We in Northwest Indiana are blessed beyond measure. We enjoy the beauties of the four seasons and an abundance of parks along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Where better to appreciate the sunrises and sunsets?
We are a people rich in racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. Our abundance of churches helps keep us rooted in deep faith. Our faith enables us to know who we are: children of a loving and merciful God and brothers and sisters of one another destined for eternal life.
Our churches also challenge us to integrate our faith and culture, to witness to the Gospel values of life and the dignity of every human being in all circumstances.
We are blessed not only with religious leaders, but also with many leaders from government, business, education and other community sectors who devote considerable time and energies to create a better quality of life for all. Best of all, leaders from all segments of our community have begun to work together in solidarity to pursue the common good thanks to such efforts as One Region, One Vision, initiated by The Times Media Co.'s publisher, Bill Masterson Jr.
While we have many blessings for which to be grateful. We also need to continue addressing serious issues in 2012: poverty, unemployment and the elimination of the middle class with the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, racism, antagonism toward new immigrants, excessive individualism and moral relativism.
In addition, we see an erosion of respect for life and the importance of the common good manifested in domestic and street crime, drugs, gangs, abortion and the death penalty, sex outside of marriage, living together without benefit of marriage and births to single parents.
A new report from the Pew Research Center, analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data, found that only 51 percent of Americans 18 and over were married, compared with 72 percent in 1960. The Pew report found that the median age at first marriage rose from 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women in 1960 to 26.5 for women and 28.7 for men in 2010.
It is urgent that we attend to the erosion of the family, for it is the fundamental unit in society. Blessed Pope John Paul II often remarked: "As the family goes, so goes society."
Our common good requires marriages that are faithful, permanent and open to children.
Parents are the first and best educators of children. Children need the stability of a wholesome family life to form a purposeful life vision, skills and a supportive community to develop respect for themselves and others, learn the importance of the common good and become happy and productive members of society.
We also must address our ineffective approach to immigration this year. Current policies of enforcement such as workplace raids, detentions, and deportations are a humanitarian tragedy. They destroy families, leave wives without husbands, children without parents.
We must find a better way to protect our borders while, at the same time, recognizing immigrants as human beings, as mothers and fathers, as children of God. We have always been and must be a nation of justice and law, but we have also always been, and must be, a nation of mercy and forgiveness.
Bishop Dale J. Melczek heads the Catholic Diocese of Gary. The opinions expressed in this column are the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.