Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily for the dedication of the Vincentian Missionary Center in North Little Rock July 2.
Today we are gathered for a Mass to inaugurate this new Centro Misionero. This center is to be a place in which retreats occur and at which you receive ongoing formation for your work of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to all, with special concern for those who are most in the shadows, who most need the light of Christ and the hope that faith in the Lord can give.
We live this not only in our private life and in our worship, but also in all that we do to correct the injustices — the darkness — in our world.
For citizens, one way to do this here in the United States is through the political process. Since we are dedicating this center on this July 4 weekend, I would like to focus on how our obligations to Christ and to our society come together. And we all know, in the current electoral campaign, there is much darkness in the words of some of our candidates. There are those whose strategy for seeking public office includes scapegoating immigrants like yourselves who who have contributed so much to the life of our country. Many of us feel paralyzed by what we see in the news. Is there nothing we can do? You Vincentian missionaries know there is a lot we can do! There is prayer in our private life and in our worship, plus concrete actions, for instance:
1) Some of you are U.S. citizens who have never voted. You need to register to vote so that you can participate in the next election. Many politicians don’t pay attention to the concerns of those who don’t vote! Why would they? They’re focused on getting elected. So you need to study the issues and the candidates, and then bring your options before the Lord in prayer. Ask him to help you choose how to vote, even if it means resigning yourself to having to vote for the lesser of two evils, as is often the case these days.
2) Some of you are legal permanent residents who have lived here a long time. I want to encourage you to take the next step and apply for U.S. citizenship. Once you are a citizen, you can make your voice heard. Remember that being a permanent resident only gives you temporary permission to reside in this country, which you have to keep renewing. And while renewal at present is easy, there’s no telling what a future government might do.
3) Others of you don’t have legal status but do have children born in the United States who are therefore automatically U.S. citizens. You need to make sure they register to vote when they turn 18. Tell them that since you can’t vote, they have to be your voice and that you expect them to go to the polls on election day. They need to know that one of the blessings of our country is that if we are not pleased with the way things are at present, our electoral process provides us a means to make sure that our voices are heard. If bad laws have created an unjust situation, the only way to change those laws is by participating in the process.
4) All of you know lots of other people. Talk to them. Encourage those who can vote to make sure they are registered to vote and then go to the polls on Election Day. Encourage those who are legal permanent residents to become citizens.
By voting, we remind politicians that they have to take our concerns into account; if we don’t vote, we are likely to continue to be ignored, and some will feel free to actively promote policies that continue to do us harm.
This is just one example of what is involved in living our faith in the real world in which we live. May this Centro Misionero serve as a light in the darkness. May the retreats and other programs here draw us much closer to Jesus, in our piety and our personal behavior, for sure.
And as we celebrate our nation’s birthday in this “land of the free and the home of the brave” let us act bravely to make sure that all who reside within our borders enjoy the freedoms that are at the center of our God-given dignity as human beings.
May you Vincentian missionaries do all in your power to bring the light of Christ to shine in all the dark corners of our world!
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