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Faith leaders hold vigil at Clay County Justice Center

Sister Tracey Horan listens as Elmer Pena talks about his wife, Sonia Avile, who is currently being detained at the Clay County Justice Center.

Elmer Pena started to break down as he spoke about his wife, Sonia Avile, saying to the crowd that since his wife was detained by United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents in Indianapolis, their three children they would wake up in the middle of the night crying out for their mother.

“I don’t understand why this administration is doing this,” Elmer said through his interpreter, Sister of Providence Tracey Horan. “We are people who came here to work. Just because of the actions of one, you can’t judge all.”

Elmer was one of several speakers at the “Prayer Vigil in Solidarity with Sonia,” in support of his wife, Sonia Avile, an Indiana mother of three children, all born in the United States. Recently, ICE agents detained her and brought her to the Clay County Justice Center, 611 E. Jackson St., Brazil, the only ICE Detention Center in the state.

Sonia has lived in Indianapolis for nearly two decades. She and her husband fled El Salvador in 1999 and fear returning, but if Avile is deported, the family will relocate to the country, a land their children do not know.

“This is not easy for me,” Elmer continued. “My wife is detained here and suffering from missing her children. They don’t have the right to take a mother from her children.”

Elmer and Sonia had plenty of supporters in attendance Wednesday as many clergy leaders with Faith in Indiana, as well as several Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and many others who took part in the vigil.

Sister of Providence Barbara Battista spoke at the vigil, calling for federal government to put an end to the separating of families.

“We gather this day to say las familias primero, families first,” Sister Barbara said. “We are here to send several messages: One of support for Sonia and her family. Another to say to our national and local leaders – respect families, respect children, support the well-being of hard-working contributing members of our communities.

“We gather to say to Sonia and to so many others in communities across this country that we the people do not support tearing families apart. Decisions made at the highest level of government dishonor the moral fabric of this country.”

Sister Barbara discussed how the tearing apart of families is “bending away from justice.”

“When we stand by while ethnic cleansing runs rampant in our community, we are bending away,” she said. “As people of faith, we are called to be agents of change, to strengthen the moral fiber of our communities. In this most challenging time, when those in power seem to have lost their footing, we can choose to show those in power that indeed, the universe is bending toward justice.”

According to Faith in Indiana members, Sonia and Elmer have been married for 12 years and are among nearly 200,000 other native Salvadorans who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

During the vigil on Wednesday, many of the speakers shared Sonia’s story. They discussed who she was as a person and how they felt regarding her situation now that she has been detained.

“This breaks my heart, and the hearts of many people,” Elmer told the crowd. “These children are suffering a lot in this moment. But we have to unite and move forward together.”

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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