Making Good Use of Pope Francis’s Visit

Many U.S. Catholic churches involved in community organizing with poor and working-class people have used Pope Francis’s visit as an opportunity to gather, listen to what the Pope has to say, and listen to one another.

At my immigrant Latino/a church in Los Angeles, California, our volunteer leadership council suspended the normal activities of our weekday groups so that we could meet as a parish community on Friday evenings.

For the last five Fridays we’ve gathered at 6:00 p.m. for a simple soup, which different groups have taken turns making. Then from 6:30 to 7:30 we’ve listened to a presentation on a social-justice topic that Pope Francis has written about—immigration, poverty, mass incarceration, racism, solidarity, climate change. The presentations have included testimonies of people in the community impacted by injustice: homeless men and women, undocumented mothers, a former gang member, a mother with a son serving life in prison, a woman who lost two brothers to violence.

From 7:30 to 8:30 we’ve broken into fifteen small groups and spent an hour taking turns listening to one another. I’ve taught the group facilitators basic guidelines like taking turns listening to one another, listening with respect, not giving advice, welcoming feelings, and confidentiality. They’re doing a great job.

Remarkably, we’ve had between 100 and 120 people come each Friday. They have included Spanish speakers, English speakers, teenagers, young adults, adults, elderly people, women, men, poor people, working-class people, and middle-class folks. People are hungry for the good leadership Pope Francis has been providing, his compassionate tone, his desire to create a society that includes everyone, his willingness to look at the destruction of the environment, and his encouragement to work together to make real changes. They have loved the opportunity to be together in all our diversity.

On Sunday Pope Francis visited a prison in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) to call attention to the needs of people in prison, the families they are separated from, and those impacted by crime. His continuing focus on people who often get excluded and forgotten has been inspiring. Diverse people of faith and goodwill in Los Angeles have wanted to show their support for Pope Francis, to put their faith into action, and to unite around their commitment to end injustice.

On Tuesday, Latino/a Catholics, African American Protestants, Jews, Muslims, priests and clergy, labor leaders, immigration-reform advocates, community organizers, formerly incarcerated people, and white allies will gather for a prayer vigil outside of one of the largest, most overcrowded jails in the world. This men’s jail in downtown Los Angeles was built to house 7,000 men and currently houses more than 17,000 poor men of color targeted by racism, classism, and anti-immigrant hostility. We are organizing around initiatives that chip away at the way racism and classism operate in our city. The sexism within Catholic church structures slows down our ability to be as effective as we could be, so we need to take this on* too.

I’m proud that Pope Francis’s visit to the United States is energizing Catholics and people of diverse faiths to come together and organize around concerns that we care about deeply.

If you would like to see video recordings of Pope Francis’s events in the United States and copies of his speeches, you can find them at , under the heading “U.S. Papal Visit Highlights.”

Ellie Hidalgo

Los Angeles, California, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of wide world change

(Present Time 182, January 2016)

* “Take this on” means do something about this.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00