Saturday, May 14, 2011
Bill McCamley: Why I Will Miss Bishop Ricardo Ramirez
This is a guest blog by Bill McCamley, who is a resident of Las Cruces. He is a former Doña Ana County Commissioner and is currently the Business Outreach Director for ROJO Apparel, a socially responsible clothing company.
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”
--St Francis of Assisi
This week, ceremonies commemorating the beginning of a local reading initiative were held at NMSU. Interested people from many walks of life showed up to lend their support, including educators, University administration, politicians, and volunteers who would then donate their morning to read with children.
One of the speakers was Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, and his blessing included why the ability to read was so important in understanding the power of God’s love. While his statements were short and expected, they were also profound and exemplified why he will be sorely missed by all of Southern New Mexico when he retires in the near future.
We have many statements echoing the one given at the beginning of this column. From “actions speak louder than words” to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” society honors those who not only speak well, but lead with the very being of their lives. Bishop Ramirez is one of those people.
While many leaders of faith spend time addressing politically charged, divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage, Bishop Ramirez focuses most of his attention and energy on helping those in our community who have the least voice.
His yearly masses at Mt. Cristo Rey on the border between Mexico and the United States, where at 74 years old he still makes the ascent on foot with everyone else, have always symbolized his advocacy for the basic rights for all people, no matter their nationality. He is known for numerous writings and teachings continually explaining not only how issues such as poverty and a lack of quality health care negatively affect those less fortunate but also what we can do to alleviate them. Specifically, two pastoral letters he authored regarding domestic violence and child abuse are widely recognized internationally as brave and insightful pieces addressing issues that few in the Catholic Church had previously discussed openly.
As a County Commissioner I sat on a committee dealing with colonias, communities in our area where the poorest of the poor live. The Catholic Diocese has been represented on this group for years, and it was obvious by the attention, staff, and resources given to this work by the Diocese’s Department of Social Ministries that helping people with the most basic of needs was one of Bishop Ramirez’s top priorities.
In these actions, he truly echoes the teachings of Christ, who said, “Whatever you have done for one of these least brothers of Mine, you have done for Me."
In some cases, religious leaders use emotions like fear or guilt in their preaching. This is not a practice with Bishop Ramirez. His sermons never insult or degrade, always appealing to the better angels of human nature and seeking to kindle understanding, kindness, and peace in the community. Statements, blessings, and writings from the Bishop will always contain an abundance of words like love, patience, grace, and forgiveness. And when leading public invocations, he is always as inclusive as possible in showing respect to everyone’s beliefs.
His words reflect his constant efforts to overcome borders, both physical and metaphorical, and never to create them.
In my first year as a County Commissioner, as Chairman, I faced an issue regarding prayers said before meetings. It had been the Commission’s practice for a representative of only one type of religious viewpoint to lead the prayers, and sometimes these presentations turned into mini-sermons. I believe strongly that no government agency should ever be used as a tool to influence faith, as someone’s bond with God is one of the most important definitions one can have as an individual. Therefore, I asked that the issue be discussed. However, dealing with this emotionally-charged topic was an extremely hard thing for a 27 year-old, brand new policy maker. So I called Bishop Ramirez.
To be up front, though I was raised Catholic I am not a regular churchgoer, finding that I can expand my own relationship with God in other ways. Even recognizing this, he took my appointment and spent a great deal of time discussing the topic. He is a wonderful listener and, when he did speak, his input showed understanding, insightfulness, and helped me garner a larger perspective regarding the issue that had not previously been clear.
Apparently, making the effort to discuss and understand difficult issues is far from uncommon for Bishop Ramirez. His reputation for tolerance, wisdom, and compassion is commonplace throughout our community, as these words are echoed about him from people of many faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
As a child, I was always taught that God was the ultimate repository of unquestioning love, constant forgiveness, and universal understanding. If the job of a cleric (be it priest, reverend, rabbi, or imam) is to represent and teach those values to others, then God could ask for no better than Ricardo Ramirez. Our entire community has been strengthened by his presence, and I can only hope that others will work to emulate his actions, message, and disposition.
Bishop, I am sure that I echo many others in wishing you nothing but the best. Thank you for choosing to stay with us, and enjoy your deserved rest.
This is a guest blog by Bill McCamley.
If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. Publication of a guest blog does not necessarily mean that we agree or disagree with the points made.
Posted by: Jessie | May 19, 2011 11:47:32 AM
Not enough can be said about this man. He is truly an inspiration.
Posted by: Debbie | May 19, 2011 4:10:21 PM
I agree with you 100%. As with any "job", trying to satisfy everyone is a very tough goal. However, Bishop Ramirez is a very spiritual person and what he is doing and has done is very special. I pray that the new bishop will be able to radiate the Holy Spirit as did Bishop Ramirez. Thanks for the great article.
Posted by: Gary Montoya | May 20, 2011 8:59:18 AM