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Immigration and the Church

Moments of hope - behind bars

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In the Fall of 2010 I was invited to celebrate the Eucharist in the detention center in El Paso. The detention center houses 800 persons who have been picked up by the border patrol for immigration violations. Most were from Mexico, but others were from Pakistan, Romania, and Africa. I passed through the security gates and saw uniformed officers, rows of border patrol SUV’s, barbed wire, cameras, grey bricked buildings. A patrol van was parked with the rear door opened.

I can still feel the terror that struck me when I saw the large box of steel shackles glistening in the sun. “Chains for human beings”, I thought. A different kind of slavery is still lurking in our midst. I realized I had just walked into the world where 800 people had exchanged their former identities to become “detainees” waiting “to be processed” and deported.

'Freedom from Fear' award announced

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We would like to spread the word about the new Freedom from Fear award, founded by Geri Mannion and Taryn Higashi, co-recipients of the Council on Foundations 2009 Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking.

The “Freedom from Fear” award is a new national award that will honor fifteen ordinary people who have committed extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees — individuals who have taken a risk, set an example, and inspired others to awareness or action. The award seeks to honor unsung heroes who are not professional advocates. Based on nominations from ordinary people, awardees will receive $5,000 cash awards.

The Freedom From Fear Award takes its name from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous “four freedoms” speech 70 years ago in which he outlined four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:

•Freedom of speech and expression;
•Freedom of religion;
•Freedom from want; and
•Freedom from fear.

The deadline for nominations is Feb. 28, 2011.

A border immersion reflection

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PUBLISHED IN THE OLD ST. PAT’S BULLETIN (Chicago Archdiocese): WEEKEND OF JANUARY 15, 2011

Families Divided by Our Border: A Reflection on my Border Immersion Pilgrimage Experience

"A Life Without Borders” – making a connection between the theme of Old St. Pat’s current program year and my recent Immersion Pilgrimage Trip to the Arizona Mexico border is obvious. Our group of young adults from various parishes throughout Chicago saw a glimpse of many different aspects of an undocumented immigrants’ journey through our southern border. For those that make it across, their new life of promise can be grueling; most migrants leave loved ones behind: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children. Undoubtedly, it is the children who are always affected the most.

Border immersion pilgrimage

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On December 3rd to 7th, I had the opportunity to participate in an immersion pilgrimage border trip. The trip was organized in collaboration with the Office for Immigrant Affairs & Immigration Education at the Archdiocese of Chicago, and other organizations. This border trip involved a series of visits to agencies and institutions on the U.S-Mexico border where the participants had a chance to learn about the struggles and outcomes of migration/immigration.

Our group consisted of mostly Hispanic descent young adults; however there were three White-Caucasian individuals, and a member of Asian descent. I observed and realized how in the case of the Hispanic participants much of their understanding on the issue of migration and immigration was based on first-hand experience. The trip put made them think, and reflect on their own family background or history. This was because several of their family members perhaps decades ago, had once crossed the border legally or unauthorized; and throughout the years were able to adjust their status in the U.S. They began reflecting on the struggles their ancestors once went through in order to give them a life in the U.S.

The One-Parish retreat: El Retiro Una Sola Parroquia

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I am a Catholic priest who pastors two churches which have significant Latino populations -- predominantly Mexican, with a significant presence of Central Americans in the larger church and a sprinkling of others. Most Americans assume the Hispanics are illegal, and I have no doubt that many are. I have been serving these communities for 16 years and the following describes something I developed which has proven very beneficial in breaking down barriers and developing understanding.

As I completed several years of pastoring St. James Church in Conway, SC and Resurrection Church in Loris, SC, I found myself agonizing over the mutual suspicion, lack of contact, and false assumptions among the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parishioners. Both are significant parts of the parish population. I have come to know, appreciate and love both, with their distinctive characteristics, strengths and foibles, and shared Catholic faith.

Immigration challenges church to respond with courage

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SAN ANTONIO — Sr. Mary McCauley, her silver hair framing a classic Irish face, could easily seem a diminutive nun in her 70s looking at retirement after a lifetime in the classroom or convent administration.

But circumstances and, she would say, divine providence put her at St. Bridget Church as pastoral administrator in May 2008, when hundreds of FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swooped down on the tiny town of Postville in northeastern Iowa to round up hundreds of undocumented -— mostly Guatemalan —- workers at a kosher meat-processing plant.

Alerted to the raid, McCauley put out the word to the workers and their families: "Tell them to come to the church."

For many, the Postville story has come to exemplify the human toll exacted by a failed immigration policy and the challenge to churches to respond with courage and compassion on an issue of decisive importance to our national identity —- and even possibly the fate of the church in the United States.

Immigration and the Church: a new blog

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Read the new blog at NCRonline.org/immigration

The National Catholic Reporter-sponsored Celebration conference on immigration reform, held in San Antonio Jan 12-14, highlighted the complexity of a crisis decisive for our nation and the future of our church. The existence of an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the shadows of our economy and society for lack of coherent paths to legalization challenges us both in personal conscience and as a religious community that professes every Sunday at worship that all are welcome at God's table, that there are no aliens or strangers, only brothers and sisters.

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