Bishops on Labor Day: The Church Stands With Struggling Families
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on domestic justice and human development, issued the conference’s annual Labor Day statement for 2016.
WASHINGTON — The Church stands with struggling families amidst poverty, unemployment and opioid abuse in America, said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami in a Labor Day message from the U.S. bishops.
“These challenging times can pull us toward despair and all the many dangers that come with it,” he said.
“Into this reality, the Church shares a word of hope,” he continued. “She seeks to replace desperation and isolation with human concern and true solidarity, reaffirming the trust in a good and gracious God who knows what we need before we ask him.”
Archbishop Wenski, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on domestic justice and human development, issued the conference’s annual Labor Day statement for 2016. He focused the message on the present-day “twin crises,” problems affecting families and workers.
The two crises are related, he said: Poverty and a lack of access to good jobs has harmed the dignity of workers and has stood as an obstacle to family life.
The archbishop pointed to problems of “stagnant wages, industry leaving towns and cities behind, and the sharp decline in the rate of private-sector organized labor,” as well as increasing rates of child poverty.
“Middle and rural America” have been hit especially hard with “the departure of industry,” he noted, citing “substance abuse” and “an increase in the number of broken families” as results of this.
“The Rust Belt region now appears to have the highest concentration in the nation of drug-related deaths, including from overdoses of heroin and prescription drugs,” he continued.
Pope Francis is aware of these problems, Archbishop Wenski said, as the Pope noted them in his address to the U.S. Congress last September, where he remarked that many young people “seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair.”
“Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them,” the Holy Father said. “We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions, rather than getting bogged down in discussions.”
Christians must take these words to heart and practice true solidarity toward their neighbors, the archbishop said.
“The Church weeps with all of these families, with these children, whose homes and worlds are broken,” he said. “For those who feel left behind today, know that the Church wants to walk with you, in the company of the God, who formed your ‘inmost being’ and who knows that you are ‘wonderfully made.’”
“The first response” of Christians to these crises, he continued, is to “offer help” to our “neighbors in need.”
“That help may take the form of food, money, counsel, friendship, spiritual support or other forms of love and kindness,” he said. Employers must make sure they are paying their workers “a just wage” and giving them “working conditions that allow for a secure family life.”
Christians must advocate for just wages and dignified working conditions, he stressed. Unions have an essential role here, to push for these policies, he insisted, noting that “people of faith and goodwill can be powerful leaven to ensure that these groups, so important in society, continue to keep human dignity at the heart of their efforts.”
The archbishop concluded by referencing a prayer of St. Augustine, noting “the need of all people to rest and finally to ‘rest in God.’”
He added: “In times of restlessness and discouragement, let us recall the beautiful prayer of St. Augustine, who wrote: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’”