WASHINGTON—As families all over the world struggle with access to higher education, job loss, and other economic pressures this Labor Day, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski offers a sign of hope in a recent address to American Catholics.
Citing Pope Francis’ discourse to U.S. Congress, Archbishop Wenski expressed concern for those whose family relationships dissolve due to financial stress, substance abuse related to poverty and job-related depression.
“The Church weeps with all of these families, with these children, whose homes and worlds are broken,” Archbishop Wenski said in his 2016 Labor Day Statement.
Food insecurity existed in every county in the U.S., ranging from a low of 4 percent in Slope County, ND to a high of 33 percent in Humphreys County, MS in 2014, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising poverty awareness in the US.
46.7 million American people live below the poverty line (14.8% of the population) and the majority of these households are headed by single women in black and hispanic neighborhoods.
“We behold signs that have become too familiar in the years following the Great Recession: stagnant wages, industry leaving towns and cities behind, and the sharp decline in the rate of private-sector organized labor, which fell by more than two-thirds between 1973 and 2009 down to 7%. Millions of families still find themselves living in poverty, unable to work their way out,” he said.
These pressures often combine as a leading cause of breakdown in family relationships.
Archbishop Wenski, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, believes that change is possible.
While acknowledging the difficulties these families face, he challenged Catholics to respond to these struggles with faith and action.
“When we begin to look for answers to these realities, we gain less confidence from many of our political leaders these days. Instead of dialogue and constructive solutions that bring people together, we see increasing efforts to divide as a means to gain support. But more divisions are never the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:19-21). When our leaders ought to be calling us toward a vision of the common good that lifts the human spirit and seeks to soothe our tendencies toward fear, we find our insecurities exploited as a means to further partisan agendas. Our leaders must never use anxiety as a means to manipulate persons in desperate situations, or to pit one group of persons against another for political gain. For our dynamics to change, we must replace fear with a fuller vision that can be powerfully supported by our faith,” He said.
Convinced that solidarity and subsidiarity will be a powerful beginning of change, Archbishop Wenski asks Catholics to walk with and serve the poor, act in their communities to ensure they are heard, and to bring hope and healing to their lives and families.
He said: “As we advocate for all who are struggling to find sufficient work that honors their dignity, we should also affirm in society the need of all people to rest, and finally to “rest in God.” In times of restlessness and discouragement, let us recall the beautiful prayer of St. Augustine, who wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
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