Tuesday, May 4, 2021


Over the Easter holidays, I got a call from a monk friend in Togo, Africa. I had a long WHATS APP face-time call with my friends in Germany. I used SKYPE to have a face-to-face catch-up session with my friend in Ireland. I received greetings from friends in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mexico, Trinidad, Nigeria, India, Vietnam and the Philippines. 

I am reminded all the time of my five week-long trips from 1971 -1976 to the ecumenical monastery in Taize, France, where I met people from more than fifty countries and engaged many of them in long discussions. I am reminded almost daily of my 150 plus priest convocations in nine countries (including England, Ireland, Wales and Canada) when I spoke to hundreds of bishops and priests for a week at a time and engaged them in lengthy discussions up into the evenings. How can I forget the fourteen years I worked in Saint Meinrad Seminary where I had the opportunity to teach, and be taught by, young men from many of the world's countries? I certainly cannot forget my twelve speaking trips to the Caribbean nations of The Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where I met bishops from several other Caribbean nations. Thank God I never gave into the fear of "going places!"  

As I read Pope Francis' recent Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti, I resonated with his inciteful words. "The arrival of those who are different, coming from other ways of life and cultures, can be a gift.... Indeed, when we open our hearts to those who are different, this enables them, while continuing to be themselves, to develop in new ways. At the same time, those cultures should be encouraged to be open to new experiences through their encounter with other realities, for the risk of succumbing to cultural sclerosis is always present. That is why we need to communicate with each other, to discover the gifts of each person, to promote that which unites us, and to regard our differences as an opportunity to grow in mutual respect. Patience and trust are called for in such dialogue, permitting individual families and communities to hand on the values of their own culture and welcome the good that comes from others' experiences."

Growing up in a small rural Kentucky town of twenty-seven people. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to "meet the world." I am proud of myself for welcoming and embracing those opportunities instead of running away from them. I realize that I am blessed to have been able to experience what it means to belong to a "catholic" church, a "universal" church, a church where "all are welcome."  

Looking back over the years, I am simply amazed and forever grateful to have met so many people from so many cultures and backgrounds! Reflecting on the words of Pope Francis, I know for sure that I have learned many things from being around them. I can only pray that they have learned a few things from being around me!  Fear of immigrants, I have come to believe, is basically a fear of change, a fear of loss and a fear of embracing anything new. When one gives into that fear, one cuts oneself out of the joy of receiving and the joy of giving.  

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