GREENVILLE—Michael Tran, assistant director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, led a small group of representatives from the diocese to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering held Feb. 3-6 in Washington, D.C.
The event is held annually by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, and brings together hundreds of Catholic social ministry leaders from across the U.S. and abroad.
Joining Tran was Mary Louise “Wolf Woman” Worthy, chief of the PAIA Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina; and Victoria Norris, widow of longtime Lower Eastern Cherokee Chief Gene Norris, who died last spring. Both women were invited to attend by Father Michael Carson, assistant director for the subcommittee on Native American affairs with the USCCB.
Tran said it “is an opportunity for U.S. leaders in Catholic social action to network, advocate for social justice, and form emerging leaders in service to the Church and society.” He said attendees can build solidarity, knowledge, and practical skills to live and share the Church’s social mission for the common good and the evangelization of the world.
On the final day of the meeting, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, USCCB president, accompanied Worthy, Norris, Tran and other participants to Capitol Hill to highlight issues that affect the poor and vulnerable. The diocesan group met with the staffs of Senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott, and Rep. Jeff Duncan, presenting each office with a copy of concerns related to government policy.
Titled “Building Community: A Call to the Common Good”, the gathering was a call to Congress to make poor and vulnerable people a priority in the federal budget.
The document stated that Congress “should resist budget cuts and prioritize programs that help people living in poverty, both at home and abroad.”
Lawmakers were also urged to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. After the Senate failed Feb. 15 to move a bill forward to protect Dreamers, USCCB officials announced a “National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers” held Feb. 26.
The participants at the gathering asked Congress “to work expeditiously and in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for Dreamers.” That solution should include a path to citizenship and protection for children; it should also balance the right of nations to protect their borders with the right of individuals to migrate and seek protection, the document stated.
Worthy, who attended the meeting for the first time, was selected as a guest speaker at two forums. She was the only U.S. Native American to speak at the forums, which included indigenous people from Africa and South America.
“Everyone else was from the Congo, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia,” she said.
Despite the language challenges, Worthy said she received great feedback. She also found common ground with a person from Brazil’s Amazon River basin, where that country’s indigenous culture faces outside threats.
“My ancestors went through what they’re going through now,” Worthy said.
She plans to attend next year’s gathering, with the hope that she won’t be the only U.S. Native American there.
Provided: From left, Mary Louise “Wolf Woman” Worthy, Victoria Norris, David Cronin from Catholic Relief Services, and Michael Tran, assistant director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, pose for a picture at the gathering.