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Love for children translates into hope for the future

Archbishop Wenski's homily at 50th anniversary Mass for Centro Mater

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily Jan. 19, 2018, during a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Miami, to mark the 50th anniversary of Centro Mater.

Today we celebrate 50 years of Centro Mater’s service to our community and its children. It seems impossible that five years have passed since I celebrated this Mass on your 45th anniversary. At that time, we honored Miriam [Roman] for her years of dedicated service and now five years later, after 50 years, we can still look to the past with gratitude remembering the contributions of so many, especially Sister Margarita Miranda, a religious of the Sacred Heart, who founded Centro Mater to attend to the children of the then impoverished Cuban exiles. After 50 years, we can celebrate the present with enthusiasm. For Centro Mater continues its mission of service in our community and to our community’s children. And after 50 years, we can look to the future with confidence because as the mission statement of Centro Mater so beautifully states: Love for children brings hope to the future.

I can remember as a young seminarian I was perhaps only 18 or 19 years old when I visited the original Centro Mater in Little Havana and met Sister Margarita Miranda. I had heard about her and her work and at that time I was learning Spanish, and so I thought that stopping by would give me an opportunity to practice my language skills.

Over 50 years, Centro Mater has served literally tens of thousands of children children that because Centro Mater was there for them got a head start on a life of success. And so many of these former children who are now adults and have children of their own are “giving back” or perhaps we can better phrase it as “giving forward.” Because supporting Centro Mater is investing in the future, in a future of hope for children others might see only as “disadvantaged.”

Another phrase that, I believe, encapsulates the reason that Centro Mater exists is one also highlighted on Centro Mater’s website: Children matter.

In the Gospel passage we have just heard, St. Mark recounts how Jesus selected 12 apostles among his disciples. And St. Mark is careful to give us the names of the apostles and, in the case of Simon and James and John, their nicknames: Cephas or Rock and the Sons of Thunder. The followers of Christ are not faceless, or nameless to God who loves each one of us and knows us all by name. Those apostles, we know their names because they mattered.

At Centro Mater, the children are not faceless or nameless. They too matter.

Our community has too often witnessed the tragedies of children who have died because of abuse or neglect. When children do not matter, society becomes a harsh, unwelcoming place for them; when children do not matter, even the womb can be an unwelcoming place for them.

On Monday, January 22nd, we will commemorate another sad anniversary of the tragic and misguided decision of the US Supreme Court: Roe v. Wade. 45 years! This Supreme Court decision denied American citizens the legal authority to protect the basic rights of an entire class of human beings, effectively making abortions lawful at any time before birth. Today, tens of thousands will participate in the March for Life in Washington, DC, including about 150 high school students from the archdiocese.

In a statement issued on the occasion of this sad anniversary, the bishops of Florida wrote: “Children are defenseless in the womb often as a result of their mothers’ vulnerability to the social ills that persist in our culture.”

These social ills, including poverty and the strains placed on families because of exile, immigration and social and economic disruptions, moved Sister Miranda to act 50 years ago when she founded Centro Mater. And those social ills demand that we act today because no human being made in the image and likeness of God is a problem. Each human being is a blessing from God. In other words, children matter.

Often, we hear some criticize us Catholics for our unwavering support of the unborn. They sometimes snidely accuse us of being more concerned with the child in the womb and less concerned with the child once he is born. How can they say this? How dare they say this? They only have to come and see what is done for children and for their parents in our schools, in our Respect Life pregnancy centers, in our Catholic Charities, in our Marian Center, in our agencies of Catholic Health Services; they should come and see what is done at Centro Mater. In each of these works of the Church, love for children is translated every day into hope for the future.

Today, I and indeed all of us wish to thank all of you, from board members, staff and volunteers. We thank all of you for your work in advancing the mission of Centro Mater. Your love for the children truly brings hope to the future.

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