Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Welcoming the Stranger, Defending All Human Life

As a young man, I remember meeting Monsignor Dominic Luong, the dynamic pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Last month, Luong—who held the distinction of being the first native-born Vietnamese Roman Catholic bishop in the United States as auxiliary bishop of Orange—died from a lengthy illness. Bishop Luong’s episcopal motto, “You are strangers and aliens no longer” (Ephesians 2:19), reflected his ministry to refugee and immigrant communities. Bishop Luong’s work is a reminder of what it means to encounter and respect all human life, especially migrants.

Considering Bishop Luong’s ministry, Bishop Joe VĂ¡squez’ work with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, and Pope Francis’ focus on authentic Christian relationships, we are reminded that when we confess the pro-life designation, there is a presumption that we are building a culture of life by going out into the world to nurture a culture of encounter. Being pro-life means modeling the approach of Christ to all people, bringing life and peace. An overarching theme in my own heart has been the Share the Journey campaign, which focuses greatly on migrants and refugees. In this contemporary age, we find migrants and refugees who risk their lives, enduring long-suffering and hardships on perilous journeys, only to encounter the walls of hardened hearts that are constructed to keep from their goals of life and peace. As Pope Francis harkens us back to the notion that having compassion means to “suffer with,” we are challenged to remember that our encounter with each other must be in word and deed. We are called to act in defense of all human life.

As a Christian people, we must welcome “the stranger,” expressing genuine care and hospitality for the immigrant community. Approaching the Martin Luther King federal holiday, we must show young people the value of giving back to our communities, renewing our collective commitment to justice and charity. Each of us is called to be a “drum major for justice.” Each of us must be attentive to opportunities to create structures of justice and integrity for those rendered defenseless by indifference. Each of us is called to fight for the fundamental right to life on which every other right is predicated. 

As we approach the commemoration of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, and the tragic consequences of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, we are called to affirm the intrinsic value of human life and the dignity of every human being in a way that transforms culture. Each of us is a holy child of God who is wonderfully and fearfully made. After all, Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). Let us readily accept our moral obligation to defend human life at every age and every stage from conception to natural death. 

Finally, I encourage everyone to participate in the Mass commemorating the work of Martin Luther King at St. Mary Cathedral on Jan. 13 at 5:30 p.m. with Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont. We also encourage everyone to participate in the activities of Texas Catholic Pro-life Day on Jan. 27 beginning with Mass at San Jose Parish in Austin at 10:00 a.m. with Bishop Joe Vasquez, or Saint Louis Parish in Austin at 10:30 a.m. with Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia. For details, visit http://www.austindiocese.org.   

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