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The Scalabrinian Congregations
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"Memorandum on the Congregation or Commission Pro Emigratis Catholicis"

 

Part One

 

(Presentation of the Problem)

 

Your Eminence,

 

I have the honor to submit some considerations and proposals to you on the present and future conditions of Catholicism in the two Americas.

 

These observations and proposals are the fruit of long studies done on the spot.  In fact, they are the fruit of the experience of outstanding missionaries and illustrious bishops who have consecrated their lives to the spread of the faith in those regions.

 

Never before, when writing about this subject, have I been so deeply moved as I am at this moment.  Never have I invoked with greater intensity enlightenment from heaven and the grace of eloquence that comes from words enriched with statistics and data.  For I wish to transmit my inmost convictions on this most important topic to other people's hearts.

 

The things I saw during my trips throughout the United States of North America and throughout Brazil are burnt into my memory almost as if they were present now.  The emotions I experienced then will never be erased from my heart.

 

I visited densely populated cities and newly founded communities, fields made productive by human work and immense plains untouched by human hands.  I met emigrants who reached the peaks of wealth, others who lived comfortable lives, and the majority ‑- the vast, shadowy army of the unfortunate ‑- struggling for survival against the hazards of the desert and the dangers of unwholesome climates, against human greed, left alone, in utter abandonment, without religious or civil care, without anything.  I heard hearts beat in unison with mine when I talked to them in the name of religion in their own mother tongue.

 

I saw, oh what a terrible sight!  I saw the faith extinguished in millions of souls for lack of spiritual nourishment and unfortunately also because of the unworthiness of the Church's ministers.

 

I saw the practices of Christian life and the ineffable hopes of the


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faith reflourish in entire populations under the inspiration of holy apostles.  It was a springtime of souls.

 

In a word, I saw that if the Church of God does not play a greater role in those regions than it does at present in guiding the lives of both communities and individuals, if souls are lost by the millions, the reason to a large extent is due to the lack of a well organized apostolic work suited to local conditions and also to the lack of priests rather than to the activity, although great, of the enemies of the faith.  I am deeply convinced that we must confront this crisis with a sense of urgency, that we who have been called to rule the Church would commit a serious mistake, not to say a grave fault, if we let a state of affairs continue that is causing great harm to souls and is diminishing the social importance of the Church in the face of the enemies of God (...).

 

The kinds of European immigration to America, after the brief war of conquest, are totally different from all other immigrations recorded in the annals of history.

 

We are not witnessing hordes of barbarians sowing death and destruction but armies of peaceful workers seeking bread, prosperity, and tranquility in other lands.  No longer the onrush of a torrent that overwhelms everything, but the quiet and unruffled flood of waters bringing fertility!  No longer the extermination of peoples, but fusion and adaptation, by which different nationalities meet, intermingle, acquire new strength, and give rise to new peoplesDespite differences, these new peoples display specific characteristics and particular religious and civil tendencies typical of the whole national group (...).

 

The Catholic Church is called by her divine mission and her age-old tradition to play an important role in this vast social movement which aims at the economic revival and fusion of Christian peoples.

 

Just as she has done always and everywhere, the Church, even in this great clash of interests, has a beautiful and noble mission to fulfill: first, to look after the defense of the faith, its spread, and the salvation of souls; then, to take her seat as the common mother and queen among the various groups so as to soften the edges of the various nationalities and moderate the conflicts of interest of the various national groups; in a word, to harmonize the variety of origins in the reconciling unity of the faith (...).

 

What must the Church do to keep the religious spirit alive and dynamic and the Catholic faith strong in nations with such a rich and promising future, to which the Catholic people of Europe every year keep sending such large numbers of emigrants of different nationalities?


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The question is simple, not so the answer.  An adequate answer must be at once varied and comprehensive, general and particular: a general answer, because of the authority from which it emanates; a particular and diversified answer, depending on the environments in which it is to be applied, the different needs it hopes to address, the laws and customs of the individual countries, and, I would say, the individual Christian communities that are being formed.

 

I will try to be brief and explain everything succinctly.

 




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