Looking at ways to collaborate on issues of immigration and spirituality, 60 heads of women’s and men’s religious congregations and other leaders met at Villa Assumpta in Baltimore Oct. 27 for the 55th Forum of Major Superiors.
Representing 31 religious communities serving the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the participants consulted with Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden.
In looking at ways of helping immigrants, many participants suggested duplicating successful parish outreach programs like the one of St. Matthew, Northwood. They also promoted culturally sensitive liturgies and suggested developing a speaker bureau to educate Catholics on immigration issues.
On spirituality, they advocated ongoing education about spiritual direction and the charisms of orders that minister in the archdiocese. Participants also promoted eucharistic adoration and the daily prayer of the church.
In an interview with The Catholic Review, Archbishop O’Brien said he was impressed by the religious communities’ commitment to welcoming the stranger.
“I think there’s a spontaneous and instinctive reaction on the part of all the religious here who are in sympathy with immigrants,” he said. “Strangers in our land are here only to work and to put bread on the table and to support their families – that’s the vast majority of immigrants. I think we have a challenge to educate our people in the scriptural basis for welcoming the stranger.”
The archbishop highlighted a recent reading from Sunday Mass in which God commanded the Jews to treat aliens with kindness since the Jews were once aliens themselves in Egypt.
Sister Julia Lanigan, G.N.S.H., president of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, said it is very important to talk about immigration at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment is strong.
“The atmosphere is quite fearful,” she said. “People in power are raising the terrorism issue in order to maintain power. We have to relax those fears and trust in God and move forward as a community that is focused on love of God and love of neighbor.”
Brother Frank O’Donnell, S.M., who lives in a Fells Point community with a high population of Hispanic immigrants, noted that schools like Sisters Academy of Baltimore and Mother Seton Academy came about through cooperation among religious orders. Collaboration on immigration could yield similar results, he said.
The forum began in the 1970s under Archbishop William D. Borders and is held twice a year, according to Sister Constance Gilder, S.S.J., the archbishop’s delegate for religious.