Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ
Very Rev. James V. Matthews
Rev. Aidan McAleenan
In the wake of the energy generated by the visit of Pope Francis to Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia, the question could be: Where do we go from here?
The answer, say many involved in initiatives of the Catholic Church to better the lives of the poor and marginalized, is: We're already going.
"My goal as bishop is and has been all along to implement the vision of Pope Francis in our diocese," said Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, of Oakland. "I look forward to praying and reflecting on the Holy Father's many homilies and messages from his U.S. visit, and working with the priests and people of the diocese on how we can do in Oakland what Francis is doing for the whole Church."
The issues of the environment, immigration and poverty addressed by Pope Francis during his visit are already on the minds of parishioners at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
"It was the inspiration of our Holy Father's presence in our nation that has charged so many Catholics around this country," said the Very Rev. James V. Matthews, rector of the cathedral. "Even though he didn't come west, we in the West are as excited and as charged as he is."
As for the where-do-we-go-from-here part, "it's already happening," Father Matthews said.
The Bible study group at the cathedral has decided for its next session, which begins this week to study Laudate Si, Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. Additionally, a collaborative effort with the School of Applied Theology to present a program at the cathedral in the spring on the encyclical is in the planning stages.
On Oct. 17, the Cathedral of Christ the Light, in collaboration with Catholic Charities of the East Bay, will host a daylong event to help permanent residents of the United States move toward citizenship by assisting with free legal advice and paperwork completion. (Click here for related story.)
"We're very happy to be engaged in that," Father Matthews said.
Pope Francis, he said, "has inspired the bishops to create a culture of engagement."
"That's not only for the bishops but for all parishes to engage in what is needed and so necessary at this moment," he said.
"We're going to have to speed up what is needed to be speeded up when it comes to dealing with the issue of poverty, with those who go hungry and homeless each and every day. We're going to have to truly figure out how to be much more welcoming in order to not just address it, but to do something about it."
It will require partnerships with local government and the ecumenical community to do this work, he said.
"It's not acceptable for people to go hungry," he said. "It's not acceptable for people not to have a place to be."
Preparing for the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is on the agenda for Patti Collyer, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Oakland, who spent her time at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia collecting resources from publishers and speakers to share with pastors at a meeting on the subject later this month.
Some pilgrims didn't wait until they got home. A dozen people from St. Columba Parish in Oakland participated in the Faith Matters in America Summit sponsored by the PICO National Network. As each speaker told of his or her fight for justice in employment, health care and the criminal justice system, hundreds of participants rose, applauded and chanted, "we see you."
Rev. Aidan McAleenan of St. Columba gave the morning's invocation and Rev. Jesus Nieto-Ruiz served on an afternoon panel.
PICO is participating in "40 Days of Faithful Action," which included taking peacefully to the streets of Philadelphia during the pope's visit to put the spotlight on the issues of low wages, the justice system and racism.
Francine Peters, a St. Columba parishioner, responded to a speaker on the criminal justice system. The incarcerated, she said, "are thrown away."
"I thought about Jesus saying, 'You visited me when I was in prison,' and I thought, when did I do that?"
So she visited a prisoner who had not had a visitor in years.
Visiting a prison may not be for everyone, she said. "If you can't visit, write a letter."
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