BY KELLY SWAN | August 7, 2017

“Compassion is the virtue of suffering with—imagining what it is like to be in another’s shoes.”
[Fr. Dan Reim, SJ]

For four days in late July, thirty-eight Jesuit college and university students gathered, brought together by a shared capacity for compassion, for the Ignatian Justice Summit.

Students from fourteen Jesuit colleges and universities gathered near Cleveland, OH in late July for ISN’s Ignatian Justice Summit.

The Summit, facilitated by the Ignatian Solidarity Network and held on the campus of John Carroll University in University Heights, OH, drew participants from fourteen Jesuit schools—Boston College, Canisius College, College of the Holy Cross, Creighton University, Georgetown University, John Carroll University, Loyola Marymount University, Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University Maryland, Rockhurst University, Saint Louis University, Saint Peter’s University, Saint Joseph’s University, and Xavier University—throughout the U.S. to connect, educate, and network for immigration justice.

José Cabrera (left) speaks with a fellow Ignatian Justice Summit participant.

José Cabrera, a student at Xavier University, was energized by his fellow participants who are “ready to fight for an issue that they might not be directly affected by.”  Cabrera works with Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, OH as an immigration program organizer, developing young leaders for immigration rights. Cabrera has been an immigration activist for many years, and is himself a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.  “The Summit gave me the tools to say ‘this is part of our Jesuit values’: it’s not just [working for justice] for me or for other immigrants, but it is what our Jesuit mission and the Jesuit values are about.”

Partners from the Jesuit network brought specific expertise and experience on immigration issues. Marcos Gonzales, S.J., case manager and local organizing committee member at Homeboy Industries, grounded the Summit in the Ignatian tradition. Gonzalez drew students into a deeper understanding of immigration justice, Ignatian spirituality, and exploration of their own personal faith and history in their own work for justice.

Marcos Gonzales, SJ, guides participants through reflection and discussion on seeking justice through an Ignatian lens.

Miriam Uribe, a 2017 University of San Francisco graduate who is both undocumented and an advocate for the undocumented community, joined participants at the Summit as a powerful voice in the week’s conversations about migration.

Miriam Uribe at the Ignatian Justice Summit.


As part of a panel discussion on Jesuit network innovation, Uribe outlined her success in planning and implementing a campus “UndocuWeek” at the University of San Francisco. The event celebrated and highlighted the struggles of the undocumented community, serving as a call to action for both individuals and institutions to uphold Jesuit values and stand up to injustices faced by undocumented people.

Uribe was joined on the panel by Flavio Bravo, a Loyola University Chicago graduate who, as a student, worked to pass the Magis Scholarship fund for undocumented students. Natalie Terry also shared the work of St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco, a Jesuit sanctuary parish sponsoring a refugee family in their community.

Students participate in a social justice incubator session, sharing innovative responses to immigration and other social justice issues on their campuses to promote network-wide collaboration and spark new ideas.

Uribe also shared her own immigration story during a policy briefing with Kristen Lionetti, policy director for the Jesuit Conference’s advocacy office and Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, AZ. “Storytelling was vital to the Summit experience,” shares Uribe, specifically referencing those students whose exposure to immigration issues and immigrants themselves is minimal. “Having a personal connection to someone’s story humanizes the issue.”

Students discuss immigration issues on their campuses.

“I was nervous coming into this program as a facilitator,” shares Uribe. “I was afraid that students might be disinterested, particularly those who are new to immigration issues. But after each presentation, students approached me with questions and for feedback on ideas for their own campuses.” On the experience of connecting with a diverse group of students at the Summit, Uribe shares that she “wishes that this opportunity had existed a few years ago. This network would have made such an impact on me during my first two years of college. I would have been less lonely, knowing that people are working as allies. It is so encouraging that action is being taken at all of these schools across the country.”

Sabrina Blakely discusses her delegation’s action plan with Summit participants from other schools.

Sabrina Blakely, a student at St. Joseph’s University, was one student who arrived at the Summit with great compassion for those who migrate, but very little practical knowledge. She had spent time with her sister who lives in a Catholic Worker community that serves as a safe home for immigrants in Houston. “I felt like I was standing in solidarity with the community of immigrants, but I didn’t know what I could be doing on the ground,” she explains. “I’m grateful for learning what our policies are, what is happening currently, and having someone break it down in a way that was accessible for me. Although I’m not in position to dedicate my entire life to living in a safe home like my sister does, there are ways I can live out the Gospel in the context of my life and where I am right now.” Blakely found advocacy training to be particularly useful. “I learned how to simply call my senator, what to say—getting over that small fear of doing that.”

As the Summit came to a close, energy was high as students from each school shared action plans with the group. Many students had already reached out to peers, administrators, and faculty members at their schools to clarify policies, pitch ideas, and learn more about current realities for students at their schools who are immigrants. Ideas centered around ways to increase dialogue and storytelling with campus communities, events promoting awareness and action on immigration issues, and scholarship programs for undocumented students, amongst others.

“The most important thing for me is remembering that this is the work of the Gospel,” shared Blakely before departing. At closing Mass, Fr. Dan Reim, S.J., a campus minister at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, issued a challenge to Summit attendees in light of the day’s Gospel reading, focused on the seed sown among thorns: “To make a seed grow into something fruitful takes time and a lot of hard work. Is your compassion deep enough to motivate you to navigate the thorns?”

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY ISN STAFF | July 19, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of the Migration Committee and Bishop of Austin, Texas, has issued a response to recent petitions by various state attorney generals and governors which asked the U.S. Department of Justice to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently provides a temporary status to over 750,000 young people throughout brought to the U.S. without documentation as children.

The following is Bishop Vásquez’s statement:

The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home.  The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

I urge the Administration to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.

Bishop Joe Vásquez

Bishop Joe Vásquez speaks at the Texas Statehouse in support of immigrant communities earlier this year. [SOURCE: Texas IAF Network]

However, DACA is not a permanent solution; for this reason, I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible. My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth. Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.Lastly, to DACA youth and their families, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you.  We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God.  We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country.  We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.

Support for DACA recipients and other students without documentation has come from many corners of the Catholic Church, in particular leaders in Catholic higher education. Earlier this year 65 Catholic college and university presidents asked for a meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly to discuss immigration policy and the situation of DACA recipients. Within the Jesuit network, colleges and universities have made institutional-wide commitments to stand with undocumented students in recent years, including Saint Peter’s University’s establishment of a Center for Undocumented Students; Loyola University Chicago’s Medical School’s public willingness to accept undocumented medical students; and the development of campus resource and support programs for students at Jesuit schools across the country.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY ISN STAFF | July 18, 2017

“The system is broken. We need comprehensive immigration reform. It is overdue.”

Bishop Mark J. Seitz, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, spoke today with Catholic leaders and media from across the country regarding his pastoral letter entitled, “Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away: Pastoral Letter on Migration to the People of God in the Diocese of El Paso,” (English / Español) which was officially signed earlier today during an event in front of religious and civic leaders in El Paso.

The virtual conversation was organized by Hope Border Institute and broadcast from Sacred Heart Church of El Paso, a Jesuit parish just yards away from the U.S.-Mexico border, and offered an opportunity for Bishop Seitz to share an overview of the letter and respond to questions. The letter is the first official pastoral letter on immigration issued by a U.S. Catholic bishop in a number of years and builds on a pastoral letter issued by the bishops conferences of the United States and Mexico, “Strangers No Longer: Together On the Journey of Hope.”  

Bishop Seitz spoke directly to examples from a broken immigration system, and emphasized the need to respond as a Catholic community to “do all we can, as Pope Francis has called us; to accompany people in these struggles.”

Throughout the pastoral letter text, a number of specific diocesan initiatives are introduced, including (1) initiating a “commission on migration” comprised of both priests and lay leaders; (2) establishing the Soñador Fund, providing Catholic school scholarships to Dreamer children, who Bishops Seitz referred to as the “most innocent among the innocent;” (3) establishing an extensive leadership formation program in migrant ministry and immigration advocacy, including a rapid response program; (4) development by diocesan attorneys of a policy memorandum for all parishioners advising on legal rights should immigration enforcement officials approach parish; and (5) a call for a moratorium on detention and deportation.

“It is not right to send people back into the situation they fled,” says Bishop Seitz, referencing countless cases of migrants who have come to the U.S. amid threats against their lives and the lives of their families. “This a ‘de facto death penalty’ for people who have crossed our border for refuge and asylum.” He emphasized that the U.S. helped write international asylum laws and expects other nations to uphold them, and our country’s responsibility to do the same.

Bishop Seitz shared the story of Carlos Gutierrez, a young man in his mid 30s, who is married with two young children. Eight years ago, he was a successful businessman in Chihuahua. A ruling gang began extorting funds from him and his businesses and Gutierrez came to point where he could no longer sustain payment amounts. On an outing with friends in a local park, Gutierrez was abducted and attacked with a machete, losing both legs. He survived, and fled as soon as he was able, arriving in El Paso. For last eight years, has been in the process of seeking asylum, but has not yet legally received it. “What is wrong with a system that would send a man back who has lost both of his legs to the place where they did that to him?” asks Bishop Seitz. “This is clearly a broken system.”

He also emphasized the gifts of migrants to the diocese and El Paso community, and the peaceful, loving, hard-working, faithful, community-oriented culture embodied in migrant communities, allowing El Paso to be the safest city of its size in the U.S. “I feel so blessed to be here on the border with this migrant community,” he shared.

“Migrants on the border are being held hostage through rhetoric and action by politicians in faraway places,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, a community organization that seeks to bring the perspective of Catholic social teaching to bear on the social realities unique to the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez-Las Cruces region through a robust program of research, reflection, leadership development, advocacy and action. Today’s signing and celebration affirms the value of our identity as a border community and the contributions of migrants, while serving as a protest against demonization of migrants and migrant communities and militarization of the border.”

Speaking on the proposed border wall and increased militarization of the border, Bishop Seitz expressed grave concern that additional wall construction would continue to push migrants into the most dangerous border areas where enforcement is not as strong—increasing the number of individuals who lose their lives attempting to seek asylum.

“Start with the Gospel,” said Bishop Seitz to the assembled leaders in immigration and media. “There is so much richness that calls us beyond those things that would divide us.” The call to open the doors of communication between Anglo communities and the immigrant community is imperative. “We need to open up the doors, find structures that bring communities together. Worship together, gather for meals. Once you accomplish that the whole narrative changes.

View the recorded conversation with Bishop Seitz:

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY KELLY SWAN | June 5, 2017

In November 2016, students from Cristo Rey New York High School, Loyola School, and Convent of the Sacred Heart joined approximately 200 students from 12 schools in New York State on Capitol Hill at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice Advocacy Day.

Katie Seltzer, religion teacher at Cristo Rey New York High School, saw the benefits of the day for her students and was motivated to seek out additional smaller-scale, local opportunities for her students to connect in more depth with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s office.

She reached out to other participating New York City area high schools and initiated a partnership between three schools that culminated in a mid-April recess meeting in Schumer’s office.

Students from Cristo Rey New York High School, Loyola School, and Convent of the Sacred Heart with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.

With Michael Chung, director of community engagement at Convent of the Sacred Heart, and Megan Clarke, director of Christian service at Loyola School, Seltzer revisited and expanded upon ISN’s Advocacy 101 training guide and information gathered through Teach-In advocacy trainings and advocacy experiences on Capitol Hill. Each of the sixteen participating students was assigned a specific role for which they prepared prior to the visit.

Chung explained that, while the Teach-In Advocacy Day experience served as an excellent model, his students’ experience through this local partnership was unique. Intensive preparation and organization provided a more student-driven advocacy visit, incorporating more participation, storytelling, and sharing from the students, who had developed discussion topics beforehand.

The students were scheduled to meet with Angela Morel, the constituent liaison for Senator Schumer’s New York City office, who was joined by phone by Lucia Panza, an immigration policy attorney in Schumer’s Washington, D.C. office. Students were bold in their conversation surrounding immigration with Morel and Panza, pushing the dialogue beyond simplified political statements to candid discussion about how students can actually effect change. “This works,” stated Panza in her conversation with students. “Keep doing this.”

Senator Schumer has played a key role in immigration legislation in recent years. In the spring of 2013, Schumer joined a bi-partisan group of eight U.S. Senators—four Democrats and four Republicans—in co-authoring a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill cleared the Senate but was not voted on by the House of Representatives, despite strong support from a majority of House members.

Seltzer shared that “for [Cristo Rey New York] students skeptical about their ability to effect change, especially as disenfranchised students, the experience was transformative.”

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer greets students.

For Loyola School students, Clarke felt that this advocacy visit helped to extend students’ experience of justice. While the school has a robust program centered around service and reflection, most opportunities are exclusively focused on charity. The school discusses social change, and Clarke felt that experiences like advocacy visits create an opportunity to act on those discussions in the context of students’ own city. Students heard that “their voice is important,” explained Clarke. “People want to sit down with them to hear what they have to say.” The visit was not difficult to prepare for or arrange, Clarke shared, “but the impact on the students was huge.”

In an unplanned conclusion to their visit, students were greeted by Senator Schumer himself, who thanked them for advocating for immigrants, an empowering close to a fruitful experience.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY KELLY SWAN | May 22, 2017

“Our Solidarity Week was more than just talking about complicated policy issues regarding refugees,” explains Jeff Sullivan, S.J., Arrupe Service Program coordinator at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois.

“This way of talking about justice as problems to be fixed or solved can be confusing, unnerving, and lead to cynicism or apathy,” continues Sullivan.

To provide a tangible sense of the experiences of refugees, the school utilized the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) resource “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”—a refugee simulation program—as a capstone experience during Solidarity Week, held in April.

Refugee simulation at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL [Photo courtesy of Loyola Academy]

Approximately 650 students, including the entire junior class as well as some senior and freshman classes, were led through the simulation by about 150 student volunteers and 30 faculty volunteers. The goal of the experience was to provide opportunities for students’ eyes to be opened, in a tangible way, to the obstacles to dignity that refugees face. Students were exposed to problems regarding lack of nutrition, water, shelter, medical care, and education, as well as issues of trauma and language barriers.

Students explore food distribution and nutrition issues in refugee camps [Photo courtesy of Loyola Academy]

Prior to beginning the simulation, each student was issued an ID card assigning a name, age, place of origin, employment status, and education level. IDs represented actual stories of refugees who have utilized JRS programs and illustrated the diversity of refugees while combatting common belief that refugees are poor or uneducated. At the conclusion of the simulation, students prayed for the individual whose story they learned through their ID.

Students receive refugee IDs [Photo courtesy of Loyola Academy]

In a recent TED talk, Pope Francis told us that “each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others; life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.”

The day following the simulation, students had the opportunity to hear firsthand the story of a peer in the Chicago area who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee. Students shared that the simulation and interaction with the speaker—a Chicago public school student who shared about the experience of being tortured—changed their perspective on the refugee crisis and called them to be in community with refugees.

A display featuring life jackets and an inflatable raft highlight the dangers faced by refugees [Photo courtesy of Jan Stoner via Twitter]

Students at Loyola Academy have ample opportunities to walk with refugees. More than fifty students serve weekly as tutors at programs designed for refugees and children of refugees. Classes have engaged in pen-pal projects with refugees and immigrants detained in Chicago, and the school has adopted a refugee family, providing financial and material resources, as well as sending 5 students each week to assist the family with navigating the culture, practicing English, and helping build familiarity with everyday American life.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY ISN STAFF | April 3, 2017

On March 27, St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, Minnesota became the second Jesuit parish in the United States to designate itself a Sanctuary Parish, following St. Agnes Church in San Francisco in January of 2017. “We declare,” reads the parish statement, “that undocumented persons in our community deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and justice.”

The Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and the Society of Jesus have long advocated for immigration reform in the U.S.  St. Thomas More and its predecessor parishes, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Luke’s, have a lengthy history of working with undocumented persons as advocates and supporters. St. Thomas More engaged in an extensive discernment process to determine how the parish can today’s immigrant population in the Twin Cities and nationally.

St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, MN officially designated itself a sanctuary parish on March 27.

As part of St. Thomas More’s discernment process, the parish held three discernment sessions open to all community members, established four working groups to research answers to questions raised in these sessions, provided a draft statement on sanctuary to parishioners and an opportunity to comment, and discussed the research and parish feedback with parish leadership. Many themes emerged.

The community acknowledges and respects the federal government’s obligation to protect borders and uphold U.S. immigration laws. “Nevertheless,” reads the parish statement, “we agree with the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference that immigration principles should always be at the service of human dignity and the common good of society. St. Thomas More is committed to increasing its advocacy for just and humane immigration reform at both the local and national level.”

As a sanctuary parish, St. Thomas More commits to advocating for justice for immigrants on both a local and national level; offering spaces for organizers, lawyers, and community members to meet; listening and responding to the call and needs of immigrant brothers and sisters; gathering for communal prayer to continually discern the movement of the Spirit in the parish community’s work, action, and lives; and developing a robust referral program to put those asking for help and guidance in contact with local agencies able to provide that help and guidance.

As part of the discernment process, it was clear to parish leadership that a majority of the responders in feel called to participate in more immediate, collective action than advocacy alone can provide. Many feel a biblical and theological call to act like the Good Samaritan who provided shelter, financial support, and comfort to a stranger in need or the innkeeper who offered Mary and Joseph a place to rest after a long journey.

St. Thomas More will support a sanctuary effort by opening space within the Parish Center for individuals facing deportation, especially where deportation would separate parents from their children or would separate people brought to the United States as children from the only homes they have ever truly known. The parish will also create an Implementation Team that will devise a plan for safely welcoming undocumented persons into the community and communal spaces; marshal independent financial resources to the extent possible to support the sanctuary effort; provide training for staff and volunteers on best practices for safely and lawfully welcoming undocumented persons into the community; and work with parish leadership to minimize insurance, financial, and legal risks to the parish community.

“We believe that our efforts are a calling of our faith and a reflection of who we are as a Jesuit parish,” reads the statement. “We respect all parishioners’ right to participate in advocacy and sanctuary efforts to the degree their personal discernments dictate.”

Upon announcement of the parish’s sanctuary decision, Fr. Warren Sazama, S.J., St. Thomas More pastor, shared reflections from parishioners who had spoken and acted in support of the decision, emphasizing the faith and justice dimensions of the action. One young parishioner shared:

“I was a part of the growing statistic of young Americans who identify as spiritual but not religious. Before my husband and I came to STM two years ago, my image of the Church was tainted by nodes of scandal, exclusivity, and patriarchy. Then I got to know the STM community. STM began to transform my image of the Church to a good, compassionate, welcoming one. I started to talk about my church (as a millennial! gasp!) with my non-religious classmates (I’m in business school) and friends. I started to defend my Catholic faith. Then, I did something unexpected: I decided to go through the RCIA process at STM to discern becoming a confirmed Catholic. I’ve felt let down by the Catholic Church many times, but the prospect of STM serving as a sanctuary parish has restored a lively faith in me: I’m ready to engage, give, help however I can. I’m not a lifelong parishioner (yet), but I can tell you: sanctuary won’t divide this parish. Sanctuary is who this parish is.”

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

ISN STAFF | February 21, 2017

The Jesuits of Loyola University Chicago (particularly the younger ones!) showed off their musical and basketball prowess in anticipation of an important fundraising event to support a scholarship fund for undocumented students seeking to study at one of Loyola’s campuses in the Chicagoland area. Their efforts are tied to the “Jesuit Jam” a yearly collaboration with the university basketball teams to highlight the school’s Jesuit mission, encourage support of Loyola’s teams, and support causes important to the campus community. “Jesuit Jam” was started in 2001 to welcome then-president Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., to campus and has become a campus tradition. Past Jesuit Jams have supported local, national, and international Jesuit partners engaged in social ministry.

Loyola Ramblers can get fired up with this “Jesuit Jam” video featuring a number of young Jesuits in studies at Loyola along with Jesuits and others currently in ministry as faculty and administrators on campus.

Supporting the needs of undocumented students is not new to Loyola, whose Board of Trustees approved the implementation of the Magis Scholarship Fund, a student-led initiative to support undocumented undergraduate students in 2016. Voting unanimously, the board affirmed a call from the undergraduate student body, which voted to support their undocumented peers by adding an individual $2.50 student fee each semester to support the fund which could generate up to $50,000 each academic year.

In 2013, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine become the first medical school in the nation to publicly accept applications for admission from undocumented immigrants, which was initiated in response to the establishment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, put into effect by President Obama that same year.

In 2015, Arrupe College opened at Loyola, offering a two-year rigorous liberal arts education to a diverse population, many of whom are the first in their family to pursue higher education — including undocumented students. Using an innovative model that ensures affordability while providing care for the whole person—intellectually, morally, and spiritually—Arrupe prepares its graduates to continue on to a bachelor’s program or move into meaningful employment.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY FR. TIMOTHY MCCABE, SJ February 3, 2017

The following is Fr. Timothy McCabe’s homily from January 29, 2017 at Sts. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in downtown Detroit, MI.

“Jesus saw the crowds,” our gospel begins today.  He saw the crowds and he began to preach.

There has been a lot of talk about crowds these days: sizes of crowds, crowds participating in the Women’s march in every major city in the United States; 137 crowds gathering in 40 different countries worldwide; crowds that marched for the Right to Life; spontaneous crowds gathered last night and today in front of JFK airport in New York and O’Hare in Chicago, and San Francisco, and Cleveland and Seattle and here in Detroit; crowds gathering in response to the executive order that has lead to the banning and detaining of refugees hoping for safe haven in our country.

Protester at Detroit Metro Airport on January 28. 2017 [Mary Anthony]

Jesus saw the crowds and he began to teach.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: those were been beaten down, those whose spirits have been broken by oppression and violence and are seeking refuge foreign lands. Blessed are those who mourn, those were forced to flee death and violence, those who have lost family and friends to the brutality of armed conflict.  Blessed are we who mourn when our country’s leaders turned their back on social justice, and diplomacy, and decency in the name of nationalism. Blessed are the meek, those without power, those without voice, those whose lives and futures are determined by others, by the absence of presence of compassion and kindness of other nations. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, hunger for justice. Those who understand God’s justice and how it is being thwarted by the powers and principalities in our world that act in defiance of God’s law.

Blessed are all these because God hears the cry poor.  God is here. God is with them. God is with us.

Blessed are the merciful, those who act in tandem with God’s will, those who magnify the love and compassion of God and express that to the poor, to the mourning, to the meek, and those who hunger for justice.   Blessed are the pure of heart, those who do not allow the hatred of others, the racism and sexism and homophobia of others to dictate how they see and act in the world. Blessed are the peacemakers: those who work for justice, for right relationships between God and humanity and between all human beings. Those who see that the kingdom of God is at hand, and do not put their trust in walls and weapons and the oppression of others–especially the most vulnerable–to keep themselves safe. Those who know way of peace, true peace, true shalom—will only be brought about by love.

Sermone della Montagna (Sermon on the Mount) by Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507)

While the prophet Zephaniah and St. Paul in today’s first two readings—may well be speaking and writing to crowds—they are not speaking about crowds. They are speaking about the remnant: the few who hear the word of God and act accordingly.  For Zephaniah, personal experience shows him–like the other prophets before him that those who will act in accordance to God’s commands are not a large numbers of people.  The majority do not listen to the prophets. And as Paul experienced the people follow God’s mandates are not the people he expected. It is rather the foolish the powerless, those who understand humanities dependence upon God, our dependency on God.

So why the poor? Why do they get? Perhaps it is because the more we trust in our own self-reliance, whether it’s our own will, or trusting in weapons of war, or executive orders of exclusion, the more we fall under the hypnotic delusion that we actually are in control.  We lose our sense of dependency upon God. We stopped discerning God’s word and God’s will. As the prophets warned us over and over again: when we move away from direct personal relationship with our creator, when we attempt to protect our citizens in ways that defy the law of God, we are subject to his judgment.  Jesus was clear: “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Pope Francis greets refugees in Italy [Jesuit Refugee Service]

Pope Francis has been very clear in the past few days what it means to be Christians.

The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian. You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes.  It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,”

And here is Cardinal Joe Tobin statement from yesterday:

Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation.  They are the opposite of what it means to be an American.  Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts.  Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities. In fact, threatening the so-called “sanctuary cities” with the withdrawal of federal funding for vital services such as healthcare, education and transportation will not reduce immigration.  It only will harm all good people in those communities. 

And yesterday our Archbishop wrote to the chair of the Imams Council of Michigan to express his support for immigrants and refugees, no matter their religion or country of origin and his opposition to discrimination on the basis of religion.

It happens every so often—since the beginning of the Jesus movement 2000 years ago—that his followers are called upon to be in communion with God and neighbor in a new way. Called upon to be the moral voice of our time. Called upon to be bold and courageous with their words and actions in defending the rights of the poor and vulnerable, outcast and the stranger among us. Called upon to proclaim a revolution of moral values that will be so threatening to the existing social system of domination that persecution will follow.

This call to the Christian community comes during perilous times: times when such a proclamation will have a cost. I believe we now live in such a time.

The question becomes for us is this: will we be part of the remnant: those who act and think according to the values and mission of Jesus Christ? Will we stand in and for the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus? If we live these beatitudes with boldness, if we do as he commands regardless of the cost, we are assured but His presence and blessing. We can even be joyful in glad when we face persecution and people utter all kinds of evil against us because we will be in good company, Jesus promises us a great reward.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Voices for Justice blog series.

BY ISN STAFF January 30, 2017

Last week President Trump issued an executive order that banned indefinitely Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Community and faith leaders across the country have made public statements about these actions, expressing concerns for the dignified treatment of vulnerable populations and offering assurances of protection and respect for individuals who may be affected in some way. In particular, leaders expressed support for community members who are Muslim and were specifically targeted by the refugee and immigration announcements made on Friday.

Presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities were some of the many higher education leaders who spoke out in support of these communities with statements shared via e-mail and social media over the past few days.

Citing the executive order focused on Muslim-majority countries, Fr. Bill Leahy, S.J. and fellow administrators at Boston College, in a statement published on the college’s website, said “the order is also contrary to American understandings of this nation’s role as a refuge and its place as a society that does not discriminate on the basis of religion or national origin.” Fr. Leahy also said that Boston College is committed to ensuring that all community members feel “safe and valued.”

Jack DeGioia, Ph.D., president of Georgetown University, noted that the university places special emphasis on “interreligious dialogue” and an “openness to different faith traditions and cultures” in a statement published on the university website and shared via his university Facebook account. He also noted Georgetown’s desire to support a “diverse and vibrant Muslim community,” on the university campus.  Dr. DeGioia closed the statement with the following message: “In this moment of challenge and uncertainty, we have an ever more urgent responsibility to care for one another, to empathize with those in need, to dedicate our knowledge to service, and to place above all the betterment of humankind,” and challenged the community to be animated by the call to action.

“We find enrichment and strength in our diversity,” noted Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., president of Seattle University, in a statement made available on the university website. Citing the Jesuit mission of the university, he stated declaratively that the university “strongly opposes the discriminatory and misguided executive order issued by the Trump administration on non-U.S. citizens from select countries.”

Writing a message while attending a series of higher education network meetings in Washington, D.C., Fred Pestello, Ph.D., president of Saint Louis University, issued a statement in which he spoke decisively about those who could be impacted by the executive action, saying the university “will take every action within the law to protect all members of our community, including Muslim students and faculty” who are in the U.S. on visas.

Muslim female students at John Carroll University participate in a “Living the Mission” panel in March of 2014. [John Carroll University]

In a statement addressed to the John Carroll University community, Fr. Robert Niehoff, S.J., the school’s president, noted that the university stands with a number of higher education networks, including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in advocating for “sensible immigration policies that do not discriminate against our students, faculty, and staff, while still protecting national security.”

Citing the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland affirmed in a statement “that diversity in the Loyola community includes individuals and their families who are refugees, immigrants, or not U.S. citizens.” He went on to further state that “because the seven nations included in the executive order are predominantly Muslim countries, I also want to assure those members of our community who are Muslim that they remain most welcome and valued members of our community.”

Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., president of Creighton University stated concern surrounding the diminishment of the strength of American universities’ research and education if the numbers of international students and faculty are sharply limited, and went on to affirm the commitment of the university, guided by Jesuit ideals, to “reach out in support of immigrants and refugees.”

As interim president at Fairfield University, Lynn Babington referenced in a statement then-President, Jeffrey P. von Arx S.J.’s December signature of both the statement in support of the retention of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), as well as the AJCU’s statement of ongoing support for undocumented immigrant students. Babington, with the rest of the administration at Fairfield, commits to “uphold and advocate for the rights of international students, faculty and staff to continue their education, research and other work.”

“Though we do not know the ultimate outcome of the president’s order (nor subsequent orders and legislation),” stated Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, “please be assured that Fordham University stands with the tens of thousands of refugees and would-be immigrants affected by these laws. We have a long history as a University of and for immigrants, in a city and a nation built by immigrants.”

Gonzaga University President Thayne M. McCulloh in a statement affirmed the university’s fundamental commitments, reflected in the Mission Statement, to “. . . (the) dignity of the human person, social justice, diversity, intercultural competence, global engagement, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for the planet,” particularly in relation to immigrant and “undocumented” students. 

In a statement, Linda LeMura, president of LeMoyne College affirmed the school’s commitment to immigrants and refugees, and suggested action to be taken, including: “Donate to or volunteer at local agencies such as Catholic Charities and Interfaith Works, which support the resettlement of refugees to Syracuse; donate to the ACLU; and attend campus lectures and programs coordinated by the Muslim Student Association, Multicultural Affairs, and faculty on topics of inclusion.”

“Members of our LMU family are persons for and with others; affiliating them with terrorists violates their dignity, along with what has made and continues to make America great,” stated Loyola Marymount University President Timothy Law Snyder.

Loyola University Chicago President Jo Ann Rooney issued the following words to the university community, responding to the fear and uncertainty expressed by many: “I want you to know that the University continues to advocate on a multitude of fronts, including local, regional, and national levels. Our focus is on ensuring the protection and dignity of all of the members of our community and society. For those feeling frightened or vulnerable in light of recent events, I hope to offer some solace as you do not stand alone in facing the future. Loyola University Chicago stands with you in solidarity and with moral clarity. We will never stop advocating to fashion a peaceful and just society that our faith calls us to build.”

Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., president of Loyola University New Orleans in a statement offered affirmation of Jesuit, Catholic values in relation to acceptance of refugees, and offered words of prayer: “Give comfort to the more than 30,000 people worldwide who are forcibly displaced from their homes every day because of violence that is an affront to you. And heal the wounds of national, racial, and religious division so that we may always choose compassion over fear, hospitality over indifference, and human dignity over political expedience.”

“We are steadfast in our commitment to serve all as a welcoming learning community that is open to people from a wide variety of backgrounds, perspectives and national origins,” stated Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell. “Let’s remember the larger American story. We are a nation of immigrants.”

In statement from Rockhurst University President Rev. Thomas B Curran, S.J., the words of Pope Francis were quoted in relation to U.S. Immigration Policy: “Remember that authentic hospitality is a profound gospel value that nurtures love and is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.”

In a statement emailed to the university community, Saint Peter’s University President Dr. Eugene Cornacchia stated the following: “We are a nation of immigrants. My father was an immigrant. I am the grandson of immigrants. My mother-in-law was an immigrant. In my time teaching at Saint Peter’s University I have taught students from a wide variety of faith traditions and nationalities. They have greatly enriched the classroom experience for everyone and have also contributed to a richer social and cultural environment on campus, and in our nation and world. I am a better teacher, administrator, father and grandfather – a better human being – because I have come to know people of many different backgrounds.”

“This executive order lies in sharp contrast to our mission to care for the most marginalized among us, and to cultivate the cross-cultural understanding that is necessary to address the tremendous problems facing our divided world,” explained Fr. Michael E. Engh, S.J., president of Santa Clara University. “The actions of the White House have caused fear and anxiety among many of our international students, and we are committed to caring for them so they may continue their studies and pursue their dreams.”

Donald Heller, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of San Francisco, strongly asserted in a statement to the campus community: “You are not alone. Yet the uncertainty of what lies ahead makes us all anxious and fearful. We are fortunate at USF and in the city of San Francisco that resources are available to assist, advise, and counsel. Neither is USF alone. We have joined with Jesuit institutions and academic associations nationally and internationally to build strength and advocacy.”

A statement from University of Scranton President Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. affirmed Jesuit and Catholic solidarity with immigrants and refugees, and asserted that “welcoming neighbors from distant shores aligns with our American ideals and is a bedrock of our history in Northeastern Pennsylvania as well.”

“Xavier prepares students for a world that is increasingly diverse, complex and interdependent,” stated Xavier University President Fr. Mike Graham, S.J.  “Furthermore, our Jesuit tradition compels us to be people for and with others. Driven by these commitments, I want to be clear that Xavier will remain steadfastly committed to being a diverse and inclusive community. All are welcome here regardless of faith, national origin or immigration status.”

These statements by Jesuit college and university leaders come less than two months after twenty-seven Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities presidents signed a statement in support of undocumented students and called for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to be sustained in some capacity. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump suggested that he would end the DACA program but has not yet issued an executive order to do so. Congressional leaders have initiated a legislative response known as the BRIDGE Act which would sustain the opportunities for undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children, offering benefits similar to those currently received by DACA recipients. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and Ignatian Solidarity Network have all publicly supported the passage of the BRIDGE Act if President Trump does take action to eliminate DACA.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY FR. RAFAEL GARCIA, S.J. | January 26, 2017

Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, TX, because of its location and founding mission to serve impoverished immigrant persons, has long had an outward focus on social ministry.

The parish, founded in 1893, has supported initiatives to address the long list of challenges faced by the community: struggling public education, irresponsibly maintained rental housing, unemployment and low wages, vulnerability of the youth and elderly, violence in various forms, and irregular immigration status.

Situated just blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border, the parish is witness to about 120 migrants and refugees–families with minor children–arriving daily from Central America’s northern triangle. They are processed at the border, “paroled”, adults fitted with an ankle bracelet, and then permitted to travel to stay with family members or friends. Upon arrival, they are required to report to the nearest ICE office and continue the immigration process (often seeking asylum). Most families and individuals stay in El Paso for only a day or two, but the need is great during that time.

A great effort by churches and individuals provides shelter, food, and help with connection and transportation to family and friends in other parts of the U.S. It is an amazing effort, renewing the diocese and greater community. Women religious from other cities and college students on ‘break’ come to assist.

This migration is rooted in a significant human crisis. Violence in Central America is perpetuated by gangs, drug traffickers, etc. who are outside of government control. They extort, threaten, kidnap and kill individuals and families, with the hope of obtaining their servitude, driving people from their homes.

Mass for men at a US Customs and Border Patrol detention center

Despite the parole process, hundreds are detained in the city at a large facility where Jesuit Refugee Service provides staffing for the chaplaincy program. I am one of the volunteer priests who celebrates Mass and hears confessions at the immigration detention center, and will soon have clearance to provide other religious services at Southwest Key, a network of three immigration residential detention facilities for undocumented, unaccompanied minors. Pope Francis calls us all to go to the margins. The margins and the marginalized look differently throughout the world, and here in El Paso, the Jesuit community makes great efforts to follow this call.

Mass for women at a US Customs and Border Patrol detention center

Earlier in January, more than 650 El Paso residents gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for an interreligious prayer service for the undocumented and migrant community of El Paso, presided by Bishop Mark Seitz and organized by the Hope Border Institute. Two families from Sacred Heart Parish participated, including Efren Loya, an 18 year old senior at a local high school and part time parish employee who came to the U.S. at age six from Cuidad Juarez, El Paso’s neighboring city. As a DACA recipient, Efren was motivated by his experience at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in 2016, as well as the present uncertainty and fear of many, to speak out about his experience as an immigrant student. Efren hopes to become a pediatrician serving immigrant children, as he has experienced how difficult it is to attain affordable medical care. He is applying to several universities but the cloud of uncertainty gets thickens as questions arise about the future of the DACA program.

Rosa and Rosa Chavez, Fr. Rafael Garcia, and Efren Loya after January interfaith prayer service

The mission of Sacred Heart Church and its strategic location continue to give it relevance, especially when there is an increase in immigrant scapegoating, making them the lightning rod for complex problems in our nation. The mission of the Jesuits in El Paso is an ongoing response to the call of Pope Francis and the Society of Jesus to attend to the migrant, refugee and those on the margins.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Voices for Justice blog series.