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Vatican's first official sports association includes migrant members

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Thursday the start of the first official sports association inside of the small city-state, including among its membership two young African migrants living in Italy, to show how sport can aid integration.

The migrant members of the Athletica Vaticana sports team, which also consists of Vatican citizens and employees of the Holy See, are guests of the Auxilium cooperative in Castelnuovo di Porto, where Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in 2016.

Under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the group’s main sport for the time being is running, and it participates in marathons including Rome’s annual “Via Pacis” half-marathon, an inter-religious event which also benefits the poor through the pope’s charity office.

To aid in evangelization, the team composed a “Prayer of the Marathoner,” which was translated into 37 languages, including Arabic and Swahili, and printed onto an image of a 4th-century fresco of an athlete from one of Rome’s catacombs. They distribute the cards at the starting line of competitions. They have also promoted the celebration of Mass before races.

“Effectively, authentic sport is part of one of the basic components of the human being,” the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, told journalists at a press conference Jan. 10. “The history of culture always had a connection with sport.”

Participation is open to men and women of all ages (and their immediate family members) who are working for the Vatican in some capacity, including priests and religious. Members range in age from 19 to 62.

The team is comprised of around 60 people associated with the Vatican in capacities ranging from Swiss Guard to employee of the Vatican Pharmacy to members of the Roman Curia. Members also include Vatican firefighters and gendarmerie, service technicians, Vatican Museums employees, and a professor of the Apostolic Library.

The association came about in an organic manner, according to its leaders, since an informal community of Vatican employees had already been running together on a path along the Tiber River some early mornings before work.

Athletica Vaticana also has the participation of athletes with disabilities as “honorary members” through partnerships with two Italian Paralympics organizations.

Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and president of the new sports association, stated that the collaboration between Athletica Vaticana and disabled athletes has a cultural value and, “as Pope Francis teaches, it aims at encouraging a change of mentality and actions even within the Church itself to meet people with disabilities.”

Parenting is always one day at a time

There is a rarely-discussed truth among us parents of three or more children. In general, we just seem to relax the more kids we have. But there is no possibility for complacence when your child struggles with addiction. 

The Baptism of the Lord: No script but Scriptures

Scripture for Life: Jesus' response to his baptism reminds us that the ceremony is but one tiny moment, the meaning of which is determined by how we live it out. Observing him, we realize that baptism does not give us a status but a mission. 

Sister Pimentel disappointed she could not speak with Trump during border visit

McAllen, Texas, Jan 11, 2019 / 04:46 pm (CNA).- Sister Norma Pimentel says she is “truly disappointed” that she did not get a chance to speak during a roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump Jan. 10, during the president’s visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas.

Pimentel, a sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, is director of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley.

“I was looking forward to this roundtable discussion, but there was no discussion unfortunately,” she told The Valley Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.

“There were certain people selected to speak, to really support the president’s agenda.”

President Trump visited Texas on Thursday in an effort to drum up support for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico, in the midst of a government shutdown that began over funding for the wall. Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House staff were with the president.

“I don’t know that [Trump’s] interested in hearing anyone else but those who are simply wanting to applaud what he’s doing and what he wants to hear,” Pimentel said.

The sister highlighted the work of the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, now housed in a former nursing home, has helped close to 150,000 people since 2014, sometimes up to 300 a day.

Pimentel said most of the people they help are women and children who have been released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement with a court date to consider their request for asylum.  

“I think as Catholics, as people with faith, recognize that God asked us to support, defend, and protect all human life. And that’s what we’re doing here at the Respite Center,” she said.

Though the Jan. 11 discussion`with the president included U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, local officials, and others working with immigrants, it was reported that representatives of local agencies and local elected officials were not invited to speak during the discussion.

Pimentel said if she had had the opportunity to speak, she would have emphasized that she understands the importance of border security and keeping the country safe, and that the Border Patrol - with whom she says she has always had a good relationship, and prays for daily - should be supported.

”We also must recognize that there are a lot of families, innocent victims of violence, that are suffering,” she said.

“And we find them here in our community, and we as a community are so generous in responding to help them, to be there for them. It’s a part of who we are as Americans, very compassionate. And that is a side that unfortunately our president was not open to listening to.”

Pimentel wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post ahead of Trump’s visit that she said she hopes he reads. The Jan. 9 op-ed is a letter welcoming the president to the Rio Grande Valley and inviting him to visit the Respite Center.

“Before the respite center opened, dozens of immigrant families, hungry, scared and in a foreign land, huddled at the bus station with only the clothes on their back, nothing to eat or drink, and nowhere to shower or sleep. They waited hours and sometimes overnight for their buses,” she wrote.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley opened the first respite center at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen to provide the migrants with basic necessities, including a shower and a bowl of soup. In need of more space, they later moved to their current location in the former nursing home.

“You will see volunteers arriving to offer a hand either preparing hygiene packets, making sandwiches, cutting vegetables, preparing the soup for the day or sorting through donated clothing,” Pimentel wrote.

“We witness daily how, working together, people of all faiths can focus on helping the person in front of us. Regardless of who we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.”

Pope Francis personally thanked Pimentel and her order for their work during his visit to the United States in 2015.

 

'A sense of conversion' - A bishop reflects on the Mundelein retreat

Gallup, N.M., Jan 11, 2019 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Praying daily before the Eucharist with more than 250 other U.S. bishops was, for Bishop James Wall of Gallup, the highlight of a seven-day episcopal retreat held this week at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“We had the talks from Fr. Cantalamessa, which were excellent, a great homily each day; but for me the highlight of the retreat was every night having the bishops gather in silence before our Lord present in the Eucharist. It was an opportunity to pour your heart out to the Lord, but even more importantly to listen to him, and to receive his direction in all of this.”

“That was where I drew a lot of strength, in the sense of renewal, recommitment, conversion, really to be the shepherd, or bishop, that our Lord wants me to be. I drew a lot from that Holy Hour every night at 7 o'clock,” Bishop Wall told CNA Jan. 10. “I loved the Holy Hour.”

The bishops of the US went on retreat Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary, in the Chicago suburbs. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., who has been preacher to the papal household since 1980, directed the retreat. Pope Francis had asked the nation's bishops to go on retreat together, and offered Fr. Cantalamessa for the time of prayer.

“The effect on me was very positive,” Bishop Wall said.

The retreat consisted of two conferences per day given by Fr. Cantalamessa, each nearly an hour, as well as a Mass at which the Capuchin preached. Then in the evening, the bishops gathered for a Holy Hour.

“For me, really the highlight of the whole retreat was every night at 7 o'clock we made a Holy Hour. So you have all the bishops gathering together praying before our Lord present in the Eucharist, and for me that was very positive, it had a very positive effect on me.”

The Holy Hours were inspiring for Bishop Wall, and recalled for him the day of prayer and penance at the US bishops' autumn general assembly.

“That was one of the best days I've ever had with my brother bishops because there we were, all of us together, six and a half hours of Eucharistic Adoration, reflecting on the Word, hearing some powerful talks.”

The Holy Hours “reminded me of that,” he said, “because here we all were, taking the time to be on retreat with each other, ultimately to allow the Lord to speak to our heart and guide us.”

“Coming off the retreat, I have a great sense of renewal, and strengthening in my whole purpose and calling as a bishop.”

Bishop Wall described “a great respect for silence” during the retreat, and noted that “there were lots of places to find good quiet time to reflect and pray, and read … it was an excellent retreat.”

He mentioned that he had brought with him on retreat, for reading during Holy Hours, Complete My Joy, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix' Dec. 30, 2018 apostolic exhortation on the family. “It helped me think about how is it that I am going to speak to the family,” Bishop Wall said.

The retreat was focused on Christ's commission of the 12 apostles, and the apostolic mandate, centred on the verse: “And he made that twelve should be with him, and that he might send them to preach.”

Bishop Wall called Fr. Cantalamessa “an amazing man, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Having been on a retreat directed by Fr. Cantalamessa before, “I knew how good he was, and I know how brutally honest he can be, too. To know that he was not only the papal household preacher currently, but for Benedict and John Paul II, I was really encouraged by it … he had some really good words for the bishops.”

In addition to mentioning the role and gift of ecclesial movements in the Church, Fr. Cantalamessa did address the sexual abuse crisis in different talks, Bishop Wall said. “And I think considering everything that's going on in the world and the US, it was to be expected that he would.”

Addressing Pope Francis' letter to the US bishops ahead of their retreat, Bishop Wall said, “I took it as encouragement, an assurance of prayer.”

The renewal facing the Church, the bishop said, “is not renewal in a really pretty way at all. I think it's a painful renewal, and that's what's happening right now. It's really disheartening when we come out with the Charter, we commit ourselves to the Charter, and you find instances when there hasn't been fidelity to the Charter – because ultimately the Charter is about providing an opportunity for young people to encounter the living Christ. That's what it’s all about.”

At the retreat “I experienced a sense of conversion,” Bishop Wall said.

“One of the things Cantalamessa talked about was a sense of reliance on the Holy Spirit, and I think sometimes we can forget that; we can try to 'go it on our own', so it was a reminder, a renewal, a call to conversion. That's what I experienced, took away from that, so I would hope that everyone else would take that away, too. It's all you can hope for.”

San Antonio archdiocese prepares for new parishes

San Antonio, Texas, Jan 11, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of San Antonio has collected over half of the funds for a campaign to construct new parish buildings in preparation for an expected population boom.

The "On the Way - ¡Ándale!" Capital Campaign, this is the first campaign the diocese has seen since 1955. It has raised over $40 million of the $60 million goal.

Construction on Mary, Mother of the Church parish could start as early as fall 2019. The church grounds will include a sanctuary, school, meeting hall, rectory, and sport complex.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller blessed the grounds of the new parish Dec. 8. The parish grounds are located in west San Antonio.

The campaign is expected to establish eight parish communities throughout the archdiocese. The plan is for the parishes to be completed within 10 years.

The construction of new churches is rare, but the archdiocese is predicting a large increase in church-goers as San Antonio plans to see an increase in nearly 1 million people by 2040.

Don Meyer, general chair of the campaign, told KENS 5 that new facilities are required to compensate for the upcoming growth and the already over-populated parishes in the area, including his own parish, Holy Trinity.

"There's a projected 200,000 new Catholics coming in the next ten years. To faithfully serve those parishioners, we will require new parishes, new and expanded schools to educate the youth to give them a faith-based education and renovation and expansion of existing parishes," he said.

Donna Degenhardt, an attendant at the blessing ceremony, also told KENS 5 that a need for new parish facilities was desperately needed.

"We need this church in the worst way. It is so wonderful. We're so excited and we can't wait until it gets built!" she said.

According to the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Father Larry Christian, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, spoke to the attendees of ground blessing ceremony, highlighting the importance of the project.

“The On the Way - ¡Ándale! capital campaign – in many ways – is about building up the legacy of our founders and the many people who have helped establish the Catholic parishes, missions, schools, hospitals, colleges, service programs and spirit that is reflective of our archdiocese,” he said.

Shutdown won't deter crowds from marching for life in nation's capital

IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Neither snow nor sleet -- nor partial government shutdown -- will keep pro-lifers away from the nation's capital for the March for Life Jan. 18.

If it continues, the shutdown will be almost a month old by then. Daily news reports show the closures of monuments, memorials and the Smithsonian museums in Washington and trash cans overflowing on some federal property -- images that might lead some folks around the country to think it is affecting big events planned for the nation's capital.  

But not so.

"PLEASE NOTE: We plan to march even if the government shutdown is not yet resolved," declares the March for Life website, marchforlife.org. "We have marched for 45 years and will march again this year to end the human rights abuse of abortion."

Come to think of it, the start of what was a two-day historic blizzard that hit Washington in January 2016 had some impact on numbers, but marchers by the thousands still turned out that Jan. 22 to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion virtually on demand.

"The shutdown really did not factor into our planning at all," said Patrick Ford of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina. Director of campus ministry and the Hintemeyer Catholic Leadership Program at the college, Ford is the point person for the school's pro-life contingent heading to the march.

"This year, especially, we have tried to make this trip more of a pilgrimage and less of a site-seeing event," he told Catholic News Service in an email Jan. 10. "The venues we will visit -- the (St.) John Paul II National Shrine and the Basilica of the National Shrine (of the Immaculate Conception) -- are not affected by local politics, so our trip should be entirely unaffected by the goings-on in Washington."

Ford added, "We look forward to another great March for Life with our hundreds of thousands of friends!"

The same goes for the 500-plus students coming in from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. They'll be carrying a giant green banner and wearing winter hats especially designed for this year's march, said Dominique Cognetti, a junior majoring in social work.

The entire effort -- from promoting the march in late September with fliers on campus to designing their gear for the march -- is led by the students, Cognetti told CNS in a telephone interview Jan. 9.

"I don't think at this time it's going to affect anything," she said of the shutdown, recalling that Franciscan students came to Washington "when the whole storm" took place in 2016.

They're coming in eight buses. This year, like always, they will begin their trip on the eve of the march with a late night Holy Hour. They depart at midnight to arrive at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception about 6 a.m., in time for the 7:30 a.m. Mass that sends participants forth for the March for Life rally, with a lineup of speakers, on the National Mall.

After the rally, the march itself goes up Constitution Avenue and ends at the Supreme Court.

This year's theme, "Unique From Day One: Pro-life Is Pro-science" focuses on how scientific advancements reveal "the humanity of the unborn child from the moment of conception."

Speakers will include three members of Congress -- Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Reps. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois and Chris Smith, R-New Jersey -- and a Democratic member of the Louisiana Legislature, Rep. Katrina Jackson.

"We are delighted to have these four pro-life champions speak at the March for Life rally," said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life. "The right to life is a nonpartisan issue and, regardless of politics, we should all unite for life and stand against abortion, the greatest human rights abuse of our time."

Others who will address the rally include Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities; Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus; Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire; Abby Johnson, founder of And Then There Were None; Alveda King, Priests for Life's director of civil rights for the unborn; Dr. Kathi Aultman, fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and Ally Cavazos, president of Princeton Pro-Life.

Attending the March for Life is something Cognetti has been doing since she was a freshman in high school, she told CNS.

When she was younger, she would accompany her parents to the march, and later got involved on her own. To see the "amount of people" gathered for life, "especially those in my generation, really touched me. ... We have thousands of people coming to D.C. to defend what they believe in and not just older people," she said.

The March for Life is a great way for her and everyone from Franciscan University "to stand together, to stand firm in what we believe in. We know life starts at conception."

The march is "very eye-opening," she added, and provides a chance for people who say they are pro-life to do something about it.

Cognetti added that she feels her generation is making "a name for ourselves and not sitting down any more and saying we're pro-life -- we're taking action!"

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Follow asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Despite high turnover, number of Catholics little changed in Congress

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In most election cycles, there may be 30 to 50 new members of Congress. For 2019, there are 89 -- and a 90th may yet be headed for Capitol Hill based on how a disputed House election in North Carolina plays out.

Yet, despite the broad turnover, the number of Catholics in the current Congress is little changed from that in the past Congress.

Two years ago, there were 168 Catholics in the House and Senate combined, a high-water mark. This year, for the 116th Congress, the number is down five, to 163.

Even so, their representation in House, at 32.5 percent, is more than half again their representation in the U.S. population, which the Pew Research Center pegs at 21 percent.

Pew's biennial "Faith on the Hill" report, which breaks down the religious composition of Congress, notes that Catholics are the single largest denomination in Congress. The next highest, at 80: "unspecified/other" Christians who are members of denominations smaller than the 16 listed in the Pew report, or did not specify their religious affiliation.

Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center, said the percentage of those in Congress who did not specify their branch of Christianity is triple that of the general population, which registers at about 5 percent.

But one thing Pew can do in its surveys is follow up to ask respondents if there is a specific denominational affiliation. For its numbers, the "Faith on the Hill" survey depends on results from a questionnaire developed by CQ Roll Call and sent to each member.

Among those who did specify, Baptists come in at 72 members in both the House and Senate, followed by Methodists at 42 and Jews at 34. Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians/Anglicans are each tied at 26 members apiece.

The only other entries in double digits are Mormons and members of nondenominational churches, both with 10. Pew noted that the number of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Congress is the lowest in at least a decade.

Some argue "you can't be a Catholic and a Democrat," because of the party's support for legal abortion. But the Pew numbers show more Catholic Democrats in the House -- 87 -- than Catholic Republicans, who number 54. In fact, the number of Catholic Democrats is not far from the number of Protestant Democrats in the House -- there are 97 of them.

In the Senate, though, the margin is closer, but more Catholics in the upper chamber are Democrats than Republicans, 12-10. Protestant Senate Republicans, though, double the number of Protestant Democrats, 40-20.

Among new members, despite the high turnover rate, Catholics were the only religious group in double digits, with 29 new members.

The "Faith on the Hill" report said, "Catholics have held steady at 31 percent over the last four Congresses, although there are now many more Catholics in Congress than there were in the first Congress for which Pew Research Center has data." That was when there were an even 100 Catholics in both chambers, good for 19 percent of the total. It was the 87th Congress, which began in 1961 -- the year the nation's first Catholic president, John Kennedy, was sworn in.

While Catholics may be down five to 163 members in this Congress, they also had 163 in 2013-14, and 164 members in 2015-16.

The number of Protestants has dwindled over the past two generations from 398 in 1961. In four of the past six Congresses, they have totaled fewer than 300.

While much has been made of two Muslim women now serving in the House this term, there are just three Muslims overall in Congress. There are five Orthodox Christians, three Hindus, two Buddhists and two Unitarian Universalists.

Perhaps the most underrepresented group in Congress are those who claim no religious affiliation. While Pew puts their number at 23 percent of the U.S. population, there is just one who professes such: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona.

There may be others, as 18 members of Congress -- up 10 from two years ago -- either didn't or wouldn't answer the question from CQ Roll Call. "It's hard to know what to infer from that," Smith told Catholic News Service.

It is apparent, though, that candidates for office still see a need to check the "religion" box on their resume when presenting themselves to voters -- and that CQ Roll Call believes it to be important enough to continue to ask the question nearly a half-century after it started asking about religious affiliation.

"It is true -- it's definitely true -- when we look at our survey data, that being an atheist is, and long has been, a political liability," Smith said. That percentage has dropped, though, from 63 percent of Americans saying in 2007 they would be less likely to vote for an atheist, to a bare majority of 51 percent in 2016.

On the other hand, the religiosity of a candidate may not necessarily seal the deal with voters.

In early 2016, Pew asked survey respondents about the religiosity of a fistful of presidential aspirants. The percentage of those agreeing that the following candidates were at least somewhat religious were: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, 68 percent; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 65 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, 61 percent, Hillary Clinton, 48 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, 40 percent; and, checking in at 30 percent, eventual President Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump was not widely seen as a particularly religious candidate and that did not hinder his candidacy for the Republican nomination," Smith said.

Religion in public life is, and can be, a good thing, according to Douglas A. Hicks, dean of -- and a religion professor at -- the Oxford College of Emory University in Atlanta.

"Welcoming more faith perspectives into public debate risks even more cacophony and conflict than we already experience. Like most other matters of import today, citizens hold divergent religious beliefs and practices and will disagree," Hicks said in a Jan. 10 essay.

"Yet religious differences are part and parcel of our wider debate about what it means to be a flourishing democracy," he wrote. "To have those diverse perspectives present in our politics, including among our national leaders, is a positive step -- not only toward ensuring that many voices engage the democratic process, but also for reaching constructive solutions to the social, political, and economic issues that we face together."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Sister Pimentel disappointed about not being able to address president

IMAGE: CNS photo/Barbara Johnston, courtesy University of Notre Dame

By Rose Ybarra

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- Sister Norma Pimentel was "truly disappointed" after not being given an opportunity to speak during a roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump during his Jan. 10 visit to McAllen.

The president traveled to the Rio Grande Valley to make his case for a southern border wall and other security measures amid a partial government shutdown that began over funding for the wall.

Calling the president's visit "quite an important moment," Sister Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, lamented that representatives of local agencies working with migrant people and local elected officials were not invited to speak during the discussion.

"I was looking forward to this roundtable discussion, but there was no discussion unfortunately," Sister Pimentel told The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Brownsville Diocese. "There were certain people selected to speak, people who support the president's agenda," she added.

"We would like for President Trump to know who we are and what the reality is here on our border," said Sister Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus

Trump arrived about 12:45 p.m. local time, along with Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House staff.

Supporters of Trump as well as protesters gathered on opposite sides of a street near the airport awaiting the president's arrival.

Trump was taken to a nearby U.S. Border Patrol Station for what was billed as a roundtable discussion with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, local officials and key players of the immigration story such as Sister Pimentel, who has spearheaded efforts to assist about more than 100,000 immigrants since June 2014.

A Jan. 10 Catholic News Service story incorrectly reported that Trump would visit the Catholic Charities-run Humanitarian Respite Center that Sister Pimentel oversees and that serves migrant people.

When asked what she would have said to the president if she had been recognized, Sister Pimentel said, "I would definitely say that I appreciate and understand the importance of border security and keeping our border safe -- that's so important. We must support our Border Patrol and their job to defend and protect our borders. We must know who enters our country."

Sister Pimentel noted she has a good working relationship with the U.S. Border Patrol and other government agencies.

"When I walked into the meeting room, all the Border Patrol agents present, even the ones from D.C. were happy to meet me and talk to me," she said. "It really demonstrates the importance of how we on the ground work together as a community -- city officials, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the volunteers -- to the realities we face at the border.

"We recognize, yes, it's important to keep our border safe to support our Border Patrol but we also recognize there are lots of families, innocent victims of violence that are suffering," she said. "We as a community are responding to help them. It's a part of who we are as Americans: compassionate, caring."

Sister Pimentel continued, "That's a side that unfortunately our president was not open to listen to. I would have loved to have the opportunity to personally invite him to the respite center, to meet the families, to meet the children. As Catholics, as people of faith, we feel God has asked us to support, defend and protect all human life and that's what we're doing here at the respite center."

In an op-ed posted to The Washington Post website Jan. 9, Sister Pimentel invited Trump to visit the center, which opened in 2014 to provide assistance in response to the influx of immigrants arriving from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and other countries.

Sister Pimentel said the center offers shelter, meals and showers for people who have been released after being apprehended by authorities as they crossed in the U.S.

On some days as few as 20 people arrive, she wrote, adding, "Other days it's closer to 300."

In her column, she invited the president to see how the center cooperates with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to ensure the needs of the newcomers are met.

The center is staffed with volunteers who offer food, clothing, toiletries, baby supplies and travel packets, which include supplies for their journey.

These immigrants, mostly women and children, already have been detained and released by immigration authorities. They have been granted permission to continue to their destinations outside of the Rio Grande Valley and given a date for a court appearance.

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Ybarra is assistant editor of The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Migrant advocate welcomes president to Rio Grande Valley

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- President Donald Trump joined a roundtable discussion to hear about how agencies in South Texas are responding to the influx of refugees on the southern border.

The discussion Jan. 10 came a day after Sister Norma Pimentel welcomed the president to the Rio Grande Valley and invited him to see the work of staff and volunteers assisting people from throughout Central America seeking asylum in the United States.

The invitation from Sister Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, appeared in an op-ed she penned for The Washington Post.

The president also joined a roundtable presentation on the situation facing migrants and those who serve them during his visit to the center.

The column explained the work of the center since 2014, when tens of thousands of people mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras made their way northward to flee violence and poverty in their homeland.

Sister Pimentel said the center -- offering shelter, meals and showers for people who have been released after being apprehended by authorities as they crossed into the U.S. -- has welcomed more than 100,000 people since opening.

On some days as few as 20 people arrive, she wrote, adding, "Other days it's closer to 300."

She invited the president to see how the center cooperates with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to ensure the needs of the newcomers are met.

"We work closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Rio Grande Valley Sector, and our team has cultivated a culture of mutual respect and dialogue," wrote Sister Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus. "Our center staff, in communication with the Border Patrol, prepares to receive groups of immigrants who have been released. We try to meet the need.

"It is vital that we keep our country safe, and I appreciate the work of the men and women in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection who are vigilant as to who enters our country. I pray for them daily."

She detailed daily life at the center, from early morning until bedtime in the evening, explaining the tasks staff and volunteers undertake to ensure the dignity of the immigrants.

"I am energized each day by the families I meet, especially the children," Sister Pimentel wrote. "I am energized as well by the volunteers. They come from our local communities but also from across the United States. We witness daily how, working together, people of all faiths can focus on helping the person in front of us. Regardless of who we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.

"As the Most Rev. Daniel E. Flores, bishop of our diocese, says, 'We must put human dignity first,'" the op-ed concluded.

 

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