Global solidarity: A Christian mandate
The universality of the Catholic Church - that's one of the lasting impressions we carry with us after attending a papal audience in St. Peter's Square in Rome. In 2004, I was privileged to participate in a Pentecost Vigil service and a Wednesday audience with the late Pope John Paul II. It was amazing to mingle with people from all over the world, some in colorful native costumes from Africa, Europe, and South America. There were many languages spoken, but we all shared a common faith.
Global family. We are indeed brothers and sisters with God as our Father. We have so much in common with our global family. And with modern means of communication and transportation, the world is growing smaller and smaller.
Yet many of us still remain isolated in our comfortable lives, failing to learn more about the world outside of our own communities. We insulate ourselves from the joys and challenges of our global family.
Yet Christ himself and our Catholic faith teach us just the opposite. "Love your neighbor as yourself," Christ told us. Pope John Paul II urged us to develop solidarity with people throughout the world. He said solidarity "is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (John Paul II, On Social Concerns).
Developing solidarity. One way to develop solidarity is to learn more about people from other countries. Many Catholic parishes have developed "sister-parish" relationships with parishes in other parts of the world. This includes visits between the two countries and opportunities to learn about and help each other by sharing of gifts.
A few years ago, people in the Diocese of Madison discussed the possibility of forming a diocesan-wide partnership with a sister diocese in a developing nation. The diocese decided to work with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) because of its experience and knowledge. The decision was made to participate in CRS' Global Solidarity Partnership program with the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga in northeastern Ghana. Two delegations from Madison have visited Ghana and one from Ghana came here in 2005.
I met members of the Ghana delegation last year and was impressed by their knowledge in many areas and their deep faith. We have much to learn from them and they are also learning from us. We are equal partners and are indeed building solidarity with each other.
Global Solidarity Week. The week of February 18-26 has been designated as Global Solidarity Week in the Diocese of Madison. We hope everyone in the diocese will participate in some way through prayer, education, and support of global solidarity projects, including raising funds to support the Donkey Project in Ghana. For more information contact Ben Weisse in the diocesan Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach, phone 608-821-3164 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Building solidarity is not just a nice thing to do. It is a mandate from Christ and our church. Let's pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world and make efforts to reach out in understanding and support.
Mary C. Uhler
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Madison, WI 53744-4985
Consider more than money
in cathedral decision
To the editor:
Several letters have suggested that St. Raphael Cathedral not be rebuilt, culminating in Joe McDonald's tactless comparison of collection plates (Mailbag, January 26). Were the Catholic Church a business, his proposal would make sense: close the small, inefficient branch office. Happily, the Church is not in the business of moneymaking nor of economies of scale and the foundation of her entire theology (not least her pro-life efforts) is that small things are worth saving.
If we were to judge the worth of St. Raphael's, perhaps we should attend to more than cash. For example:
The Madison isthmus is symbolically the center of the city and state, and the cathedral the heart of the diocese; to move the cathedral elsewhere would symbolize the Church retreating before the world.
The downtown parishes serve not only their own parishioners, but also many workers who attend daily Mass and a huge (but not wealthy) Hispanic population.
In the "traffic congest[ed]" downtown Mr. McDonald derides, the Church dwells with the homeless and the poor; a suburban cathedral would make our Church's face too polished, too well-fed, too untouched by suffering.
The downtown parishes, though small, are home to Bible studies, parish retreats, choirs, festivals, sound preaching, daily confessions, breakfasts, suppers, devotions, flocks of small children, and (beginning February 12) a Perpetual Adoration chapel. "Very small" does not mean dying.
If Mr. McDonald wishes to evaluate productivity by the numbers, he might note that 20 percent of our diocesan seminarians come from these "three smallest . . . parishes."
Moreover, Mr. McDonald's own proclamation that it is 2006, and not the 1850's, reminds us that it will not be 2006 for long. Decisions about the future of a parish should look not to today, but to the century ahead. In these three years we have already seen men rushing to the seminary; the priest shortage, while not yet over, is nevertheless a passing phenomenon. Patricia Butler (Mailbag, January 19) indicates that people are returning to the depopulated downtown. Time's changes do not always run in just one direction.
It might be comfortable and businesslike to withdraw the cathedral to the suburbs; it would certainly carry a middle-class respectability. But if our bishop chooses not to rebuild our cathedral downtown, it will be for better reasons than low collection figures, a temporary priest shortage, and a belief that small things are unimportant.
Anders Hendrickson, Madison
Allocate more resources to rural areas of the diocese
To the editor:
I would like to add some input to the letters to the editor concerning the St. Raphael's property. They have suggested using the property for another use rather than rebuild the cathedral when there are other churches just blocks away.
This makes a great deal of sense to me from my perspective as a Catholic that lives in the very rural area of northern Columbia County. It seems here we are always faced with the prospect of having our churches closed due to the priest shortage. It seems much more sensible to close a church where people will have to go a few blocks to attend another, rather than close a church where they will need to travel 10, 15, or more miles to attend another.
The preliminary results of the diocesan survey have shown that even though the rural parishes are smaller, the churches are fuller at Mass than the Madison churches. So it only makes sense to avoid spending money on the rebuilding of St. Raphael's and allocate more to the rural areas instead.
Jerry Cigelske, Cambria
Thanks for drive support
To the editor:
The recent generosity of thousands of caring people and supporting organizations means that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will once again be able to provide some warmth and comfort to Dane County neighbors in need. On behalf of the society, I want to extend our thanks to the many donors and volunteers who made the 14th Annual Recycle the Warmth Blanket Drive, held January 27 through January 29, a significant success. Blankets and other bedding items were donated at more than four dozen Dane County churches of many denominations, along with cash contributions. Based on what we took in at the four Madison-area ShopKo stores, we will be able to meet substantial need among local men, women, and children.
We extend a special thanks to ShopKo and its caring staff members who helped us to mount this drive. ShopKo halved the price on a good-quality blanket that many customers purchased and contributed. We're grateful, too, to the 50 religious congregations that took part. The resources they provided mean that we will be able to provide blankets to the families and individuals we assist in need of that comfort.
Ralph Middlecamp, executive director,
District Council of Madison, Inc., Society of St. Vincent de Paul