Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34
Dear Pope Francis,
With joy and anticipation, we — the faith community of Dolores Mission Church — are praying for you and for your visit to the United States in September. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the mustard seed. We know that Jesus believed in the ability of humble and poor people to hear God’s voice and to unite people together to bring about the reign of God.
We think you would love our little Dolores Mission Church here in Los Angeles, California because of how we have lived our faith courageously. We are named after Our Lady of Sorrows, and our families have suffered a lot. More than 200 teenagers and young adults have been killed in the last 27 years due to gang violence. Also, many parishioners fled war or desperate poverty from El Salvador, Mexico and throughout Latin America. Today, many of our families suffer from not having access to legal documents and being considered aliens by our own government. Without legal documents we often have to take low paying jobs, do not have adequate access to medical care and are separated from our families.
It would be easy to be consumed by fear, sadness and anger. Instead we have learned to rely on God even more. Accompanied by our Jesuit priests and lay leaders, who guide our comunidades de base and our ministries, our faith led us to open the doors of our church to welcome refugees and the homeless. Our little church becomes a homeless shelter each night. In response to the gang violence, we organize peace walks, celebrate masses outside in the neighborhood, and stand on our streets after school so that students get home safely. We began to offer services and jobs to young men and women getting out of prison and wanting to transform their lives. We have worked hard to teach our children about their Catholic faith and to create a good elementary school. Many of our young women and men now are excelling in high school, going to college and graduating. We are so proud of them all. We do community organizing with the PICO National Network and the Jesuit National Network to urge our elected officials to find ways to offer immigrants a pathway to citizenship. We have not succeeded yet, but we will keep working together so that one day everyone living in the United States will be treated with the same respect and dignity.
Today’s readings compel us to be courageous and to help our families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel. We pray daily for you and that your visit to the United States inspires us to work for the common good and for peace in our world.
Peace and blessings,
Fr. Theodore Gabrielli, S.J., Pastor,
the Jesuit community, parish staff, lay leaders, and parishioners of Dolores Mission Church