During a May Day march with immigrants, workers and allies, I knew the tension between the suffering that often goes along with the work of upholding human dignity and the graces we receive from God in the midst of it all.
I grew up in a home where Dad was an organizer, so we grew up expecting everything to be in order. Dad's workbench had a chalked outline for each tool, arranged from the smallest hammer or screwdriver to the largest. Before we could read, we would line up our Tinker Toy rods by size, shortest to longest. Our building blocks likewise were automatically sorted into small, medium and large.
"When a country is at war, there's no such thing as a safe place," said Fadi Ali, a Syrian refugee currently living with Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus sisters in Buenos Aires. The sisters sponsored him and his family through the Foundation of the Argentine Catholic Commission on Migration in 2015. To Ali, the sisters who took him in are "the best followers" of Jesus, and those who believe in whatever God they want, whatever prophet they want, must consider what those prophets would do today, he said.
I joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy, whose charism — "Loving God and neighbor without distinction" — attracted me. My understanding of "neighbor" grew deeper working with the poor, the Dalits, and other marginalized people during my initial period of religious life and ministry. I found Jesus in them through ministries in education and religious formation.
I venture to say Wilson, a migrant from Guatemala, knows the Passion story in his bones. While the rhetoric in our country would condemn him as a criminal, I see that he is Jesus.
In the 1980s, women religious played a prominent role in the sanctuary movement, which sheltered refugees fleeing Central American civil wars. Now their communities are trying to discern whether a sanctuary movement is the best way to help immigrants under threat today.
I was privileged to join a 10-day "root causes pilgrimage" to Honduras last December with a group from California, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. The purpose of the pilgrimage was to identify the real reasons why so many from the "Northern Triangle" — Guatemala, El Salvador, and particularly Honduras — continue to migrate north despite the many obstacles they face. Delegations like this from the United States provide a witness to the poverty, the political system, and other issues which the people face.
GSR Today: When I met Aayda Merhej a year ago, she struggled with the day-to-day agonies that exacted a toll on many Syrian refugees in Lebanon. "We're just trying to survive right now," she told me.
I'm what you might call a cradle Catholic. I grew up in the "Catholic ghetto" on the south side of Indianapolis. Everyone I knew, aside from a few Asians and adopted kids at my school, was white and Catholic. My senior year of high school, I experienced a significant holy disruption to the bubble of white privilege in which I lived — a holy disruption that continues to shape my journey today.
For sisters and organizations helping resettle Syrian refugees in Ontario, reaching out to help the families means relying on others in the community and forging new paths toward interfaith cooperation.
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