“Yahweh went before them, by day in the form of a pillar of cloud to show the
the way, and by night in the form of a pillar of fire to give them light; thus they could
continue their march by day and by night.” (Exodus 13)
Dear Friends, November 2018
In 1919, my wife Ronnie’s mom (Alice) was 5 years old. Alice and her family were Catholics living in Iran. Catholics at that time were being systematically slaughtered by Turkish forces. This small child walked 400 miles with her mother, her brother and her cousin whose entire family had been killed. They escaped death at home by going to a refugee camp in Iraq, where Alice remembered receiving her first communion. Catholicism was at the heart of why her family left home. Alice clearly remembered the rest of her trip to Marseille, France (2,000 miles from home). There her family was reunited with other beloved relatives and she felt safe for the first time in months. Their faith gave them strength on the journey and became central to their lives when they arrived safely.
For the rest of her long her life, Alice thanked God for protecting her family and others during their long exodus from death to life. Her hardships cemented in her a love for family, God and country – all sources of security! Whenever Alice saw pictures of refugees in the news, she cried, saying, “That was us.” Over and over again she told us, “My mother was so strong.” Eventually, Alice and her family made it to Ellis Island and her father.
Today, over 7,000 sisters and brothers have left all (in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador etc.) and are walking across Mexico. Imagine taking your children on such a journey. Imagine the hardships and dangers! Their motivations are similar to those of Alice’s family. Stay home and die or travel and maybe find a way of life. Today’s refugees also believe that God is with them. Their love of family is unmistakable and their need for security is vital.
The United States of America is their destination. Will we blame them, reject them, jail them, kill them or what? It might be helpful to ask, “Why are so many risking so much to come so far?” It might be good to remember these are our brothers and sisters and are part of the Body of Christ. “Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger, or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help? Then he will answer, ‘ I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.’” (Matt 25)
For decades, U.S. corporate interests in countries south of our border have been doing business without investing in the local economies (i.e. they don’t pay fair taxes or fair wages). Consequently, life there is awful. There is little or no money for sewers, water projects, schools, healthcare, roads etc. It is true that the U.S. did send some aid over the years; but this only compounded the problem, as massive debt repayment added to the poverty and fueled corruption. A good deal of this aid was in the form of weapons that were used to violently crush unions, human rights groups, churches and other possible sources of organized opposition. Oscar Romero used to say, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint; but when I ask why are they poor, they call me a communist.”
Catholic Workers feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. At our home for teens at risk, no one is paid to work and no one is charged anything to live here. We do invest in our guests by loving them. This is the good news of the Gospels. Love works and hate divides.
One of the stories Alice told of her journey was especially heart breaking. A newborn infant, just weeks old, died while they were running for their lives. There was so much fear and urgency that the child was left on the side of the road. No one had time to bury their love. Imagine!!!
Larry for all of us.
P.S. Thanksgiving is a time to remember our blessings. We have so much. We are all one body.
- Food in any amount. Right now we have 7 guests at the house. We can also use shampoo, conditioner, Kleenex, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, zip lock freezer bags (gallon), laundry detergent; A video projector for slide shows, movies, or art projects, and a light suit case.
- Day Laborers: if you need a worker, call Cesar at (650) 339-2794.
- Transportation: after housing and jobs, the next crucial item is transportation. We need bikes, cars and vehicles (trucks, RV’s). For your information, in the past 5 years, the Redwood City Catholic Worker has distributed about 800 bikes. Most of these come from Terry Rolleri in S.F. who is a fantastic connection and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange. The Bike Exchange collects free bikes, repairs them and then donates them to area programs for the poor..
- A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker center. The new Oakland house for men coming out of San Quentin is terrific. We are looking for help with the running expenses ($25,000 a year) and also bar bells for weight lifting.
- Christmas Gifts: We give out 150 (ten dollar) gift cards at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cards can be for Safeway or Target. In addition, we adopt 50 plus families for Christmas gifts. We can use all the help we can get.
- FOOD PROGRAM: We need food carts with strong wheels for the elderly in our food program, reusable food bags, and large plastic garbage bags.
- Your ongoing love and support. We are still putting together scholarship money for students in need ($1,500 to $2,000 per student). Call Larry (650) 366-4415