JANESVILLE — The General Motors plant in Janesville will stop production on December 23. More than 1,200 hourly GM workers will be laid off effective January 2 after their holiday vacation.
Many other area businesses have announced layoffs, including Woodbridge Group of Brodhead (70 workers) and Allied Automotive Group of Janesville (117 employees). The GM situation will also affect other related businesses, such as daycare providers and area merchants.
Offering solidarity and hope
The Catholic Church is reaching out to offer solidarity and hope to the over 5,000 families affected by the economic downturn, said Fr. Randy Timmerman, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Janesville.
“It’s a time of great economic uncertainty. How do we reach out to our neighbors and find some hope? As people of faith, we trust that God is with us. We hold in prayer so many lives affected,” he said.
He and the other pastors in the Janesville-Milton Cluster of Catholic Churches have planned a special Mass for the unemployed and underemployed and their families on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at St. William Church in Janesville. Bishop Robert C. Morlino will preside and preach at the Mass. Area pastors will concelebrate. Refreshments will follow the Mass.
Choirs from the four Janesville parishes (also including Nativity of Mary and St. Patrick) and St. Mary Parish in Milton have been invited to participate in a joint choir at the Mass directed by Fred Hewitt of St. William Parish.
Turning to the Lord
Father Timmerman said the bishop’s presence at the Mass is a sign that the wider Church in the Diocese of Madison cares about the people suffering from the economic crisis. “It is important that we turn to the Lord and realize he is with us at this time of uncertainly,” said the priest.
Fr. John Auby, pastor of St. William Parish, emphasized that the Mass is open to all concerned about the economy. “Everyone is welcome. We want to pray with them and for them,” he said.
Father Auby said the Catholic Church has historically been supportive of workers. He said the Prayers of the Faithful at daily and weekend Masses have included special prayers for people affected by the economic situation.
Father Auby noted that “it’s a very hard time. People’s lives are drastically affected. There’s a trickle-down effect with many businesses impacted.”
Churches are affected, too. For example, Father Auby said some families are having difficulty paying tuition in Catholic schools or making contributions to the parish.
However, people are still generous. Father Timmerman said monthly contributions to ECHO, the local interdenominational charity, have tripled recently. “People are reaching out,” he said. “It’s a beautiful sign of people caring for people.”