BY KELLY SWAN | February 28, 2018
From February 11-18, 2018, the Jesuit and Catholic network in the United States captured the spirit of Valentine’s Day by showing love to their neighbor—regardless of immigration status.
The Love Your Neighbor Campaign, facilitated by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, united more than 5,000 individuals in efforts to support, advocate with, and affirm the dignity of those who migrate.
A component of the Campaign for Hospitality, a two-year initiative aimed at building a more just and welcoming culture toward those who migrate, Love Your Neighbor focused on action, advocacy, and support.
Campaign actions included a fair-trade valentine “chocolategram” option in collaboration with Equal Exchange, a social media campaign utilizing #MigrantsWelcome, and a valentine-writing initiative to Congressional members throughout the U.S.
On Valentine’s Day volunteers from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a Jesuit parish and ISN member institution in Washington, D.C., partnered with ISN to deliver nearly 200 valentines to the offices of U.S. senators and representatives who are graduates of Jesuit schools or serve a district or state in which a Jesuit institution is located.
Christine Brown, a parishioner at Holy Trinity, reflected on her experience of delivering valentines on what also happened to be the first day of Lent: “One of the comforts I wanted to give up for Lent was my daily routine and flex time. Walking through the halls of Congress on behalf of Holy Trinity parishioners who took time to sign the valentines felt like a better use of that time.”
She went on to share that “every staff person I encountered at each office was respectful and appreciative of the valentine delivery. A few had time to listen to our purpose of keeping migrants in mind on this St. Valentine’s Day as ‘We Love Thy Neighbor’ through our legislative decisions. A few of them opened it in front of me and even more admired the sticker.”
Hundreds of additional valentines were created and delivered via mail, fax, or in-person by students, faculty, staff, and parishioners at Jesuit and other Catholic high schools, colleges, universities, and parishes.
“This Lent, we do not want to just put on a spectacle and bore people with refugee facts for these forty days; we want to change minds,” said Christian Conte, a freshman at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia. “The Bible is a migration story. Jesus was a migrant, and nearby villages welcomed this stranger with open arms, hearts, and minds. Today, the topic of migration, immigration, and refugees has become too political, and many Christians and Catholics alike are forgetting what Pope Francis and the Catholic church support. Pope Francis encourages world-power countries, such as the United States, to build bridges instead of walls.”
Valentines included many personal stories from individuals directly affected by immigration policy, or who support peers, neighbors, and community members who have immigrated.
Henry Dowd, a freshman at Loyola Blakefield, a Jesuit high school in Maryland, wrote: “I come from a family of immigrants. My mother emigrated from Brazil. My father’s family is originally from Ireland. With the laws that our current president wants to implement, neither of them would have been able to come to America. I would not have ever been born. I implore you to make Maryland a place of equality and safety for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.”
Kelly Swan has worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016, first as communications director, and now as director of advancement. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.