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Passionist Father Jim Price is an American priest serving in south-central Jamaica in the impoverished rural mission Diocese of Mandeville. He coordinates both the Pontifical Mission Societies and the evangelization office for the diocese, where Catholics make up less than 2 percent of the population. “The Catholic population is small,” Father Price explained, “but our outreach is vast regarding education, medical aid and various forms of assistance.”
Caring for the human needs of the people of rural Jamaica and sharing the Catholic faith with them calls for a heightened sensitivity to the history and culture of the Caribbean’s second-largest island — and second poorest nation.
“Why aren’t you in school?” asked Father Marek Bzinkowski of a couple of children in Maggotty, Jamaica.
“Because we don’t have any money or food,” they answered.
“Come and soak the feet of the poor with me.”
“Ven y remoja los pies de los pobres conmigo.”
Those uninterested in the news coverage of Pope Francis’ U.S. visit might have ditched the front page and turned to other sections of the newspaper for a break.
Pope Francis’ recent speeches to Congress and to the United Nations were models of Church engagement in the public arena. By re-framing the task of politics and anchoring policy debates to the natural law, both messages were radical critiques of the prevailing culture of each institution and should serve as an examination of conscience for public officials at all levels of government.