“…in an age of such vast movements of migration, large numbers of people are leaving their homelands, with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions. Often, however, such migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesial communities, prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution. In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need.”
— Pope Francis on Immigration Reform, September 2014
A statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), expressing deep concern about Executive Orders
We, the leadership team of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, are members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). This LCWR statement (below) expresses and affirms our deep concerns regarding President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement. We are a Congregation founded by immigrants and we minister with immigrants. We are witnesses to their tragic pain and struggle as to the valuable contribution they make to this country.
We urge everyone to pray with us our Litany of Nonviolence.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is deeply disturbed by many of President Trump’s recent executive orders. His misplaced priorities and denigration of the values that form the bedrock of this nation, threaten us all.
We are deeply concerned about the administration’s executive orders on immigration and refugee resettlement, which serve only to threaten border communities, force our immigrant community members further into the shadows, and endanger those fleeing violence. These misguided executive orders do nothing to make anyone more secure and may well have the opposite effect.
Spending billions of dollars on an unnecessary and ineffective wall and further militarizing the border will divert funding from health, education, and social programs and will not make America safe again. In fact, such action threatens the health and well-being of border communities, the environment, and those seeking refuge in our country. President Trump’s orders, if enacted, will tear families apart, challenge our already stressed immigration courts, and deny those fleeing persecution and violence their right to asylum; all at enormous cost to our treasure and our souls.
The president’s attempt to enhance public safety in the interior by cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties will have the opposite effect. It challenges local authority and threatens to destroy the hard won trust of the immigrant community. The order eviscerates prosecutorial discretion and places every undocumented person in the country in danger of immediate deportation.
Finally, we are appalled by President Trump’s order which bands residents of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, suspends refugee resettlement entirely for four months, and bars resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely. This is unconscionable in the face of the unprecedented global refugee crisis. More than 61 million people have been displaced from their homes, more than at any time since World War II. Some 21 million are refugees; most are children who have been forced from their homes by unthinkable violence. The Trump administration has forced all of us to turn our backs on families who are literally running for their lives.
This nation has a long history of welcoming immigrants and sheltering refugees. Women religious have been blessed to be able to accompany and serve immigrant and refugee communities across this country for a very long time. Catholic sisters remain committed to welcoming refugees who come to this country after passing through the U.S. government’s already rigorous screening processes. Halting or undermining the U.S. refugee resettlement program leaves vulnerable refugees, including women and children fleeing violence, in extreme danger and diminishes us all.
We strongly object to President Trump’s attempt to limit our ability to heed God’s call to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35) and to care for those most in need (Matthew 25:40) and we are particularly concerned about rules and regulations that deny access to refugees because of their religion, race or nationality. It is a violation of our faith and every norm of humanity.
We vow to continue to welcome refugees and minister to immigrants. LCWR and its members will continue to press for restoration of refugee resettlement, relief for families, an end to needless deportations, and the closure of all family detention centers. We will continue to advocate for compassionate, bipartisan legislation that fixes our broken immigration system. We will continue to stand in solidarity with families, regardless of immigration status, who labor daily to provide safety and security for their children.
LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has nearly 1,300 members, who represent more than 38,800 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.
By Sister Teresa Costello
How did I come to minister with immigrants? When I took time off from the formal classroom to study, I found myself shifting to something less academic, more pastoral in tone.
Having completed my studies at the Graduate Theological Foundation in Mishawaka, Indiana, I accepted a ministry with the Diocese of Norwich as Director of Ministry to Divorced Persons. During that time, I observed a great deal about family life needs and relationships. Providentially, that experience would prepare me for my next ministry.
When the opportunity to teach English to immigrants in Florida became a possibility, I began a ministry that just stole my heart!
I loved working with the families. I was inspired by their spirituality, their faithfulness and their deep love for family life. I recall one man talking about the Our Father and very intently holding his hands open, not praying for daily bread, but for daily strength to help his family.
Primarily I taught women. While the children played nearby, their mothers studied the English language. They were so deeply grateful to the tutors who helped them.
At first they were coming to a location away from their neighborhoods. Sister Carolyn Glynn and I realized that it would be far better if we went to where they lived. We rented an apartment in their neighborhood and set up a learning center there.
What I know is that they readily sense when the relationship is a mutual one of giving and receiving. I thank God for the opportunity to teach and at the same time, to learn from these wonderful people.
One of the urgent needs I’ve observed is that lawyers and immigration counselors need to be well-grounded in immigration laws and procedures. The smallest mistake preparing the paperwork for a green card can slow the process and even stop the work. If the lawyer or counselor makes a mistake, it means starting all over from the beginning. A situation such as this is expensive for the migrant and very disheartening.
I will always have warm memories of this wonderful time in my life and the families I loved.