‘Be kind to one another, compassionate’


By Barb Arland-Fye

On Sept. 10, Pope Francis will beatify Josef Ulma, his pregnant wife, Wiktoria and their six children, all of whom the Nazis executed in 1944 because the family sheltered Jews in their Polish farmhouse. The Ulmas were among an estimated 1,500 Poles executed for sheltering Jews, for rising above a Nazi regime fueled by suspicion, animosity and hatred that robbed a people of their humanity.

The Nazis were not alone in fueling suspicion, animosity and hatred. Humankind seems to move toward this default mechanism in times of societal change or fear of change in the status quo, our present age included. We ferment our suspicion, animosity and hatred in the silos of our social groups, our media outlets, our political parties, even our neighborhoods.

This passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians calls us back to our better selves. “… Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:29-32).


We have good role models to emulate within and outside our Catholic Church. Take for example, two New Jersey women — one Jewish and one Muslim — who will receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award on Sept. 13 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab cofounded the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom a decade ago to build relationships among Jewish and Muslim women.

Their initiative has given birth to chapters throughout North America, including in the Quad Cities. Their counterparts in the Quad Cities, Gail Karp and Lisa Killinger, will receive the One Among Us Award for cofounding and leading a chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom here. Please attend the 7:30 p.m. award ceremony at St. Ambrose, for concrete ideas and suggestions to practice within our faith, secular and social communities and in our interactions with others with whom we may disagree.

Another role model is Father Thom Hennen, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, who serves on the interfaith Yom HaShoah Committee (Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust). Last month, he offered a prayer at a stop-off event for a restored World War II-era boxcar headed to the Danville Station Museum in Danville, Iowa. The railcar may have been used to transport Jews to concentration camps. As Rabbi Linda Bertenthal said in her prayer, “The railcar represents the ultimate inhumanity, both because of its evil purpose, transporting people to their own murder site, and because of the dreadful deadly conditions in a sealed railcar, without food, water or sanitation.”

Father Hennen’s prayer began with a reference to our loving God, who created each of us in God’s image and likeness and thus, we are to treat one another with the respect with which we treat God. Remembering this, we will prevent the atrocities symbolized by the World War II-era boxcar that was never intended to be a rolling prison.

“ … (We) ask forgiveness for our sins, for the times when we have failed to recognize your image in others and have failed to treat all people as sisters and brothers,” Father Hennen prayed.

“As we look upon this train car and are reminded that upon cars like this were loaded not cargo or cattle, but human beings, we pledge ourselves anew not to forget and to do all within our power never to let such things happen again. We ask your blessing upon all who are gathered here today, all who will visit this train car in Danville, and all your people, of whatever race or creed, that through our remembering and our resolve to love, we may be drawn together as your family…”

Father Hennen demonstrates his commitment to this prayer by serving on the Yom HaShoah Committee and in his accessibility to the people of God. We, too, can make ourselves accessible to the people of God, making a commitment of time and presence, especially to the most vulnerable among us.

Josef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children died in practicing the kindness and compassion their God called them to practice. We are asked, simply, to die to self for the sake of others.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *