As we prepare to celebrate Labor Day Sept. 1, two events relating to labor come to mind.
The first, a somber one, is the recent murder of journalist James Foley at the hands of Islamic terrorists in Syria. Foley was a Catholic and 1996 graduate of Marquette University. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2008.
Foley was kidnapped in late 2012 while laboring in a war zone. He was there to report the news of Syria’s civil war.
At a memorial Mass for him Aug. 24, Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, N.H., said Foley lived his faith through his work.
Bishop Libasci alluded to Foley’s first abduction in Tripoli, Lybia, in 2011 and his resolve to get back to work in order to tell the story of Syria’s civil strife.
“Jim went back again that we might open our eyes, that we might indeed know how precious is this gift” of life, said Bishop Libasci.
Excluding defenders of our safety and freedom (police, fire fighters and military personnel), most of us do not face life-threatening ordeals in our daily work. Foley’s dedication to his profession and concern for suffering people led to his own suffering and death. May his example of service to others through work inspire us to elevate our labor in the workplace.
The second event relating to labor is this week’s news about the Micah Center, a daytime shelter and resource center that will operate under the umbrella of St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter in Green Bay. (See story on page 1.)
The center is a dream come true for those who minister to the area’s homeless population. Offering a bed to sleep and an evening meal in an emergency shelter is not enough to boost the dignity of people who are homeless and struggling. Providing services that will prepare people for employment is the next step.
Since 2007, when the Diocese of Green Bay announced the establishment of a seasonal emergency shelter for the city’s homeless population, an awareness of families in poverty has grown and created an environment where people are willing to assist their neighbors in need.
In a Labor Day statement issued on behalf of the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that, “Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples” (n. 1941).
The Micah Center is a solid example of solidarity in our community.
Archbishop Wenski noted that unemployment continues to be a national concern.
“The poverty rate remains high, as 46 million Americans struggle to make ends meet,” he said. “The economy continues to fail in producing enough decent jobs for everyone who is able to work, despite the increasing numbers of retiring baby boomers. There are twice as many unemployed job seekers as there are available jobs, and that does not include the 7 million part-time workers who want to work full-time. Millions more, especially the long-term unemployed, are discouraged and dejected.”
These statistics provide a backdrop for the Micah Center’s important role in training laborers and enhancing the dignity of all people. Let us offer our prayers for James Foley on this Labor Day, that his work and sacrifice as a journalist inspire others to shed light on tragedy around the world. Let us also pray for the success of the Micah Center, that its light of service shines brightly and provides access to labor for the homeless.