Were you raised Catholic? You know: Sunday mass, white communion outfits, constant crippling guilt, the whole deal? Are you still Catholic? Mmm hmmm.
If your religious fervor has fallen by the wayside, you might just relate to these:
1. The guilt stays with you forever.
Catholic guilt is no joke. It’s like living with a tiny monja inside your head forever, asking you if you’re really willing to risk eternal hellfire for telling that one lie to your parents back in fourth grade. Speaking of which…
2. You’ll never not be intimidated by nuns.
Credit: Buena Vista Pictures
You know they’re the most powerful women on the planet, able to know your sins with just one look.
3. The smell of incense is still soothing and magical.
The Catholic Church has had a varied position in the political spectrum in contemporary times in the Americas. While in South American countries such as Chile and Argentina it has aligned with conservative governments and those in power, in the United States this centuries-old institution has traditionally been seen as a progressive force that generally innovates when it comes to the inclusion of ethnic minorities (they are, however, still pretty conservative when it comes to gender and sexual diversity, and reproductive rights).
It should not come as a surprise that the conclave of US Catholic bishops just made a pretty big decision by choosing an immigrant archbishop as perhaps the highest ranking priest in the country. He is a defender of migrant rights and can potentially be highly influential with the Latino vote come the 2020 presidential election.
José Gomez, an immigrant of Mexican heritage was just named the next president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In vernacular terms, this is a BFD. Archbishop José Gomez leads the Church in Los Angeles, a key jurisdiction when it comes to important affairs such as immigration, bilateral relations with Mexico and progressive agendas that the Church traditionally opposes, such as same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. Los Angeles is also the largest archdioceses in the country, in part due to the large population of Latinos and Filipinos, who are traditionally born and raised Catholic.
He was elected almost unanimously with 176 votes from his fellow bishops, with just 18 votes going to his opponent, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, who was subsequently voted vice president.
America The Jesuit Review sums up his background: “Archbishop Gomez, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, was ordained to the priesthood in the Opus Dei prelature in 1978. In 1980, he received a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of Navarra, in Spain. He served as a priest in Texas from 1987 to 2000”. Even though he comes from one of the most conservative congregations in the Church, the Opus Dei, he has made a career by defending the rights of the marginalized.
He is a defender of migrants and a fierce supporter of DACA, so his election could be read as a political statement.
Archbishop José Gomez has long defended migrant rights, which has made him popular among the Latino population of Los Angeles, one of the most multicultural metropolis in the world. Even though he had been serving as vice-president and his election followed tradition, some argue that it is also a sort of unofficial positioning of the Catholic Church against the iron-fisted immigration policies of the Trump administration, which have brought immense suffering to Latinos in the greater Los Angeles area, including forced family separations and deportations by the now despised government agency ICE.
He doesn’t hold his words back when it comes to border affairs and the human crisis at hand.
As The New York Times reported, the archbishop said after his election: “We have this situation at the border, which is a tragedy. We are constantly talking about immigration, especially encouraging our elected officials to do something, and to come up with immigration reform that is reasonable and possible”. Traditionally the separation of Church and State has been pretty clear in the United States, but as some Christian Evangelical denominations have become quite tight with the Trump White House and validate its tough policies, perhaps the Catholic Church will be a counterbalance when it comes to political lobbying in defence of migrant rights.
He was born in Mexico and now defends DACA recipients.
Archbishop Gomez, contrary to many men of the cloth, is very direct when it comes to his political position. In the eve of his election he read a message for DACA recipients from the pulpit, just as the Trump administration is fighting to reverse the program and as the president has called some DACA recipients “criminals” on Twitter.
The message read: “In this great country, we should not have our young people living under the threat of deportation, their lives dependent on the outcome of a court case. So, we pray tonight that our president and Congress will come together, set aside their differences, and provide our young brothers and sisters with a path to legalization and citizenship”.
As we said, he doesn’t hold back. This is an elegant way of opposing the POTUS without being confrontational. He also believes that there is a Latino wave in the Church, given that the Pope is Argentinian: “The fact that the pope is a Latino makes us feel a responsibility for the church. He has been a great blessing for me and for the church. For Latinos, it’s easy to understand some of the wonderful things Pope Francis is doing to reach out to people”.
It may come as a surprise to some but in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, the population of Muslim migrants as well as Mexican converts to Islam are growing. While some have arrived there from other countries, many are waiting as they seek asylum in the U.S. due to President Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy. All of this has resulted in a rising number of Muslims that are looking for any kind of shelter or housing situation while they wait.
Making the situation more difficult is adjusting to life in a foreign land. Some have arrived from places as far as Syria, Togo, Somalia, and Ghana. Then there are the constant stares from strangers when they see a hijab and the ensuing questions about it.
The toughest aspect for Muslims in Tijuana is finding a place to pray throughout the day. There is currently only one mosque, the Playas de Tijuana, in the city which has made this a challenge, especially for migrants living in shelters.
This is why Sonia Garcia, the founder of the Latina Muslim Foundation is currently raising money to build a shelter for Muslim migrants and deported women.
Garcia knows firsthand about the struggles that many in the growing Muslim community in Tijuana are facing. She was born in the city and was raised as a Catholic before converting to Islam. Like many of the other Muslim women that have arrived in Tijuana, Garcia knows how hard it is to navigate through the city.
“They don’t know the food, the culture, the language,” Garcia told the San Diego Tribune. “It is very difficult for them. People thought I was Arabic. They asked why I was in Tijuana.”
This is why Garcia and Mayte Gutierrez, another Latina who has converted to Islam, have put forth efforts to help the growing Muslim community near the border city. Their plan is to raise awareness and money to build a permanent shelter for Muslim migrants and deported women. They see the shelter as a place where migrants can receive help with their social services, receive medical care and most importantly, an area where they can come to pray.
Those at the Latina Muslim Foundation hope that the shelter becomes a hub of some sort where all Muslims in the local area can come together to connect and celebrate their religion all while feeling more at home in Mexico. But it won’t be that easy without support.
For years both Garcia and Gutierrez have been doing whatever they can to help when Muslim migrants arrive in Tijuana. Now, they need the help of others to raise money for this much-needed shelter.
Garcia says that the organization is currently planning to purchase a nearby warehouse that is located about 10 minutes away from the U.S.-Mexico border. They plan to transform it into a large two-story shelter that will have room for social workers and lawyers, a kitchen, showers and a room for prayer that will have multiple copies of the Quran.
As of now, the organization has found a location for the shelter as well as a blueprint by an architect and a group of volunteers that are willing to provide free legal and social services.
“The only thing we need is the money,” Garcia says.
Currently, the Latina Muslim Foundation has raised close to $30,00 but said it needs a total of roughly $250,000 to have enough for their entire project. They are currently raising money by reaching out to people online through a fundraiser.
“We are seeking to purchase a warehouse where the need is most great, thereby being able to provide these individuals with a place to stay, eat, and learn skills where they can make themselves marketable in order to find a job to maintain themselves and their families. We will also have a musala located in this facility so that prayer can be established 5 times a day, Islamic studies classes can be given, and the Quran can be taught,” the fundraising page reads.
With a growing population of asylum seekers, the shelter situation in Tijuana is also growing worse. So Gutierrez sees the Latina Muslim Foundation’s goal of building this shelter as dire.
“There exists a big gap of misunderstanding, of ignorance,” Gutierrez said. “Being Latino, being Muslim, we can connect.”