STAMFORD—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his Sunday homily that as Christians we must not let our faith be formed by politics when we consider the needs of the poor and immigrants.
At a Mass honoring St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, he said, “We live in a world where the poor and the immigrant have become part of a great political debate. My friends, I am not a politician, and I have not come here to talk politics. We in this church are not Democrats, Republicans or Independents, we are Christians.”
In his homily at Sacred Heart Church in Stamford, he said, “There is room for that debate of which we must all be a part, but we come here in the spirit of Mother Cabrini so that we never forget that there are real lives involved in that debate. There are women, men, young people and children, and they are our sisters and brothers. And just as Mother Cabrini saw in them the face of Jesus one person at a time, we come here to renew our commitment to do the same thing.”
The Mass, celebrated in Italian, was the fourth annual commemoration of the Italian-American founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who supported immigrants throughout the United States and established 67 institutions, including schools, orphanages and hospitals that cared for the poor and marginalized.
Mother Cabrini, who came to America in 1880 with seven young women, was the first naturalized U.S. citizen to be named a saint in 1946.
“Mother Cabrini felt compelled to serve them and walk with them,” the bishop said. “How far are you willing to go? She left the comfort of Italy and traveled to this country, standing side by side with those who came here poor, illiterate and vulnerable. She and her sisters stood with them, worked with them, served them, fed them, clothed them and loved them to the end.”
He said that she would often beg for money with her sisters to raise the necessary funds to build schools and hospitals, and she trusted that “if she suffered with Christ, Christ would not abandon her.”
“I stand before you as a son of immigrants who came to this country to give my sister a better life — I was born after they arrived — and they worked hard in their faith in the spirit of Mother Cabrini, always mindful that they, too, were once in need,” Bishop Caggiano said.
“You and I come here as people of faith at a time in the life of our country when there are many immigrants who are not welcome, along with those who are poor, who are not served, and those who live in the margins and shadows that our society wishes us to forget.”
Bishop Caggiano also said that those who follow Jesus will be persecuted.
“Anyone who stands for the truth, anyone who stands with the poor is going to suffer,” he said. “And yet my friends, we come here to a church to honor the Lord, who made himself poor so that you and I might be rich. Who emptied himself of glory in the crib of Bethlehem so that we who are born poor may one day have his glory in heaven. And who freely gave his life so that you and I might have life … and what are we to do with that glory and life? We are to share it with those who do not have it, who are seeking. No matter where they come from, no matter what language they speak, no matter where their lives will lead them, Christ asks us to be his hands and his feet, and his voice and his heart in the world. One person at a time.”
He said that we are all descendants of immigrants and share one thing in common: “We are all pilgrims, and all of us are traveling to heaven and that journey demands that we open our hearts, our hands and our lives and invite everyone of every race, language and way of life to join us on that journey to Christ, who promises us everlasting life and glory for those who are willing to walk, work and sacrifice in his Holy Name.”
Father Alfonso Picone, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, thanked the bishop for celebrating the Mass and others from the parish who participated, along with Catholic Charities for organizing a reception and talk in honor of Mother Cabrini.
In his concluding remarks, Bishop Caggiano thanked Father Picone and parochial vicar Father Martin deMayo for opening the parish to immigrants and those in need and for having masses in English, Italian and Spanish.
He also acknowledged the efforts of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services. “I am not a politician, I am a pastor, but we come here as people of God to recognize that we have brothers and sisters in extreme risk, and they need our help.”
Also attending the Mass were Peter Maloney, board member of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, who organized the event for the fourth year, and Sarita Hanley, board member of the Catholic Relief Services foundation.
The Mass was followed by a reception and talk about Mother Cabrini by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Paul Moses.
Moses is the author of a book about the Italian and Irish immigration experience titled, “An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians.” Former city editor of Newsday and senior religion writer, he is a professor emeritus of journalism at Brooklyn College.