How could something like comprehensive immigration reform be of concern to Catholic higher education? And, if it is part of our mission, as members of a Catholic college community, what can we do to promote it? Part of the answer to that question emerges out of the meaning and purpose of Catholic colleges and universities.
In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). In English, the title is rendered, “On Catholic Universities.” In this Apostolic Constitution, the pope identified several dimensions of what he called the “Mission of Service of a Catholic University,” including the “Service of Church to Society.”
According to John Paul II, a Catholic college or university can serve society by developing in students an understanding of and a commitment to social justice. Indeed, “the Gospel, interpreted in the social teachings of the Church, is an urgent call” to respond positively to those “‘who are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities'” (34). Furthermore, Catholic colleges and universities can make room for those individuals who are most often excluded from college classrooms. The pope encourages Catholic institutions of higher education to identify “ways to make university education accessible to all those who are able to benefit from it, especially the poor or members of minority groups who customarily have been deprived of it” (34). Young people who are “undocumented” make up one significant population of individuals who are frequently denied a place in the classroom.
During the summer of 2013, the presidents of more than 100 Catholic colleges and universities, including interim president of Cabrini College, Deb Takes, signed a letter in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. That letter was delivered to every Catholic member of the House of Representatives as they started debate on immigration reform. These college and university presidents affirmed their commitment to make room for immigrants on their respective campuses and urged Congress to support reform that included “a road to earned citizenship.”
Mother Cabrini, patroness of immigrants, would favor deliberate and swift action on behalf of those who seek citizenship in the United States. As she did in life, she would open her institutions to all people in need of assistance.
One need not be a saint or even president of a Catholic college or university to take action on behalf of immigrants. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops makes it easy to support comprehensive immigration reform. Their website Justice for Immigrants provides numerous ways for everyone to take action. Such action emerges from the mission of a Catholic college in fulfillment of its commitment to Catholic social teaching.
Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae is available on the Vatican website. The numbers in parenthesis above refer to paragraphs.
Find the letter to Congress on the website of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Submitted by N. Rademacher, Associate Professor, Cabrini College