One month after the fast for immigration reform began, the Fast for Families coalition packed up the tent on the National Mall. Though Congress is on winter break, activists have not given up their fight to create a path to citizenship for immigrants in the United States.
“I feel very fortunate that we touched the hearts of America,” Eliseo Medina, who abstained from food for 22 days, told Democracy Now. “Even though Congress left town without doing comprehensive immigration reform, I think there is no doubt that they have to do something now. When they come back in January, they will have to… continue the act of creating a just immigration system.”
From the start of the fast on Nov. 12, a Franciscan was in the tent each day. On Dec. 3, Franciscans around the globe participated in a designated Franciscan fast day that concluded with a multicultural prayer service at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md. Close to 300 members of the Spanish, English, French and Bangla-speaking communities shared religious songs and scripture passages focused on immigration.
Bishop Francisco González of Washington gave the homily, and several St. Camillus parishioners offered witness talks. Attendees were deeply moved by the testimony of a mother with two small children whose father had been deported to Guatemala three years ago. At the end of the prayer service, the two young boys joined dozens of others who stopped to write messages of encouragement to the core fasters.
The Franciscan Fast4Families prayer service concluded with a call to action rooted in hope, in the traditional exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and one mystery of the rosary prayed in each of the four languages. Particularly noteworthy was the enthusiastic participation of the Latino members of the Secular Franciscan Order in the Fast4Families initiative, according to Fran Eskin-Royer of the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
“The Secular Franciscans were very involved in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, in the fasting effort, and in helping supporters write prayers and messages of hope to the fasters,” she said.
Though the fast has concluded, Franciscans and others around the country remain dedicated to the cause. Last week, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, chair of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, appeared on EWTN with two others who have been fighting for immigration reform — Patrick Carolan, director of the Franciscan Action Network, and Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, FAN’s director of advocacy and member relations. In the Dec. 11 interview, the trio emphasized the importance of continuing the initiative for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Information about ways to continue to advocate for immigration reform are posted on the Fast for Families website.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province. Jocelyn Thomas provided research for this story.