Illinois

Illinois: Bishops Issue Statement for National Migration Week

The bishops of Illinois today released a statement on National Migration Week, set to begin Jan. 8. It follows, and is also attached.

 

 

2012 National Migration Week

January 8, 2012 (Epiphany of the Lord)

“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”  (Isaiah 60: 1)

These words of hope from the Prophet Isaiah speak to a people who have long faced struggles and who seek hope in darkness.  We, the Catholic Bishops of Illinois, on the cusp of a New Year, seek to offer that same voice of hope to another people in struggle: immigrant families.   The fact that there are 11 million men, women and children in our nation who live in the shadows and are fearful of family separation by deportation is proof that our current system is flawed and our immigration policies have failed us.  Let us pray that in this New Year we may recognize the need for comprehensive immigration reform that respects the rule of law, yet also ensures that the law is applied fairly and compassionately to those immigrant families among us who need our help.

 

How appropriate it is that we celebrate National Migration Week (January 8-14) beginning with the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Like the journey of the Magi following the star to the Source of hope, love and freedom found in the Holy Child lying in the Bethlehem manger, many families are also on a journey seeking hope in a new country.  They seek a place of  economic, emotional, physical and spiritual security, longing for those things needed to live in human dignity:  productive work and fair wages, food, shelter, education, health care, and protection from harm, all too often out of reach in their native land.  Yet, under the current immigration system in our country, we see the tragic separation of many of these families.  Their hopes turn to despair.  But it need not remain this way; we should seek to accompany these families on their journey and support them in their hopes.  We should do this because their hopes for themselves and their families are also ours.

 

Over the months to come, each Catholic diocese in Illinois will be sharing stories of immigrant families who are members of our parishes and communities.  They will share their experiences of past and current struggles as well as their successes and hopes for the future.  These stories will be shared in diocesan publications, in parish bulletins and on the Catholic Conference of Illinois’ website (www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org), as well as other sources.  Please take the time to read their stories and learn about the immigration issues that significantly affect your neighbors and fellow parishioners.

 

We call on all Catholics and people of faith in Illinois to pray for these families and to become those epiphanies: previously hidden manifestations of the Christ within, now revealing to others the deep compassion of Christ through our individual and collective efforts to provide hope and support to immigrant families and to advocate for comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration laws.

 

The Catholic Bishops of Illinois

 

 

Illinois: Public policy arm of the Church in Illinois creates new initiative to preserve marriage

Passage and enactment of the state’s new civil unions law has prompted Illinois’ bishops to create a Defense of Marriage department within the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

CCI’s Director of Government Relations Zach Wichmann heads the new department, with each diocese appointing advocates who seek to promote the Church’s love and solicitude toward marriage, families and children, and defend against public policy encroachments. Department appointees include: Laurie Edwards, Diocese of Belleville; Deacon Richard Hudzik, Archdiocese of Chicago; Michael Brummond, Diocese of Joliet; Tim Roder, Diocese of Peoria; Mary O’Grady, Diocese of Rockford; and Carlos Tejeda, Diocese of Springfield.

Department members gathered at an organizational meeting in September, and will convene quarterly.

Wichmann said the new department reflects the bishops’ intention to keep the Church in the public square and in line with the Catholic faith’s mission. The Defense of Marriage department will advocate marriage as the proper home for human sexuality, as it serves as an expression of love and cooperation in God’s creative design.

Wichmann acknowledged the new department will be fighting an uphill battle against current societal trends.

“The teachings of the Church are not overwhelmingly popular everywhere, nor are they always easily explained,” Wichmann said. “But our message will be proclaimed for the sake of stronger families, secure children and an enriched spiritual life.”

He noted the new civil unions law is just the tip of the iceberg of an eroding yet historically cooperative relationship between the Church and the state of Illinois. The recent decision by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to cancel contracts with Catholic Charities because of the organizations’ refusal to place children with cohabitating couples – including those in civil unions – reflects a growing tension between the Church and state. Catholic Charities is suing to retain the contracts, citing religious discrimination and a 40-year partnership with the state to provide loving homes to the neediest of children.

“The government is not obliged to embrace Church teaching,” Wichmann said. “But the insistence that Catholic organizations discard that teaching undermines our mission and severely narrows opportunities for public ministry.”

And the Church does not suffer alone, Wichmann said. The stature of the nuclear family – which provides love, stability and confidence to children, as well as organization to society – diminishes every day.

“The effects are evident in the performance of children in school, in truancy and crime rates, and in an ailing culture that too often values feeling good over self-giving, and individuality over the common good,” Wichmann said.

He warned that initiatives to redefine marriage in Illinois civil law are likely on the horizon. Lawmakers in New York state this summer passed and the governor signed into law a measure legalizing same-sex marriage. The governor of Maryland is expected to push a same-sex marriage proposal next year. Illinois may not be far behind, Wichmann noted.

“The outcomes of these proposals will have implications in many areas of civil and religious life,” Wichmann said. “The Catholic Church will strive to prevent negative consequences to society, public ministry and children.”