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Editor: This is a recent letter from the Presidents of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) to President Donald J. Trump. Visuals added.)

Untitled 1President Donald J. Trump
Dear Mr. President,

The gift of leadership is given to American leaders by the “Right of the People.” Leadership brings with it a great joy and a great responsibility.

We serve as Presidents of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), respectively. Together we represent the elected leaders of 38,800 Catholic Sisters and 17,000 Catholic Brothers and religious priests who live and minister throughout the United States. As elected leaders we know and share with you both the joy and the burden of this service.

We and the members of our communities seek to be instruments of the reconciliation our people urgently need. In our poverty of spirit, we rely on the help of God and the example of Jesus, the one who came to serve us all.

Since before the founding of our nation and often during its darkest hours, Catholic Sisters, Brothers and religious priests, ourselves often immigrants, have served the needs of both civic leaders and those on the outskirts of influence. We have chosen to live with those who were sick, dying or living in poverty.

Untitled 1The 17th century English poet, William Cowper, was the author of our now-famous saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Or as he more quaintly put it, “Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour. (The Task, 1785)” Ain’t that the truth!

As a native New Englander, I enjoyed the perpetual sunny days but barely survived the seemingly unending summers of Orlando, Florida for some eight years. And I gladly returned north to our sometimes challenging cycle of four seasons but I just love it here.

Sunday Mystery Rides

As a person in my 70s – or as I’m told, “the new 60s” – I am still, in a sense, growing up. When I was a young boy, I loved to go with my father on what he termed our “Sunday afternoon mystery rides”. You see, my father would simply invite my mother and myself to go somewhere with him. In fact when he started the car, even he didn’t know where we were going. I loved the true excitement of not knowing who we’d meet or what we’d see. It was like a short Disneyworld vacation, all in a few hours.

After learning a little about my personality type in the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory – a simple but very useful way of understanding ourselves – I learned that (as an INFJ) I not only like variety, I actually need it in order to flourish as a person. It literally “spices up” my life.

Active Vacations

This is evident in the way I spend my vacations – never laying on the beach for hours on end but rather choosing to visit countless places of interest. When I had a choice of where I would move after my time in Florida, I chose New England and a very busy place to live – the Shrine in Attleboro.

The bishops of Mexico on Thursday reacted to United States' president Donald Trump's executive order to build a wall on the nations' border by urging a more thoughtful response to legitimate security concerns.

A wall will punish the poorest and most vulnerable

Untitled 1Mexican Bp. Alfonso G. Miranda Guardiola, with Pope Francis
“We express our pain and rejection over the construction of this wall, and we respectfully invite you to reflect more deeply about the ways security, development, growth in employment, and other measures, necessary and just, can be procured without causing further harm to those already suffering, the poorest and most vulnerable,” the Mexican bishops' conference said Jan. 26 in a message titled "Value and Respect for Migrants".

Trump had Jan. 25 ordered a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border. An estimated 650 miles of the 1,900 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border have a wall constructed currently.

The Mexican bishops noted that for more than 20 years, the prelates of “the northern border of Mexico and the southern border of the United States have been working” to achieve “the best care for the faithful that live in the sister countries, properly seen as a single city (from a faith perspective); communities of faith served by two dioceses (such as Matamoros and Brownsville, or Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, for example).”

“What pains us foremost is that many people who live out their family relationships, their faith, work or friendships will be shut out even more by this inhuman interference,” they lamented.

A wall destabilizes the communities living along the border

The bishops recalled the statement of Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, head of the United States bishops' committee on immigration, that “this action will put immigrant lives needlessly in harm's way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border.”

The Church has a long tradition of assistance towards leprosy patients, especially in mission territories, which is expressed not only with medical care and spiritual assistance, but also offering them the possibility of reintegration into society.

Damian, Apostle of the Lepers of Molokai

Untitled 1Countless people around the world subject to leprosy; photo: AIFOThe testimonies of missionary Saints who dedicated their lives to alleviate the suffering of leprosy patients are eloquent in this regard, such as St. Jozef De Veuster Damian SSCC, universally known as the Apostle of the lepers of Molokai, and Saint Marianne Cope, O.S.F., who spent 35 years in Molokai and together with other sisters carried out the work of Fr. Damiano; or Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Jan Beyzym, S.I., who served his pastoral role among the lepers of Madagascar, the venerable Marcello Candia and Raoul Follereau, the French writer and journalist who in 1954, introduced World leprosy Day, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of January.

According to the latest "Statistical Yearbook of the Church", the Catholic Church runs 612 centers for leprosy patients in the world: 174 in Africa, 43 in America (total), 313 in Asia, 81 in Europe and one in Oceania.

Very Sad Numbers

The nations that are home to the largest number of centers for leprosy patients are in Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo (27), Madagascar (26), Kenya (21); North America: United States (2); Central America: Mexico (5), Honduras (2); Central America-Antilles: Haiti (2) and Dominican Rep. (2); in South America: Brazil (14), Ecuador (4), Peru (4); in Asia: India (234), Korea (22), Vietnam (15); Oceania: Papua New Guinea (1); in Europe: Portugal (63), Germany (16), Belgium (1), Italy (1).

One person is affected by leprosy every two minutes

Untitled 1Pope Francis said . . . the strength of the Church does not reside primarily in grand gestures, but in the quiet faith of Christians in minority areas, who continue to practice even in the face of persecution and martyrdom.

“We are pleased when we see a great ecclesial act, which has been a great success, the Christians revealing themselves,” he said in his homily during Mass at the chapel of the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta on Jan. 30. “And this is beautiful! Is this strength? Yes, it is strength.”

Martyrs are the strength of the Church

“But the greatest strength of the Church today is in the small Churches, tiny, with few people, persecuted, with their bishops in prison,” he continued. “This is our glory now, this is our glory and our strength today.”

In his homily, Francis called out those who do not experience this kind of persecution, yet complain about small grievances: “This is the glory of the Church and our support,” he said, “and also our humiliation.”

“We who have everything, everything seems easy for us and if we are missing something we complain … But we think of these brothers and sisters who today, greater in number than those of the first centuries, are suffering martyrdom!”

Reflecting on a passage from Hebrews 11, which calls to mind the history of the Lord’s people, the Pope said that “without memory there is no hope.”

The memory of docility, of mighty deeds, and of martyrs

Dividing the history into three categories, he said the first is the “memory of docility,” the memory of those people who were quietly obedient to the Lord’s will, like Abraham, who bravely left his home without knowing where he was going.

What Mental Prayer is Not

Untitled 1Unlike yoga or other Eastern spiritual practices, meditation, in a Catholic context, cannot be reduced to a technique. It is not like a gadget in which certain buttons are pushed so as to get a result. Neither can it be said that mental prayer is simply a methodology in which certain steps are carried out in order to produce a certain effect. No.

Christian meditation is deeply personal in that it largely depends on the spiritual and moral disposition of the Christian towards God. For instance, the person who is addicted to (a substance or practice) will not draw the same fruit from mental prayer as one who is faithful to the moral law. Holy desire, a repentant heart, the capacity to love and a virtuous life determines how much we get out of mental prayer.

Having said that, there are common principles of mental prayer which guide us along the way. The ones we will consider have been practiced among the Saints throughout the centuries. Faithfully and consistently applied, these principles of mental prayer will, as Fr. Edward Leen said, “prepare the soul for the action of the Blessed Eucharist.” The union between the soul and Christ is but the happy result.

Three Important Principles

Meditation is nothing other than thinking about Christ, an aspect of his life or some spiritual truth. When a diamond specialist examines a diamond, he looks at all of its facets and sides. Shimmering different colors from each angle, the diamond reveals something new about itself as it is manually rotated under the light.

Untitled 1Teacher, Erin Conway, take time to discuss a question with his studentIf you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself fighting a sense of hopelessness when looking at the current reality in which we live. We are flooded with pictures of a world drowning in an apparent lack of compassion, a disinterest in engaging in dialogue, a quickness to demonize, and a distancing from the central message of the Gospel. Hope seems hard to locate.

I teach seniors at Saint Martin de Porres Cleveland’s Cristo Rey high school. At the start of our school year, my Theology classes read Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ’s masterpiece, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. Most of my students are not Catholic, and as a result, I’m always searching for an access point into their reality and consciousness. Because Fr. Greg’s text has shaped my own personal understanding of God and our common call to kinship, it seemed like a logical stepping off point for our shared conversation.

Looking for Hope

After six weeks of reading, journaling, and discussion, I found myself looking into the eyes of students who recognized themselves in the pages of the book and were transformed. I discovered that while reading Tattoos on the Heart has impacted my own life in more ways than I can count, watching my students be transformed by its message has proven immeasurably more life changing. Hope broke through.

Perhaps the most powerful element of this unit, the place where hope seeped in abundantly, was in its juxtaposition to the rhetoric of election season. My students, like all Americans, have been inundated with words that spread hatred, fear, and racism. I have heard confusion, anger, frustration and even fear in their voices as they shared their reality with me.

India is a country of more than 1.2 billion people, with Christians accounting for only some three percent of the population, including close to 19 million Catholics. Despite its relatively small size, the Indian Church has a disproportionate impact on Indian society through education and social services.

Attacks on Indian Dalit Christians and Muslims

Untitled 1(from left) Bp. Aplinar Senapati of Rayagada: Bp. Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur
With the ascension to power of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, there has been a rising tide of violent attacks on Christians as well as Muslims. Growing intolerance of religions considered to be foreign imports adds to the wounds of both Christian and Muslims of low caste background – known as dalits – who are denied government benefits awarded to low-caste Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhist to compensate for centuries of discrimination by the dominant Hindu culture.

To address the needs of dalits within the Church – where low-caste faithful have also suffered various forms of discrimination, despite the fact that 12 million of India’s Catholics are dalits – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has released a document which proclaims that “if there are any dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith.” It also says that dalit Christians keep alive the vision of God’s reign for justice and love.

Untitled 1Countless people from the Muslim minority of the ethnic Rohingya population flee persecutionPyay (Prome, Myanmar) - While Korean Yanghee Lee, Special United Nations Rapporteur on the situation of human rights is in Myanmar, for a visit from January 9-20, the serious humanitarian situation of the Muslim minority of ethnic Rohingya continues, a population of about 1.2 million people who live in the state of Rahkine, in the western part of the country.

100,000 people with no place to lay their heads

Thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, neighboring state: the Burmese Government does not consider them citizens, but "illegal immigrants", depriving them of all rights. This status of institutionalized discrimination has existed for decades, but in recent years has continued to worsen: since 2012 social and religious tensions in the state of Rahkine have started, and the Rohingya have been subject to violence and persecution promoted by Buddhist nationalist groups who call for the expulsion by the state.

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

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