Advocates on walk take a stance for justice for immigrants

About 200 people walked along the sidewalk on Grand Avenue in St. Louis on a 5-mile journey, moving in and out of a light rainfall. Others followed in a bus or in cars.

They carried umbrellas, pushed strollers and hoisted signs calling for justice for immigrants. Several wore bright blue T-shirts proclaiming "I'm an Immigrant Justice Voter."

The Interfaith Pilgrimage for Immigration Reform was marked by four prayerful stops. "Walking with Our Immigrant Brothers and Sisters" was the theme of the Oct. 5 pilgrimage from St. Cecilia Church on the south end of Grand to St. Alphonsus "Rock" Church just north of Midtown and the St. Louis University campus. Participants were encouraged to meditate on seeing the inherent dignity of all, opening their hearts in solidarity and engaging one another during the walk.

 

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The stops included prayer, songs and witness. Mike Schappe of All Saints Parish in St. Peters sat on the grass on the SLU campus with his wife, Anne, after arriving by foot. He said he's heard a lot of anti-immigrant talk and wanted to express himself by joining the walk. It's easy to talk about what the Church teaches, he said, but tough to make a commitment. Anne Schappe said, "There's a lot of injustice done to immigrants, and I take a strong stance against it."

Erin Twiehaus, a SLU student from Indianapolis, came to observe, bringing a friend who was visiting for the weekend. "This is an opportunity to learn firsthand what it's all about," she said.

During the SLU stop, student Erin Carroll noted that as inheritors of the dream of St. Ignatius Loyola, SLU students are "called to be men and women for others. Today, we join all of you as we stand with the immigrant community of St. Louis."

Sara Rahim prayed that God would provide the grace to welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity while responding to their many needs.

After a Gospel reading from Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-21 about the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt, Julia Brucks told of how her immigrant ancestors came to the United States in the late 19th century, dreaming of a better life for their children. "My ancestors sacrificed themselves so that I could be raised in this country, achieve a university education and live my own dreams. ... I don't want to live in an America that allows 11 million families, brothers and sisters, to live in the shadows of poverty and isolation."

Jacke Garcia, who came to the United States from Honduras at age 10, told of being approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status allowing her to live here the next two years without fear of being deported.

The pilgrims prayed for immigrants who have lost their lives in the hope of a better future, for students such as Garcia who continue following their dreams and for the leadership of the United States and SLU.

Kevin Oliver of Mount Nebo Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis was attending the event with another member of the Service Employees International Union. He favors progressive steps allowing people without documentation who have lived exemplary lives and meet other requirements to eventually gain citizenship.

Just prior to the program, SLU's Students for Life Club had a display on the lawn for Respect Life Month citing the number of abortions since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and efforts by the club to assist pregnant students and those who are parents. Early arrivals to the pilgrimage stop had a chance to chat with club members and exchange information about respect for life.

The pilgrimage was co-sponsored by Catholic Charities, the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, Metropolitan Congregations United, Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates, and the Interfaith Committee on Latin America. Others supporting the walk included the American Jewish Committee, the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations and the International Institute.

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