“Only God knows why I ended up there.”
I’ve been involved with Pastoral Migratoria as a pastoral agent in my parish, St. Benedict in Blue Island, for two years. We have organized information workshops on various topics such as foreclosures, income taxes, New Health law, Temporary Visitors Driver’s license, among others, that bring relevant information to our parish’s immigrant community. We have also participated in the pilgrimages and rosaries praying and advocating for Immigration reform. I thought I had pretty much covered the ‘accompaniment’ aspect in our pastoral activities, but it was not until I had the opportunity to participate at the prayer vigil at Broadview Detention Center--the last stop of hundreds of immigrants before they are deported--and listened and prayed with them that it ‘hit’ me really hard.
Every Friday there is a group that prays the rosary in front of the processing center. There also a group of people who are allowed to entered and talk and pray with the migrants. I was one of them last January.
At first I was shocked to see these people in shackles, and without proper winter clothing; they were family men—most of them—who in my opinion are not criminals. I talked to one of the detainees who, with tears rolling down his cheeks, asked me to contact his mother who didn’t know where he was. I called her up once I got home. She was relieved to know her son was okay but sad at the same time that he was sent back to Mexico. I informed her what her son’s next destination would be, and where to contact him. (He was being flown to Mexico the following day, where he hadn’t been in the last 15 years.)
We talked for a long time. We cried together as mothers. That day I felt sorrow from what I’d witnessed. I would have never ever have imagined the deportation process that way.
At the same time I felt the urgency to bring information to my community. I picked up a flyer at the processing center that explains and gives information to the deportees and their families on how to visit and contact them while still in detention. Now we are organizing our information table at our parish to inform our community.
Only God knows why I ended up there, God was teaching me something. Now I feel compelled to continue helping my community. I definitely will continue going to pray with those being deported from the US.
San Benedict, Blue Island, IL
Pastoral Migratoria, a program of the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, receives funding through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.