Regis Parish holds prayer vigil in solidarity with immigrants and refugees

Over 100 people came to pray and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees at a prayer vigil October 7 at St. John Francis Regis parish in Kansas City. (Key Photo/Megan Marley)

By Megan Marley

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee…”
“…vous tes bénie entre toutes les femmes, et Jésus le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni…”
“Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.”

A babble of tongues recited the Rosary in several languages as Catholics, and other Christians and persons, joined to pray and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees the evening of October 7, at a candlelit prayer vigil held at St. John Francis Regis parish in Kansas City.

The vigil began to the rhythmic beat of drums, as local Matachines, traditional prayer dancers, led the procession into church for Mass. Celebrant of the Mass was Fr. Andres Moreno, pastor of St. Anthony parish in Kansas City, Mo., concelebrating with Fr. Gianantonio Baggio, director of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Ks. Office of Hispanic Ministry, and retired diocesan priest Fr. Michael Gillgannon, and assisted by Deacons Sam Adams and Ken Albers.

In his homily, Fr. Moreno, himself coming from Colombia, spoke of the biblical law on the treatment of immigrants.

“I was reading my office of readings in the morning, and I found a quote that’s very profound, very proper for this special moment. It says, from the book of Exodus: ‘you shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you yourself were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt’,” Fr. Moreno said.

“Today, we gather together as a Church, to pray and reflect on this issue of immigration, and our brothers and sisters who suffer in this grave issue, which is a source of great division and polarization in this country today,” he continued. “Since we are Christians, we have an obligation, a serious obligation…more than obligation, a vocation! To be concerned about justice and charity and mercy. We’re not just Americans. We are Catholic. We are the Catholic Church.”

After Mass, the Matachines led the recessional out of church and continued their dance outdoors as people received candles and took their place on and around the stepping-stone ‘beads’ of the nearby rosary garden. The Rosary was initiated by Deacon Ken Albers of St. John Francis Regis and Jessica Ayala, writer and activist at the Charlotte Street Foundation, and continued by members of the living Rosary.
Afterwards, the Matachines led the way to the old Archbishop O’Hara common area for dinner and to hear the testimonies of DACA students and talks on church teaching on immigration. DACA is a program that defers immigration proceedings against eligible immigrants brought to this country in their youth. It was recently scheduled for revocation by the Trump administration.

Jareth, a biology/pre-med student at the University of Kansas, has called the U.S. ‘home’ for as long as she can remember. Brought from Mexico at age 3 for a better life, it wasn’t until hitting roadblocks with Federal Student Aid and college applications in high school that she found out she was different from her classmates.

“I felt pretty bad; I had a 3.9 GPA and was fourth in my class of 200-something students, and seeing people who weren’t even trying get full rides…just taking it for granted.”

With private scholarships and a job, she has been able to attend college.

“I’m really thankful for DACA, because without it I wouldn’t have a job and I probably wouldn’t be able to go to school because of the money,” she said. “Now that DACA is going away, there are 800,000 of us who are working to contribute to society, contribute to our communities, and it’s taking our dreams away from us. Coming here though and seeing you here, gives us hope.”

Zaid, an entrepreneur and DACA recipient, had similar struggles when applying for college and was initially afraid that DACA was a trick. Now he’s found his voice and asks citizens to get informed, vote and contact representatives.

“We are part of a community, whether a community likes it, accepts it, or not. We have planted roots now,” he said. “Whether we like it or not, we are part of this country and it would be very devastating to be deported or moved out or sent to jail. There are those here whose DACA is going to expire in March, that are not going to be able to renew. A lot of them are newcomers, they are high-schoolers and it will be tough on them.”

“Please don’t just do nothing, because that is the worst thing you can do.”

Trinidad Molina, program coordinator for immigrant and refugee ministry in the diocesan Human Rights office, mentioned the understated value of prayer, and stated the three basic principles of the Church on immigration.

“People have the right to migrate, to improve their condition of life for themselves and their families. The Church also recognizes that states have the right to regulate their borders, the Church will recognize that. The third principle of the Church is that countries have to regulate with justice and mercy. How this applies to our country today, the USCCB clearly states.”

Fr. Gianantonio Baggio, director of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Ks. Office of Hispanic Ministry and Italian immigrant, also spoke on the Church’s teaching on treatment of immigrants, starting off with a quote on just treatment of foreigners from Leviticus 19:34.

“The Catholic Church, following the tradition of the people of God since the beginning, always had a special place for foreigners and a sense of welcoming,” Fr. Baggio said.

He went on to quote the Vatican document ‘Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi’ (2004), on how the Christians must promote a culture of welcome and respect of the human value of immigrants beyond difficulties of living together. He also quoted the joint pastoral letter of bishops of the United States and Mexico (Strangers No Longer: Together On The Journey Of Hope, 2003) on the Christian obligation to show mercy and stand in solidarity with those in trouble, particularly those in difficult immigration status.

Fr. Baggio concluded with the point that the USCCB’s position statement on the September rescindment of ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ (DACA) is consistent with treating DACA youth with human dignity.

“Regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”


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November 28, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph