DURHAM, N.C. — On the feast of the Assumption of Mary, more than 1,500 people from cities across North Carolina gathered in the sanctuary of Immaculate Conception Church. The crowd was not there to worship at Mass, however, but for a state-wide advocacy event in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
The assembly heard Washington legislators, candidates for national office, and labor leaders tell of the need for federal measures to respect the human right to migrate, to provide the United States with needed jobs, to register Latino voters and to maintain the integrity of immigrant families.
According to “Latinos, delegates call for reform,” which appeared in the Aug. 16 Durham Herald-Sun, the five points of reform supported by the rally are:
· family reunification
· workers protection
· restoration of the rule of law and enhancement of security
· allocation of sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels
· a rational and humane approach to the undocumented population
The 3:30 p.m. gathering on Aug. 15, sponsored by the North Carolina Latino Coalition, meant canceling the parish’s usual 5 p.m. Sunday liturgy.
“Even though our parish celebrates the Eucharist six times on a Sunday, canceling a celebration in my church is a huge move given our belief in what Jesus does for us in this Supper,” wrote pastor Daniel McLellan, OFM, in an opinion piece for the Aug. 10 issue of Durham Herald-Sun.
Nearly 35 percent of Immaculate Conception’s 2,500 households are Latino, according to Dan, and “immigration reform is one of three actions at the center of the parish’s social justice efforts.”
One Latino attendee, who works in construction and is active in the parish as a lector and leader of Latino young adults, said the assembly was a much needed effort to impress on lawmakers the plight of 12 million immigrants who “are here to stay and want to be contributing members of American society,” said Daniel. He participated in the Province’s Encuentro Franciscano, a gathering to celebrate Hispanic culture and ministry, last fall.
Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, co-chair of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, described the event as “a great example of a local ministry being proactive in putting into practice our JPIC Strategic Action Plan in the area of advocacy.” Jacek added that he hopes the assembly at Immaculate Conception Parish serves as an opportunity to “animate and mobilize people on this issue.”
“Ours is a faith that does justice; ours is a citizenship informed by our faith,” Dan wrote. “And our faith tells us that part of the measure of our witness to God’s love for us is the love we have for others, especially ‘the widow and orphan, the alien and the stranger.’”