Valentine’s Day: Ignatian Network Mobilizes to Encourage Congress to “Love” Immigrant and Refugee Community Members

BY ISN STAFF | February 14, 2018

Nearly 200 members of Congress received a Valentine today, February 14, 2018, from the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN), inviting them to consider how they can “love their neighbor,” including those who are immigrants and refugees. The Valentines arrive to Capitol Hill as U.S. Senators debate immigration proposals, including a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, offered by President Trump as well Senate members of both parties.  

Volunteers from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a Jesuit parish and ISN member institution in Washington, D.C., partnered with ISN to deliver the 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.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church staff and parishioners delivered “Love Your Neighbor” Valentines to Congress.

The message in the Valentines: Roses are red, Violets are blue. Our faith teaches us to love our neighbor, you should too!

Included with each Valentine was a cover letter that called on members to work for compassionate immigration policies that support family unity, provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented young people, and promote humane and just treatment of those who migrate. It also encouraged Congress to rethink policy proposals that unnecessarily militarize the border and increase the vulnerability of individuals fleeing their countries in search of safety.

Fr. Donald McMillan, S.J., associate pastor at the Jesuit Parish of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill, MA, delivers a “Love Your Neighbor” Valentine to Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey.

The effort on Capitol Hill is a part of ISN’s  “Love Your Neighbor Campaign,” a Valentine’s Day-centered initiative designed to support those who migrate. Institutions across the country, including Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson, MD; Cristo Rey New York High School in New York City; and The University of Scranton, in Scranton, PA, will create and deliver Valentines to district offices in their home states.

“While Valentine’s Day is often a chance to celebrate one’s love for that special someone,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, in a cover letter that was included with the Valentines, “It is a good time to also consider how we as a country show our love for our neighbors, including immigrant and refugee members of our communities — particularly as Congress debates the future for DACA recipients and immigrant families.”

Share the love: send your own Valentine’s Day message to your elected officials.

Jesuit Campuses, Student Government Presidents Advocate for DACA Recipients & Dream Act

BY ISN STAFFOctober 3, 2017

In response to the Tuesday, September 5 announcement that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Jesuit colleges and universities across the U.S. will participate in a Dream Action Week from October 9-13, 2017.

Focus will center around the Dream Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate. The bill outlines a three-step pathway to citizenship “for people who are either undocumented, have DACA or temporary protected status (TPS), and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program.” This is a critical legislative opportunity to protect people who strengthen U.S. communities.

The action week, which was initiated at Loyola Marymount University, will invite administrative and student leaders at all Jesuit campuses to urge their campus communities to advocate for the Dream Act by calling their Senators, utilizing an action alert created in partnership with the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Each campus will plan additional educational, awareness, and advocacy events.

A card designed to promote Dream Act advocacy efforts on Jesuit campuses during Dream Action Week.

Last week, the student body presidents at all twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States released a letter in support of undocumented students and their allies, uniting as leaders on their campuses in response to the recent DACA decision and in anticipation of Dream Action Week.

Public Letter from Jesuit Student Government Association Presidents
September 28, 2017

In response to the recent announcement of the removal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the student body Presidents of the twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States publicly stand in solidarity with our undocumented students and their allies. We, as a collective unit, acknowledge that this is a human issue that will impact over 800,000 members of our nation. Immigrants have played a crucial part in the foundation of this nation and have dreams and aspirations like any other person; these dreams should be preserved and kept sacred just as any other.

As colleges and universities rooted in the Jesuit traditions, our students are called to engage in the discourse and advocate for a more just and equitable world. In the face of injustice, we are challenged to practice a high level of discernment and allow our knowledge and experiences to inform our actions of being with and for others. It is important to emphasize that our unifying mission underlines the commitment to all people, regardless of national origin and documentation status. Any action and policy that seeks to divide and tear us apart should never be accepted and thereby calls for our total resistance to such.

With that being said, the student body Presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States will:

  • Work on behalf of our constituents to start the chain of calling our representatives.
  • Orchestrate educational efforts for students to learn more about the topics of immigration and DACA and how it relates to our Jesuit mission.
  • Strive to engage our students in dialogue and/or demonstrations that denounce the removal of this program.
  • Promote action off-campus to stand with the rest of the country in creating a greater understanding of the need for DACA and garnering more support of Congressional legislation.
  • Remind students of the appropriate resources on our respective campuses that support the spiritual, psychological, and emotional well-being of our students in order to uphold the value of cura personalis (care for the whole person).

With this statement, we encourage all students to treat this recent announcement of the removal of the DACA program as a call to action to stand with and contest this decision alongside those at the margins. We would like to highlight the importance of becoming educated on the matters at hand, participating in public protest, and communicating with your respective legislators to enact change. The understanding of our privilege must be utilized to realize our roles as higher education institutions in catalyzing social change in our contemporary world. We urge our peers across the country to stand together and for our undocumented students.

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

Nearly 700 Religious Leaders and Faith-Based Organizations Urge White House to Protect Families and Workers

BY ISN STAFF | September 27, 2017

Trump Administration Seeks to Strip the Legal Status of More Than 430,000 Immigrants

Photo by Philip Laubner/Catholic Relief Services

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Church World Service delivered a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke on Monday, September 18, urging her to extend Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for more than 430,000 people. The letter was signed by nearly 700 faith leaders and faith-based organizations from across the country, including the Ignatian Solidarity Network. 

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) provides protection from deportation and work authorization to people from countries that have been deemed too dangerous to return home. Similar to the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was recently terminated, the Trump Administration seeks to strip the legal status of immigrants who have lived and worked in the country for years. TPS holders are parents to nearly 275,000 U.S. citizen children. The vast majority of TPS holders are essential immigrant workers who have long contributed to the United States, filling crucial industries. They are childcare workers, small business owners, gardeners, cooks, builders, store clerks, and janitors.

“Our nation has a moral responsibility to provide continued temporary protection for people who have sought safety from violence and catastrophe,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “We stand with leaders of many faiths in calling on the White House to exhibit patience and compassion.”

Recent decisions to terminate DACA and TPS for Sudan as well as the looming threat to terminate TPS for Haiti mark a sharp turn away from core American values. With deadlines looming for TPS decisions that would affect more than 430,000 people, faith leaders and faith-based organizations are urging the White House to keep these essential workers protected under TPS until Congress can pass a lasting legislative solution. If the president and Acting Secretary Elaine Duke were to terminate their legal status, these immigrants would be forced to leave the country regardless of their family situations and long-standing ties to the United States. TPS holders would be forced to return to countries that are recovering from catastrophic natural disasters, disease, and rampant violence.

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

Jesuit Network Reacts to DACA Repeal Decision

BY ISN STAFF | September 6, 2017

Editor’s Note: The listing is not exhaustive and will be updated with additional statements and actions as they are made available.  To request the addition of a statement, event, or action, please e-mail Kelly Swan at kswan@ignatiansolidarity.net.

On Tuesday, September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the DACA program—undermining the dignity of 800,000 undocumented young people.

Jesuit institutions throughout the country have established themselves as institutions of learning accessible to a diverse range of students, including those who are undocumented. The Jesuit network—including the Jesuit Conference, Association of Jesuit College and Universities, the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and various schools and student groups—has quickly mobilized to offer support and begin to take action as advocates for the dignity of those affected by this decision on DACA.

Fr. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, on Tuesday released a Letter from the Jesuits on the Trump Administration’s Rescission of DACA. He spoke of the Jesuit network’s continued to commitment to educating undocumented students, reflecting that students “came to us for an education, you came for pastoral and spiritual guidance, and we welcomed you — not because of your nationality — but because you are our brothers and sisters in Christ. No government can tear that sacred bond.”

He went on to both call on Congress to act swiftly to find a long term solution for DACA recipients, and went on to affirm that “more than ever, we commit ourselves to living out God’s law, which calls on us to love the stranger, remembering that our ancestors in faith were once strangers in a foreign land.”

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in a statement echoed many of Fr. Kesicki’s points and calls to action, and strongly affirmed that “the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities will make every effort to protect the Dreamers among our students and alumni.”

Students, faculty, and staff at various Jesuit institutions immediately mobilized both on campus and in their communities, calling attention to the personal impact of this decision.

Loyola University Chicago undocumented students and allies at a September 5 rally.

Loyola University Chicago
Rally for Undocumented Students | September 5, 2017
Shared by an undocumented student at Loyola University Chicago at the rally: “Our students, regardless of their immigration status are members of our community. . . .There is only solidarity here.”

Students gather for “Prayer Vigil in Solidarity with Young Immigrants” on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross on the evening of September 5. In the background, Campion House, home of the Office of College Chaplains, can be seen, where candles will remain lit in the windows as a sign of welcome and solidarity with those impacted by DACA.

College of the Holy Cross
Prayer Vigil in Solidarity with Young Immigrants | September 5, 2017
On the evening of September 5, approximately 300 faculty, staff, and students gathered in prayer for the undocumented, particularly DACA recipients.
Shared by an undocumented College of the Holy Cross student at the vigil: “Fellow members of the undocumented community and allies, I encourage you to remember the power of community.  Acknowledge each others pain, suffering, and insecurities.  Maximize your resources to support each other.  Combat fear with love.  Defend love and do not let others be dehumanized on your watch.  A people united will never be defeated.”

Loyola Marymount University Media Response
Loyola Marymount University students speak out |  live phone interview for HLN
A teacher makes the Christian case to keep DACA | America Magazine
Cecilia González-Andrieu, associate professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University and ISN board member

Associated Students of Loyola Marymount University
Letter to Undocumented Students

Statements from Jesuit institutions:

Letter to Campus Community-DACA
Xavier University
Rev. Michael Graham, S.J., President

Statement regarding DACA announcement
Creighton University
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., President

A Statement on DACA
Santa Clara University
Rev. Michael E. Engh, S.J., President

We Stand With Our Dreamers
Loyola Marymount University
Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., President

Statement on the Rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program
Loyola University Chicago
Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, President

Letter from the President
Seattle University
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., President

Letter from the President
University of San Francisco
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., President

Marquette University leaders show support for students affected by DACA announcement
Marquette University
Dr. Michael R. Lovell, President
Dr. Daniel J. Myers, Provost
Dr. Xavier A. Cole, Vice President for Student Affairs
Dr. William C. Welburn, Executive Director, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

Letter to the Campus Community Regarding DACA
College of the Holy Cross
Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., President

McShane Endorses Statement Made by the AJCU on DACA
Fordham University
Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President

Statement About the Termination of DACA
John Carroll University
Dr. Jeanne Colleran, Interim President
Dr. Nicholas R. Santilli, Interim Provost and Academic Vice President
Dr. Mark McCarthy, Vice President for Student Affairs
Dr. Edward Peck, Vice President for University Mission and Identity

The Revocation of DACA and the Road Ahead
Canisius College
John Hurley, President

Statement on the DACA Executive Order
Saint Joseph’s University
Mark C. Reed Ed.D., President

A Call for Support of Undocumented Students
University of Scranton
Rev. Herbert B. Keller, S.J., Interim President

Statement on DACA
Boston College
Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., President

SLU Response to the Decision to Rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program
Saint Louis University
Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., President

We regret the end of DACA; “We will not give up in defense of ‘Dreamers'”
Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus

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

Students Connect Immigration Justice to Jesuit Values at Ignatian Justice Summit

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.

Kelly Swan

Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and is the mother of four energetic children. Prior to her time at ISN, Kelly worked in the areas of parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey.

Bishop Vásquez: Ensure Permanent Protection for DACA Youth

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.

Bishop Mark Seitz of Diocese of El Paso Discusses Pastoral Letter on Migration with Catholic Leaders and Media

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.

Local Advocacy Visit Provides Transformative Experience for NYC-Area Students

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.

Kelly Swan

Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and is the mother of four energetic children. Prior to her time at ISN, Kelly worked in the areas of parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey.

“Life is About Interactions”: Solidarity Week at Loyola Academy

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.

Kelly Swan

Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and is the mother of four energetic children. Prior to her time at ISN, Kelly worked in the areas of parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey.

St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, MN Becomes Second U.S. Jesuit Sanctuary Parish

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.