The Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children held outside the US Capitol brought together more than 200 Catholic sisters, priests, brothers and lay Catholic advocates representing nearly 20 national organizations who sang, prayed, and chanted as they demanded an end to the immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children. This action is the beginning of a campaign in which Catholic leaders are increasing their willingness to take significant risks as an act of faithful resistance. Later, inside the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda, 70 Catholic leaders locked arms in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience and were arrested, in an effort to put pressure on Congress and the presidential administration to end the immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children. Photos here. Video of civil disobedience here.
LCWR executive director Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ was among those who spoke at the prayer service. Her text follows below. A video of her address is on the LCWR Facebook page.
In addition, many LCWR member congregations held prayer services in their motherhouses throughout the country as the prayed for the country to find humane ways to work with the immigrant situation.
Thank you for being here as people of faith. Thank you for inviting us to share in this important gathering. I am Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of Saint Joseph and the Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. We represent 300+ religious congregations of women out of the 400+ here in the United States. Our members represent 80-85%/42, 000 – 45, 000 Catholic Sisters living and ministering in our homeland.
The Catholic community around the world heard the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan at the celebration of the Eucharist recently. “Who is my neighbor?” was the question posed by the scholar of the Law. And the answer is as clear today as it was when the answer was given: “the person who treated the one in need with mercy and compassion.” The person who did the good regardless of the cost. The person who did the good regardless of the inconvenience. The person who did the good regardless if it was popular or not. The Good Samaritan, the Golden Rule, the countless stories where the Gospel message and the sacred texts of other world religions provide the way in which we are to live as sisters and brother to each other are so clear: tend the widows; care for the orphans, and make sure no one is in need!
Historians remind every civilization that they will not be judged by their nation’s Gross National Product nor the success measured by Wall Street nor the strength of their economy, military or politics. No, civilizations and cultures are and will be judged by the way they treat the most vulnerable, marginalized, poor and oppressed among them.
We are here today because of our faith. The Gospel message compels us to act now. The values of our own homeland, the United States of America, demand that we act now. The long history Catholic Sisters have had as immigrant communities themselves to this country and the 2 centuries of presence and ministry to the most vulnerable of God’s People prompt us to act now—to stand here and stay here until our faith and our values are respected and reverenced.
We have seen the pain, suffering, fear and trauma of our sisters and brothers at our southern border firsthand. In these recent months, as the humanitarian crisis has escalated, we’ve joined hundreds of thousands of our citizens who are outraged as the horrific treatment of families and, especially, children comes into our living rooms and media screens. The inhumane treatment of children, being done in our name, must STOP.
STOP the pain.
STOP the suffering.
STOP the oppression.
STOP the traumatizing.
STOP the isolation.
STOP the detention of children.
STOP. STOP. STOP.
In the name of the values of this country—STOP.
In the name of the good, the compassionate, the merciful, the kind, the just One—STOP.
In the name of the future generations in this country and in the countries, who are our neighbors—STOP.
STOP the inhumanity.
STOP the detention of children.
We are here not only to demand that these actions STOP. We are here to demand that new actions START.
START placing children with members of their families in this country, with sponsors who are available all across this country, with community-based case management programs where they can stay until they are able to appear in immigration court.
START listening to the stories of those who journey to out southern border. Who of us would leave everything behind and undertake the perilous journey these families choose to make? Who would do that? Only people who are desperate and in great need and fear for their lives and the lives of their families. LISTEN to them.
START addressing the systemic reasons why people choose to leave their homeland.
START addressing the policies from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago implemented by our own government that have created the situation in countries from which people are fleeing.
START addressing our own need for humility and vulnerability to own our complicity in creating the situations from which these people are escaping with their lives.
The Catholic women religious of LCWR continue to serve the needs of the most vulnerable. In the past few months over 1000 Catholic Sisters have spent time ministering to those in need who come to our southern border. Even as we stand here today our Sisters and their Associates, Partners in Mission, volunteers in ministry are present along the border. And we have donated over $1 Million to help support the needed care of the human family seeking safety, security and a better life for their families. We will continue to minister to their needs and advocate for the systemic policy changes so that just immigration procedures will be enacted.
Who is my neighbor? The one who is in need! Who was neighbor to the one in need? The one who did the GOOD. How do we live the message found in the Gospel: “As long as you did it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” Five simple words: You did it to me. We have the entire Gospel on the tips of our fingers. The same fingers that send emails and texts and phone calls to our congressional representatives. The same fingers that we will use to vote. You did it to me!
May we stand as one in our faith, in the love of the values of our homeland and in compassionate service to the most vulnerable wherever we see them. Amen.