We are nearly at the end of the Church’s liturgical year, which means that Advent, followed by the season of the Nativity of the Lord will soon be upon us. I was reminded of this reality recently when I was just given a sticker of the Holy Family that could be put into any window for the Christmas season when the readings are proclaimed of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. But, it was different than any other Holy Family because it depicted Jesus, Mary and Joseph as migrants fleeing and running with the Star of Bethlehem above them. This depiction, I was told, can be found in locations in Southern California. This sticker reminded me of the importance of people of Faith, walking and journeying with our brothers and sisters who seek to “come out of the shadows” and be full and contributing members of our community here in the United States. A young girl from one of our parishes recently wrote me to say: “Dear Bishop Kevin Vann: I support the pathway to citizenship because I don’t want families to break apart. People deserve to have better jobs and opportunities. I will pray until people become legal in this beautiful country.”
In light of the above reflection and in view of legislation in our nation’s capital, I am inviting you to join me on November 16, at 1:00 pm on our Christ Cathedral Campus for a prayerful observance in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters and in support of comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. Immigration concerns stretch across many generations and the many ethnic groups who come to our country, including the majority of our ancestors, seeing the torch of the Statue of Liberty and echoing the words of Emma Lazarus, writing about the Statue of Liberty when she says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Masses yearning to be free.”
Because of the harmful impact of a broken system on human life and dignity, the Bishops of the United States have taught and continue to teach that the status quo is unacceptable and have called for the reform of the U.S. Immigration system. As Catholics we believe in the human dignity of all people, no matter their country of origin. For the Body of Christ, immigration reform finds foundation not only in Catholic social teaching, but as a response of Faith as well. Archbishop Jose Gomez has recently stated in his work Immigration and the Next America that: “Immigration is a human rights test of our generation. It’s also a defining historical moment for America. The meaning of this hour is that we need to renew our country in the image of her founding promises of universal rights rooted in God. Immigration is about more than immigration. It’s about renewing the soul of America.”
There are, and have been, many voices who call forth from us a response of Faith to the difficulties experienced by immigrant families. Certainly Pope Francis has recently called attention to the plight of immigrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa. His words were an echo of those of Pope Benedict XVI in Washington D.C. on his pastoral visit to the United States several years ago. Even more so, we turn to the words of Pope John Paul II in his message for World Migration Day in 1995: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matthew 25:35). Today the illegal migrant comes before us like that ‘stranger’ in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.”
As part of our response to those voices who call out to us, I would ask you once again, to join with me in your voices of prayer and song in support of our brothers and sisters who seek to live a life out of the “shadows” here in the United States and be recognized and contribute the good of this country that they do indeed love. The date, place and time are The Christ Cathedral Campus, Saturday November 16, at 1:00 pm.
I would like to conclude with a pleading voice of another child who recently wrote to me: “Father Obispo, I love my family and want to be together forever with my brother, Mom and Dad. My mother is undocumented and I don’t want her to return to Mexico because I will miss her and feel sad. I don’t want the family to be separated. I want all the kids to be with their family. God bless you. Thank you God for everything!! I love my community, and the whole world and the people that are poor and rich and most of all everybody in the whole wide world.”
Gratefully yours in Christ,
+ Bishop Kevin Vann