Sunday, July 1, 2018
By Father Tom Hurley
I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old when it happened. My great Aunt Helen who was an immigrant from Ireland and remained single her entire life was like our third grandmother. Everyone in my family adored Aunt Helen. She was awesome; friendly, fun, and very present in our life as kids growing up. I remember one day she brought me with her to the grocery store, a Jewel that used to be located at the corner of 111th and Western. I recall going up and down the aisles with her as she did her shopping, but at some point during our time in the store, I couldn’t find her. Being small and not able to see clearly down the aisles or at the cashier’s line, I started to panic. She’s gone, I thought to myself. She left without me. I remember going outside the grocery store and I rested my rear end up against the store window as I began to cry. What am I going to do, I thought to myself. It didn’t take long for me to burst into tears and quickly thereafter some strangers (adults) gathered around me. What’s the matter, they asked. I can’t find my Aunt Helen, I cried. Moments later (what seemed like eternity) Aunt Helen arrived outside. All was good with the world again. I was safe.
There are certain events that stick out for us in our lives. That’s one of them for me. Being separated from Aunt Helen at that grocery store feels like it happened yesterday. And I’m 51 years old. That separation from my adult-protector only lasted about 10 minutes before I was reunited with Aunt Helen.
Imagine what that must be like for children at the borders of this country, and in other parts of the world as well.
I stand with Cardinal Cupich and the bishops of the United States in decrying the evil act of separating children from their parents. It is nothing short of cruel and unconscionable. As the Cardinal wrote: “There is nothing remotely Christian, American, or morally defensible about a policy that takes children away from their parents and warehouses them in cages. This is being carried out in our name and the shame is on us all.”
I am grateful to the members of Old St. Patrick’s Church and staff who brought us together on Wednesday evening of this past week and crafted a very moving liturgical service for people to lament this present situation in our country. Part of that service included what we called a “Zero Tolerance” litany, led by our own Vince Guider, the director of our Kinship Initiative.
For those who weren’t able to be here on Wednesday, I offer the litany as a way of reminding ourselves as Christians what Zero Tolerance means to us.
“The crisis on our Southern border is morally indefensible. Separating immigrant children from their parents is not only cruelly contrary to the love of Jesus Christ, it is also a form of child abuse that causes irreparable harm, family destabilization, and lifelong trauma. Contrary to the false and insensitive claims of those in power and in contrast to the vile and divisive attitudes of many in our country today, we as Christians, also call for a different form of zero tolerance.
If you refuse to be silent about inhumanity but prefer to act justly, please boldly and loudly respond, ‘ZERO TOLERANCE!’
In response to all racist, sexist, classist, and indecent behavior, we pledge… Zero Tolerance.
In the face of tribalism that breeds insensitivity and apathy against others, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
For political leaders and policies that turn blind eyes to the marginalized, poor, and suffering, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
For godless practices that further empower the haves and more deeply afflict the have-nots, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
When people are subjected to disrespect and alienation because they are different from us in color or sexual orientation, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
When our society discards the elderly, the disabled, the unborn, and the mentally ill and so tears away at the seamless garment of human dignity, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
If institutions remain aloof when they can bring relief to the hungry, the lonely, the unemployed, and those fleeing persecution, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
If our government, businesses, friends, co-workers, associates, classmates, or family members perpetrate any form godlessness discrimination, we pledge Zero Tolerance.
May we always be people who not only speak up but also show up for comprehensive, compassionate, and righteous immigration legislation, and for all other forms of social justice for God’s people, this we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
May this 4th of July week be a time to pray in thanksgiving for our immigrant ancestors who helped to form this country and, in turn, may there be healing and peace in these troubling times.
Father Tom Hurley