Monday, March 29, 2010

Death Penalty Witness

L to R: Dave and Frank downtown on Fridays.

The death penalty is no laughing matter, but it is easy to trade a few smiles while holding a sign on the witness line.

I often struggle with the effectiveness of such a vigil. However, we are standing right outside of the State Capitol building as well as the offices of the Governor and numerous other government personnel. Lawyers, street vendors, judges, beggars, senators & representatives, students, bus riders, office workers of all types, tourists and others walk and drive past us every Friday. It is important that they realize there are people out there who are opposed to the death penalty. We are a visual reminder to them that folks care about this. We are a support to others who want to take a similar stand. We are a healthy challenge to those who don't.

As Daniel Berrigan and numerous other peacemakers have said, we are called to be faithful, not effective. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take reasonable steps to be effective, either. Some folks scatter seeds in the wind, but a wise farmer will cultivate organized rows. The important thing is not to get too hung up on the results of our action, because we may never see them.

Standing the heart of downtown as folks mill around on their lunch hour is a good time and place to be doing this. I'd love to see the vigils expanded. Wouldn't it be great if folks were holding a sign at that very place five days each week? What if a rotation of people were doing this all day long? What if we had people all up and down the street in multiple locations? Folks would really take notice.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grapes, Raspberries, Seed Starting and Final Introductory Meeting

Above, Fr. John discussing the finer points of grapes with Bob on Friday.

Our community garden was given a wonderful treat this past week. Fr. John, a local grape enthusiast and expert, offered us grape starters from his family's farm in southern Ohio. He also offered to give a public tutorial about planting and pruning grapes. We did this on two separate afternoons, this past Friday and Saturday.

There is a lot more to proper grape planting than I ever could have imagined! Fr. John showed us the nuances and tricks he has learned over his years tending grapes. We first dug large holes around the fencepoints. A special root hormone and beneficial fungi were placed around the roots. We used last year's compost, which is rich and ready to use, mixed with some topsoil and peat moss to put in the holes. The grapes were then planted, thoroughly watered, and covered up. They were also snipped to no more than two buds per plant.

Midge (the dog), Jean, Paul, Perry, Zeila and Joan look on during Saturday's planting tutorial.

After the planting, the group traveled a couple blocks to the home of one of our garden leaders, Orchlene. She had some unruly grapes in her backyard, so we got a chance to learn how to prune grapes and get them ready for the new year. I probably need to witness this a couple more times before I feel comfortable, but all of us did learn a lot. While doing that, we dug up 7 red raspberry plants that had spread like wildfired and were interfering with her grapes. Later in the day, we planted all 7 at the St. James community garden.

One of Orchlene's freshly-pruned grapes, pictured on the left.

We had plans to start a perennial garden this year, and the offer of grapes came serendipitously right after that. Also, the raspberries that Orchele would have just thrown away were like gold to us--buying 7 raspberry bushes would have set us back quite a bit if we were to buy them at a nursery. It is amazing how these pieces come together. The sad part is that we won't see any fruit from these this year and quite possibly not even the next, but when it comes we'll be so glad we did this!

The prior Saturday, Joan and Orchele led a seed starting session at the Catholic Worker house. Over a half dozen folks come out to plant several trays of seeds for the community garden as well as for themselves. There are over 15 trays of seeds perched in windows throughout the Catholic Worker house. They are sprouting nicely. We have several trays of marigolds (perfect as an organic repellent to garden pests), tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage--you name it.

A tray of new sprouts upstairs in the Catholic Worker house.

Planting our own seeds saves a great deal of money, and it brings us one step closer to the whole life cycle of our garden. We have been blessed with quite a bit of seeds still left over from last year as well as donations from folks this year. Fr. John also gave us a large zip lock back full of dried hot peppers--each full of seeds!

Zeila worked hard to save seeds last year, especially from marigolds. This year, we are going to focus on saving more seeds so that we can be a totally self-sufficient garden!

We had our third and final Garden Tutorial meeting last night. Suzanne "Queen of the Compost" led us in a presentation about the finer points of composting. Kirk followed that up with a round of "Garden 101" principles. We were happy to see a nice representation from the Latino and Vietnamese communities. Zulma gave a presentation at the Spanish language Masses last weekend, and we also got some participants from our ESL classes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Today, March 24, 2010, marks the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador:

A prayer on the 30th anniversary of Romero's martyrdom

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.


(Prayer written by Bishop Ken Untener, attributed to the words of Archbishop Romero.)

From Pax Christi:

Oscar Romero is often called the "Martyr of the Americas of the 20th Century." He served as the Archbishop of San Salvador for three years. The murder of one of his dear friends, Father Rutilio Grande, caused him great pain and set him on a journey toward becoming one of the greatest prophets Catholic social justice activists have ever known. He spoke out against the government repression in El Salvador and against the poverty, hunger and helplessness of the majority of the Salvadoran people, during a time when those who spoke out and publicly opposed the situation were killed or "disappeared."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And Justice For All Immigrants

See below for current actions of our community, our neighbors and our Church for the cause of Immigration Reform, including some events coming up this weekend:

Let's hear it for Rich Nathan, senior pastor of the Vineyard Church of Columbus for his excellent opinion piece on the need for immigration reform which ran in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday.

He cites the impracticality of deporting 12 million contributing members of society. The whole issue of immigration encompasses a broad range of problems, such as employers willing to exploit cheap labor, a nation running rampant with myths about the reality of illegal immigration and the sheer life-or-death desperation that compels these people to cross the border in the first place. He also explains that there are real, practical solutions available.

He writes:

Furthermore, enforcement-only policies are no solution. Deporting 12 million illegal immigrants is utterly impracticable. Not only would it cost hundreds of billions of dollars ($206 billion over five years, according to the chamber), it would destroy families and communities across the country.

The way forward is clear. We need to secure our borders, crack down on dishonest employers and require illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements, including learning English, working and paying taxes before they earn the chance to become citizens. Such practical reforms would strengthen our economy, serve the interests and honor the ideals of our nation, and provide immigrants with the opportunity to fully join our society.

The full text is here of Rich Nathan's piece.

The vision is very similar to the recommendations of the US Catholic Bishops.

As a friend of mine says, "immigration is a reality." How do we deal with this reality? Putting up a wall from Tijuana to Brownsville is juvenile and infeasible. It also doesn't address the massive amount of illegal immigrants from Canada, Europe and elsewhere.

Keeping families together and allowing a temporary worker program so that folks can work in America and take steps toward long-term residency is needed.

As Van Morrison sings, you don't pull no punches, but you don't push the river. This river is flowing. It needs to flow. I believe it flows with the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The river of immigration flows with the Biblical thirst for justice, the hope for safe refuge, the faith in the Promise of the Promised Land, and the love these people have for their families which compels them to risk life and limb for a better tomorrow. If you get in the water and try to push this river, you will find yourself flailing and making a fool out of yourself as the water rushes past you.

Getting caught up in legalities is not how to look at it. The system is broke and people cannot wait until it is fixed. A crying baby needs milk today. Unjust laws need not be followed, especially when the sheer weight of the humanity of 12 million people is pressing against them.

* * *
Our Pax Christi group hosted Angela Johnston, diocesan Director of Latino Ministry last week. She showed the video Dying To Live. From the link: "Dying to Live" is a profound look at the human face of the immigrant. It explores who these people are, why they leave their homes and what they face in their journey.

Indeed, the human story can dispel many myths. The one fact that has stuck with me the most is the sheer desperation of these immigrants. These people love their families, their country and their culture. They are not sneaking into America on some "get rich quick" scheme or to rob us of free health benefits. Just consider the facts: Why would anyone risk their lives, live in long-term separation from their families and risk all sorts of other horrors to sneak into America? A person would only do that because their other options are worse.

To them, it is a sheer matter of survival. Economic and political conditions are so bad in their native land that they are forced to try. The ironic part is that those conditions are so bad in large part through the policies of the American government and international businesses.

* * *
From the Bishops' Justice for Immigrants website:

On Sunday, March 21st, JFI will host a Mass in support of immigrants with celebrants Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Wester at 11:00am at St. Aloysius Church (19 I Street N.W., Washington DC 20001). Afterward, please join thousands of people on the National Mall to urge our members of Congress to introduce and pass immigration reform legislation. With the expectation that comprehensive immigration reform could soon be considered by Congress, it is crucial that supporters of reform make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Anyone that cannot attend the March 21st events can still take action in support of reform by sending electronic postcards to your members of Congress postcard.

From a Justice For Immigrants flyer:

Show your solidarity with comprehensive immigration reform

On Sunday March 21, thousands of people from across America—including some 25 buses from Ohio--will travel to Washington DC to call on Congress and the Administration to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

If you want to travel to DC, there are still spaces on a bus from Columbus. Contact Ruben at 614-571-1759, as soon as possible.

If you can’t travel to DC, join Columbus supporters on Saturday, March 20:

9 AM Parish Mass
10:30 AM Welcome & Prayer for Cross-Country Bus Riders
Christ the King Catholic Church
2777 E. Livingston Ave., Columbus 43209 (4 blks west of S. James Rd.)
Come out to welcome and support over 50 Californians from the faith-based community organization, PICO-National Network. They are stopping at Christ the King Church for a brief respite on their cross-country journey to DC. There will be brief witnesses to the need for comprehensive reform. Then we’ll send the bus riders off on their last leg of the journey with prayer & support.

Questions: Nancy Powers, Justice for Immigrants Campaign, Ohio co-coordinator
614-284-3692 or

You can also go here:
1 PM
Rally for Reform
Ohio State House
(as the buses leave for D.C.)

For more information about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, go to