Next week we Sisters will gather in Little Falls from all the towns, states, and countries where we live and serve to share the gospel of Jesus. We are missioned to these many places as members of a Franciscan Catholic community and many, though not all, of the people we serve are Catholic. I've taken for granted that I know what "Catholic" means -- the other night I was confronted with the fact that many Catholics have pretty different understandings of what Catholic means.
We have a Catholic pope in Pope Francis. I think most people would say he is Catholic. Since coming to know him we see how consistent he is in modeling the gospel of Jesus--reaching out to those on the margins of society, teaching mercy, peace, unity of all people in one God no matter what their ethnic background or what religion they practice. He leads Catholic Christians in fidelity to the Church we are a part of, weak and sinful though it be. So I would use Pope Francis to illustrate my understanding of what Catholic means.
On the other hand, the PBS News Hour the other night shared a situation in what the reporter described as "mostly Catholic St. Cloud, Minnesota." I grew up on the outskirts of St. Cloud and it's true that I hadn't met a "non-Catholic" all through grade school. Driving through the countryside around St. Cloud one sees the prominently positioned Catholic churches in most small towns. So, what was this story-making situation in Catholic St. Cloud? Can you guess?
St. Cloud has one of the largest populations of Somali immigrants. This PBS News Hour spoke of intense persecution of immigrants in St. Cloud. Somali students described being bullied in school. The reporter spoke with Somali adults who meet with harassment in neighborhoods and are denied recognition as educated, skilled workers. It appears that the Christians, Catholic included, want to keep St. Cloud for themselves.
And Jesus says, "Welcome the stranger." I am grateful for all who welcome immigrants and for the immigrants I've been privileged to be with. My world continues to need to be enlarged. Thanks especially to Hands Across the World in St. Cloud and to those providing leadership in the Christian/Muslim Dialog in this area. We "Catholics" need you.
Written by Sister Jan Kilian, this blog will give an understanding of what it’s like to be Franciscan. Living out the spirit of Saint Francis, we see all God’s creation as brother and sister. We, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, are committed to building relationships and community, ministering wherever there is greatest need, promoting justice and healing Mother Earth’s wounds. My writings will give a glimpse of the compassion, spirituality, interconnectedness and goodness of living Franciscan.