Dear Sisters and Brothers –
I write about a special situation with some urgency. The topics of immigration, refugees, and sanctuary have been ubiquitous in recent memory.
Their politicization has been polarizing, photos have been disturbing, and the messages have been, at times, confusing. Fortunately, we Catholic Christians have a couple of things to ground us.
The first is Scripture, which has much to say about immigrants. In fact, the Hebrew word closest to our concept of immigrant appears 92 times in the Old Testament. Two such examples are "For the LORD, your God... executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving them food and clothing. So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10: 18-19) and "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God” (Levit. 19:34). Jesus made his thoughts on the issue clear in his parable about the sheep and the goats – the former were to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you” because they feed the hungry, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, and visited the sick and imprisoned (Matt. 25).
The second is the teaching of the Church and the U.S. Bishops, which I talked about at most Masses last February http://tinyurl.com/Feb-5th-Homily . St. Pope John Paul II noted, “Today the illegal migrant comes before us like that ‘stranger’ in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show him solidarity is the duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.”
As you know from last week’s bulletin, http://stignatiussf.org/post/immigrants-and-refugees-in-our-community, a group of interested parishioners has been studying and praying about this issue and looking for ways in which our faith community should respond. As the bulletin noted, there is an immigrant family with an immediate need. St. Agnes and St. Ignatius Parishes were approached by Faith in Action Bay Area and asked to consider accompanying this family.
Reina is seeking asylum in the U.S. for herself and her five children, (ranging from 18 months to eleven years old). She brought her family north from Mexico in order to escape an abusive husband and father. She has a court date of February 17, 2018 and her immigration lawyer says that there is an 80% chance that the entire family will be granted asylum. In the meantime, these sisters and brothers of ours need help.
This family arrived after hours at the shelter where they were staying because they were in the Emergency room due to the ill health of several of the children and initially ended up sleeping on the streets in San Francisco. St. Agnes temporarily put them up in a motel room in the Tenderloin where they are staying now. They have two beds, a shower, a refrigerator, a microwave, and most importantly, they are safe. But this is a temporary solution. After July 5th, they will move into the upper floor of St. Agnes’ Spiritual Life Center unless we are able to find more permanent housing for them.
Our faith community has a long tradition of generosity. Knowing that the best predictor of future performance is past performance and after consultation with our Parish Staff and those who have been working on this project, I have decided that we will indeed partner with the St. Agnes parishioners to help this family.
The immediate needs are two: housing and cash. If you have or are aware of accommodations that would be suitable for Reina and her family, please contact Annette Lomont, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 844-0262, who can answer any questions you might have about the family. The second need is for cash. If you would like to donate cash to help the family with groceries, medication, and more, please visit the GoFundMe site that has been set up for this purpose: https://fundly.com/we-are-family-12# There you can also see the photo of the family.
I understand this is a serious responsibility. I also know it is the desire of many to respond to the large and complex problem of immigration and asylum. God, I believe, has provided our communities with a concrete way to make a response, to be faithful to our Christian identity, as St. John Paul says. Thank you, in advance and once again, for putting skin on the Mystical Body of Christ and holding this family. I am enormously grateful for your generosity.