Fr.-Jerry-HerdaAsk Fr. Jerry, Fr. Jerry HerdaLent is over – I stayed on task and didn’t cheat on what I gave up – and I don’t feel different or changed. What did I do wrong?

First, congratulations! Do you know how hard it is to stay on task and not cheat with your Lenten sacrifices? Many people give up after only a short time. So, even if you don’t feel like it, you did absolutely nothing wrong. Be proud of the fact that you were able to go without whatever you gave up for the entire season of Lent. The sacrifices we make during Lent are meant to help us learn the practice of discipline in our life. You were able to resist the temptation to cheat or give in and that success can now be applied to the rest of your life.

You know what I gave up for Lent? It will sound strange, but I gave up cheese. I love cheese, I could eat it every day. In Wisconsin cheese is everywhere, so whenever I would go to a party or even just go to the refrigerator, I had to resist the temptation to sneak a bite or a chunk of cheese.

Now you might say, what is the big deal about having a piece of cheese? The cheese is not the point; resisting the temptation is the point. Because I was successful at resisting the temptation of eating cheese when I desired it, I now realize that I can apply this same discipline to other areas of my life.

If you were successful in resisting the temptation to have whatever it was that you gave up, you can now begin to resist the temptations of your life that lead to sin. Think about the sins that are a part of your life. Laziness – maybe you sleep in on some Sundays rather than going to church; lust – maybe you’re tempted to look at pornography; greed – maybe you allow money or shopping to be more important than God; anger – maybe you are constantly fighting or yelling at others.

There are many temptations we face each day that will lead us down the path of these and all our sins. But wait, we now know that we can resist the temptation, we’ve done it before, we can say no to the temptation and to the sin.

It’s not about the cheese, or whatever it is you gave up; it’s about the discipline to resist temptation and sin. By the way, on Easter Sunday, I ate way too much cheese. So now I am working on resisting the real temptations of my life.    

How am I supposed to view immigration? What can I do to be part of a solution to a highly discussed topic that has split families and Americans?

The word immigration has become a “dirty” word. It is filled with so much negativity in our present culture. But the reality is that, unless you are 100 percent Native American, your ancestors were immigrants to America. Immigration has always been a part of who we are.

The Statue of Liberty is a great symbol of freedom in our country and one of the most famous inscriptions on the Statue of Liberty is the poem by Emma Lazarus which reads:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.

From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Many of our ancestors came to America, seeking a better life. Immigration is not a bad thing. What has confused the issue so much is illegal immigration. The best way to clarify some of the confusion is to look at what was written in the 2003 “Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration” from the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States. They developed five keys points of understanding when it comes to immigration.

1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.

2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.

3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.

4. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.

5. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.

The best answer to your question, “What can I do to be part of a solution?” is education. Become educated, read the bishops’ document, learn what they have to say. The only way to enter into a productive conversation on the topic is to be educated on the topic.

Immigration is a complex issue that has brought about much division in our country. It is also an issue that should not be ignored. We are all called to be a part of the solution. 

(Fr. Jerry Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)