The focus at last Saturday’s Peace and Justice Conference was on the many faces of the human family. The conference, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, was held at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Bailey’s Crossroads, and brought together social justice activists from many faith communities in Northern Virginia for the day-long meeting.
The keynote speaker was His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, who recently retired as the Archbishop of Washington because of mandatory age requirements. Cardinal McCarrick is an extraordinary speaker who brings his learned and spiritual approach down to earth with a gentle sense of humor. Laughter in church was heard many times during his address.
Cardinal McCarrick commented that migration is a phenomenon of human society for thousands of years. Migration has an important value, he said, because people are involved. The Cardinal related that his own parents migrated to this country, and met in a sweat shop in the New York area. His mother was one of several children who left school after the 7th grade because, at the age of 14, she had to help support her younger brothers and sisters. Her family was simply trying to live the same dream that so many other people from humble beginnings wanted. Mr. and Mrs. McCarrick probably never dreamed that their son would become a Prince of the Church, respected and renowned throughout the world.
Every sovereign state has the right to protect its borders, Cardinal McCarrick said, and every sovereign state has a duty to protect its citizens. When our “ancestors” came to this country, there were no rules; people just wanted a better life for themselves and their children. Policies, he said, should be based on whether they enhance or threaten the life and dignity of a person. He went on to note that it is not good for a nation to have 12 million people (the estimate of the number of persons in the United States without legal documentation) who are not part of the fabric of society. There is a tremendous difference, he said, between being illegal and being criminal. The national debate has more heat than light, slogans have replaced solutions, but it always is better to find a solution than a penalty, Cardinal McCarrick reminded the conference attendees. “We must work together to find a way, in justice, in charity” to address the human challenges that current migration brings to our community, the Cardinal concluded.
Whether one agrees with Cardinal McCarrick’s approach or not, his remarks provide a calm and thoughtful voice in counterpoint to the harsh rhetoric of recent weeks and months. Government, faith communities, businesses, and residents must work together to find workable solutions to our current challenges.
Don’t forget the 28th Annual Mason District Park Festival this Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the park, 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale (just west of the intersection of Sleepy Hollow Road). Admission and parking are free; craft and community vendors, children’s rides, live entertainment on the Showmobile stage, and the Bailey’s Rotary Club’s car raffle (a beautifully restored Mustang automobile) are among the all-day activities. See you at the Park!