North Carolina Church Displays Images of Immigrant Challenges

HNP Communications Around the Province

RALEIGH, N.C. — When a delegation from St. Francis of Assisi parish here traveled to the Mexican border to study immigration issues first hand, one question continually came up: “What would you have us do when we return home?”

From migrants poised to attempt to cross the desert border to aid workers providing water, the answer was always the same, “Tell our story.”

Once home, the church team developed a photography exhibit now displayed at the church. Sponsored by the parish’s Franciscan coalition for justice and peace, the exhibit, “Names We’ll Never Know,” will be displayed through the end of June.

The exhibit features approximately 50 photographs submitted by members of the delegation, along with accompanying text. The exhibit tells the story of immigrants at the border.

So far, hundreds of parishioners viewed the exhibit. At liturgies on Trinity Sunday, the friars’ homilies, the prayers, and the music were devoted to continuing the mission to deepen the congregation’s compassion for those most affected by the immigration crisis.

Calling on the parish to continue its bold stand for the “least of these,” David McBriar, OFM, asked, “How wide is your embrace? How long the reach of your compassion?”

Mark Reamer, OFM
, pastor, said: “The response of parishioners was solemn as they entered into the story of those who live on the border.  The pictures tell a powerful story and provided a wonderful way for the delegates to share what they had experienced. It was not without controversy however, as some parishioners did not understand why a church would discuss the issue of immigration during the homily. The parish, thanks to the leadership of the Franciscan coalition and the support of Holy Name Province, has looked for many different ways to invite parishioners into conversation about this issue in light of the U.S./Mexican bishops’ document: Strangers No Longer, Together on the Journey of Hope. This art exhibit is yet another way to reach people — reach them at a more emotional and compelling level.”