“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ be with you,” was proclaimed on the first Sunday of Advent in the second reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. (1:3) We can say that this is St. Paul’s signature salutation when he wrote to each of the Christian communities he helped to establish.
This is the greeting at the outset of the letters to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Likewise, St. Peter greets his fellow Christians in his two letters with the near identical greeting and goes a step further in his enthusiasm with the phrase “in abundance.”
This signature salutation was not only a friendly greeting from the two apostles but is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit across the pages of the New Testament, as well as the mind and heart of Jesus Christ begun at the Last Supper and announced throughout the resurrection appearances. This salutation frames the Bible as the final inspired words of the book of Revelation. “The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.” (Revelation 22:20-21)
Maranatha – come, Lord Jesus – is the longing and the vision for the season of Advent. But this desire is central to our belief and hope throughout the year, especially in our celebration of the Eucharist.
After the consecration and transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord, the congregation pronounces, “when we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
Before the reception of holy communion following the Lord’s prayer the priest makes the following entreaty of the living God. “Deliver us, Lord, we pray from every evil, and grant us peace in our days, that with the help of your mercy we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” When we proclaim the Nicene Creed after the homily, we express our eagerness for the Lord’s coming, “as I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Amen.
The concluding verses of the Bible infuse the Mass with eschatological hope and graciousness, reminding us that “for here we have no lasting city,” (Hebrews 13:14) and that our citizenship is in heaven and from there we are expecting our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20) At regular intervals it is a gift to be able to transcend our world and circumstances and raise our hearts and minds to God through faith, prayer and praise.
However, this is not an invitation to escape from trials, tribulations and temptations. Come, Lord Jesus is also rooted in the present moment.
With St. Paul, we rejoice to know that the Lord is near, standing at the door and knocking. (Revelations 3:20) Thus, our prayer for the Lord to come is intended for the moment at hand.
The signature salutation of St. Paul and St. Peter for grace and peace in abundance from God is the gift package from God to help us reach our eternal destiny. They are intended to deliver us from every evil, to free us from sin, and to keep us safe from all distress as we await the blessed hope. Are these not among the finest of gifts?
As we rightfully consider the gifts, we are purchasing for those we love, let us not leave this package of grace and peace unattended and unopened. These gifts are at our disposal in daily prayer, at Mass, and in all of our acts of loving care in daily living. Indeed, it is the package that keeps on giving forever. It is God’s abundance. Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!
“71% of newly ordained priests were personally invited to consider this call by their parish priest.” This is according to a 2022 study released by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (and cited by Brendan Hodge in his Nov. 20 article on pillarcatholic.com – “On vocations, asking is key.”
I know that it can be challenging to ask. It is easy to think that someone who seems like a good candidate for priesthood has already been ‘bugged about it’ by someone else. It can be tempting to think that our voice won’t make a difference, or we can fall into the trap of thinking that it won’t make a difference whether we say something or not. But 71% of newly ordained priests were personally invited to consider this call by their parish priest. I was personally invited to consider a call to the priesthood by my parish priest in Meridian.
I was working full-time and attending Mass regularly. I was getting more involved in the parish, and I was seriously considering whether the Lord was calling me to be a priest, but I was terrified to say it out loud!
When you are considering priesthood it can be very isolating. We don’t know what we don’t know, and so to have my pastor bring it up to me was very freeing. I was thinking privately there is no way I am good enough to be a priest! But once he affirmed that he saw traits within me that would make for a good priest, it was very helpful. I realize now that the Lord qualifies the called, he doesn’t call the qualified. No one, after all, is worthy in themselves to minister at the altar, but the Lord doesn’t demand perfection, he demands faithfulness and perseverance.
So, we need to help those who are called by calling them forth. And pastors of parishes are some of the most effective ‘callers’ in the world. When our spiritual fathers encourage us to do things that we might be fearful or doubtful about, we can receive new strength and encouragement to do what otherwise seems impossible.
Please encourage your pastors to be on the lookout for men in your parish who would make excellent priests. Don’t be shy about pointing out specific folks in the pews and telling your pastor to be on the lookout and to encourage them to think about it. Remember, also, that we need men who would make excellent husbands and fathers to think about priesthood and take that possibility seriously. Diocesan priesthood is not for the faint of heart, and it is not for those who pick it as a ‘back up plan.’ The call to priesthood or religious life should be a priority for all young people in the church, and pastors of parishes can play a big role in setting that tone for their parishioners.
So, please encourage your pastors to encourage the great young men in your parish to consider the priesthood.
CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – La llamada a la “vigilancia” en Adviento no significa permanecer despiertos y vigilantes por miedo, sino más bien por el anhelo de la venida del Señor, escribió el Papa Francisco.
A veces la gente piensa en la virtud de la vigilancia “como una actitud motivada por el miedo a un castigo inminente, como si un meteorito estuviera a punto de caer del cielo”, dijo en el texto de su reflexión a la lectura del Evangelio del 3 de diciembre, el primer domingo de Adviento. “¡Pero, ciertamente, éste no es el sentido de la vigilancia cristiana!”
El Papa Francisco dirigió el rezo del Ángelus desde su residencia, Domus Sanctae Marthae, pero explicó que su bronquitis, aunque está mejorando, todavía le dificulta hablar, por lo que el texto de su comentario y de sus llamamientos a la paz fueron leídos por monseñor Paolo Braida, funcionario de la Secretaría de Estado vaticana.
En la lectura del Evangelio, Mc 13,33-37, Jesús cuenta la parábola de los siervos que esperan el regreso de su señor.
“La vigilancia de los siervos no se basa en el temor, sino en el anhelo, en la espera de ir al encuentro del amo que viene”, dice el texto del Papa. “Se preparan para su regreso porque lo quieren mucho, porque esperan que, cuando llegue, encuentre una casa acogedora y ordenada”.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Be courageous in caring for and accompanying others, helping them to dream big, cultivating their unique gifts and flourishing, Pope Francis told university chaplains and pastoral workers. “The work of education is a true mission in which individuals and situations are accepted with all their lights and shadows – their shadows, too – with a kind of ‘parental’ love,” the pope said.
“This facilitates in a unique way the growth of those seeds that God has sown within each person,” he said Nov. 24 in an audience at the Vatican with people taking part in a conference on pastoral care in Catholic universities, sponsored by the Dicastery for Culture and Education.
Pope Francis told them he had “three approaches that I consider important to your service: to appreciate differences, to accompany with care and to act courageously.”
“Each person must be accompanied as he or she is, and that is where the dialogue, the journey and progress begin,” he said, explaining the importance of seeing and appreciating people’s different qualities with patience, openness and creativity.
As the prophet Isaiah said, God “creates the brightness of the sun, but does not despise the flickering light of ‘a dimly burning wick,’” referring to accepting people’s “lights and shadows” with love, the pope said.
“Believing in the vitality of the seeds that God sows,” he said, means accompanying and caring “for what is silently growing and coming to light in the, at times, confused thoughts, desires and affections of the young people entrusted to you.”
“Your attitude has to be more than just apologetic, dealing with questions and answers, prohibitions: do not be afraid to confront those realities,” he said.
There are “certain ideological currents within the church, in which people end up being reduced to a figure that is flat, without nuance” and without the “edges,” “shadows,” breadth and depth of real individuals, he said.
Uniformity does not make people flourish, he said. “If we wisely value a person for who he or she is, we can make that person into a work of art.”
Jesus himself “teaches us the art of caring” and “how to draw out the best from his creatures, by caring for whatever is most fragile and imperfect in them,” the pope said.
“Care for all of them, without seeking immediate results, but in the sure hope that, when you accompany young people and pray for them, miracles spring up,” he said.
The pope also encouraged his audience to “act courageously” since “nurturing the joy of the Gospel in the university environment is an indeed exciting yet demanding undertaking” which requires courage and taking risks.
“Where there are no risks, there are no fruits: this is a rule,” he said. He told them to do everything they can to help young people “dream and aspire to the measure of Christ: to the height, breadth and depth of his love.”
I live on both sides of a border. Not a geographical one, but one that separates the church pew from the academic halls of theology.
I was raised a conservative Roman Catholic. Although my dad worked politically for the liberal party, most everything within my upbringing was conservative, particularly as this pertains to religion. I was a staunch Roman Catholic in most every way. I grew up under the papacy of Pius XII (and the fact that my youngest brother is named Pius will tell you how loyal our family was to that Pope’s version of things). We believed that Roman Catholicism was the one true religion and that Protestants and Evangelicals needed to convert and return to the true faith. I memorized the Roman Catholic catechism and defended its every word. Moreover, beyond being faithful churchgoers, my family was given over to piety and devotions: we prayed the rosary together as a family every day; had statues and holy pictures around our house; wore blessed medals around our necks; prayed litanies to Mary, Joseph and the Sacred Heart during certain months; and practiced a warm devotion to the saints. And it was wonderful. I will forever be grateful for that religious foundation.
I went from my family home to the seminary at the tender age of seventeen and my early seminary years reinforced what my family had given me. The academics were good, and we were encouraged to read great thinkers in every discipline. But this higher learning was still set solidly within a Roman Catholic ethos that honored my religious and devotional background. My initial university studies were still friends with my piety. My mind was expanding, but my piety remained intact.
But home is where we start from. Gradually, through the years, my world has changed. Studying at various graduate schools, teaching on graduate faculties, being in daily contact with other expressions of the faith, reading contemporary novelists and thinkers, and having academic colleagues as cherished friends has, I confess, put some strain on the piety of my youth. Truth be told, we don’t often pray the rosary or litanies to Mary or the Sacred Heart in graduate classrooms or at faculty gatherings.
However academic classrooms and faculty gatherings bring something else, something vitally needed in church pews and in circles of piety, namely, a critical theological vision and principles to keep unbridled piety, naïve fundamentalism, and misguided religious fervor within proper boundaries. What I’ve learned in academic circles is also wonderful and I am forever grateful for the privilege of being in academic circles most of my adult life.
But, of course, that’s a formula for tension, albeit a healthy one. Let me use someone else’s voice to articulate this. In his book “Silence and Beauty,” Japanese American artist, Makoto Fujimura, shares this incident from his own life. Coming out of church one Sunday, he was asked by his pastor to add his name to a list of people who had agreed to boycott the film, “The Last Temptation of Christ.” He liked his pastor and wanted to please him by signing the petition, but felt hesitant to sign for reasons that, at that time, he couldn’t articulate. But his wife could. Before he could sign, she stepped in and said: “Artists may have other roles to play than to boycott this film.” He understood what she meant. He didn’t sign the petition. But his decision left him pondering the tension between boycotting such a movie and his role as an artist. Here’s how he puts it: “An artist is often pulled in two directions. Religiously conservative people tend to see culture as suspect at best, and when cultural statements are made to transgress the normative reality they hold dear, their default reaction is to oppose and boycott. People in the more liberal artistic community see these transgressive steps as necessary for their ‘freedom of expression.’ An artist like me, who values both religion and art, will be exiled from both. I try to hold together both of these commitments, but it is a struggle.”
That’s also my struggle. The piety of my youth, of my parents, and of that rich branch of Catholicism is real and life-giving; but so too is the critical (sometimes unsettling) iconoclastic theology of the academy. The two desperately need each other; yet someone who is trying to be loyal to both can, like Fujimura, end up feeling exiled from both. Theologians also have other roles to play than boycotting movies. The people whom I take as mentors in this area are men and women who, in my eyes, can do both: like Dorothy Day, who could be equally comfortable, leading the rosary or the peace march; like Jim Wallis, who can advocate just as passionately for radical social engagement as he can for personal intimacy with Jesus; and like Thomas Aquinas, whose intellect could intimidate intellectuals, even as he could pray with the piety of a child.
Circles of piety and the academy of theology are not enemies. They need to befriend each other.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website www.ronrolheiser.com.)
Twenty-four years ago, the theme for Mississippi State’s Catholic Student Association Fall retreat, now known as Cowbell Catholic, was “Open Wide the Doors to Christ.” It was my first retreat with the Catholic college students at State. I was thinking about that retreat recently when I discovered the tee shirt in the bottom of a dresser drawer. It brought great comfort in remembering a cherished part of my past ministry, and it also provoked a realization that we, perhaps, more now than ever, need to open wide the doors to Christ.
The statement comes from St. Pope John Paul II’s inauguration of his pontificate in October 1978. He stated, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid.” The then Pope John Paul II was asking us to put aside our differences, to let go of conventions of power, and be open to the transformational power of Christ without fear.
In a similar way Pope Francis at the opening Mass for the Synod on Synodality in October implored the faithful to help build the church by first being welcoming to everyone (tutti). He used the word tutti three times in his exhortation to be an open and welcoming church. In his own way, Pope Francis is asking that we move beyond the conventions of the world and open our doors and hearts to everyone. What would it look like if we all carried a sense of welcoming in our hearts at church and in our ordinary lives?
I have been saying for over a year that we as Catholics have a real opportunity to lead this country away from dualistic, vitriolic and divisive rhetoric. This kind of change must first, however, start with our own conversion. All around the globe people are allowing fear to dominate the political and religious narrative. Fear based narrative divides people “us against them.” A house divided will not stand. St. Pope John Paul II was right in saying, “Do not be afraid.” Pope Francis is right in saying that everyone is welcome. Everyone. What do we have to fear in the Body of Christ? That one may think or pray differently?
One of my favorite quotes in a homily by my former pastor and dear friend, Father Mike O’Brien was, “this is not your holy country club.”
We do not have an elevated social status because we go to Mass weekly. We are not more holy, pious or all around better. We are not called to congregate within our social circle. We are called to the margins. We are called to the periphery. If faith is a gift, we are called to selflessly share it with others. It takes hard work to seek out those who are different than us to ensure that everyone is welcome. There are people who rub us the wrong way. It is easy to dismiss them as weirdos. But those so-called weirdos were made in the image and likeness of God too.
Our Synod on Synodality synthesis revealed a great desire for unity and healing. Building unity and advancing healing takes a lot of work. We should be willing to listen to and consider the viewpoints of those who don’t think like us even if we may disagree with them. If not, the discussion around unity is window dressing that might make us feel good but achieves little in the end. So how do we move from “I” to “we”, the bigger “we” and not the “holy country club” kind?
The Pastoral Reimagining Process that all parishes and missions are undertaking right now will aid us in defining how we are engaging and transforming our communities. In this current phase parishes/missions are asked to look at what are areas of growth that may require resources or a new focus. Likewise, they are being asked to look at areas of ministry that are diminishing and discern the viability of the ministry in question.
Every aspect of parish life is to be examined. It is precisely this kind of reflection and examination that fuels change. It wakes us up from the routine and presents us with an opportunity to dream, problem solve and collaborate. The work of the church is to be shared by all of its members. We all have a gift or talent that we are called to share. We take away from Mass the Word and the Eucharist to be leaven for the world in the ordinary places we work and live. Our faith is not lived out at Mass. It is fortified there. When the congregation is fed spiritually, when we open wide the doors to Christ, when everyone, everyone, everyone is welcome nothing can divide us.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)
If you are awaiting a new adventure, then now is just the time to explore. Often, we get stuck in our routines and simple paths, ministries and works of hope – things we are sure we have to do. Advent, however, is a time of awaiting something new…something that will prick our hearts and open us up for a new and deepening relationship.
Perhaps it was during advent that Grandma Moses began painting? “If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens!” (My Life’s Story) She began painting at an elderly age (like 91 or so) … and painted until she passed on. What did that adventure afford her? Notoriety of course, perhaps a bit of money but likely it opened her heart to beauty, to color, to a new kind of freedom.
Gwendolyn Brooks, an American poet wrote her song “In The Front Yard”: “I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life. I want to peek at the back where it’s rough and untended and hungry weeds grow. A girl gets sick of a rose.” How can anyone get sick of a rose you might ask? Well, despite its beauty, there may be something in the back yard that takes us to the next level.
The coming of Jesus was like that I suspect. Jewish life was such a rose. And then an adventure Mary could not have imagined, Joseph wondered about, and the rest of us have to explore in faith, perhaps a new faith. Who knew? Did every young woman dream of bearing the Messiah? Did Mary? What she was offered in the back yard was well beyond what she imagined. Yet her response to the adventurous offer was … ”I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” (Luke 1:38) Her understanding that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) launched her forth … seeking out Elizabeth and being a woman of God through whom God might show Divine favor to others.
Advent can also be a time of disgust, distress and discouragement. Why? Because it is in the darkness for us … a night of inconvenience. A night where there can be a lack of comfort, causing bother. (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2003) We can be filled with illness, or financial stress or even a lack of faith. How will you replace these “D” words with some “R” words?
Advent causes us to stretch to revival, replenishment and renewal. We are called beyond to relinquish, repurpose and to receive. I’m particularly fond of the call to reconciliation and restoration. The coming of the Infant in the cold night in the cave was proceeded by and advent of centuries, not just four weeks. What was this introduction to the restoration of humanity to look like? Who was it for? Who brought it to the crowds, where would they go to understand?
Not only does the rose take time to flourish, but it is also bounded with thorns and often rather than appreciating it’s beauty, we are pricked and bleed. Those drops of blood disgust us and can cause distress and discouragement. However, if we are willing to learn to live in a more positive way we look to be revived and get on with it!
Advent brings us back to our senses if we let it. Advent brings us back to faith, hope, peace and love … as we walk those weeks of introduction.
Maybe we discover in English poet, Brian Patten’s poem “Interruption at the Opera House” (Selected Poems, page 20, 2007), just how inconvenient things can be if we are not attuned to the ‘rightful owner of the song.’
“At the very beginning of an important symphony, while the rich and famous were settling into their quietly expensive boxes, a man came crashing though the crowds, carrying in his hand a cage in which the rightful owner of the music sat, yellow and tiny and very poor; and taking onto the rostrum this rather timid bird he turned up the microphones, and it sang. ‘A very original beginning to the evening’ said the crowds, quietly glancing at the programs to find the significance of the intrusion …’”
Later in the poem he will express who the song is for and who leaves the hall disinterested and disgusted. Advent can be a bit like this … inconvenient indeed to my desires to have things, and order my own life, and to listen to the songs that tickle my ears.
Let’s let this Advent be one of “R” words and in a new discovery of the true song in the back yard, the one asking us to take care of each other, to invite the outcast and to allow our own lives to be furnished with a deeper union of joy.
(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)
“Gracia y paz a ustedes de parte de Dios nuestro Padre y del Señor Jesucristo..,” se proclamó el primer domingo de Adviento en la segunda lectura de la primera carta de San Pablo a los Corintios. (1:3) Podemos decir que este es el saludo característico de San Pablo cuando escribió a cada una de las comunidades cristianas que ayudó a establecer.
Este es el saludo al comienzo de las cartas a los Romanos, 1 y 2 Corintios, Gálatas, Efesios, Filipenses, Colosenses, 1 y 2 Tesalonicenses, 1 y 2 Timoteo, Tito y Filemón. Asimismo, San Pedro saluda a sus hermanos cristianos en sus dos cartas con un saludo casi idéntico y va un paso más allá en su entusiasmo con la frase “en abundancia.”
Este saludo característico no fue solo un saludo amistoso de los dos apóstoles, sino que es la inspiración del Espíritu Santo a lo largo de las páginas del Nuevo Testamento, así como la mente y el corazón de Jesucristo que comenzaron en la Última Cena y se anunciaron a lo largo de las apariciones de resurrección. Este saludo enmarca la Biblia como las últimas palabras inspiradas del libro de Apocalipsis. “El que da este testimonio dice: “El que testifica de estas cosas dice: «Sí, vengo pronto». Amén. Ven, Señor Jesús. La gracia del Señor Jesús sea con todos. Amén.” (Apocalipsis 22:20-21)
Maranatha – ven, Señor Jesús– es el anhelo y la visión del tiempo de Adviento. Pero este deseo es fundamental para nuestra creencia y esperanza durante todo el año, especialmente en la celebración de nuestra Eucaristía.
Después de la consagración y transformación del pan y del vino en el cuerpo y la sangre del Señor, la congregación pronuncia: “cuando comemos este pan y bebemos esta copa, proclamamos tu muerte, oh, Señor, hasta que vuelvas”.
Antes de recibir la sagrada comunión después del Padrenuestro, el sacerdote hace la siguiente súplica al Dios vivo. “Líbranos, Señor, te pedimos de todo mal, y concédenos paz en nuestros días, para que con la ayuda de tu misericordia estemos siempre libres de pecado y a salvo de toda angustia mientras aguardamos la esperanza bienaventurada y la venida de nuestro Señor Jesucristo.”
Cuando proclamamos el Credo de Nicea después de la homilía, expresamos nuestro anhelo por la venida del Señor, “… Espero la resurrección de los muertos y la vida del mundo futuro.” Amén.
Los versículos finales de la Biblia infunden a la Misa esperanza y gracia escatológica, recordándonos que “porque no tenemos aquí ciudad permanente”, (Hebreos 13:14) porque “nuestra ciudadanía está en los cielos, de donde también ansiosamente esperamos a un Salvador, el Señor Jesucristo. (Filipenses 3:20) A intervalos regulares, es un regalo poder trascender nuestro mundo y circunstancias y elevar nuestro corazón y mente a Dios a través de la fe, la oración y la alabanza.
Sin embargo, esto no es una invitación a escapar de las pruebas, tribulaciones y tentaciones. Ven, Señor Jesús, también está arraigado en el momento presente.
Con San Pablo, nos alegramos de saber que el Señor está cerca, está a la puerta y llama. (Apocalipsis 3:20) Por lo tanto, para que el Señor venga, nuestra oración está destinada al momento actual.
El saludo característico de San Pablo y San Pedro pidiendo gracia y paz en abundancia de Dios, es el paquete de regalo de Dios, para ayudarnos a alcanzar nuestro destino eterno. Su objetivo es librarnos de todo mal, liberarnos del pecado y mantenernos a salvo de toda angustia mientras aguardamos la bienaventurada esperanza.
¿No se encuentran éste entre los mejores regalos?
Al considerar legítimamente los regalos que estamos comprando para aquellos a quienes amamos, no dejemos desatendido y sin abrir este paquete de gracia y paz. Estos dones están a nuestra disposición en la oración diaria, en la Misa y en todos nuestros actos de cuidado amoroso en la vida diaria. De hecho, es éste el paquete que sigue dando por siempre. Es la abundancia de Dios.
MATAMOROS, México (OSV News) – Celebrando una Misa al aire libre en un campamento de migrantes en medio de una lluvia fría e implacable, el padre jesuita Brian Strassburger predicó sobre la paciencia. Habló de “La Parábola de las Diez Vírgenes” del Evangelio de Mateo, instando a los migrantes reunidos a “esperar bien” mientras aguardan por su momento, en condiciones difíciles.
“Las cosas no siempre van al paso que queremos o esperamos y a veces tenemos que esperar y tenemos que esperar bien”, dijo el padre Strassburger.
Para esperar bien, dijo, “pedimos la sabiduría de Dios para que nos consuele y nos ayude a ser más pacientes y a confiar en Dios”.
Les instó a involucrarse en tareas como el mantenimiento del campamento, la formación de amistades y el aprovechamiento de las clases de catecismo impartidas por sacerdotes locales – recordando cómo los migrantes han podido bautizar y confirmar a sus hijos mientras esperaban en los albergues.
“El tiempo de Dios es perfecto”, dijo. “No podemos pensar que nuestro tiempo aquí es tiempo perdido”. Más de 2.000 migrantes esperan en Matamoros, frente a Brownsville, Texas, mientras intentan conseguir citas a través de una aplicación telefónica para entrar en Estados Unidos conocida como CBP One.
El proceso puede ser frustrante, ya que algunas de las citas se asignan al azar, mientras que otras se dan a personas que llevan mucho tiempo en el sistema, según el padre Strassburger.
Las largas esperas provocaron anteriormente que muchos migrantes cruzaran irregularmente a Estados Unidos. Pero el Servicio de Aduanas y Protección de Fronteras de Estados Unidos registró 240.988 encuentros con migrantes en la frontera suroeste de Estados Unidos en octubre, aproximadamente un 10% menos que el mes anterior.
Los observadores atribuyeron este descenso a que venezolanos prefirieron esperar a ver qué pasaba en lugar de cruzar la frontera sin cita previa con el CBP One, después que el gobierno estadounidense anunciara la decisión de iniciar las deportaciones a Venezuela, país con el que Estados Unidos ha mantenido relaciones poco amistosas.
Pero la espera puede resultar agotadora, especialmente con la inseguridad reinante en Matamoros y los migrantes en el punto de mira de los secuestradores.
“Las personas no acuden a sus citas de CBP One porque están siendo secuestradas,” dijo a OSV News la hermana Norma Pimentel, directora de Caridades Católicas del Valle del Río Grande en Brownsville.
“Empecé a ver gente abandonando sus citas y cruzando el río porque tenían miedo” de permanecer en México, dijo la hermana Misionera de Jesús. Agregó que los funcionarios estadounidenses aún otorgan citas a quienes se ausentaron debido al secuestro.
Los migrantes que asistieron a la Misa en Matamoros hablaron de vivir con miedo si salían del albergue para migrantes.
“Muy poca gente se va de aquí por la inseguridad”, dijo Yessica Briseño, una migrante venezolana que ha pasado tres meses en Matamoros con su esposo y sus tres hijos de entre 10 y 12 años.
Briseño ha intentado infructuosamente obtener una cita con CBP One durante tres meses, algo que, según dijo, le está haciendo plantearse cruzar el río, sobre todo porque uno de sus hijos ha sufrido dificultades emocionales en el campamento y está siendo atendido por un psicólogo voluntario.
“Existe una verdadera tentación,” dijo sobre el cruce irregular.
Otros migrantes en el albergue describieron a México como el país más difícil de transitar en la ruta hacia el norte a través de América Central – incluyendo el traicionero Tapón del Darién, la espesa selva que separa Colombia y Panamá, controlada por el crimen organizado y plagada de bandidos.
“Los oficiales de migración se llevan todo”, exigiendo el pago para evitar ser detenidos, agregó Eusebio Quiñones, de 38 años, un migrante de Ecuador, que quería cruzar a Estados Unidos “legalmente” con la aplicación CBP One.
La Pastoral de Migrantes de la Conferencia del Episcopado Mexicano emitió un comunicado el 15 de noviembre, en el que describió la estrategia de las autoridades migratorias mexicanas como “contención, detención, deportación y militarización,” al tiempo que advirtió:
“No vemos una estrategia clara de coordinación entre los tres niveles de gobierno en respuesta a las condiciones inhumanas que viven los migrantes y refugiados en México”.
También expresó su alarma por el gran número de migrantes atrapados en ciudades de todo México y advirtió que México “se está convirtiendo en una gran Estación Migratoria para las personas migrantes y refugiadas, en donde no se les permite tener una estancia regular (legal), pero tampoco se les permite transitar hacia su destino”.
La Misa en el albergue para migrantes – ubicado en un hospital abandonado rodeado de tiendas de campaña – termina con el equipo de jesuitas proporcionando información sobre migración de la mejor manera que entienden.
El padre Strassburger aconseja seguir con la aplicación CBP One, que según él ha mejorado después de haber sido “probada en versión beta con migrantes” tras su introducción en enero.
“Los albergues aquí estaban llenos de personas muy desesperadas y ahora están en Estados Unidos”, dijo a los migrantes. “Con paciencia y fe, todos van a recibir su cita”.
El padre Strassburger ha trabajado con migrantes varados en México desde su ordenación en 2021 y asignación para trabajar en la Diócesis de Brownsville.
Trabajando con el padre jesuita Flavio Bravo y el escolástico jesuita Joseph Nolla, el padre Strassburger celebra Misas para los migrantes, cuatro días a la semana en Matamoros y Reynosa, a 50 millas (80 kilómetros) al oeste, junto con las celebraciones en el Centro de Respiro Humanitario en McAllen Texas, donde los migrantes recién llegados reciben ayuda para llegar a sus destinos finales en los Estados Unidos.
A menudo les atiende en condiciones difíciles, como en un campamento a orillas del Río Grande, donde los migrantes que no quieren perder de vista la frontera estadounidense esperan a ser citados por el CBP One o se quedan hasta que pagan a los contrabandistas para cruzar el río.
En medio de las dificultades, él ve inspiración en la perseverancia de los migrantes.
“Me parece que los migrantes son el mejor ejemplo de cómo utilizan su fe como fuente de esperanza en medio de una situación que de otro modo puede ser tan desesperante”, dijo el padre Strassburger. “A menudo me inspiran”.
(David Agren escribe para OSV News desde Ciudad de México. Viajó a Matamoros para informar sobre la situación fronteriza entre Estados Unidos y México.)