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Local Catholics organize to support immigrants

new 02 2.9.17_St. Rita Immigration BannerThis banner on parish hall at St. Rita Parish in Fairfax reminds everyone that the parish “stands with Jesus Christ in welcoming strangers just as he did,” said Father Kenneth Weare, pastor. “Should the needs increase here, we are prepared to mobilize additional parishioners to meet the needs of those in our local community who may become threatened by family breakups and deportation.” (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

February 9, 2017
Catholic San Francisco

An informal organizational meeting will be held Feb. 9 for pastors at the Pastoral Center at One Peter Yorke Way in San Francisco, to build ties of hope and action between the archdiocese and parishes at a time of growing fear among immigrants.

In a Jan. 27 letter to priests and deacons, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone noted the anxiety many immigrants are feeling as they wonder how immigration policies might affect them. “Indeed, many are finding it hard to sleep at night as they see the growing anti-immigrant hostility that threatens to tear their families apart,” he wrote.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle Jan. 27, the archbishop said the church will ensure that immigrants “know their rights” and will be “protected.”

The archdiocese is coordinating with committees of parishioners on concrete ways for both immigrants and non-immigrants to work together for a stronger community. The plan, outlined last week by the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity, calls for four areas of collective work: 1) Proclaiming hope, solidarity and expanding the circle of human concern; 2) education; 3) community response if ICE raids occur; and 4) accompaniment activities.

The first category includes “the church is with you” activities – public, faith-centered events to spread the message of hope and reassure those who are afraid, including processions and prayer walks.

Education and community response activities include workshops at key parishes on immigrant rights; parish teams trained on how to stop and fight deportations that will hurt/separate families in coalition with attorneys and community partners; education to report raids and where to get help; and training a team of U.S. citizens/allies and clergy on how to document violations, observe and report abuses during ICE home visits.

Accompaniment activities include a solidarity network of churches and institutions that can be “sanctuaries”; rapid response to raids to support families affected; interfaith dialogues to build relationships; and outreach at schools and other institutions of hope.

St. Agnes community responds
Almost 350 people showed up to St. Agnes Parish on Jan. 29 to begin training for San Francisco’s rapidly developing rapid response network, “a team of people of faith” who will serve as “moral and legal observers” during what is believed will become increasing local immigration raids. The team will report to the site of a raid to pray, film the raid with phone cameras and be a presence for the family.

The training came two days after President Trump issued an executive order blocking immigrants including refugees from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations from entering the U.S.

“Victims of an immigration raid can’t leave their home or workplace to seek sanctuary in a congregation, so we are bringing the congregation and community to them,” said Lorena Melagarejo, a parish organizer with the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity.

The network is a project of the Faith in Action Bay Area, PICO and the Archdiocese of San Francisco in collaboration with Pangea Legal Services and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance.

Catholic Charities affirms support for immigrants
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco affirms its commitment to serving refugees and immigrants and welcoming the stranger with love and compassion, despite executive actions taken Jan. 27 in Washington.

“The mission of Catholic Charities is strengthening families and reducing poverty and we do that by serving the most vulnerable in our communities. The church has always been a sanctuary for the poor and marginalized and we will continue to be an advocate for protecting the dignity of all,” said Jeff Bialik, Catholic Charities executive director. “Immigrants make our community stronger and more vibrant and we are saddened by the actions taken by President Trump today that target deserving families looking for safety and hope. “

California has more immigrants than any other state with 27 percent of the population being foreign born. Immigrants represent more than 30 percent of the populations of San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

“At Catholic Charities, we believe that we should love our neighbor as ourselves and welcome the stranger with open hearts,” Bialik said. “We will continue to serve immigrants and refugees with compassion and are grateful to all in our community who make our work possible.”

Faith in Action offers training
Faith in Action is offering a series of trainings and actions to help congregations and communities in response to executive orders by President Donald Trump. In a Jan. 26 announcement, the San Carlos-based organization said its goal is “to build a rapid response network to resist deportation and discrimination.” Here is a partial list of planned events.

Feb. 8: Clergy training, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton Ave., San Mateo. RSVP to jennifer@faithinactionba.org.

Feb. 12: Rapid Response Network (San Mateo countywide), 4- 6 p.m., Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton Ave, San Mateo.

Feb. 26: Training, Know Your Rights (in Spanish), 2:30-4:30 p.m., St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough St. San Francisco.

Feb. 28: Training, Rapid Response Network (San Francisco citywide), 6:30-8:30 p.m.

March 12: San Mateo countywide meeting, 4-6 p.m.

March 16: San Francisco clergy meeting, 12:30-2:30 p.m.

March 28: San Francisco citywide meeting, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Phone (650) 592-9181; email fiaba@faithinactionba.org.

Mercy High School, San Francisco, issues statement
Scott McLarty, head of school at Mercy High School, San Francisco, released a statement Feb. 3 on the president’s travel ban. “There are those who think that Mercy and other Catholic schools should remain neutral in the face of politics and the decisions of our government. If neutral really means ‘silent’ or ‘compliant’ this idea must be rejected outright,” the statement reads in part. “Our Catholicity and Mercy charism demand that we not be neutral in the face of injustice – it means, among many things, speaking and acting on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant, and the refugee. Why? Because Jesus was all of those and more. How we treat the refugee is how we treat Christ himself. Whether we like it or not, there are political implications to the Gospels.”

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