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Priests, religious voice ongoing support for immigration reform

Michelle Martin


The season of Advent is one of joyful hope and anticipation.

The Priests for Justice for Immigrants, who now number nearly 200, held an Advent press conference to issue a pastoral “invitation and challenge” to the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago and to draw attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants in their parishes and communities.

Crowded around the altar in a small chapel at Holy Name Cathedral, the priests, along with members of Brothers and Sisters for Justice for Immigrants, said the church has a duty to stand up for the dignity of all people and to emphasize how Americans benefit from the presence of immigrants — with documents or not — while at the same time putting them in danger of being torn from their families.

“We continue to stand up, we continue to offer hope and we refuse to give up hope,” said Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha Parish on the West Side.

The Dec. 18 press conference, timed to coincide with similar efforts in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Trenton and other dioceses, is part of an advocacy effort that began in 2005, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on all Catholics to advocate for just and compassionate reform of the U.S. immigration system, said Father Marco Mercado, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Little Village.

Priests who participated said they felt compelled to speak out because of the increasingly harsh political rhetoric directed at undocumented immigrants.

“So much of our society is driven by darkness and fear,” said Dominican Father Brendan Curran, pastor of St. Pius V Parish in Pilsen.

The Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants will continue to walk with those facing deportation by praying the rosary at 7:15 a.m. Friday mornings outside the Chicago Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention and Staging Center in Broadview and watching deportation court proceedings.

The Priests for Justice for Immigrants will work with other community groups to offer workshops on the rights of people caught in raids at their homes or workplaces, said Father Don Nevins, pastor of St. Francis of Assissi Parish on Roosevelt Road.

“Just because you are undocumented doesn’t mean you have no rights,” Nevins said.