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Elena Segura is the director of the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago

Monday, January 04, 2010

Host and Guest and Immigrants

“This is my body…” (Mt 26:26) The Eucharist is a powerful Sacrament for all Catholics. We have a Host – transformed into the Bread of Life – who invites us (we are his guests)  to take and eat and likewise become hosts for all of humanity. Transformed ourselves, we receive and share the Spirit of God so He may dwell within us and so all of humanity may become one family of God. How can we receive and welcome the “other”? That is really our own choice for we are all called to the table of communion.  This message resonates with Pope John Paul II’s 1999 letter, “Ecclesia in America” that challenged the bishops of the Americas to find ways for people who live in their communities to receive each other and work together for the common good of all humanity.

Responding in June 2005, the USCCB launched the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform with two interconnected goals: educate the Catholic community and general public on the benefits of immigration and immigrants to this country, and work towards compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. Since then the Archdiocese of Chicago has worked intensively to implement both goals. In 2007, federal legislative efforts to pass some form of reform were unsuccessful. In my wrestling to understand why, I came to see that God has been giving all of us an opportunity to grow into a more intimate relationship with God and be the “host” of our immigrant brothers and sisters; and that the immigrant community has been called to love and pray for the anti-immigrant population, and visa versa  -- actions alone cannot change views.

While a minority of undocumented immigrants is guilty of felonies or criminal acts and should be punished accordingly, the majority has come to the U.S. for survival and a desire for the human dignity that is lacking in their own countries. Yet undocumented families live in uncertainty: many don’t know when they’ll see their loved ones again. They also live in fear of deportation. But as people of faith, it is during these times of uncertainty and of fear when hope is a constant companion. God is ever present and closer to the ones who seek Him.

As a community of faith, we are often given opportunities to grow in our relationship with God. Only in receiving undocumented immigrants as Jesus Christ – being Host to them – can we enter into common - union (i.e. communion) as the one family into which God calls us. Recognizing each immigrant as our brother or sister – not as strangers – will our eyes be opened to their dignity as human persons and we will be compelled to work in solidarity toward legislative change that is comprehensive and compassionate -- to fix the immigration system that separates them from their families.   This is the painful situation we see each week as we pray the Rosary at the Broadview Detention Center. 

Recently Pope Benedict XVI announced the 96th WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES, to take place in early January 2010:                                                                   

“I now turn in particular to parishes and to the many Catholic associations which, imbued with a spirit of faith and charity, take pains to meet the needs of these brothers and sisters of ours. While I express gratitude for all that is being done with great generosity, I would like to invite all Christians to become aware of the social and pastoral challenges posed by migrant and refugee minors. Jesus' words resound in our hearts: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35), as, likewise, the central commandment he left us: to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, but together with love of neighbor” (cf. Mt 22:37-39).”

From January to March 2010 the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, Archdiocese of Chicago will be conducting a legislative postcard campaign endorsed by the USCCB. We invite you to participate in communion with people of all faiths towards legislative immigration reform that is comprehensive and compassionate.  Please contact us at 312-534-8103 or mgonzales@archchicago.org  or visit our website www.archchicago.org/immigration

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Comments

Wednesday, January 06, 2010 3:36 PM

Elena,thank you very much for your most timely article. Why, who in 2010 still doesn't realize that the United States of America is in fact "a nation of immigrants" given our rich and many and diverse cultures? As an American whose ancestors helped shaped the Northern Mexican landscape back in the early 1900's, I have a legitimate and most heartfelt stake in this on-going battle for immigration reform. These families must no longer be separated from one another and every attempt to legalize the millions of undocumented workers whose children were born here, who work here, who pay taxes here should be implemented without delay. As Catholic Christians, we ought to stand with them and by them in this quest. Jesus would demand no less. We are all part of the broken body of Christ. You are absolutely right Elena--when we receive the host--Jesus' body, blood, soul and divinity, we are called to be Eucharist to all-no exceptions, no excuses--"all are welcome in this place." To all of my brothers and sisters from foreign lands who are hoping and praying for immigration reform, I stand by you and with you. I suppose it's all kind of paradoxical considering we can't even get this government to respect the sanctity of unborn human life. We've got our battles cut out for us.. Let's get down to it. Thank you and God Bless!

Carol B.

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