On September 25th, University of St. Thomas hosted a public forum on immigration titled “The Gospel Transcending Borders.” The event, which was cosponsored by Catholic Charities and the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops, shed light on the current issues facing migrants. The Houston university hoped to offer a better understanding of “how to answer the Gospel call to welcome the stranger” in such a broken immigration system, a system which Cardinal Daniel Dinardo sought to understand better when he recently visited the border himself. The forum featured a diverse panel of speakers, including a representative from Catholic Charities, who shared her experience as an attorney for a center that provides legal assistance to immigrants. Other speakers included a woman who immigrated herself and now advocates for those with undocumented status. There was also a former refugee on the panel, who shared her insight from serving in both the Houston community as well as the community of Sierra Leone.
To learn more about this forum and other similar events happening at University of St. Thomas, click here.
This text offers personal narratives, principles for critical thinking drawn from Catholic social teaching, and opportunities for action from the individual to the international level. Focused on the humanitarian work of CRS throughout the world, Global Migration inspires reflection, provokes discussion and empowers students to respond to today’s greatest humanitarian crisis.
This book is a part of the Faculty Learning Commons, online course materials for use in existing college and university classes to enrich the understanding of pressing issues in light of Catholic social teaching. The latest modules for Fall 2017-Spring 2018 are focused on migration.
Lent is a time of reflection on the Christian journey of discipleship. This year, several Catholic colleges and universities connected learning, praying, and taking action on justice issues to the traditional Lenten practices. As a way of reflecting on the signs of the times, traditional practices of fasting and walking the Stations of the Cross were transformed into experiences of solidarity with those who are marginalized. By offering justice-focused Lenten programming, Benedictine University, Assumption College, and Fordham University connected the observance of Lent with the social mission of the Church.
Over the past two years, Benedictine University has observed Lent through a weekly event called Feast Fridays. The program, sponsored by Benedictine University’s Campus Ministry, engaged students and staff in solidarity with those in need throughout the world. Feast Fridays began through a Global Solidarity Grant, a collaboration between ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. Each Feast Friday follows a common agenda: The luncheon starts with a CRS Rice Bowl Lenten prayer and then a CRS Kitchen Friday meal, a simple, meatless recipe similar to ones that people living in a country served by CRS commonly prepare and eat. During lunch, participants watch an episode of “A Story of Hope” a video series by CRS featuring the stories of those who have been aided by CRS. Afterward, the audience members reflect together on what they have just learned and how they are called to respond. Feast Fridays work to provide the community with a concrete way to journey through Lent in solidarity with brothers and sisters around the world, inviting the Benedictine community to feast spiritually while fasting physically.
For Benedictine, Feast Fridays created a platform for service and social justice to be discussed and experienced at the same time. The timing of the programming allows faculty and staff to attend, as well as students, building bridges within the entire community. Faculty member Cathy Stablein, commented, “Feast Fridays humbled me and several of my students as we experienced world poverty through taste. Prayers and short videos about Catholic Relief Services’ global service in selected countries gave us a lunchtime community as we scooped an inexpensive international cuisine of cornmeal, rice, lentils, red beans, and greens common to Laos, Colombia, Rwanda, and other countries to fill our ‘rice bowl.’ Water was our only beverage. These ‘feasts’ starkly reminded me of the need to give back, and the wealth of poverty I ignore.”
Feast Fridays were implemented as a way of living out Benedictine University’s Catholic identity. Carrie Roberts, director of campus ministry, connects the programming with that identity, saying, “Our university’s mission statement has a strong emphasis on caring for the other as inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition. The Feast Friday program offers our BenU community a way to learn from the poor and marginalized and live in solidarity with them.” The pursuit of truth and justice, as drawn from the Catholic Benedictine tradition, is central to Feast Fridays.
Fordham University also addressed hunger and solidarity this Lent, connecting the practice of fasting to the larger issue of food insecurity through a SNAP Challenge. Students who took the one-day challenge were given one meal swipe, the equivalent of $5.70, to purchase food. As students fasted, they were reminded that many people live on that amount every day and challenged to move from sympathy to solidarity. As a follow-up to the day of fasting, the students were moved to action through a service project, preparing sandwiches for a local food pantry and community dining room. The event ended with soup and reflection on their experiences.
In addition to these events focused on food scarcity, the Fordham Office of Campus Ministry expanded its Lenten programming to other issues, including a Day of Penance for Institutional Racism, which featured an interfaith service and an opportunity for individual reconciliation. Students were also invited to learn about the experience of refugees in a Refugee Simulation. Using multimedia resources, students could “walk a mile” in refugees’ shoes on a simulated migrant journey. Following this simulation, the office hosted a film screening of “Salam Neighbor,” a documentary that features the stories of Syrian refugees.
Assumption College, a recipient of a 2016 Global Solidarity Grant, also created Lenten formation surrounding the issue of migration. Reflecting on Lent as a time for discipleship, the campus ministry office drew parallels to the journey of hope that migrants make. Images of migrants who have been served by Catholic Relief Services were displayed on a barren tree in the chapel sanctuary throughout Lent to remind the community of their solidarity with migrant brothers and sisters during Mass. Assumption College also hosted a screening of “The Vigil,” a film that follows a female immigrant, Gina, and fellow undocumented single mothers, Rosa and Maria, who live in fear of deportation. Gina becomes the leader of a vigil to create refuge for the immigrant community in the face of Arizona’s anti-immigration law, which takes her to the U.S. Supreme Court. Following the screening, director Jenny Alexander and film advisor on immigration Alexandra Piñeros Shields hosted a discussion for the campus.
The office of campus ministry at Assumption also incorporated the issue of migration into a monthly program called “Agape Latte,” an event that features various speakers discussing their faith journeys, inviting students to hear a new perspective while having a cup of coffee. March’s “Agape Latte” featured associate professor of Spanish Esteban Loustaunau, speaking on how he integrates his faith into his life within the context of his own immigration to the United States from Mexico. The annual Lenten Stations of the Cross also focused on migration. Participants journeyed around campus stopping at various locations to learn and pray.
In addition to programming focused on prayer and personal testimony, Assumption College held a “Teach-In” on migration to help students learn more about Catholic social thought as it relates to migration. Faculty members and CRS Student Ambassadors hosted sessions using the CRS Faculty Learning Commons, the “I am Migration” awareness campaign, and the CRS “CST 101” video series to help educate the campus community on migration. The Lenten campaign culminated with a Migration Walk, an interactive activity during which participants walked in the footsteps of a typical migrant through different stations around campus.
These Catholic institutions engaged in programming that focused deeply on social issues throughout Lent, conveying that an integral part of the Christian life is grappling with injustice in the world. Benedictine University and Fordham University connected fasting with hunger crises throughout the world, while Assumption College focused on the connection between a Lenten journey of discipleship and the journey of hope that migrants make. These examples show how Catholic colleges and universities use campus programs to promote a greater solidarity with those in need, as Lent reminds us of the need in each of us to grow closer to God.
Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Join Ignatian Solidarity Network on Thursday, February 16 at 3 PM EST for an online conversation with Jesuit college and university faculty and administrators on how to support students who are undocumented. A new political landscape in the U.S. has brought with it unique realities for people in the without documentation, including students at Jesuit colleges and universities. How are faculty and administrators responding to the changing reality facing these students?
Saint Peter’s University hosted a prayer service featuring a student choir and students sharing their experience of being undocumented. The service ended with an opportunity to contact Congress on behalf of humane immigration policies.
The purpose of the call to prayer was to illuminate, through solidarity and action, the dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and the value of each person’s contribution to our country. To see prayers and resources related to the event, visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network website.
How are you practicing solidarity on your campus? Share your story with us! Email Lexie Bradley.
Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Tracy Kemme, an alumna of the University of Dayton, reflects on her experience in Chile while studying abroad as an undergraduate student for Global Sisters Report in honor of National Migration Week.
Thinking on her experience in Chile, she remembers “I got a taste of the beautiful diversity of the people of God. Our world is much bigger than I could have imagined growing up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, where most people looked, talked and thought like me. Over plates of arroz con pollo in sweltering little houses, the “poor” of Latin America catechized me. In building cross-cultural relationships, I’ve witnessed and felt the splendor of a mutual exchange of cultural goodness. My mind has been opened through honest conversations about the shadow side of cultures, including, and especially, my own. Perhaps most significantly, my experiences of being the “stranger” have made me a more compassionate “welcomer.”
Kemme encourages all readers to have experiences where they become a “stranger” by traveling to new places or neighborhoods to live the theme of this year’s National Migration Week, Creating a Culture of Encounter.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) is organizing a day of prayer on January 19, 2017 as a way “to illuminate the dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and the value of each individual’s contribution to the country.”They offer resources and ideas for organizing prayer on that day on their website.
ISN offers ideas of how to become involved:
Host a prayer service or intention a Mass at your campus, parish, or organization for immigrants
Use symbols of light such as vigil candles as a part of your prayer experience
Lift up the stories of immigrant members of your community
Invite the local community to join you in prayer
Pray for our new governmental leaders to enact policies that illuminate the dignity of immigrant brothers and sisters
Create environments of prayer that focus on illuminating the social teachings of our Catholic faith and other faith traditions
More resources and prayers are available on their website.
Over 100 Catholic college and university presidents have signed a statement of support of undocumented students. The statement, sponsored by ACCU, pledges support of students who have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and expresses hope that their studies will be allowed to continue uninterrupted. Those who signed “pledge to support these students – through our campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics, and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”
The statement reflects on Pope Francis’ commitment to immigrants and refugees, especially in his recent visit to the United States. The statement included signatures of presidents of Catholic colleges and universities from across the country. They find support in the long history of American Catholic higher education institutions educating students from diverse backgrounds and welcoming those on the margins.
In response to the heated political debate on the issue of immigration, Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez, in a September lecture at Boston College, spoke of the importance of not letting statistics cloud our vision of the people who make up the numbers. Gomez explained that it is a Christian call “to remember that behind every statistic is a soul — a soul who has dignity as a child of God, a soul who has rights and needs that are both spiritual and material.”
Catholic universities are embracing this person-centered approach through their policies and programs by welcoming students who are immigrants. By offering support and resources, institutions like Saint Peter’s University, Christian Brothers University, and Dominican University are creating equal opportunities for immigrants, including undocumented students, as well as providing educational programming on the complexity of immigration.
Saint Peter’s University has responded to the needs of undocumented students by opening the Center for Undocumented Students (TCUS). Jennifer Ayala, director of the center, explained, “The mission of TCUS is to support the academic work of undocumented students at the university, to shed intellectual light on the political and economic realities of immigration in our world today, and to create a community where undocumented students feel welcome.” Resources available through the center include a modest resource library, legal support, referrals and collaborations within the university as well as with outside organizations, internships, workshops for staff and faculty, “know your rights” workshops for students and their families, and advising and mentoring. TCUS also helps students find ways to pay for their education because undocumented students do not qualify for state or federal aid. In September, TCUS co-sponsored a student-organized conference, United Struggles, that educated students on community organizing as a way to engage politically and intentionally with the issue of immigration. TCUS has also recently co-authored a letter urging the university administration to declare Saint Peter’s a sanctuary campus.
Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s, pointed out the continuity of the center’s mission with the university’s Jesuit legacy: “Saint Peter’s has proudly educated immigrant students since it first opened in 1872 and seeks to continue and enrich this tradition by extending its welcome and support to undocumented students, otherwise known as dreamers. We are proud to be a part of the large group of Jesuit colleges and universities that continue to advocate for dreamers.”
Christian Brothers University (CBU) is another college providing support through scholarships and a place of community to address the issue of immigration, focused specifically on the needs of Latino immigrant students. Two scholarships are available through the institution’s Latino Student Success Program: the Latino Achievement Scholarship for FAFSA-qualified students and the Latino Success Scholarship for non-FAFSA-qualified students. CBU has committed $12 million in scholarships and grants over seven years to serving undocumented students, funding that will benefit over 100 students. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has recognized CBU as an exemplary case for implementing programs that support the expansion of high-quality education for Latinos. Executive director of the White House Initiative, Alejandra Ceja, commended CBU as “the first institution of higher education [that] has publicly answered our national call for commitments.” A student-led organization, Hola CBU, also provides support for students on campus and in the local community. Hola CBU hosts events to expose the campus to Latino culture and create a welcoming Latino community. The group also partners with a local organization, Latino Memphis, to provide services like interpreting and standardized test tutoring for high school seniors.
Paul Haught, vice president of academics and student life at CBU, connected these programs to the Catholic identity of the institution, saying, “Christian Brothers University, as an institution founded on the Lasallian mission of providing educational opportunities to the underserved, continues to advocate for the education of all who stand to benefit their communities by gaining the benefits of higher education. So-called undocumented students belong to this class as much as anyone. If they are college ready, we invite them to share in CBU’s gifts of teaching and service.” CBU supports undocumented students, not only with scholarships, but also with a vibrant community. This dual approach recognizes the many needs of students during their time in college.
Lastly, Dominican University was recently honored with the Moral Courage Award from the nonprofit organization Faith in Public Life for its leadership in supporting the right of undocumented students to receive a college education. For Dominican President Donna Carroll, the students are the courageous leaders and the university is called to “stand with them” to fulfill its mission to give compassionate service and create a more just world.
In spring 2016, Dominican facilitated a border immersion trip called Borderlands to deepen engagement with the human and societal consequences of immigration — outcomes that often can be understood only by witnessing firsthand the circumstances of a border community. The program was partially funded by a Global Solidarity Grant, a collaboration between ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. During the Dominican University trip, students traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana to learn about the social issues present in migration, specifically for people migrating from Central America and Mexico to the United States. Before they traveled, the team of students spent time in prayer and learning about Catholic Social Teaching on immigration. During the trip, students were able to meet people directly involved in immigration, including some who had been deported and some who were preparing to immigrate to the United States.
After they returned, the students shared their experiences at the 2016 Dominican University Caritas Veritas Symposium. Atzimba Rodriguez, a senior in psychology and criminology, spoke during the symposium of the effect that meeting people in Tijuana had on her. She commented, “If anything, we are a bridge, a bridge between two worlds.” While the border stood as a division between the United States and Mexico, the relationships that the students built while in Tijuana emerged as a sign of unity.
Catholic universities are welcoming immigrants to campus and ensuring that they have tools for success. Examples such as those of Saint Peter’s University, Christian Brothers University, and Dominican University show how the goal of providing equal opportunity is realized through programs that promote leadership and provide resources that aid immigrants, including undocumented students. In the midst of the debate on immigration and educational inequality, Catholic universities are making a difference by providing for the needs of students and educating the community on the complexity of these social issues.
Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.