On Sept. 24, when Pope Francis delivered his address to a joint session of Congress during his trip to the United States, two representatives of the Diocese of Buffalo were in the room. Sister Johnice Rzadkiewicz, CSSF, director of the Response to Love Center in Buffalo, and Father James J. Maher, CM, president of Niagara University, were the invited guests of Congressman Brian Higgins. After the address, Sister Johnice provided some of her thoughts on the experience of hearing Pope Francis speak.
“Being there in Congress was the most electrifying experience for me – just seeing everyone there, the senators, the congressmen, the diplomats, the president – all were there. And as I looked out, I really prayed, and I prayed for unity and that if we would listen to the message of the Holy Father, that we would be able to not leave the message there in the chamber, but to take that message back home,” she said.
“It was electrifying and inspiring. I just thought it was a gift. It was a gift and a blessing, and I do feel that God used our Congressman Brian Higgins to bring that blessing to my life.”
Sister Johnice noted during his address, Pope Francis called the United States the “land of the dream,” and he said that America’s leaders must lead with action and commitment. In keeping with this theme, Pope Francis told the chamber “not to be fearful of foreigners” because “once, we were foreigners,” to a round of applause. The message was especially striking for Sister Johnice in her ministry.
“In our building, at Response to Love Center, we deal with nine different countries, and to embrace them with compassion and love and to make them a part of our family – it has really taught me to reflect as I’m going to go back home, to embrace them with that acceptance, love and compassion that the Holy Father spoke about so beautifully. He gave a beautiful message of peace,” added Sister Johnice.
According to Sister Johnice, this message was given directly to politicians, some of whom have used inflammatory rhetoric to describe immigrants and refugees, but Pope Francis’ call to treat everyone with dignity was meant for all. “All of us have that responsibility as well, because we’re going to meet these people. We’re going to meet the immigrants, but how are we going to embrace them?” she asked.
“I don’t think the call is only to the issue of immigration to the politician,” Sister Johnice said, “but it’s for the everyday person, whom we’re going to meet. It’s our responsibility, and we need to respond lovingly.” read more...