By Msgr. Hugh Shields

Last week approximately 90 people gathered at Our Lady of Ransom to pray, share a meal, and enjoy each others company around the theme of “Thank you…in the spirit of St. John Neumann” for caring for our Archdiocese Philadelphia’s immigrant community. The gathering took place on a rainy, cold night.

The tragedy of Japan is overwhelmingly present in our news. We, here in Philadelphia, are suffering through the scandal of clergy sexual abuse. Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and so many other suffering parts of our world are calling out for our attention and prayers. The escalating price of gasoline is a constant reminder of our shaky, insecure economic reality; job-security is a question mark these days. And the 90 or so folks who gathered are by-and-large busy people. {{more}}

I think what impressed me (among other things about the night) was the willingness of so many of these attendees to not let the above mentioned realities nullify their need to respond the Matthew’s Gospel verse found in chapter 25: ” when I was hungry,…I was naked,…I was imprisoned.” Our immigrant community, whether “documented” or “undocumented,” remains the focus for those gathered ,despite set-backs in overall reform of our immigration laws, the apparent defeat of the “Dream Act,” the volume of legislation being introduced in many of our states that seems to omit our cherished faith and national values and the continued building of a wall along our border that might well serve as a shameful monument for our next generation.

The invitation to the gathering last week was the result of a small committee that wanted to say thank you to so many of our Catholic pastoral agents who continually minister, in the footsteps of St. John Neumann, to our immigrants, regardless of status. These same pastoral agents prayerfully ask this great nation of ours to continually examine our broken immigration laws in the light of Matthew’s very challenging message to all of us believers.

I think the little committee was able to joyfully accomplish that task. What the attendees by their joyful, animated presence the other night accomplished was to remind the little committee that Matthew’s message is still valid and in need of proclamation today.

There is the saying “People vote with their feet.” Last Wednesday night about 90 people “voted” for Matthew: Chapter 25. (Have you read it lately?) To them our little committee says, again, thank you!

Msgr. Hugh Shields is the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.