On Work and Workers This Labor Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

A constant word of advice to me from all quarters in the past two weeks is that I should not try to take up work very quickly early in my convalescence. I'm happy to take that advice, even as we all celebrate Labor Day.

The Church has a long history of concern and support for workers, because the economic tables are often stacked against them in a capitalist economic order. The condition of workers merits concern this Labor Day, because wages in many sectors of the economy seem not to be keeping up with the increasing cost of living and organized labor is having a more difficult time defending workers.

The fundamental reason the Church often speaks to labor issues is not only because work is a way to make money but because work is a human activity, an extension of a man or woman's personality and a factor in human dignity. We work not just because we have to gain the means to live but also because we express ourselves in action, including work.

This year on Labor Day, before I took sick, I had planned to write a few reflections on those workers who are undocumented foreigners, workers in our country who are part of our economy but not legally part of our political and social system. This question will continue to dominate public discussion until the Congress can reform our immigration system. Since we are in a pre-election period, it seems doubtful that Congress will act very quickly on this matter.

This is a great tragedy for the nation and for millions among us. Our country has the right and the obligation to defend our national borders. Having failed to do so effectively in recent years, we now have 10 to 12 million undocumented workers and their families who cannot simply be rounded up and exported without ripping up the social fabric of our communities and weakening the economic life of our country.

This is a moral issue because human lives and human dignity are at stake. Much has been written and said, here and across the nation. I still hope to write something more extensive in the next couple of weeks, but this Labor Day we should all pray for a solution that is fair to all. It will take moral and political courage to find it.

When one is unable to do his or her own work, many others have to fill in while continuing with their own obligations. I want to thank the many in the Archdiocese, from the auxiliary bishops and the people in the Pastoral Center to others who have filled in for me in recent weeks. In particular, I want to thank Mr. Tom Sheridan, who has worked as editor of this Archdiocesan newspaper for the last nine years. He will be retiring soon, and I hope he leaves not only with a sense of accomplishment but also with the assurance of our gratitude for the way his talents have enriched the communication ministry of the Church. God bless Tom and all of us this Labor Day.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI


Cardinal Francis George is the Archbishop of Chicago.

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