Bulletin for Sunday, December 23, 2012: 4th Sunday of Advent

Friends,

This is coming to you from El Salvador. It is one of the blessings of the computer age that distance doesn{t stop communication... if you have access to a computer... and the reading and writing skills to use it. Those two things leave out an enormous percentage of the world.

Being here, I am constantly aware of my place of privilege in the world. Luckily, I am also constantly aware of how much I still have to learn. Yesterday I learned a little Spanish from a three year old... he was saying something correctly and I realized that I've been saying it wrong for years!

It is a lovely thing to be here in Santa Ana with the community of Iglesia Bautista de Shekina. This community gets more and more beautiful all the time. Saturday night we shared Christmas dinner at church. Sunday night we went Christmas caroling, then went back to church for hot chocolate and firecrackers, which are traditional here for Christmas and New Year's. I think there were about seventy of us traipsing up and down the unpaved, rocky street, visiting all the neighbors and singing to them. Lots of kids! And tonight we will go to a local homeless shelter where the community serves dinner every Tuesday night.

There is a lot of love in this community. People get loved and treasured, from the newborn babies all the way up to the wonderful group of Hermanas who form the core of the community and have presided over its birth and growth over the past 20 years.

Being here is a little like being on retreat, and this week I am reading Shane Claiborne's book "Jesus for President". He mentions that if we want to "Make poverty history," we will need to also "make affluence history." It is harder to see how human beings suffer under affluence than under poverty! But our affluence cuts us off from one another. We are well fed and clothed and housed, but we lose our sense of interdependence. I do not mean to romanticize poverty. Everyone should have what they need to live and to thrive. But having too much, as is the norm in the US, is not healthy for the soul. Not for the soul of the individual, or of all of us collectively.

We need to begin to see our love affair with "things" and security as the disease of the spirit that it is. We need to open our hands, not just to share what we have, but to let go, to be open to God, to trust. Trying to control our lives and avoid pain at all costs simply doesn{t work. Radical dependence on God... imagine if we lived that way.

Saturday I will return to our little church. I hope that I can trust more deeply, let go of worry and fear, and know that the God who made us can be trusted for all we need. May we build more bridges between the affluent North and the suffering South, and even out the inequities on either side of the border. May we trust that God is good, and all is well.

Blessed Christmas to you. May you grow ever closer to the God who comes into the world unprotected, and grow in the ways God is dreaming for you.

Love and light to all
Chava


Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
s St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, December 16, 2012: 3rd Sunday of Advent

Friends,

This morning at the nursing home, one of our elders gave me a little bag of things to take with me to give folks in El Salvador. It had a tube of antibiotic ointment, a box of band-aids, and some notepads. I was so touched by that. It is moving when people who have little themselves find a way to give to others who have even less. Like when our guys in the migrant ministry send vegetables to St Joe’s in the summer and fall, or the guest from St Joe’s who gave me some food to give to the migrants! The blessings flow both ways.

Some of you have found ways to give to the folks we serve, as well. I have Walmart gift cards for every migrant family I know, all from one family, and other gift cards for those who might need something extra. Two of my co-workers decided to each buy gifts for a migrant child. I will enjoy playing Santa, um, Sancho Claus and delivering those.

It is also very moving this year to realize that we are looking for housing for a young pregnant couple, at Christmas time. These two played Maria and Jose in our Christmas Eve pageant last year, and now they are expecting a baby for real. They are safe and well for now, and I trust that we will find a place in good time. It was disappointing last week to realize that the “perfect” place I found would not do, but my life experience says to thank God and trust that it is all for the good. Some of you might remember back in the 1980’s at Corpus Christi when we were looking for a home for our homeless ministry, and had found a place we were all excited about. It would take a lot of money and a lot of work, but we were ready and willing. Then the neighbors decided they didn’t want a homeless shelter on their street. I remember we went downtown to the mayor’s office, trying to keep that house, but we lost it. Seems to me it was about a week later that someone offered us the building that is now Dimitri House, for a whole lot less money, not needing repairs, and with a second building out back. Our disappointment turned out to be a tremendous gift. May it be so for this ministry, as well.

Last night we celebrated a Mass to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was the first time we had Mass in the little house where folks have lived for a year, now. It was also our first bi-lingual Mass, as the English speaking girlfriend of one of the men was with us. We intend to celebrate again on Christmas Eve, but don’t yet know where. If you are looking for a big way to give this Christmas, and have the time, it would be lovely if we could celebrate at my house in the city like we did last year. That means driving to Elba and back on Christmas Eve, and again Christmas morning. Please let me know if you are moved to do that… it does include being welcomed in to Christmas Eve dinner! (I can take 4 people in my car, but there are about ten or twelve people to bring). (If we do this we will also need the loan of air mattresses and sleeping bags).

When we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe last night, we remembered that she appeared ten years after the Aztec conquest, when the native people of what is now Mexico were utterly, utterly defeated. Note that the man she appeared to, Juan Diego, had even lost his Indian name. But there she was, with skin like his, speaking his language, using his familiar Aztec religious symbols. It was like God was saying, “Psst! It’s me! Don’t worry! I’m the same God you have always known and loved!” And most of all, she spoke to him with respect. She stood, and he stood; she spoke to him as an equal. We talked about that; about the people who might not speak to one with respect. Perhaps a boss. Perhaps someone in the street, or in a store. But that is never the voice of God. Our God lifts us up and sees what is best in us. And our God is with us in the worst times of our lives. God is here, and don’t be afraid. I love to see the light that shines in people’s eyes when that message clicks: you – yes, you – are a person worthy of respect. You have dignity and worth. You!

I don’t expect to write a bulletin next week, as I will be in El Salvador. No Mass at St Romero’s this Sunday, but we will be back at St Joe’s at 11 am on Sunday December 23, and you are most welcome to join us, then.

Blessings and peace in this Advent season
Love and light to all,
Chava


Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, December 9, 2012: 2nd Sunday of Advent

Friends,

You know what December 6th is, right? The Feast of St Nicholas, the man who threw gold through the window of a house to keep three young women from being sold into slavery. St Nicholas… not to be confused with his modern iteration, the guy we know around here as “Sancho Claus,” who brings toys and all kinds of stuff to people who already have more than they need. This is the saint who used what he had for the freedom and dignity of three people with little power or hope.

How fitting, then, that it was on December 6th that I toured a mobile home that seemed to be a perfect home for our little family. More than clean and safe – it’s well kept, comes with appliances – and costs $24,900. I was so excited! If we were to find a way to buy it, the monthly payments including the lot rent would be less than the cost of renting an apartment.

When I told the guys about it, though, they shook their heads. I told them I believed it might be possible to raise the money, but they said, “not there.” The police in that town have a reputation for harassing Mexicans. They would not feel safe, would feel that they were at risk every time they drove through the town. I have to honor that. Instead we’re going to go look at a place they heard is for rent.

Still… imagine if the church had a house. Imagine if it were a Catholic Worker sort of house, where people could come and be safe, where we could keep some food for folks who might need it, have a resource room for learning English or anything one might want to learn. We could have a community meal sometimes, maybe have Mass there. It would need to be out in the country, not so much on the main drag, someplace people felt safe.

I’m going to keep looking.

Back in the city, we still have Mass on Sunday mornings. (But not Sunday, December 16. I will be in El Salvador, worshiping with the Shekina community in Santa Ana!) On November 25, it finally happened that no one came to Mass. One man did show up, but he wanted a sandwich, so I gave him a sandwich and told him he didn’t have to sit through Mass in order to get it. He thanked me and left. I waited, and prayed, and asked God what to do with the hour. Then another man came to the door. He desperately needed to use the bathroom. I let him in, and when he was done, we sat and talked. He has IBS, he said. Can you imagine having irritable bowel syndrome, and being homeless? I decided that was why I was there that morning – just to let him in.

This past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, seemed like it was going to be the same. I was explaining to one man why he could not come in: because the last time he was there, he locked himself in the men’s room and refused to leave. Just then another man showed up. “Are you here for church?” I asked, and he said yes, so we celebrated the Mass. He turned out to be a person of deep faith. During the shared part of the homily, he made up a song on the spot, “God uses you,” he sang, “and God uses me.” It was beautiful. There were just two of us, but it was real church.

I hope you are having a peaceful Advent, with lots of time to just be with God and listen. It’s hard to find that kind of time in this busy season, but oh, so important. In my sermon this Sunday I taught a prayer that I learned in the book “The Geography of Grace.” It doesn’t have any words. You start with your hands in that “Praying Hands” position you learned as a child. Then slowly, you open your hands. Open to God, open to what God is calling you to. Hands that say Yes. “The hardest prayer in the world,” it says in the book.

May our little church be whatever God is dreaming. A house, a ministry, more love, more openness. May it be so.

Blessings to you this Advent!
Love and light to all

Chava

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church Bulletin for Sunday, December 2, 2012: First Sunday of Advent

Friends,

Yesterday morning I woke up excited. It was going to be a big day, with our bi-weekly trip to Buffalo in the morning, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” in the evening, and best of all, it looked like it would be moving day. The guys had been told they could move in to a new house, and that it had more room than the place they are now. I remembered the house they were in last fall, which was an old farm house with lots of rooms. I had high hopes that this one would be similar, a cleaner and better place to be for the winter. Santiago and I decided to go and take a look at it on our way to Buffalo.

As we drove down the street, we spotted a house we thought might be it: a weather-beaten but solid-looking old farmhouse. But no, we hadn’t gone far enough. I was relieved – I had hoped for something better than the peeling paint and obvious lack of care there. We kept driving and finally came to the house they guys were told they could call home for the winter.

We looked at it in dismay. Ramshackle doesn’t describe it. More like, it looked like if you opened the door the whole place would crumble. From the type of foundation, it was old --- like, 1800’s old. There was a trailer out back, a “trash trailer,” I was told. That means, a trailer full of trash. “Maybe it will be better inside,” we said, and went on to Buffalo.

We told the men at the immigration office about the new house. “You drive down the street, and when you come to the worst house you ever saw, that’s it,” I said. The man shook his head. Not the worst. “We’ve got a guy living in a house with a tree growing out of it,” he told us. But they were familiar with the house, anyway. “What’s it like inside?” I asked. Worse than where they are now, they said. I didn’t think anything could be worse than where they are now, except for the houses made of sticks and plastic that people live in the desperately poor parts of El Salvador. It made my stomach hurt.

That afternoon I talked to the farmer. The guys wanted the key so they could move in, and also asked if they could clean and paint first. She got mad, saying they should have moved in on Sunday. They worked on Sunday! “But they got out at 3,” she said. “That gave them two hours of daylight to move! Or they could have stayed up all night.” The clincher came when she found out about the young woman in the house. “No wives, no girlfriends!” she said. “The house is just for men.”

I asked if there were other options. “Yes,” she said, “look in the want ads for an apartment!”

And you know what? That’s what we’re going to do. Thanks to the generous donations some of you made, the church can subsidize an apartment for them... that is, they’ll pay what they can, and we will pay the rest. We’re looking, now. Please pray as we find a suitable place - clean, safe, a place one can bring a newborn baby in the Spring – and affordable.

That evening was the showing of “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” It was sold out! It was lovely to see so many old friends, and some of you reading this bulletin. The timing was exquisite, as it brought Fr Roy Bourgeois to Rochester at this difficult moment when he has been told he’s no longer a priest because of his support for women’s ordination. I hope it did him good to be among us kindred spirits.

After the film, someone approached me with concerns about those of us women priests who have no financial support for our ministries. That’s a whole ‘nother bulletin, but I want to tell you that on thinking about it, I believe we are at a time in the life of the church when we need to look at ways of being church that don’t involve buying church buildings and paying salaries to clergy. Look at what happens to churches --- they turn into being about raising money. If we have a clergy with “day jobs,”  - if we are a poor church! – operating closer to the ground – what money we do have can go directly to serving, accompanying and empowering people.

Perhaps it’s easy for me to say that, because I do have a “day job,” or two. I love my work as a chaplain and it’s an important part of my ministry. Without it, I would not be free to give my life to people who can only pay me in vegetables!

I am grateful for my life, my work, my ministry. I am grateful to Fr Roy, who has given up his own power and privilege to stand with us women priests. And I’m grateful to all of you who read this bulletin each week. Together we are church, church beyond boundaries of buildings, denominations, beyond where each of us is on Sunday morning. We are the people of God, one little part of the people of God, growing and learning and dreaming a new church and a new world into being…. May it be so.

One last thing. If you want to help the migrants, the single most important thing you can do is to write to your senators and representatives and tell them that we need Comprehensive Immigration Reform, now. There is hope that the time may be ripe for this, and your letters count. The best hope for the guys in deportation hearings is reform of the laws. Please write.

Love and light and blessings and peace and a blessed Advent to you! Please also pray for my sister priest, Rev Jean Marchant, who was supposed to be a speaker at “Pink Smoke” but was unable to be there because of illness.

Love to all
Chava

Rural Migrant Ministries Dinner, this Tuesday, December 4 at Temple B’rith Kodesh. $50 a plate. Librada Paz will be honored for her RFK Human Rights Award and Rev McMickle, the new president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, will speak. Hope to see you there.

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, November 25, 2012: Feast of Christ the King

Friends,

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said, “People go to work because they don’t know how to fish!”  It was Black Friday morning, and already stores had been open for hours. Some of them opened the night before, on Thanksgiving. Seeing that bumper sticker helped me realize what it is that bothers me so much about that.

Bit by bit, sacred moment by sacred moment, we have eroded our time off, our down time, until we barely know what it is any more. “Remember the
Sabbath day and keep it holy,” the Scriptures say, and add, “or you shall die.”

We human beings, we need down time. We need time to rest, to relax with our families. Time to do nothing. One of the things I’ve learned spending time in the migrant community is the fine art of doing nothing at all. Spending an hour looking for fish in the creek. Sitting and watching a child play. Talking with friends about nothing in particular.

Years ago I visited a friend of my aunt’s who was from Ireland. She gave us tea, and we sat looking at the fire. She commented, “We never just sit and look at the fire, any more.” And that was thirty years ago!

As we end the liturgical year and move into the time of Advent, perhaps we could be aware of the gift the church offers at this time; the gift of silence and waiting. It’s the craziest time of the year, with traditions and parties and shopping and a zillion things to do. But in church it’s the time of blue vestments and an advent wreath that’s lit ever so slowly, just one candle a week. Slow down, if you can. Get away. Spend less. Be in silence more. Let that be your Christmas gift to yourself: peace.

There is not much news from the migrant community this week. Folks have found work, at least for now, and there is hope of a house. The hours are more reasonable, and they are home by 8, sometimes sooner. The family that was driving to Mexico made it as far as the border, and crossed, but after that their phone didn’t work. Nobody is worried about that, and we expect to hear soon that they’ve arrived in Chiapas. Thanks so much for your prayers, and please keep holding them all in your heart. Me, I’m going to write to the president and tell him they need an amnesty.

One more piece of news: Fr Roy Bourgeois, who will be speaking at the showing of “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” this coming Tuesday at the Cinema Theater, received word this past week that he has been dismissed by the Maryknoll order --- dismissed by the Vatican, not the Maryknollers. Apparently the dismissal actually took place on October 4, the Feast of St Francis. I am reminded of when they excommunicated the women who were ordained on the Danube – it was done on the Feast of Mary Magdalene. Come hear Fr Roy and offer him your support. Tickets available through Spiritus: 325-1180.

And come to the Rural Migrant Ministries Dinner, if you will. December 4 at Temple B’rith Kodesh. $50 a plate, and wonderful company! Librada Paz will be honored for her RFK Human Rights Award. Hope to see you there.

Unless, of course, you are taking some time off for Advent peace and stillness.

Love and light to all
Chava


Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, November 11, 2012: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends,
This weekend I will be on retreat with the women of the Eastern Region of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. I am looking forward to spending time with my sister priests! – but because of this, we will not be having Mass at St Joe’s this Sunday, November 18. Hope to see you on the 25th!

There is good news to share this week. Librada Paz is being honored tonight (Weds, Nov 14) in Washington DC by the Robert F Kennedy Foundation with their Human Rights Award, for her many years of advocacy for farm workers. Congratulations, Librada! May this award be a force for good. Santiago and I attended a dinner that Librada held this past Saturday with other farm workers and members of the RFK Foundation, Kerry Kennedy and several others, as well as other local farmworker advocates. The RFK folks wanted to hear from farm workers about their experiences. We told them about folks working until 9:30 or 10 six days a week, with a few hours off on Sunday evening. We told them about the cockroaches and the bed bugs and the septic tank that backed up into the shower. They listened and wrote everything down. May it bear good fruit.

I am very happy to tell you that our guys who are staying here for the winter have found work. In fact, they had offers of work that they had to turn down! – because they were only for a day or two, while this job will last into the winter. There is a good possibility that it will come with housing, as well. You folks have been so generous that I am confident that if needs come up later in the winter we will be able to help as needed. (There is another family that we have already been helping, and I hear that they have now found work, too).

Last night I blessed the car of a family that will be going back to Mexico tomorrow. It is bittersweet: we are very sorry to see them go, and sorry to miss seeing their baby grow up. But the parents, like so many people here, have other children in Mexico who are being raised by family members. I am glad that they will all be back together. This is what the ICE were hoping would happen, but I would like to note that this couple, and others who are returning with them, are the sort of people one would think we would want to attract to this country. They are intelligent, hard working, resilient, resourceful people, courageous people. God bless them and grant them a safe trip (days and days in the car with a baby…). Please pray for them.

And finally, a small miracle story. This past Sunday morning we read the story of Elijah visiting a widow and asking her to make him something to eat. She tells him she has almost nothing left and expects to prepare it and then die. He says, make me something to eat and you will have enough until the rains come (and more food grows). And that’s what happens. So I asked if anyone had ever felt like that woman. Sure enough, one man said he had a nickel in his pocket and that was it. Another pointed out that we had just experienced this story. Just as we were getting started he had offered what he had in his pockets to the rest of us: an apple and a lemon. Right after he said it, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: a bag of sandwiches that someone had donated was sitting on the table. Enough sandwiches for everyone that wanted one. It was just like the Elijah story, we decided. Share what you have, and there will always be enough.

Thank you, Lord, for being such a wonderful God. The more we trust you, the more we learn to trust you more!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. It’s never too early to start being thankful!

Love to all,
Chava.

Remember “Pink Smoke over the Vatican” on November 27th. Tickets available at the Spiritus Office,325-1180.  $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Rural and Migrant Ministries Dinner, Tuesday Dec 4 at Temple B’rith Kodesh. $50 a plate. Still need volunteers. President Marvin McMickle of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School will be speaking.
One last thing: St. Joe’s is very much in need of shelter volunteers.  If you would be willing to give a couple nights a month to this ministry, please call St. Joe’s, 232-3262 and leave a message for Vanessa.

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, November 11, 2012: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends,

“La migra are not our enemies.  They are just doing their job.”

That was the response of a twenty-five year old farm worker when I suggested to him that we should be praying for immigration authorities, because Jesus told us to love our enemies.

Sometimes people ask me how I keep going when surrounded by so much injustice.  Moments like that one, seeing the generosity and forgiveness in the heart of that young man, are points of light in my week.

Here’s another one:
Last Thursday we met early for Mass because the guys had requested a blessing of the cars before they went to Florida.   We were supposed to start at 4:00, but it was actually 5:30 before we got going, partly because we were waiting for people, but also because we had to wait while a young man (under his father’s orders) washed his car.  Finally we were ready. They opened all the doors and the hoods of the cars. I had the bucket and sprinkler that we use on Easter and went around and blessed all those cars, praying for safety on the road: safety from la migra, from accidents, from hitting any animals.  Then I handed the bucket and sprinkler to one of the men, and each of them blessed the cars as well.  Then we blessed each other! It was a joyful time.  As I was walking around the cars with the doors open, I could see that with the six people they were planning to take in each car there would be no room for cargo.  I asked where they would put their things, and they explained that they could not take anything except a change of clothes.  I thought of Jesus sending the disciples out with orders not to carry anything along.  I’m happy to tell you that they called this week to say that everyone arrived safely. Gracias, Dios, y bendices nuestros hermanos. Thank you Lord, and please bless our brothers and keep them safe!

Another lovely thing this week was going with our young mother-to-be for an ultra sound.   It’s a boy! We watched him sucking his thumb and waving his little hand in a way that seemed to say, “Hola, Mama!”  Her husband and two of the other men who are staying here found some work picking cabbage for a few days, so he was not along.  As I write this on Friday, they are going from farm to farm, looking for work.

Thank you for your prayers and offers of support this week.  Donations have come in that will enable us to help folks with their security deposit and first month’s rent when they find new places to live.  It is still too early to know who will need help and how much help will be needed.  But it feels good to know that we will be able to offer that help, thanks to a number of you.  Please pray. It is a scary time.

Last Sunday evening when I brought Santiago back to the little house, there were visitors.  A young couple with a baby – for whom I brought holy water when he was a newborn last spring - were there. They asked how I was, and I said, “sad, and worried for you all.”  So we talked about the situation, and passed the baby around, and they told me that they are going back to Mexico. We are all sad to see them go.

This is actually the intention of the government. When we went in to report in Buffalo last week, the man said to me, “You have to understand the government’s point of view. They are hoping that these people will just go home.  You, of course, are coming from a point of view of compassion, and caring about these people...” Every time I tell that story, I start to laugh.  Sir, do you hear what you are saying?

As our President begins a second term of office, I pray that the hearts of all those in power will turn to “compassion and caring about these people.” Our folks need amnesty and a path to citizenship.  They need just labor laws that give them the basic rights that you and I take for granted.  They need decent housing, health care, education and a chance to rest.

The situation I wrote about last week, of 92 people being put out of work and their homes, moves us to compassion.  What these brother and sisters need most from us right now is that everybody reading this would sit down and write to the president, senators, congress people, state officials, anybody that you can think of with the power to change things, and tell this story and demand justice and life-giving change.

Last week the guys and I were in the post office in Batavia. I bought a package of stamps that had pictures of flags and the words, Freedom, Liberty, Equality and Justice.  May we, the citizens of this country, demand that justice, equality and liberty be extended to these brave, resourceful, stalwart, hard-working people.

May it be so.
Love to all,
Chava

P.S.  Next weekend, Sunday November 18th , I will be on retreat with the womenpriests of the eastern region of RCWP, and we will again not have Mass. Hope to see you on the 25th.

Remember “Pink Smoke over the Vatican” on November 27th. Tickets available at the Spiritus Office,325-1180.  $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Rural and Migrant Ministries Dinner, Tuesday Dec 4 at Temple B’rith Kodesh. $50 a plate. Still need volunteers. President Marvin McMickle of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School will be speaking.

One last thing: St. Joe’s is very much in need of shelter volunteers.  If you would be willing to give a couple nights a month to this ministry, please call St. Joe’s, 232-3262 and leave a message for Vanessa.

Thanks for all your prayers and support. They give us hope and courage.

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, November 4, 2012: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends,

Right around the time that I was writing the bulletin this past Friday, folks in the migrant ministry were picking up their paychecks. They, and many of their coworkers, got a letter along with their pay. Written in English, the letter explained that immigration authorities had examined the records of the farm, and that they were identified as someone whose papers were in question. In order to remain employed, they would have to come in and prove that they were working legally. 92 people will receive letters like that over the next few weeks.

As I write this on Monday afternoon, I am still in shock. I am remembering the looks on the faces of these dear friends as the reality of the situation sank in. No more work. Some folks are heading south soon, anyway, but for those who must stay here the news is devastating. They are losing their jobs, and will have to leave their homes. Horrible as those homes may be, they are shelter. Children will have to leave school when families relocate. The money they have in their wallets right now is all the income they can expect in the foreseeable future.

It feels like a pogrom. I am reminded of that scene at the end of “Fiddler on the Roof,” when the Jewish residents are being driven out, getting ready to scatter to the four corners of the earth. We human beings do this to each other: scapegoat a group within society, and try to get rid of them, as if they carry all our sins.

It is tempting to blame the farmer in this, but I believe that is a mistake. The evil is in the system. HOW ARE WE GOING TO CHANGE THIS FILTHY, ROTTEN SYSTEM??? I talked with the farmer on Saturday, to find out if my reading of the situation was correct, that everyone would be out of work and out of their homes. She told me that ICE has been pressuring her for weeks to do this. She and other farmers have been trying to prevent this, she said, but to no avail. Apparently it’s not just this one farm. She did say that people will have time to look for another place to live, although work stops immediately.

Last night I stopped by the house where most of our community lives. They were not expecting a knock at the door, so I called through a hole in the door, “Es la pastora!” and they let me in. Some one in the house reads English well enough to decipher that document, and they had already realized what it would mean. We stood talking for about an hour. There was a lot I couldn’t understand, but I told them I was praying for them. Then I remembered a bag of clothes that Al Reinhardt had sent them. It was in a corner, and as I suspected, the person I’d given it to had forgotten to tell the others. So we hauled out the bag and went through it. Coats, hats, shirts: there was something for everyone. We passed around the clothes. One young man tried on a coat, and put the hood on upside down. We all laughed, and he kept the coat on even though they had the heat up in the 80’s. Another young man got a lot of shirts and a stylish coat and hat, and we told him how guapo (handsome) he looked. A man went into his room to get a pair of gloves he had, to see if anyone could use them. Everybody got something, if only a hat, and in the end everything was distributed except a pair of pants that fit no one, which I will bring over to St Joe’s. The conversation grew lighter and more hopeful. At one point everyone laughed. I didn’t get the joke but I think it was about a dog. They started thinking through some of the practicalities of moving on. How will we handle the phone for calling in to immigration every month? I assured them that the church would take care of it and get it set up in the new house, wherever that will be. (Note their hope that there will be a new house). Finally, we made a plan for our last Mass of the season. They asked that we meet early this Thursday, so that there will be daylight and we can bless the cars before they head south. We talked about how we need to pray together at a time like this.

In this moment of fear, shock and uncertainty, we experienced community. We shared information, and clothing. We laughed. We gave each other hope. You were part of that, with your prayers and donations. We make a circle of light, and you know what we Christians believe about the Light: it shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

I do not know what the coming weeks will hold. Please pray – for this little community, for all the 92 put out of work, for the children and spouses who depend on their income. Pray for the farmer. Pray for the immigration officials. Jesus said to, remember? “Love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you.” Pray for me, please, as I walk with them.

Blessings and Love to all,
Chava

"When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” – Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, October 28, 2012: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends,

Last Thursday five of us drove east of the city to Geneva, NY, because the Mexican Consulate was there issuing Mexican passports. I am so grateful that they came to Geneva, and we did not have to make a trip to New York City. Our guys who are in the system have been under pressure to get their passports. (I do not know why). Others viewed it as a good form of identification to have. It was a good news/bad news sort of day. The church helped two folks pay for their passports (thank you for your donations that made that possible). Two others were told that their documentation was not sufficient. Lessening that disappointment, those same two discovered that they are eligible to apply for the Deferred Action for young undocumented people that President Obama signed into being recently. If they are able to get this they will be able to work legally in this country for two years. Continuing the good news/bad news, one of the young men needs to get his GED, which means a lot of studying on top of his already crazy work load. But it is a ray of hope, and it was lovely to see the light in the eyes of these two young men as they heard the good news of their eligibility.

Back at the casita, it was a rough week. On Sunday the septic tank backed up into the shower, and it was four days before the owner responded to their calls requesting that it be fixed. They were picking potatoes in the rain, and unable to shower. Reading this, do you feel like, “Does it ever stop?” Me, too. Them, too. One of the men, on hearing about the shower, said, “Sometimes I wish I could just go up to cielo (heaven) and stay there. “

It’s hard to feel good about yourself and feel that you have much worth when you are working as hard as they do, covered with sweat and unable to shower, and fighting bed bugs all night long. Not to mention the roaches, which having been driven from the kitchen have now found their way to the bedrooms. Last night at Mass we talked about the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man who threw off his cloak and followed Jesus after crying out for mercy. We talked about where he got the will to cry out for help when he was told he was nothing, and how that voice of God in our hearts that tells us that we are precious and worth fighting for is the voice to listen to, not the voices outside of our selves that do not care. We talked about how hard it is to pursue education when one is working so hard, and I shared my own story of studying each night after my girls were in bed. We spoke of how it is never too late to learn.

It turned out that Mass last night was not the last one of the season, as the guys have postponed their trip to Florida for one week. So it will be this Thursday, November 1st, that we will give a blessing to our travelers. Please let me know if you would like to join us.

Two events that are up coming:
Tickets are now available at the Spiritus Christi office for the special screening & discussion of "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" on Tuesday, November 27, 7 PM, at the Cinema Theatre, 957 S. Clinton Ave. The documentary examines the movement of women seeking to be ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church, and will be followed by a discussion with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Rev. Mary Ramerman, Rev. Jean Marchant, and moderator Lynne Staropoli Boucher. For more information on tickets, contact Ruth or Elaine at the Spiritus office: office@spirituschristi.net 325-1180. Hope to see you there!

Secondly, the Rural and Migrant Ministries dinner is coming up on December 4, 2012 at Temple B’rith Kodesh. Please let me know if you would like to receive a paper invitation and I’ll mail you one. We are still looking for volunteers for setup, serving and clean up as well.

There is a book I am recommending these days: “Geography of Grace: Doing Theology From Below,” by Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke. They are talking about just the sort of thing we are doing at St Romero’s! If you like, take a look at it:
http://www.amazon.com/Geography-Grace-Kris-Rocke/dp/0985233400/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351269305&sr=8-1&keywords=geography+of+grace


Many thanks to Anne Haydanek, who typed this bulletin for me once again.

Blessings and Love to all,
Chava

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Bulletin for Sunday, October 21, 2012: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Friends,

As our second season in the migrant ministry draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned since June of 2011 when we began this ministry.

I’ve learned that if you are out in the fields and a storm comes up, you can take shelter by standing on the side of a telephone pole that’s away from the wind, and making yourself as thin as possible.

I’ve learned that when cooking in migrant dwellings it is wise to bang your pots on the floor to knock off any cockroaches that might not be visible against the dark metal of the pot. Also that the best defense against cockroaches is to caulk the cracks and holes where they come in, or fill them with steel wool.

I’ve learned that food tastes better when you scoop it up with a tortilla instead of a fork. Also that if there are no tortillas or forks, you can eat with your fingers.

I’ve learned that people who have nearly nothing can be some of the most generous people around. In recent weeks, St Joe’s has received donations of onions, potatoes and winter squash, all from folks in the migrant community. I also think of the man who, on learning that one of his companions had arrived from Florida without a blanket this past spring, gave him – not just any old one of his blankets, but the best one he had, the big thick white one that you could fold over to make two blankets. Gave it without a second thought.

I’ve learned that even the worst behaving people, people that you would think would be ostracized for their unacceptable actions, are not abandoned by the community. Folks might breathe a sigh of relief when they finally go, but they will not be forced to leave until they choose to. When you need each other for survival, you quite literally grin and bear it.

I’ve learned that language doesn’t have to be a barrier. Just jump in and use what Spanish you have, and communication will usually happen. There is almost always someone who can speak at least some English.  And, even after a year and a half of knowing someone, they might turn out to speak way better English than you ever knew! It also helps if you are not afraid of looking stupid. Recently I asked Alex, our new Catholic Worker who has been coming along on Thursdays, how my Spanish was (He’s bilingual). He told me I was like the Yankees. ?? “Usually, you hit ‘em,” he explained.

Speaking of Alex, I’ve learned to trust that as a community we will have what we need: the people we need, like Alex and Librada, the weather we need, the ability to find our way out in the country in the dark. Last fall, the day that we learned that the first of our men had been taken by immigration and was in the detention center, was the very day that I toured the detention center with a group from the Presbytery. The very day. I was able to say, “he’s safe, it’s clean, there’s good medical care, the guards are not cruel.” AND, I knew how to get there and what to do when I did. God is so kind, so good, so totally in charge.

And finally, I’ve learned that as a nation we are relying on a cruel, hypocritical and unjust system for our food production. Folks in our community work as much as 95 hours a week doing work that folks who are born here simply will not do. The farmers say that when they find someone who is born here to do this work, they typically last three hours. Personally, I don’t think I could do what they do for more than about ten minutes. They are in shape like athletes, but without anything of the prestige or compensation we give our athletes. They come here out of desperation, because they cannot find work in Mexico. They cross the desert at great peril. They live their lives in fear of la migra, the border patrol and other immigration authorities. They work desperately hard and get little rest. They are abused by bosses, reviled by citizens, separated from their families. They live on the margins of our society, surviving outside of the structures the rest of us live by, without bank accounts or drivers licenses or insurance or credit cards.  We need the work they do, and they do not deserve to live this way.

I’ve learned that we can make a difference simply by showing up each week, by learning names, hearing stories, sharing cookies, celebrating Mass. The difference we make may be more in ourselves than in their daily lives, but that’s a difference worth having. One by one, we learn to see, not “illegals,” but friends. Brothers. Sisters. People whose lives matter every bit as much as our own. And maybe the difference in ourselves, in our point of view, will set us on fire to change the world.

Oh, may it be so.

Amen.

Love to all,

Chava


Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620