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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.”

Holy Trinity Catholic Church staff and parishioners, including Christine Brown (second from right) delivered “Love Your Neighbor” Valentines to Congress.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

BY FR. TIMOTHY MCCABE, SJ February 3, 2017

The following is Fr. Timothy McCabe’s homily from January 29, 2017 at Sts. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in downtown Detroit, MI.

“Jesus saw the crowds,” our gospel begins today.  He saw the crowds and he began to preach.

There has been a lot of talk about crowds these days: sizes of crowds, crowds participating in the Women’s march in every major city in the United States; 137 crowds gathering in 40 different countries worldwide; crowds that marched for the Right to Life; spontaneous crowds gathered last night and today in front of JFK airport in New York and O’Hare in Chicago, and San Francisco, and Cleveland and Seattle and here in Detroit; crowds gathering in response to the executive order that has lead to the banning and detaining of refugees hoping for safe haven in our country.

Protester at Detroit Metro Airport on January 28. 2017 [Mary Anthony]

Jesus saw the crowds and he began to teach.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: those were been beaten down, those whose spirits have been broken by oppression and violence and are seeking refuge foreign lands. Blessed are those who mourn, those were forced to flee death and violence, those who have lost family and friends to the brutality of armed conflict.  Blessed are we who mourn when our country’s leaders turned their back on social justice, and diplomacy, and decency in the name of nationalism. Blessed are the meek, those without power, those without voice, those whose lives and futures are determined by others, by the absence of presence of compassion and kindness of other nations. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, hunger for justice. Those who understand God’s justice and how it is being thwarted by the powers and principalities in our world that act in defiance of God’s law.

Blessed are all these because God hears the cry poor.  God is here. God is with them. God is with us.

Blessed are the merciful, those who act in tandem with God’s will, those who magnify the love and compassion of God and express that to the poor, to the mourning, to the meek, and those who hunger for justice.   Blessed are the pure of heart, those who do not allow the hatred of others, the racism and sexism and homophobia of others to dictate how they see and act in the world. Blessed are the peacemakers: those who work for justice, for right relationships between God and humanity and between all human beings. Those who see that the kingdom of God is at hand, and do not put their trust in walls and weapons and the oppression of others–especially the most vulnerable–to keep themselves safe. Those who know way of peace, true peace, true shalom—will only be brought about by love.

Sermone della Montagna (Sermon on the Mount) by Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507)

While the prophet Zephaniah and St. Paul in today’s first two readings—may well be speaking and writing to crowds—they are not speaking about crowds. They are speaking about the remnant: the few who hear the word of God and act accordingly.  For Zephaniah, personal experience shows him–like the other prophets before him that those who will act in accordance to God’s commands are not a large numbers of people.  The majority do not listen to the prophets. And as Paul experienced the people follow God’s mandates are not the people he expected. It is rather the foolish the powerless, those who understand humanities dependence upon God, our dependency on God.

So why the poor? Why do they get? Perhaps it is because the more we trust in our own self-reliance, whether it’s our own will, or trusting in weapons of war, or executive orders of exclusion, the more we fall under the hypnotic delusion that we actually are in control.  We lose our sense of dependency upon God. We stopped discerning God’s word and God’s will. As the prophets warned us over and over again: when we move away from direct personal relationship with our creator, when we attempt to protect our citizens in ways that defy the law of God, we are subject to his judgment.  Jesus was clear: “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Pope Francis greets refugees in Italy [Jesuit Refugee Service]

Pope Francis has been very clear in the past few days what it means to be Christians.

The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian. You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes.  It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,”

And here is Cardinal Joe Tobin statement from yesterday:

Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation.  They are the opposite of what it means to be an American.  Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts.  Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities. In fact, threatening the so-called “sanctuary cities” with the withdrawal of federal funding for vital services such as healthcare, education and transportation will not reduce immigration.  It only will harm all good people in those communities. 

And yesterday our Archbishop wrote to the chair of the Imams Council of Michigan to express his support for immigrants and refugees, no matter their religion or country of origin and his opposition to discrimination on the basis of religion.

It happens every so often—since the beginning of the Jesus movement 2000 years ago—that his followers are called upon to be in communion with God and neighbor in a new way. Called upon to be the moral voice of our time. Called upon to be bold and courageous with their words and actions in defending the rights of the poor and vulnerable, outcast and the stranger among us. Called upon to proclaim a revolution of moral values that will be so threatening to the existing social system of domination that persecution will follow.

This call to the Christian community comes during perilous times: times when such a proclamation will have a cost. I believe we now live in such a time.

The question becomes for us is this: will we be part of the remnant: those who act and think according to the values and mission of Jesus Christ? Will we stand in and for the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus? If we live these beatitudes with boldness, if we do as he commands regardless of the cost, we are assured but His presence and blessing. We can even be joyful in glad when we face persecution and people utter all kinds of evil against us because we will be in good company, Jesus promises us a great reward.

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