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Seeking the Way to Comprehensive Immigration Reform: What Would Jesus Do?

Northeast Maryknoll Affiliate Gathering: October 9, 2010, Maryknoll Society Center

At registration
Pat Hayes, Paul Witte and Millie Hirschle at registration table

The Northeast Regional Maryknoll Affiliate Gathering brought together sixty one people, both Maryknoll Affiliates and other members of the Maryknoll family, for a day of reflection, listening, learning and conversation around the theme of Seeking the Way to Comprehensive Immigration Reform:  What Would Jesus Do? The gathering day was planned by the Philadelphia Area Maryknoll Affiliates. This theme was selected because it is timely and many undocumented immigrants are suffering in the shadows in our communities while the national debate is becoming more political and divisive. It also was meant to help answer the need by many to have a way to engage in a civil conversation with those who have differing opinions on the issue of immigration.

Opening Ritual
Albany Chapter leading the opening ritual

The gathering began with a prayer service called the Table of Many Breads led by members of the Albany Chapter. In the ritual, we lifted up a variety of breads, all symbolizing the wide array of cultures and groups that make up the human family and recalling their respective struggles. We were reminded in the song One Bread, One Body that we are all part of each other in the One God. We were invited to partake of the community blessed breads.

Participants in Engaging Impasse process
Participants in Engaging Impasse process

The day moved forward with a process called Engaging Impasse on Immigration which was originally developed by Network and reworked by members of the Philadelphia Chapter for this gathering. In this role playing process, each participant assumed a new identity or role and formed in groups of three. In each group, there was a person enacting a role against immigrants, another enacting a role sympathetic toward immigrants, and third person enacting a role of an immigrant or someone connected to an immigrant. The process allowed people to quietly discern their own feelings about immigration and then move into their respective assigned roles having a dialogue within their groups about immigration. In the general feedback sessions, participants shared their experiences in this exercise. Some of the comments included: “It was hard to get into the role and reflect a position different from my own”; “It was about deeply listening to the other and holding back on my desire to react”; “My head told me one thing and my gut said something else.”; “I saw myself in the immigrant.” The sharing sessions demonstrated that people really engaged in the exercise.

Panel Presentation
Paul Witte, Amy Gottlieb, Judy Coode and Rich Massaro

The next part of the gathering involved a panel presentation facilitated by Philadelphia Chapter member, Rich Massaro.  The panel participants were Judy Coode, Communications  Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Washington, D.C.; Amy Gottlieb, Immigrant  Rights Director, American Friends Service Committee, New York Metropolitan Regional Office, Newark, N.J.; and Paul Witte, Philadelphia Maryknoll Affiliate and immigrant community activist.

Judy Coode addressed the push factors generated by U.S. and Global trade and debt policy. Amy Gottlieb described the complexity of current U.S. immigration policies and practices. Paul Witte reminded the participants that we are called to come to this issue from the heart. We can take in all the learning into our heads but we have to convert it into our heart and into action. The best way to do this, Paul reminded us, is to get involved locally with immigrants, immigrant advocacy groups and actions in our areas.

In the afternoon, we watched a twenty minute video produced by Witness for Peace called The Roots of Migration. This video brought voice and face to immigrants as to why they feel forced to leave their communities to help their families survive and the factors that have created such desperate conditions. They talked about how it feels to be treated as sub-human. It also shows what happens to the communities and families left behind and their sadness in the loss of community. The video discusses how NAFTA and secretly negotiated free trade agreements have negatively affected people’s ability to support their families while agribusiness in the U.S. has economically benefited.

Paul Masson, MM, Lil Mattingly, MM, Josephine Lucker, MM, and Lorraine Beinkafner, MM shared their respective experiences and perspectives, drawing from their work and relationships either working in Juarez, El Paso or with Border Links, providing educational immersion trips to Mexico. Paul Masson reminded us that migration is not just an issue in the U.S. but is happening all over the world spurred by war, climate change, oppression, economics, and catastrophes.

The formal part of the gathering ended with some brief feedback from the group.  The day was a call for each participant to reflect on this issue and how she/he could be involved.  Since few Chapters had representation from all of their members, it was not practical for Chapters to consider group action at this event but rather to continue discussing the issue back in their Chapter gatherings.

Each participant received a comprehensive folder of resource information and resource lists on immigration, trade and Catholic Social Teaching on immigration/migration.

Jim Madden MM leads closing liturgy
Jim Madden MM leads closing liturgy

Our gathering day ended with a liturgy celebrated by Jim Madden, MM, who has recently returned from Peru. We were honored to have Jim in our midst for many reasons but especially since he is a co-founder of the Maryknoll Affiliates. The closing liturgy also brought back the One Bread, One Body theme that began the day.

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