How to convey the richness and the hope of this conference simply and succinctly is a real conundrum. I will carefully choose a few pearls each day for this blog.
Then, as is my practice, when I return to the office, I will write a report that will be presented to 1) Joänne and Meg 2) Immigration Working Group and the Justice Commission 3) Carondelet Justice and Peace Personnel 4) Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph website 5) Catholic Charities of the Twin Cities Office for Social Justice 6) Jill Underdahl for the CSJ Alliance.
Sponsors of this conference include: University of Notre Dame: Center for Ethics and Culture; Department of Theology; Institute for Church Life; Institute for Educational Initiatives; Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Henkels Lecture Series; Kellogg Institute for International Studies: UND Student Government Immigration Task Force; Office of the President, Catholic Relief Services, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Center for Social Concerns, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Anonymous Foundation.
A few pearls:
#1 Pope Francis, July 8, 2013: Used the phrase “globalization of indifference” to describe the horrors migrants face, including death for many, as they traverse human, geographical, climate perils seeking a better life for themselves and their families. At this conference again we hear that immigration policy in the United States has become inordinately complex and innately inhumane. Examples of the shooting of unarmed migrants on our border with Mexico, deaths in the desert from lack of food and water, senseless and brutal beatings of migrants, vicious rapes, the concerns of home and landowners near the border for whom a quiet and peaceful life is a distant memory, the highest deportation rates in our history, the privatization of detention centers, the failure to provide due process and adequate health care to those detained, etc. are but a few examples of the “globalization of indifference” to the human rights and dignity of the people of God.
#2 Persons on the move: This phrase is new to me. Immigrant, migrant, documented and undocumented are still used. However, in what appears to be an effort to humanize people who migrate, I find this new phrase exciting. Interestingly, the term “New American” which was used extensively and encouraged in the New Messaging presentations at the 2012 Justice for Immigrants Conference in Atlanta is absent in the conference lexicon this year.
#3 Immigration, Law and Public Policy: The media portrays the opportunity to pass immigration reform in the near future as dismal. However, from the perspective of Kevin Appleby, Director, Migration Policy USCCB Migration and Refugee Services, passage is closer than ever. Will it be what everyone wants regarding enforcement, no. Will it be what everyone wants regarding a clear path to citizenship, no. It will be somewhere in the middle, it will be incomplete and, it will be a new beginning which is sorely needed since the last immigration law to pass was 1965. We are close and we must keep it moving forward!
#4 Catholic Schools and Immigration: Yet one more example of how we see life as we are rather than life as it is! I went believing that this workshop would be one which would support our office in engaging students at St. Catherine University in working for immigration reform and engaging them in active participation in the upcoming election cycle. Once again, my perception was light years off the mark!
This workshop, led by Rev. Joe Corpora, C. S. C. University of Notre Dame was all about the reality of the continued diminishment of Catholic Schools, the profound loss of women and men religious as teachers, principals and superintendents and the resulting loss of opportunity for children to receive a Catholic education. Besides getting a high quality education with high graduation rates and acceptance into college, he said, “no child in Catholic School ever belongs to a gang, that alone is incentive to send them. Tell this to their grandmothers and she will get them there!”
In addition, he cited that Catholic Schools have historically been immigrant schools who had their roots in the ethnicity of the parish and neighborhood. The Polish Catholic Church and school; the Italian Catholic Church and school; the Irish Catholic Church and school, each one guided by a superintendent, principal and teachers of that ethnicity. In addition, the school and classrooms mirrored the homes from which the children came. The Polish kids as sauerkraut, the Irish kids ate Irish Stew, the German kids enjoyed soup with spatzel. In addition portraits of patron saints hung on the walls and holy cards honored in the home were the same patron saints and holy cards the kids saw and learned about in the Catholic School.
The challenge today is the growing number of Hispanic children whose parents only know private schools from their experience in Latin America where ONLY the richest of the rich send their children. Therefore, Hispanic parents do not consider Catholic schools as an option. Even if they did the schools need to be representative of the Catholic home and community from which the children come.
I did not get what I expected from this workshop and I learned a great deal about the challenges Hispanic parents face as well as the recognition that priests need to do a better job of providing information on the option of Catholic Schools for their children and dispel the myth that only the children of the richest of the rich can attend!
During the Q & A, I addressed Fr. Corpora (an Italian) describing my perception of what the workshop would be vs what it was, expressing gratitude for what I learned and my continued need to find resources to engage SCU students and offer materials to our sponsored high school campus ministry departments. He then told us that there is a summer seminar scheduled in July to do just that! And guess what, it is full, enrollment is closed and people are still calling in wanting to attend. No surprise to me. When I return to St. Paul, I will contact the new SCU Campus Ministry Justice Coordinator to see if he is attending – I also learned yesterday that he is a UND alum!
#5 A woman in the crowd went to the microphone during the Q & A following the opening session yesterday, “Immigrants in America: Past and Present,” to ask about the voices of migrant women in the stories of immigrants past and present particularly since in the present more women migrate to the US to pave the way than men.
Later in the day I approached her to thank her for her question. I soon learned that she describes herself as an “exited woman.” She was trafficked as a teenager from Canada to the United States, subjected to violence and drugs for over 10 years; broke free; and because she had no documents, no high school diploma, she supported herself as a “dancer” for another 10 years. Since then she has climbed over obstacle after obstacle to earn her BS, HS-BCP and serves a social justice coordinator at Victory Noll Center in Huntington, IN. I told her that the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in 1650 in LePuy, France and their first ministry was to teach prostituted women lace making so they could provide for themselves and their children. She wept. She has questions about the work the Sisters of St. Joseph are doing today regarding trafficking and will contact our office soon for more information.
#6 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” – Ephesians 2:19
Posted by Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate