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
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