In my work at the Ignatian Solidarity Network, I have the opportunity to join passionate colleagues from across the country for regular “coalition calls” to discuss the ways that the faith-based community can advocate for humane migration and refugee policies.

As executive orders were announced by the new administration this winter, the mood during these calls was one of disheartenment and desolation, particularly in light of our new president’s history of taking direct aim at existing regulations designed to protect the dignity of immigrants and refugees who are most vulnerable.

Cleveland Immigration Walk for Justice-2016

Call participants began to share stories of immigrants and refugees already being directly impacted by the changing policies: immigrant families choosing not to attend church services or send their children to school out of fear of deportation; refugees stopped at international airports hours before flights to the U.S. and turned away; and undocumented young people detained amid questionable circumstances despite having Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status.

While each situation had its unique characteristics, they all shared a common theme — a sense of great loss, as if hope had died for these immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers.

In the weeks that have followed, the sense of desolation is still a reality — it cannot be avoided. However, among the coalition members there is also a sense of hope.

It is grounded in a belief that in the midst of challenging realities that face immigrant and refugee communities, there are small steps that we can take as advocates, as companions — that we can be givers of life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives Lazarus “life” when he asks him to come out from the darkness of the tomb.  Through this miracle we experience the hope that Jesus can provide for our world, even amid great desolation. Our coalition partners offer that same hope, showing that there are small glimmers of “life” and hope we can provide to brothers and sisters who migrate.

Reflection questions:

  • What are the experiences of migrants and refugees in your community?
  • How can you be a giver of “life” and “hope” to them?

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY JOANNA WILLIAMS | April 1, 2017

We are always in danger of normalizing injustice, or believing it to be inevitable.

We hear of Jesus’ crucifixion so often that we are tempted to think there was unshakable unanimity amongst the leaders of Jesus’ day that he was a threat to the power structure and must be arrested. Yet today’s readings remind us that there were dissenting voices.

DTRocks via Wikimedia Commons

Here at the border, every day we witness the abuses in the immigration detention and deportation process. In US detention centers, immigrants are subjected to degrading treatment with little oversight. Earlier this year, an individual who had been through our comedor sought asylum in the US and was put in solitary confinement in Eloy Detention Center without access to needed medical care. Instead of accepting this treatment as normal, we spoke out against the injustice and, at our encouragement, an official responsible for oversight decided to respond. Although she was initially skeptical of his account, like Nicodemus, she decided to hear and find out. Thanks to a dissenting voice, he received the treatment he needed and he no longer had to live every day of his time in detention in fear.

We must be the dissenting voices that shed light on the abnormality of injustice, prophesy to the fact that a better world is possible, and encourage our government officials and representatives to do the same.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY CARLOS RODRIGUEZ | March 29, 2017

Today’s reading during the fourth week of Lent sets a challenge: To those in darkness: Show yourselves!”

As an Undocumented immigrant, I have felt the loneliness, fear, and sadness that this status has placed on my person. Many of us have used this darkness as a tool for our own protection, but during these unpredictable times, we, immigrants and refugees, must act and face the light.

For the privileged: step out of the obscurity of idleness and use your power and resources to aid those asking for assistance. I must ask that we all recognize that this is a country of immigrants that has displaced our indigenous communities.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus proclaimed, “I cannot do anything on my own.” In reflection, I have found that uncertain times call us to act, but during urgent, tumultuous times, we tend to act alone. We must, however, move and gather in community in order ensure the inclusion of those most in need.

With bravery and courage, speak out and help those in fear.

Extend your open arms to those fleeing war and poverty or those deserting political turmoil, even in this country.

Shelter and feed those seeking a new life and nurture their dreams and eagerness to begin a new life in a new country.

Help those hiding in the shadows, and you will see how you have adopted the teachings of Christ through these acts.

Only together can we move to make the teachings of Christ come alive and make meaningful change.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

POR SOR NORMA PIMENTEL, M.J. | 26 de marzo de 2017
English Reflection

En todo el mundo, muchos están luchando con la forma de responder a los refugiados que llegan dentro de sus fronteras.

Diariamente, veo el sufrimiento de las familias inmigrantes que huyen de la violencia y la pobreza.

Al igual que el hombre nacido ciego en el Evangelio de Juan, estas personas nacieron en dificultades económicas y sociales que no eligieron.  Al igual que el ciego, buscan una vida mejor en la que puedan alimentar a sus familias y vivir sin temor ni discriminación.

Aunque muchas personas y organizaciones buscan brindar atención humanitaria al extraño entre nosotros, los refugiados están a menudo en peligro de no recibir la protección y dignidad humana que merecen como hijos y hijas de Dios.

Los zapatos de Fernando, niño guatemalteco de cuatro años. Él y su madre fueron servidos por Caridades Católicas del Valle del Río Grande después de llegar McAllen, Texas. Foto cortesía de Verónica Cárdenas y parte de “Traveling Soles,” una serie de imágenes diseñadas para explicar la historia de los inmigrantes que llegan a Estados Unidos.

En la lectura del Evangelio de hoy, los fariseos critican a Jesús por trabajar el día santo, mientras que ellos ignoran el sufrimiento profundo del hombre ciego y el milagro de sanación de Jesús.

Por lo tanto, podemos preguntarnos: ¿Quién es realmente ciego? ¿Es el hombre que no pudo ver desde su nacimiento o los líderes y los poderosos que no tienen visión, ni compasión?

En la tradición espiritual de San Ignacio de Loyola, ruega por la gracia de la vista divina – la vista que le permitiría ser testigo y sentir empatía con aquellos que experimentan desigualdades.

Que su obra caritativa esta temporada cuaresmal incluya abogar por los más necesitados de misericordia y sanación.  Invoca a los líderes de tu ciudad, estado y nación.  Pídales “ver” la injusticia de las leyes que causan o perpetúan el sufrimiento.

 Que la gracia de Dios sea visible a través de ustedes mientras se levantan en apoyo de los más vulnerables entre nosotros. 

BY SR. NORMA PIMENTEL, M.J. | March 26, 2017
Reflexión en español

Across the globe, many are struggling with how to respond to the refugees arriving within their borders.

Daily, I see the suffering of immigrant families fleeing violence and poverty.

Much like the man born blind in John’s Gospel, these people were born into economic and social hardships they did not choose. Like the blind man, they seek a better life in which they can feed their families and live without fear or discrimination.

Although many people and organizations seek to provide humanitarian care to the stranger among us, refugees are often in danger of not receiving the protection and human dignity they deserve as God’s children.

The shoes of Fernando, a four-year-old Guatemalan boy. He and his mother were served by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley after arriving McAllen, Texas. Photo courtesy of Verónica Cárdenas and part of Traveling Soles, a series of images designed to tell the story of immigrants arriving in the U.S.

In today’s Gospel reading the Pharisees criticize Jesus for working on the Sabbath while, at the same time, ignoring the blind man’s deep suffering and Jesus’ healing miracle.

So, we may ask ourselves: Who is truly blind? Is it the man who was not able to see since his birth or the leaders of the establishment who have no vision, no compassion?

In the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for the grace of divine sight — sight that would allow you to witness and empathize with those who experience gross inequality.

May your charitable work this Lenten season include advocating for those in most need of mercy and healing. Call upon the leaders of your city, state and nation. Beg them “to see” the injustice of laws that cause or perpetuate suffering.

May God’s grace be visible through you as you rise up in support of the most vulnerable in our midst.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY ERIN CANNING | March 24, 2017

They heard him. They heard him years ago and continue to hear him today. These people have been listening to Jesus since Day One, ever since he said:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The concept of neighbor may seem strange or foreign to those who grew up in this societal bubble of individualism currently consuming the United States.   Who is my neighbor? What is a neighbor?

Jesus intentionally uses this somewhat-vague word to make a point: we are all neighbors. Our neighbors are all around us – living right next door; sleeping on the streets without food and shelter; working two jobs to support family; laughing on the outside but struggling on the inside; working in the warehouse down the street; fleeing violence overseas for a safer home here.

I’ve met some of these people, and I aspire to reflect their radical love in my life. I work with many of them now – they are the people of the Dolores Mission community. They house the homeless and feed the hungry despite threats of losing their own homes to gentrification; they welcome the stranger, despite anxieties over immigration raids. They are determined to empower students and families through education, from a history class to homeowner rights workshops.

They love their neighbors.

And this love brings the Gospel to life. Our poor neighbor, our refugee neighbor, our homeless neighbor – they are our teachers. Take time to hear their stories, to accompany each other. It is from ‘them’ that all will learn to become ‘us’ – to become better neighbors.

Reflection Questions:

  • Who are your neighbors? Can you name them? Learn the face and name of one of your neighbors this week.
  • Are there moments in your everyday life where you can be a better neighbor to others (e.g. opt into conversation instead of headphones)?  

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY MARY BAUDOUIN | March 16, 2017

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.”

Oh me of little faith….that’s the phrase that goes through my head when I think about my friend Zoila.  

Zoila with the author and her family.

By all accounts, Zoila should be hopeless. She is an 82 year old tiny undocumented Filipina, trafficked to the US 35 years ago by an unscrupulous “employer”. She only knows 100 English words, is nearly deaf, had no family, no money, and no source of support. She lived on the generosity of families who took her in and took care of her while she took care of them. When she showed up at our house after being told that she could no longer live with the family that had housed her for 10 years, we took her in for a year.

Although she was unfailingly kind, living with Zoila wasn’t easy, especially when she took over our garden. She would wander our neighborhood and take cuttings out of strangers’ yards and plant them all over our yard. She was absolutely convinced that God would grow these spindly plants—and amazingly, with Zoila’s tender care some of them grew! Zoila was also always convinced that God would take care of her—and God did.  Zoila bloomed with hope, and she nurtured hope and faith in me.

Zoila would have withered and died years ago without her hope. There are so many refugees and undocumented people like Zoila who live only on the hope of creating better, safer, less violent lives for themselves and those they care for, and the belief that God will deliver them to security. Right now, our country seems to be depriving them even of that last vestige of their human dignity—their hope.

Shouldn’t everyone have a right to hope, a right to believe that God will take care of them in the places where they try to plant themselves anew?

PS:  This story has a happy ending.  Zoila is now back in the Philippines, taken in by a large community who love her. She is known to that community as “Nanay Zoila”, which means Mama. She has finally found her forever family.

Reflection questions:

  • How can we nurture hope in others, especially migrants and refugees whose hope is diminishing in these difficult times?
  • How can we remain a hopeful people even when times seem dark?

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY KRISTIN HEYER | March 13, 2017

Politicians dominating our airwaves cast “sinners” as easy to identify, quarantine, and exclude. Yet such claims divert attention from the fact that we are all complicit in injustice. The mercy today’s gospel promises can break through our haze of indifference or protective armor of self-righteousness, softening our hearts and inviting us to conversion.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson offers communion to those gathered on the Mexican side of the fence during a special border mass to honor migrants who have died in the desert. April 2014. Image cr. Kino Border Initiative

Addressing Congress, Pope Francis echoed today’s passage from Luke, reminding us we shall be measured by the yardstick we use for others: If we want security let us give security. If we want life let us give life. Sin is not a private transaction: we are all part of webs of interdependence that push and pull migrants across borders or degrade the planet, leaving none of us with clean hands.

In response, he offers us models of lament and repentance, whether amidst the graveyard of wrecks on Lampedusa or planted on the border in Ciudad Juárez. Naming and mourning the human costs of injustice—refugees washed ashore, mothers abruptly deported—enables us to more clearly see the webs of sin which ensnare us.

Sin obscures by its very nature. Our faith calls us to denounce injustice and consider where our own complicity remains hidden even from ourselves: selective indifference to others’ suffering; cowardice in the face of new threats; profiting from the exploitation of labor.

Through the noise of efforts to scapegoat outsiders, today’s gospel declares that the sinner may be the one looking to cast the first stone. And in the end Jesus assures his disciples of the “overflowing gifts” that await if we turn from rebellious complicity to imitate God’s generosity and forgiveness.

Reflection questions:

  • What can I do to pop my “soap bubbles of indifference” or resist feeling overwhelmed and tuning out?
  • To whom was I called to show mercy today? Where did I run up against limits to my hospitality and compassion?

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY JORGE PALACIOS, JR. | March 7, 2017

Our Father who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy name

Our Father, Father to all the peoples of the Earth, to the most destitute and the most powerful,
Father to those who condemn us and those who welcome us,
Father who protects us, who gives us life and strength to leave the only place we know as home,
may your name be always cherished by our lips, chapped and broken as they may be.

thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,

Though we do not feign to understand your will, we pray that it may be done.
Though we do not pretend to know what this new land holds for us, we pray that it may begin to look like home.

on earth as it is in heaven

May our outlook of heaven begin to take form here on earth,
and that our material poverty and struggle may begin to dissipate, making room for our heavenly home.

Give us this day our daily bread;

You, Father, are the source that provides for us, completely.
We rely on you, our rock and our salvation, for hope and for our physical needs.

and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us

Many will despise us for the languages we speak, for the color of our skin, and for the lands from which we come.
They will call us trespassers.
Forgive us for seeking worlds for ourselves, as we forgive those who despise us.

and lead us not into temptation

Do not let us forget who we are, where we come from, and how we got here.
Do not let us, Lord, forget you.

but deliver us from evil.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.

BY EILEEN MARKEY | January 31, 2017

I read the New York Times article on my phone as I walked back from parking the car. We’d been at a birthday party for an 8-year-old in New Jersey and now were back home in The Bronx, looking forward to a cozy evening. As I scrolled through the article that reported President Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee executive order had gone into effect and people were being detained at John F. Kennedy airport, I felt heavy with horror and despair. It’s a quiet-making feeling, despair.

Walking into the house, I found my six-year-old and 13-year-old sons wrestling happily in the living room. I walked upstairs and handed the phone to my husband. “It’s started. There are people being held at JFK,” I said. Already texts were flying between friends. Who was going?

The author’s children create posters before heading to John F. Kennedy airport to protest the immigration-related executive order.

These past few years, we’ve read about the Syrian refugees and migrants with our hearts burning, feeling helpless and impotent as a cruel world became crueler. It was to seek relief from this helplessness that in July my husband and I agreed to host a Syrian student who’d been admitted to a local Catholic college and needed a place to stay for the year. That’s been mostly easy. But the feeling Saturday afternoon was worse than seeing those pictures of the people in the boats. We know what they suffer and we were saying, as a nation: tough luck.”

I’ve never been under illusions about my country. I grew up going to protests against U.S. policy that funded death squads and assassination in Latin America. I observe Good Friday in Stations of the Cross that find Calvary in mass incarceration and U.S. torture. I live in a neighborhood where the effects of structural racism and an economy for the few are evident everywhere. But this was unmooring: a new regime holds power and is remaking American government at a dizzying speed. I didn’t want to cry in front of the kids, so I closed my eyes tight and drew in my breath.

We pulled out the markers and poster board. My older son took the Shepard Farley poster of a woman in an American flag hijab he’d saved from the Women’s March in D.C., and mounted it on a discarded piece of cardboard. We’d go to the airport. It seemed profane to stay home. But we went in horror and mourning.

I invited our house guest to come along, but he demurred. He’s no stranger to authoritarian governments and didn’t want to risk somehow being caught up in a sweep for people like him at the airport. It was quiet in the car as we drove to John F. Kennedy airport. I didn’t want to speak and risk poisoning my children with my despair. “There is a person in our home who is frightened, actually frightened, of our government,” I whispered to my husband. We looked straight ahead and put on a kiddie album, happy, sweet songs about camping and nature.

I’ve been in this airport dozens of times, picking up and flying off, glancing at the list of airlines with a New Yorker’s smug civic pride: the whole world is home here. But, no, the new president had now said with his executive order: Our fear is greater than our faith in even our own laws and immigration systems. It was cold out there in the parking lot of terminal 4. But as the crowd continued to grow, you could find warmth in the pack of bodies.  I know the rest of the country thinks New Yorkers are obnoxious. We kind of are. But we take great pride in this “city of immigrants” idea. Welcoming the stranger is a Venn diagram where who I am as a Catholic, an Irish person, and a New Yorker come together. And here were New Yorkers by the thousands, outraged and entitled and not taking it one bit. “How Dare You” seemed to be the overriding sentiment of the crowd.

We looked for friends for a little while then decided to stand near the fence separating the parking lot from the roadway. Television news vans set up their klieg lights, and more people kept coming. Young women in prayer shawls prepared to pray with the group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Muslim private car service drivers (the cabbies were already striking) honked and cheered as they drove past. A Protestant minister let us hold the sign he’d made that quoted Exodus (for you were a stranger once). Looking up at the five-story parking garage, I noticed hundreds of people leaning over the railings, waving banners and chanting. The chants moved through the crowd like the wave at a baseball stadium: Let them in”; “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here”; “Tell me what democracy looks like”this one my younger son knew well. “This is what democracy looks like,” he responded, half a beat ahead of those around us, and heads pivoted to see this small citizen.

Build a wall, we’ll tear it down,” the crowd cried in danceable rhythm. Someone passed cough drops and someone else distributed hand warmers. Across the roadway, the median where travelers wait for taxis was filling too – with every manner of New Yorker. Someone passed pizza through the crowd and someone else asked to borrow my phone to text her mother. Friends texted that the AirTrain, the public transportation to the airport, was overflowing. We knew that inside the terminal and at a courthouse a few miles away, lawyers were using their training, their expertise in the Constitution, to apply the law to justice. This was only one of many, many fights large and small for what is right. But I was proud to be a New Yorker that night, crying welcome, still, beside the golden door. And we were here in the mass, loudly shouting our values. It was a mighty and a joyful and a noisy crowd. If despair is quiet making, cold and lonely-making, hope is loud and communal.

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