By Father Benedict J. F. Brown
The July 24 edition of The Record carried an editorial describing the dreadful plight of children immigrants who have left central American countries, seeking refuge on the north side of the Mexican-U.S. border.
Two days earlier, Archbishop (Joseph E.) Kurtz’ letter to the membership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops over which he presides, was also posted on his blog. The archbishop referenced the situation with the children and joined Pope Francis in his call for prayer. The editor of The Record, rightly, I think, applauded the contributions of Catholic Charities to the plight of the children.
In recent weeks we have also seen overtures from Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles and Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts offering temporary housing for the children. Also, the reverse side of the July 24 editorial page carried the list of Catholic summer picnics in our area, including perhaps the biggest of them all, now just a few days away — The St. Joseph Orphans’ Picnic.
I can’t help but link, at least in my imagination, the local project and the international crisis.
At its Saint Joseph Center for Child Development, the orphanage serves the majority of its children on a commuting, that is, non-residential basis. My call to the facility last week helped me to learn that the residential facility, which in the past housed more than 200 students (as did the St. Thomas – St. Vincent Home in Anchorage), now has forty residential students.
I suspect that similar research around the country in other large and larger cities would reveal that other archdioceses and religious communities find themselves with similar situations. That is, Catholic educational and care facilities once housed many more children than they currently do.
Perhaps if these facilities were made available for temporary accommodations for the immigrant children, we could:
-Counteract the scandalous voices who say “Ship ‘em back; they’re not ours!”
-Have less need for the huge amount of federal money proposed by the president and opposed by the soon-to-recess Congress.
-And respond to the crisis in the Spirit of Him Who said: “Let the children come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven,” (Luke: 18:15-17).
Father Ben Brown is hospice chaplain for the VA Medical Center, an adjunct instructor in religious studies at St. Catharine College and sacramental moderator of Holy Rosary Church in Springfield, Ky.