Advent Week 3: Restoring Dignity

“Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” – Isaiah 35: 3-4

CC Santa Clara CountyIn the readings for the third Sunday of Advent, we hear Jesus confirm to John the Baptist that he is the one the prophets have been longing for, the one who will bring liberation, restoration, and flourishing for God’s people.

For Fr. Jon Pedigo, Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, California, that message — the process of liberation — is what the work is all about.

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County provides a whole range of services for immigrant families. One notable service is the pop-up “community markets” that happen weekly and are hosted by parishes and religious communities around town. At the “markets,” immigrant families can gather to share a meal, pick up groceries and fresh food, and talk to staff from various agencies that can provide help, including health care workers and free immigration legal assistance.

“The goal is relationship-building,” says Fr. Pedigo. “We collaborate with agencies around town to create these spaces where folks can build up community and find the help they need. We want to make it a relational and restorative space — neighbors helping neighbors.”

Fr. Pedigo explained that through connection to these “markets” or other services, immigrant families become aware of other avenues for community and connection, including what he called “healing circles,” or spaces where people can gather with others who speak their same language to talk about their life experiences with the guidance of a therapist. Rosary groups are another popular option where people gather to pray and support one another.

“In the work of community organizing, we have learned that internal well-being comes before and along-side external well-being. A person needs to own their own voice and feel their inherent dignity, and then they can think about joining with others to work on common obstacles to go from merely surviving to flourishing. We address the human dimension — spiritual and emotional wellbeing — first, then scaffold on top of that to address other issues."

He connected this work in the community with the story of the visitation of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, whose feast day is celebrated this week. “St. Juan Diego began the story saying, ‘I am nothing,’ feeling powerless, and the Virgin — who looked and spoke like him — called out his dignity,” said Fr. Pedigo. “It is a story of internal growth, of God coming to us and teaching us who we are.”

“Making change starts with restoring dignity,” Fr. Pedigo said. “We can’t miss that first step.”

Questions for reflection:

  1. How have you experienced the fruit of "owning your own voice?"
  2. What does it mean to help others restore a sense of their dignity?

This reflection is part of CLINIC's 2022 Advent reflection guide. Click here to download the full guide.