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Bishop Holley in Washington: A prophetic voice for the voiceless

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Migrantes Hoy / CELAM. We met with Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, on 16 October 2013, at the Annual Conference of Hispanic Ministry, organized by the archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore.

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, and Bishop Holley introduced the Conference. Bishop Holley expressed the importance of the Letter of the Hispanic/Latino Bishops to Immigrants, of 12 December 2011, signed by 33 Hispanic bishops of the United States.

Below is the interview of Migrantes Hoy with Bishop Holley:

Bishop Holley, what is the Church in Washington doing for the immigrants?

The first thing that is done for the immigrants in our parishes is reaching out and welcoming them. I think that’s the first thing. It’s welcoming them into our parish, welcoming them into our community and providing the basic needs and services that they might need to be established, if you will, in order to give them a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, a sense of being loved by the Church. It is also important to reach out to them in terms of helping them if they need to learn English and to provide them with the basic services that anyone would need when they come here. Sometimes it’s just food, shelter, and clothing. For those who have been here longer, it could be a good education for their children and medical care through our schools and clinics.

Catholic Social Services and the Spanish Catholic Center have been very good at helping in this area. There are also services that might be available through the local communities or the government; depending upon when they’ve arrived here and how long they’ve been here, as well as whether they are seasonal, or have been here for a long period of time. It’s basically welcoming them into the community and letting them know that the Church is here for them. And I think, as I mentioned earlier in my comments, the Archdiocese of Washington has been doing this for a long time, which dates back even before the time of the Cardinal James Hickey, who was so generous in welcoming all of those who were in need, regardless of their ethnicity; and so, this is what we do, because we are Catholic.

Washington Archdiocesan Catechetical Leaders Association, general meeting, sharing the spirit welcoming the minorities - Photo: CELAM, Latin American Bishops Council
Washington Archdiocesan Catechetical Leaders Association, general meeting, sharing the spirit welcoming the minorities - Photo: CELAM, Latin American Bishops Council

Do you think we should do more in this regard?

I’m sure there’s more that could be done. I mentioned earlier at our Conference this morning of the Letter by the Hispanic/Latino Bishops to Immigrants. The Hispanic Bishops had been working on this statement for over a year, and in the statement itself, there is expressed gratitude for what is being done for comprehensive immigration; yet at the same time it is expressed that there is more that can be done; more, always can be done to welcome those that come. This country has been doing this for so many years, and so I don’t think we are going to stop now.

The Bishops also mentioned that everyone cannot come here. The focus is on those who are present here now, not so much the ones that want to come, but those who are present today. I think that seems to be one of their major concerns. And obviously, comprehensive immigration has to be something that is worked out through the legal system; the government. All of this is a concern that includes not only the Catholic Church but everyone in this country. The Catholic Church has always been in support of comprehensive immigration and it is right that the Church is encouraging our country to accomplish this as soon as possible. But it takes time.

Washington Hispanic Archdiocesan Catechetical Leaders Association - Sharing a Christian spirit to embrace the immigrants - Photo: Migrantes Hoy, CELAM, Latin American Bishops Council
Washington Hispanic Archdiocesan Catechetical Leaders - Sharing a Christian spirit to embrace the immigrants -------- Photo: Migrantes Hoy, CELAM, Latin American Bishops Council

 

The Church is taking care of those who arrived in this country, but she supports also many people who are not living here. Americans are helping people all around the world.

Of course. I’m on the board of Catholic Relief Services and when there is a need, anywhere around the world and domestically, one of the first responders is CRS. The Catholic Church is very generous in reaching out to help people around the world. Here I am thinking of Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Charities in our own local (arch) dioceses. And again, it’s been around for many, many years, especially in terms of the area of basic human needs.

What is your contact with immigrants personally?

My Ministry is primarily with the African American Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, and with the various language groups, other than the Hispanic ministry. Bishop Francisco Gonzalez works specifically with the Latino / Hispanic community. But actually, I’m in contact with all groups, because when we talk about immigration, it is not just a Hispanic concern or issue. It involves everyone who are immigrants and who may be undocumented. So mine is being a voice for those who are voiceless, if you will, in terms of immigration; one of welcoming, and obviously, that’s the first thing. So in any community, ethnic group, race or culture, whatever it may be; my task is to be a voice for those who feel shunned; for those who feel neglected.

As an African American I think we always have great empathy for those who are immigrants because of what our country has endured in terms of working for justice and respecting the dignity of the human person. So, I think that my role is to be a prophetic voice for those who often do not have a voice. And I think particularly for the younger generation of immigrants, many whom are caught with their parents in a situation where they may be here identified as undocumented, and, their parents, who are under the same system as undocumented; so, that’s a terrible situation to be in. And I think our country will reach some form of equity and some form of justice in terms of comprehensive immigration, because it seems we are headed in that direction; but nothing seems like it is fast enough or fair enough; but it is a good start.

Bishop Martin Holley, with Manuel Aliaga and Bishop Rozanski, 16 October 2013 - Photo: Migrantes Hoy, CELAM, Latin American Bishops Council
Bishop Martin Holley, with Manuel Aliaga and Bishop Rozanski, 16 October 2013 - Photo: Migrantes Hoy, CELAM, Latin American Bishops Council


What do you think about Pope Francis saying we shouldn’t be self-referent and that the center of our action must be the outskirts, not ourselves, not our center. What does that have to do with immigration?

For me, Pope Francis’ approach and style of ministry is very exciting! It is not only the way he speaks, but it is his actions, and the compassionate and pastoral way he looks at each situation. He is incredible! He looks at all things from all angles; 360, if you will; and he responds so well! He is speaking from a pastor’s heart; having lived in the country that he is from, Argentina, and looking at the way he has reached out to all those who are neglected, especially the poor; so now as Pope, he is bringing a warm message of reaching out and welcoming the poor. I like his idea of the field-hospital. I believe that he is putting his faith into action; recognizing that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and it’s so important to respect the dignity of the human person. The Church has been talking about this for many, many years and looking at each human being; each human person and recognizing that they have a sense of dignity and a sense of self-worth. They have something to contribute to our society.

And he says not just welcoming, but going to them, looking for their needs…

Of course, of course! That is what Jesus did! He did not wait for people to come to him. Jesus went out to seek those who were in need. Jesus is the one that heals; the one that comforts. That is what the Holy Father, Pope Francis is saying to us; to be like Jesus. Pope Francis says go, go! Go out and do what Jesus did. I think that is his word. The disciples were sent. Jesus said, go out into the world; and so that is why the Holy Father is inviting all of us to go; especially the young people.

The young people?

The young people! Everyone, but especially the youth and young adults; he is encouraging them to go out into the world and…

Make noise.
Yes, become like Jesus! Do not be afraid to go out into the world. We can do it together, realizing that we depend on Jesus; His grace, and His love.

Thank you so much! The Pope said “Hagan lío”, make noise, make a mess! In Argentina there is a yearly pilgrimage in October of one million people to the national shrine of the Blessed Mother of Lujan. They walk 40 miles day and night toward her shrine. There is an apostolate: Carpa de María, Mary’s Tent, that with 200 missionaries, serves thousands who come in, helping them in every need. Going to them, where they are. This year, because of Pope Francis, there were 2.5 million pilgrims!

Well, let me say something about that! In terms of immigration we should see it in the context of Our Lady, because she is ultimately an intercessor for us to Jesus. I am blessed to have been ordained a Bishop on the Feast of Our Lady. Our Blessed Mother Mary would understand what it was like to be an immigrant. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were immigrants in a particular way. The Holy Family were immigrants. Let us ask Our Blessed Mother Mary to pray for us, to our Lord, so that we will really experience her as our Mother; the Mother of all Nations; and of all people.

Enrique Soros
Migrantes Hoy
CELAM - Latin American Bishops Council

Contributed to this article: Erica Void
About Bishop Martin Holley
Web page Archdiocese of Washington

Other articles:

"Leave the rectories and get out in the streets", Annual Conference on Hispanic Ministry in Columbia, Maryland, 16 October 2013 - Archdioceses Baltimore and Washington

Church urges Representatives to pass Immigration law

"Dejen las sacristías, vayan a la calle y hagan lío" Conferencia Anual de Ministerio Hispano en Columbia, Maryland, 16 de octubnre 2013 - Arquidiócesis de Baltimore y Washington

 

jornada-social-en-washington-dc-fuerte-compromiso-de-la-iglesiaHa finalizado este martes la Jornada Católica de Pastoral Social, de...

 

 

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