Sunday, September 23
By Father Tom Hurley
When I think about how all of us have felt this past month since the Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed the atrocities of abuse which happened in our Church over the course of decades, I become sick, angry, saddened, and confused. I grieve deeply for innocent lives that have been changed forever. How can the Church I love and dedicated my life to be so broken? I know it’s human and has faults, but I never imagined such a systemic brokenness of evil could infiltrate its way into OUR church. Clericalism and the broken system needs to change: NOW! I hope you’ll come tomorrow evening to express both your lamentation and your ideas for change.
And while I am deeply hurt and frustrated by this imperfect Church, I then think back to July of this summer when I had the great honor and opportunity to travel with Father Jack Wall and a group of priests from Chicago down to the United States/ Mexico Border. It was there in the small town of McAllen Texas that I had the privilege of seeing the true beauty of the Church in action. Revealed through the incredible ministry of so many women religious and others who join them, what I saw and experienced was what truly defines the church. Brokenness, scandal, and abuse are NOT what define the Catholic Church. Being the face of mercy for immigrants and asylum seekers, giving poor people a chance for a better way of life, providing shelter, food, and hope: this IS the work of the Church and that’s the kind of stuff that gets me excited to be a part of it.
One of the great heroes I met during my time in McAllen Texas was Sister Fatima Santiago, a missionary Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Born in India, Sister has served 7 years in Guatemala and 24 years here in the United States doing a vast array of pastoral work, including ministry to refugees and migrants. Sister Fatima has an energy like no one else. She and her religious order presently run an organization called Proyecto Desarrollo Humano, doing everything from tutoring, teaching English, immigration/ legal services, and providing basic human needs for the poor in southern Texas. She is a true inspiration.
Every year, churches in the large metropolitan areas like Chicago are asked to welcome missionaries who tell their stories of what the Church is doing in rural, mission territories. When I met Sister Fatima and her colleagues this past July, I knew that her coming to Old St. Pat’s would be a huge blessing for us. It’s people like Sister Fatima and her community who remind us, in the midst of scandal and hurt, what the true work of the gospel is all about. I am delighted she accepted our invitation and she is with us today.
Father Tom Hurley