gratitude, thanks or understanding. She acted out of love by doing what was right with absolutely no expectation of anything in return. Can you see yourself as that kind of neighbor?

In the book of Deuteronomy (Ch. 6) Moses tells the people to “…return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” He explains that our relationship with God is not up in the sky or across the sea. We don’t need someone else to go find it for us. We already have it. God lives within us and we already know how he wants us to be just by looking into our own hearts. Rediscover the love within you and renew your soul. When you again accept God’s love you will be healed, and hope will be renewed.
As I grow older I find it difficult to do things that used to be so easy for me not long ago. My knees and hips hurt, my shoulder fails me from time to time and I have to accept the help that others give me with gratitude. I have to become a grateful receiver of love and kindness and find different ways to reach out to those who need me. Being a good neighbor doesn’t stop, I just have to find new ways to share God’s love.
When I accept the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist God again grants me healing and forgiveness. I am renewed and filled again with hope. The answers are not out there, they’re in our hearts. If there’s something eating away at your peace of mind ask Jesus to turn it around, to show you a way to forgive so you can be healed, to love even in the face of hatred, to encourage others even when you are feeling down. Don’t let love leak out of your heart. Give your love away and God will find a way to fill your heart up again until it overflows. We are His hands, His feet, His heart. Amen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

PAGDIRIWANG 2010: A Showcase of Our Filipino Culture

By Father Dennis Legaspi
Director- Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernardino

This can be the biggest cultural presentation of the Filipino Catholics in the Inland Empire. The event is titled Pagdiriwang 2010: A Showcase of Our Filipino Culture.

Pagdiriwang is the Tagalog word for celebration. This event aims to show and tell Philippine history, culture and religiosity through music, songs and dances from an undated discovery by the first 10 datus (chieftains) from Borneo, followed by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and thereafter, 300 years of Spanish colonization and 45 years under the Americans.

Participants in the showcase, numbering about 350, are Filipino Americans and non-Filipinos from various parishes in the Diocese of San Bernardino, composing of the very young kids, youth and young adults to the young at hearts seniors. The audience will be treated with songs and dances originating from the three main islands of the Philippines namely: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Among the objectives of the showcase are:

  1. To discover the Filipino roots (which is very important for the young generations of Filipinos who grew up here in the U.S.,
  2. To appreciate the richness and diversity of the Filipino people especially their spirituality and tradition,
  3. To provide educational entertainment, and
  4. To raise $35,000 for the 2011 Philippine Exposure Program: Discovering and Re-discovering the Filipino Root and Medical Mission.

The Medical mission as part of the Philippine Exposure Program is oriented towards giving medical care for the poor and marginalized in the Philippines. This is part of the International Solidarity work of the Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernardino.

This will be the second outreach program to the Philippines sponsored by the Ministry. In January 2011, a group of doctors, nurses and volunteers organized by the Filipino Ministry-DSB will leave for the Philippines to participate in the Exposure and Medical Mission Program. They will go to Bacolod, Ilo-ilo in the Visayas and in Surigao in Mindanao. Aside from the Medical service, they will also be immersed themselves in the social realities of the Philippines by interacting with the lumads or natives and the residents of the dumpsite popularly known as Payatas. The trip is mainly not for touristic purposes but an attempt to have a good grasp of the realities of the Philippine society.

The showcase is also part of the Education and Evangelization Program of the Filipino Ministry-DSB and they are always grateful to Bishop Gerald Barnes for encouraging the ethnic communities in the Diocese of San Bernardino to continue preserving their cultural heritage and to remind their young generation of their roots. The Filipino catholic community is blessed to be in a diocese that recognizes and affirms the contributions and gifts of the different ethnic communities as stated in the IMPACT (Vision/ Mission) Statement of the Diocese:

"We will be a community of believers that remembers, affirms and celebrates that we are a Pentecost church of many languages, formed from different cultures, ethnic groups and experiences of church. We will not forget how immigrant populations enrich the diocese with new energy and talent.." (Unity in Diversity)

Pagdiriwang 2010: A Showcase of Our Filipino Culture will be held Saturday, July 10, at Highlander Auditorium, 850 N. San Antonio Ave. Upland, CA. There will be two presentations. A Matinee show will start at 3 p.m. and the Gala will be at 7 p.m. Bishop Gerald Barnes is expected to attend the Gala presentation.

For more information, contact the Filipino Ministry-DSB at 951-743-3545.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Diocesan values alive in Korean sisters

By John Andrews
Director, Department of Communications

The idea that we experience God’s grace in unlikely people and places is not new. We just have to look for Him there, right?

This came to my mind Wednesday as I returned from the Kkottongnae Retreat Camp in the hills of Temecula. I was down there to visit with the Korean, Kkottongnae Sisters of Jesus and write about the fact that they have reopened their camp, 14 months after a tragic shooting took place there.

A permanent resident of the camp was killed in the incident and the Sisters who own and run the facility – holy, hardworking and hospitable women if ever there were – were devastated. This is how I met them. I was called on to use my experience in mass media to help them navigate the predictably revved-up press interest in the story.

It turned out to be much more than that. I was asked to help compose a statement from the sisters to be read at the funeral of the woman who was killed – and to stand before the Korean community and read it. Though admittedly nervous I began to understand the importance of my being there when, as I read, I could hear them weeping.

Their gratitude since that day has not ceased. They send gifts – plants, a rosary, a basket of colored Easter eggs. They keep inviting me to the congregation’s headquarters in Seoul. When a new group of sisters transferred to the Temecula camp, they came up to San Bernardino to visit and were sure to have their picture taken with me. Please don’t mistake these details for self-aggrandizement. It’s really more amazement on my part, for we are an odd pair.

I’m a tall white guy. They are not-as-tall Asians. They don’t speak much English. I know how to say ‘hello’ in Korean and that’s about it. I didn’t know much about their country. In fact, I hadn’t ever really even located it on a map. They were teasing me Wednesday about looking like the guy on the cover of the English textbooks they use in Korea.

Why this may be of interest to others is that through this unlikely friendship with the Kkottongnae sisters, I have experienced many of the values we often speak of in the diocese:
  • The continued gratitude expressed by the sisters for what seemed like just a couple of days work for me last year,
  • The hospitality that they continue to show when I see them (I’m still savoring the delicious Korean lunch they prepared when I was there),
  • The way that one ministry, my communications work in this case, can help bring reconciliation to another, in this case their retreat/formation ministry.
Perhaps, most importantly, if a typical Caucasian American like myself can bond with a group of modest Korean nuns, with no common language, no less, there truly is unity in diversity in our diocese and in our Church.

Happy 4th of July everyone.