“God hears the cries of the poor” is the phrase that could summarize the significance of the visit of Bishop John Manz to our diocese of Birmingham, Alabama. We chose for this visit communities that were without pastors yet have a great faith and thirst for God. Among them were the Guatemalan community in Tuscaloosa, Guatemalan and Mexican communities in Rusellville, Boaz and Alberville who work in chicken processing companies, and the community in Steel who work in the tomato fields. The humble people gave us their testimony of faith, trust and hope in God as they shared with Bishop Manz their needs, their suffering but also their hopes and dreams. Representatives from Somos Tuscaloosa and the North Alabama Hispanic Coalition for Equal Rights also participated. These groups promote social justice and defend the rights of the Hispanic community.
The people received the visit of the Bishop as a sign of love and of the care and interest that God has for His people and they welcomed the Bishop with much affection calling him Juanito, the Servant of God. We heard the people expressing their needs and above all searching for solutions by uniting forces within their own community to support each other in the defense of their rights. The Bishop’s words about how politics and social justice cannot be separated from our faith were a motivation to these
communities to keep hope alive and to feel that they are dignified sons and daughters of God regardless of their legal or social status.
These are the fruits of the presence of God among us that were made possible thanks to the visit of Bishop Manz, Sr. Myrna Tordillo from the USCCB Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMR/T), and Sr. Karen Bernhardt from CMFN.
by Sister Gabriela Ramírez, MGSpS
Director of Hispanic Catholic Social Services
Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama