Why should Catholics care about the Northstar rail line?

Categories: Guest Views

Railway tracksBy Molly Weyrens and Anne Buckvold

It seems apparent by Pope Francis’ life and teachings that his commitment to the principles of Catholic social teaching is deep and faith-filled. He consistently teaches us to honor human dignity and to practice the principles of solidarity and care of God’s creation through his visits and welcoming nature with those living on the margins.

The leaders of GRIP/ISAIAH — an organization of faith leaders working together across race, faith and region in the St. Cloud area — have in the past few years uncovered that the transportation needs of people living in St. Cloud have been changing.

Lack of public transportation affects people’s ability to get to work, education, medical services, etc.

GRIP/ISAIAH’s campaign for more public transportation options for Greater Minnesotans resulted in a campaign last winter to complete the Northstar rail line to St. Cloud.

This campaign has the attention and support of elected officials across party lines and of our governor.

To those reading this, you may find yourself asking: “But why should this issue matter to me as a Catholic?”

Community health

Many Catholic parishes are engaged in serving the most urgent needs of people in our community (food, housing, etc.) yet don’t realize how dire our situation has become.

The St. Cloud Times reported earlier this summer that St. Cloud has a 24 percent poverty rate. Catholic Charities served 20,000 households last year.

As Catholics, how are we going to create a community more reflective of what God intended for us?

Transportation infrastructure projects in the state and around the country have been proven to drive investment and revitalize local economies.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, community and business leaders, colleges etc., believe the completion of Northstar could put our economy on a new path.

But there is another more important issue, and that is unity. St. Cloud is a changed community. We are no longer a set of German Catholic communities with a few Protestants mixed in. Children in our schools speak over 45 different languages now! These newest residents are not going anywhere. This is their home.

We, as Catholics, are called to encounter and include all of our brothers and sisters in our common community. The most exciting thing about the Northstar campaign is the incredible unity faith leaders and community members have found.

In petition drives and door-knocks we rarely need to give reasons for why the train would be a good idea. People of all ages, faiths and cultures eagerly share how life would be easier or enhanced by Northstar: to access education or expanded job opportunity, to access medical services, the airport, a ballgame or to visit a relative.

This is an issue people overwhelmingly feel we all stand to benefit from.

Please join us as we come together and our elected officials come together across party lines to support the completion of Northstar to St. Cloud on Nov. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud.

You can register at: www.tinyurl.com/GRIP12.

Molly Weyrens is a member St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell and the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker. Anne Buckvold is a member of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph and a GRIP organizer.