‘Dreamers’ visit diocesan religious

PEACE & JUSTICE—Susi, Rigo, Ginny, and Brayan, of St. Louis, accompanied Dr. Marie Kenyon, Director, Peace and Justice Commission of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, in speaking to the gathering of diocesan women religious Feb. 16-17. Held at Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield, the event’s central focus was on the issue of Immigration and the lived experiences of four youth who arrived in the US as children and who are presently protected under DACA legislation. (The Mirror)

Immigration central focus of gathering

At the invitation of Bp. Edward Rice, Sisters from the different congregations across the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau gathered on Feb. 16-17 at Holy Trinity Parish in Springfield. The evening meal on Friday and social were provided by the Knights of Columbus Council #9533. This was the first opportunity for sisters to meet, greet, and get to know each other from East to the West in the diocese at one event. Normally, a gathering is held in Springfield and another gathering in Cape Girardeau. The event led to the discovery of new friends and finding out first-hand the happenings and ministries being undertaken in the different areas where religious sisters serve.

On Saturday morning, Sr. Jeanne Goessling, SSND, welcomed all to Holy Trinity. The opening prayer asked blessing for the world’s vast and varied populations and introduced the topic of Immigration as the issue for reflection together.

Five principles of immigration:

Dr. Marie Kenyon, Director of the Archdiocese of St. Louis Peace and Justice Commission was the invited speaker/challenger on the topics of (1) the right to immigrate; (2) the responsibility of more powerful economic nations to accommodate immigrants; (3) and the five principles governing immigration.

The Church’s principles on immigration were outlined as follows:

Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homelands. A just living wage is a basic human right.

All the goods of the earth belong to all peoples. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families; to leave home, if necessary, to support themselves and their families.

Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders. But more powerful economic nations have a stronger obligation to accommodate immigrant flows.

Refugees and asylum-seekers should be afforded protection when fleeing wars and persecution, gang violence, and racial, religious, or national intolerance.

The inherent human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected. Punitive laws, harsh treatment, and the enforcing of laws still has to respect these basic human rights.

Dr. Kenyon also gave a broad overview of the coming of migrants to the US. The Irish potato famine of 1845-1852 brought immigrants fleeing into the US and changed the face of American Catholicism. In 1850, Catholics were five percent of the US population. By 1906, 17 percent of the American population were of Irish heritage.

At that time Catholics numbered 14 million out of 82 million and formed the largest single religious denomination in the US. Membership in the Church predominantly included Irish, Italian, Polish, German, and Eastern European immigrants. 

The Catholic Church remains an immigrant Church today:

39 percent of immigrants to the US are Catholic.

Since 1960, Hispanics account for 71 percent of growth in the Catholic population.

A majority (60 percent) of US Catholics under age 18 are Hispanic.

Dr. Kenyon commented that Pope Francis has a special place in his heart for immigrants and refugees. His first visit as Pope was to Lampedusa, the Italian island that serves as the European port of entry. He speaks of the moral obligation to protect immigrants and refugees.

She followed with concrete suggestions of what persons might do:

Examine one’s prejudices; respect different cultures and languages.

Get political; take action; call or write your senators and representatives.

Conversations and education about immigrants and immigration need to start early;

The Church needs to offer a prophetic witness; we are called to see the stranger among us and not fail them.

Change one’s attitudes and language: “Aliens” and “Illegals” are words to eliminate from the vocabulary; no human is “illegal.”

Sara John, Director of the St. Louis Interfaith Council on Latin America (IFCLA) provided the background on what is currently taking place at the US/Mexican border. Cultural shifts are causing a positive shift in focus for IFCLA. This is not a “foreigner” problem; it is the way our culture causes these problems. In the early 90’s, hyper-militarization at the border pushed people into rural areas at our border where they were incarcerated as illegals. Now, advocates are accompanying them at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices and legal clinics to help them deal with the laws of both countries.

AWARENESS & EMPATHY—Sr. Cynthia Brinkman, SSND, expressed gratitude and empathy to Ginny during the Feb. 16-17 gathering of diocesan religious held in Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield. The event focused on the issues surrounding Immigration, Church teaching, and spreading awareness based on presentations from the Archdiocese of St. Louis Peace and Justice Commission. Sr. Charlotte Flarlong, SSND, is pictured in the background. (The Mirror)

First-hand accounts

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is the federal government program that allows people brought to the US as children the temporary right to live, study, and work in America. Those protected under DACA are known as “Dreamers.” In 2014, 80 percent of Dreamers were students and they were Catholic. Four “Dreamers” accompanied the speakers to the gathering of diocesan religious and they spoke of their experience of coming to the US from Mexico as “Childhood Arrivals.” Susi attended Rosati-Kain High School in St. Louis; Rigo is a member of St. Cecelia Parish in St. Louis and is a student at Vianney High School; Ginny attends Notre Dame High School in St. Louis; and Brayan is in Human Resources for a company in Breese, IL.

Their hopes are for the passage of the Dream Act, legislation that would offer them a path to citizenship, protect families, and could be a permanent solution. DACA, on the other hand, is an executive order and is likely to be rescinded. They would like to see a real immigration system that would offer security and possibilities. A “clean” immigration act would provide no funding for a wall, no militarization of the border, and security for parents and families. 

During the Eucharistic Celebration, Bp. Edward Rice’s homily focused on the issue of immigration and how it is a Catholic social justice issue for all. 

70th Anniversary

During the catered lunch which followed Mass, Bp. Rice congratulated Sr. Jane Ann Kiefer, OSF, who celebrates 70 years as a religious on May 19, 2018. Sr. Kiefer ministers in Saint Francis Medical Center, Cape Girardeau.

With further reflection in the afternoon, each Sister left with a voiced commitment to become more aware and involved in the struggle that so many immigrants currently face as they seek to maintain human dignity and experience basic human rights.

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