The reflections of our Holy Father on Lenten practices are very timely for all of us. The point of our prayer, fasting and almsgiving is to lead us to a deeper relationship with the Lord and all of those in our family of Faith, to reflect more deeply, for instance, on the “Mark” of the Church, both local and Universal. I would like to share a couple of experiences where I have found this myself recently. These reflections are also a note of thanks to our Office of Life, Justice and Peace, and the dedicated staff of CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration, Inc.), of which I am the Board Chair for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the midst of reflecting on my own Lenten practices, I had the blessing of experiencing two encounters with families of many nationalities who make their homes here in the United States.
This past Saturday, thanks to the efforts of our Office for Life, Justice and Peace, many of those participating in our annual “40 Days for Life” were present for a Mass and breakfast on Saturday morning on the Christ Cathedral campus. “40 Days for Life” is a national pro-life initiative that I have participated in before.
Probably the most powerful testimony of that morning was Rosa and her daughter Milagros.
Rosa moved to the U.S. from Mexico, with her husband, in search of a better life. After struggling to make ends meet, having two children, and moving into their own home, their dreams hit a major wall. Pregnant with their third child, at her prenatal visit Rosa was told that her unborn child had a serious handicap and that Rosa herself was diagnosed with diabetes. The doctor recommended that she get an abortion, as did the second doctor to whom she went for another opinion. When she and her husband arrived at Planned Parenthood, she saw a group of people outside praying during “40 Days for Life.” The care she received from them was exactly what she needed in that moment – and going forward – as she was referred to a doctor willing to help and accompanied her on her journey. Her daughter was born with no legs and a cleft palette. She is happy, brings joy to all around her, including her mother Rosa. Her name? Milagros–miracle.
Thanks to all those joining us in prayer for women in crisis pregnancy and children yet to be born. Also, a special thanks to our pregnancy clinics, shelters, and centers that do this work of accompaniment day in and day out.
Today, Milagros is a loving, vivacious child who brings joy to all. Many people whom I know who are involved with pro-life ministry are very unfairly characterized as being only against abortion, but not supportive of families who have children who either have birth defects or are unwanted. The presence of Milagros, her mother and family and so many friends that Saturday morning gives an eloquent testimony to the untruth of that assertion. Our Lenten practices certainly lead us to new life, as Milagros leads us to appreciate the gift of life and the blessing to walk with so many families in need to support the gift of life.
On Monday of this past week, I was in Washington, D.C. for two committee meetings of the Bishops’ Conference, which I am involved with: CLINIC and the Committee on Migration. Both of these entities have been established for many years, and involve the ministry of many Bishops from around the country and their collaborators in ministry. The ministry of CLINIC has been to help support our immigrant families by assisting priests, religious and lay workers to obtain the necessary “visas” to work and minister here and to support our families. CLINIC also is very family oriented and especially has worked for years, and still works for family unification and to make sure that families stay together. CLINIC, founded in 1988, works with a growing network of over 250 agencies and affiliates around our country. I was just appointed for a second term as the Board Chair for CLINIC, and it is privilege to work with so many people from around the country who care about families. In its mission statement one will find, for example, that “We believe that families and this country are made stronger when immigrants are integrated into our communities. We believe in the promotion of human dignity, preservation of family unity, and the protection of the most vulnerable.”
When the CLINIC Board met this week, we were meeting in the Lenten season and reflected on our own commitment to Lent, and how that leads us to a greater knowledge of the presence of God in our lives and the lives of those whom we serve.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, immigrant families and of our Diocese, pray for us…ruega por nosotros!”
A very blessed journey of this Holy Season.