REGINA — Regina’s Archbishop Donald Bolen is considering bringing together local groups working in the areas of poverty, homelessness, immigration, racism, “where we can encourage each other and possibly look for new partnerships working together in the service of the common good.”
It is an idea he came away with from a meeting of grassroots organizations and social movements working for social change. The meeting was held in Modesto, Calif., and attracted more than 700 people, including about 20 Catholic bishops and other church leaders. Attendance was by invitation only. It was co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development; the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing), an American network of faith-based organizations. It was part of a series of gatherings partly organized by the Vatican, bringing together leaders of popular movements.
Pope Francis, in a message to the California meeting, thanked the organizers and the host bishops for organizing the meeting and for their work. “It makes me very happy to see you working together toward social justice. How I wish that such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These bridges can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism, and intolerance,” the pope said in his message.
“What impressed me was the way in which groups working on different social issues had a common set of values at heart and even those who weren’t Catholic, or even Christian, were deeply connected to what we know as Catholic social teaching, and the values of Catholic social teaching,” said Bolen.
The archbishop said he came away with a strong sense of a common task uniting many different fields of work in the service of the common good, and he decided to see if something similar could be brought together for the same purpose in the Regina area, on a much smaller scale.
“It fits in with Pope Francis’ teaching on social justice and the church’s teaching on ecumenism, both of which I strongly support,” said Bolen in speaking with the Prairie Messenger. He will, however, first discuss this project with the Regina archdiocese senior leaders team before approaching other groups with the idea.
Bolen received the invitation to attend the California meeting from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development.
Bolen noted that a highlight of the meeting was a speech by San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who noted that U.S. President Donald Trump was the candidate of disruption, and now we all must become disrupters: “We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies, rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women and children as sources of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor.”
Bolen noted that while the U.S. context differs from our Canadian context, there are parallels, and we certainly also face challenges in terms of homelessness, migration, poverty and racism.