On Thursday, September 14, 2023 a delegation representing leaders and organizers from across our broad-based organizing network, the Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation, were invited for a return visit by Pope Francis to his home in the Vatican.
The Pope first met with our network last October, and last week, without missing a beat, he reiterated his understanding of our organizing as the conversation began.
"Your work is atomic,” he said. “You go atom by atom, little by little, moving forward. Like water moves forward, which becomes a river, and soon pervades everything it touches.”
He mentioned that on October 4, he will be issuing a companion to his encyclical Laudato Si, which will serve as an “examination of conscience” of our stewardship for the environment since the release of the original encyclical. He applauded efforts to reign in destructive corporate behavior and to promote efforts like Community Lighthouse pioneered by our sister organizations in Louisiana to protect our communities from the effects of climate change.
Fr. Ivan Montelongo represented EPISO/Border Interfaith and the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. He shared with the Pope more about on our collaboration on the diocesan phase of the synod.
In 2022, EPISO/BI and the Diocese of El Paso worked together to train over 300 parishioners from 40+ institutions to carry out the synod, using the format of "house meetings," as a model for the church to listen closely to the experiences of individuals and families, particularly those excluded or on the margins.
Fr. Ivan will return to Rome at the end of the month as a delegate to the global synod, a month-long process of prayer and discernment for the Church led by Pope Francis.
In a recent podcast, Bishop Mark Seitz said the synod is not just another "project" that must be completed and we "get back to our life."
"We can't just do things from the top down," said Seitz. "The Holy Spirit wants to make the whole people of God a priestly people, and that means that everyone is involved."
In a video message Pope Francis prepared for leaders from our network in February, the pope said, "My heart rejoices when I see the pastors, priests and laity — leaders in their communities — together with civic organizations meet to discuss the best ways to overcome serious situations of injustice suffered by the excluded. I encourage and strongly urge you to continue to do so."
Pope Meets US Leaders Patiently Building Culture of Solidarity, US Conference of Catholic Bishops / Catholic News Service