In an article for the web page of the Diocese of Orange, Bishop Kevin W. Vann, who chairs CLINIC’s board of directors, explained what we do and how it fits into the Catholic Church’s social teaching. This is a slightly edited version of the original blog.
By Bishop Kevin W. Vann
One of the works of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in which I am currently involved is the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) I am the Chairman of the Board for CLINIC and really enjoy and admire their work, especially working with the organization’s Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson.
Over the years, I have been very grateful for the opportunity to serve the wider Body of Christ. I have served in the committees on Family Life and Catholic Education, as the liaison of the bishops’ conference to the National Association of Separated and Divorced Catholics; for the Holy See as the Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provisio, and with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington for the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate for the Chair of St. Peter in this country.
With the Holy Father’s recent visit to Mexico, and especially after the Mass on the Border of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, I was thinking of the work and dedicated efforts of the folks at CLINIC on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters here in this country, which at its foundation is a nation of immigrants. I like to think of the poem of Emma Lazarus about the Statue of Liberty, which says in part, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
The mission statement of CLINIC is “Embracing the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger, CLINIC promotes the dignity and protects the rights of immigrants in partnership with a dedicated network of Catholic and community legal immigration programs.”
I would also add here that the Catholic identity of CLINIC is fundamental. CLINIC’s Catholic identity infuses every aspect of its work – how it is governed, who it serves, how it treats its clients, the way it works, and why it does the work that it does. It operates as a legal support agency for diocesan immigration programs.
CLINIC’s staff and its affiliated agencies work very hard on visas for religious and priests who come from all over the world to minister to and with our many immigrant communities.
They partner in significant ways here with Catholic Charities of Orange County. The history of CLINIC is that in 1988, the USCCB established it as a legally distinct 501 (c)(3) organization to support a rapidly growing network of community-based immigration programs. CLINIC’s network originally comprised 17 programs. It has since increased to nearly 300 diocesan and other affiliated immigration programs with 400 offices in 47 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The network employs roughly 1,200 BIA-accredited representatives and attorneys who, in turn, serve hundreds of low-income immigrants each year. CLINIC and its affiliate agencies represent low-income immigrants without reference to their race, religion, gender, ethic group or other distinguishing characteristics.
In this season of Lent, which is our annual pilgrimage toward the Resurrection of the Lord, I think of CLINIC’s tireless work within our legal system to regularize the status of so many religious workers and of the support they give to many families, who often live in the shadows.
Their work of on education, pastoral care and outreach is something in which I am very proud to be involved. It is a reflection of the love and care of the Body of Christ to so many who live on the “peripheries” in the words of Pope Francis. CLINIC’s mission is certainly woven into the Lenten themes of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving in many ways.
A very blessed and holy Lent to all.
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Bishop Vann heads the Diocese of Orange, California and is chairman of the board of directors of CLINIC.