Pentecost and the Poor People’s Campaign

Father Jeremy Tobin

Millennial reflections
By Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem
We have celebrated the core of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We now come to the end, the great Feast of Pentecost. We hear the Prophet Joel cry out, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh!” Remember Jesus reading that passage in the synagogue in Nazareth?
Bishop John Botean’s commentary in the previous edition of Mississippi Catholic inspired me to reflect further on the work of the Holy Spirit in the church even today. Bishop Botean comes from the Romanian Catholic Church, one of the Eastern Byzantine Churches in communion with the Pope. He commented on the theology of Baptism as developed by Rev. Alexander Schmemann, dean of St. Vladimir Orthodox Seminary in New York. His column compared the Eastern Church’s treatment of the Holy Spirit to Quakers.
He described Quaker meetings where they sit in a church and focus on the Spirit’s presence and what it would prompt them to do. He ends by saying “The emphasis given to the Holy Spirit in Byzantine theology is explicit, but different than the Charismatic movement. He quotes Father Schmemann’s response to the oft asked question “Is Jesus Christ my personal savior?” His response is, “Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. The Holy Spirit is my personal savior, because “No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co. 12:3).
The Eastern Church has a rich theology around the Holy Spirit. They emphasize the Holy Spirit is at work in the sacraments (they call them mysteries) allowing for the movement of the heart and feelings in response to God. Barriers are lifted and people of faith follow where the Spirit leads.
This leads us right into Pentecost and the great conclusion to the season of Easter. Down through the ages the Holy Spirit leads and guides the Church, calling people to lead others to specific ways to live the Gospel, even to our own time. We have seen prophetic figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, rise up and lead us to greater possibilities of freedom and hope. They gave their lives in the cause of justice and freedom, but the cause remains active. We celebrate his year the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign Mule Train that went from Marks, Mississippi to Washington, D.C. to protest the evils of war, racism and income inequality.
The Spirit continues to move us forward even when the resistance to change intensifies. I think of Rev. William Barber of North Carolina. When he preaches he reminds me a lot of Dr. King. His use of scripture to illustrate social justice connects modern issues is to a higher, moral level. Rev. Barber has resurrected the Poor People’s Campaign. Reflecting the style of Dr. King, He says “There is something wrong in America!”
Society must be made aware, as the campaign points out, that “People should not live or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion and deep inequality.” This reflects the 72nd Psalm, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” Another principle, “We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic equality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.”
These are but two of twelve fundamental principles to form a moral movement, a moral revival. From now until June 23, people will carry out sustained nonviolent actions in some 30 states, hoping to break through toxic attitudes and shift the moral narrative.
I end with a passage from Isaiah 10 which captures the spirit: “Woe unto those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights, and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey, and robbing the homeless child.”

(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Jackson.)

Founding Father of Priory dies

Father Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., age 86, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey died March 22.
Father Colavechio was born on April 7, 1931, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Archibald and Catherine (McCrossen) Colavechio.
He graduated from St. Norbert College (SNC) in 1952 and earned graduate degrees in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, and from the Catholic University of America.
He entered St. Norbert Abbey as a novice on August 28, 1948 and was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1955.
Father Colavechio taught at SNC for more than 15 years, known to most of the college students as “Rocky.” He later served as the rector of the Norbertine Generalate in Rome.
In 1989, Father Colavechio was one of the original members of the Norbertine Priory of St. Moses the Black in Raymond, where he served as administrator and pastor of Jackson St. Mary Parishand vocation coordinator until 2003.
In 2005, the Norbertine Abbot General appointed Father Colavechio to represent the order to a small community of priests who were seeking affiliation with the Norbertine Order. In addition to this, Father Colavechio assisted at St. Agnes Parish, Green Bay, and ministered at the Quad Parishes of Green Bay.
In his later years, he resided at St. Norbert Abbey, working in internal ministry.

Ancient tradition lends strength to modern advocacy

Millennial reflections


Father Jeremy Tobin

By Father Jeremy Tobin, O. Praem
Before every general chapter of the Norbertine Order there is a fraternal visitation by the head of our order to all the houses throughout the world. The Priory of St. Moses the Black and its motherhouse, St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere Wisconsin, will have completed the visitation before the next General Chapter at Rolduc in the Netherlands in 2018. Here, at the Priory, at the opening address of his visit here, Abbot General Thomas quoted Pope Francis saying that religious must be prophetic. They must be the prophetic voice of the church, and speak out for those who have no voice. Pope Francis has said that being prophetic can be messy, but urged us to be courageous.
Religious by their nature are the prophetic dimension of the Church. Looking at the lives of various founders of religious communities you find them responding to a call to do something new, to meet situations that demand attention. Pope Francis tells us to go to the margins, reach out to the peripheries. Go where the need is. Be with the suffering, the poor, the scapegoated.
Look at Jesus in the Gospels. His friends were the marginalized, the outcast, the labeled. For that he was condemned. Down the centuries that is what religious do. Whether priests, brothers or sisters, their character comes from the charism of their community. How they respond to current situations is largely within the frame of their community’s charism. The ancient orders often are more flexible because they have survived so much. Their charisms are more generic leaving the possibility open to respond to any need the times call them to meet.
I begin with this to say that my community, the Norbertines, has begun celebrating more than nine centuries of existence. We were just a little more than a hundred years old when we faced and survived the Mongol invasions of Europe. Places we built our monasteries ended up in two countries when borders were drawn. We have survived a lot since then, but continue to respond to the needs of the times.
Since the Second Vatican Council we have responded in many ways to issues of social justice. One our priests in Wisconsin helped found the American Indian Movement (AIM) that still works for human rights for native Americans.
In Peru we confronted massive poverty and lack of health care by establishing mini parishes in Lima and a string of clinics, that still operate on the Rio Napo, a tributary of the Amazon. We came to Mississippi to respond to the spiritual and material needs of African Americans. We are still involved at Christ the King on in South Jackson. Our local founder retired from a career at Jackson State University. Another one is involved in advocacy and writing about human rights and promoting fair and just legislation.
Pope Francis has reawakened the original spirit of Vatican II when he described the Church as a field hospital, a MASH unit that meets the people where they are, in whatever shape, and responds with mercy and compassion and a listening ear. The people with no voice need a voice and we are that voice. We collaborate with our fellow Christians, whatever denomination, addressing issues of inequality and justice. Pope Francis is asking religious to push the barriers further to speak out for issues that confront the world. He has given us a new image of what it is to evangelize, to bring good news, not bad news, to the poor. He calls us to address climate change head on. It isn’t that we don’t have issues to address, they are all around us.
Religious, by our vocation, are called to take risks, to say what must be said, to speak truth to power. That is what prophecy is. It is conveying the vision of justice and mercy welling up inside to bring hope to those who have little hope. It is taking risks.
Even ancient, monastic orders like mine are called to go out and be with the people who need to hear the good news of the Gospel, of deliverance and hope. Some need to take greater risks and follow their call. In these perilous times the poor and marginalized, the discriminated and oppressed need to hear the Gospel message of deliverance of redemption and of hope. Social justice is at the heart of the Gospel and we must bring that message home.
(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Raymond.)