By Deacon John De Gano
The recent “Day without an Immigrant” protest by immigrants in the United States got me to thinking about what the impact would be if there were no Roman Catholics around.
A quick look on the Internet revealed the following:
• There are 70,412,021 Roman Catholics in the United States (roughly 22% of the total population).
• Five of the current eight U.S. Supreme Court Justices (62.5%) are Roman Catholic. Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year and had yet to be replaced (as of this writing), was also a Roman Catholic.
• One third of the members in the U.S. House of Representatives and one fourth of the U.S. Senators (based on Jan 3, 2017 Pew survey) are Roman Catholic.
• Every day, one in six patients in the U.S. is cared for in a Catholic hospital (totaling 5 million admissions a year); more than 639 Catholic hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities employ over 730,000 people.
• Catholic Charities USA, serves over 8.25 million people (2015)
• There are 89 Catholic orphanages serving 19,506 residents.
• And there are 227 Catholic colleges and universities serving 798,006 students and almost two million students in Catholic grade schools and high schools.
Please note: This brief look does not include immigration and refugee services, foster care and other services.
Of course, such numbers may go up or down in a given year, but God would have wanted to create our world if there was only one Catholic in it…
I am reminded of Abraham, who attempted to negotiate with God on behalf of the righteous in Sodom. “What if there are only ten righteous people?” he asked. God told him he would not destroy the city.
Yet the sin was so great that there weren’t even ten left. Abraham managed to get Lot and his family out just before the city was destroyed.
In due time, Jesus came, started his church, was crucified, died and was buried. Rose again and ultimately went home to be with His Father.
Our mission, he said, was to do the will of God -- proclaim the good news – and preach, teach and baptize.
That is what we are still called to do today.
And we do this by word and example.
We may not always agree on how we can help the poor and the marginalized, but we are called to take action – to provide services, such as those found in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, as well as to rebuild relationships and restore those who have been shut out of society so that they may find hope and give God praise.
Where would the world be today without a Catholic in it?
Certainly a lot less compassionate. And poorer spiritually.
And without a moral compass – as found in the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and “Love God and neighbor as ourselves” – there is no clear entity capable of filling the gaps created by our much divided world.
And so, it is up to us as Catholics to extend comfort and hope to the downtrodden, as we look to Jesus and his words of comfort: “Fear not.” “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” -- to get us through these difficult times.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.