The meeting was an opportunity for reflection on the Northeast Affiliates Regional Conference on October 9 at Maryknoll, New York. The Philadelphia Affiliates hosted that meeting choosing comprehensive immigration reform as the theme, and asking the question, "What would Jesus do?
Philadelphia Affiliates Coordinator Pat Hayes provided several questions to help us reflect – questions dealing with specifically the Philadelphia Affiliates' possible response to the "strangers in our midst." In other words, the question for us was "What would Jesus have us do?"
Paul Witte, who was one of the panel members at the October conference, reflected on possible paths to take. His involvement with the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) and with Visitation BVM Parish in the Kensington area of Philadelphia gave him some perspective to provide possible directions.
The NSM of Philadelphia seeks out faith congregations to work with. The Affiliates don't quite fit that category, but some of the working groups of the NSM seemed like a likely fit for us, particularly the education working group. As Affiliates, we can see ourselves in the role of finding parishes to educate about immigrants and comprehensive immigration reform.
Another possible direction was the new community center which Visitation Parish has taken over from the Archdiocese since July 2010. It is quite a challenge for the parish, 70 percent Hispanic with smaller Vietnamese and Black Caribbean contingents. The Kensington area is a needy area, one of the hungriest areas of the country with household incomes ranging from 35% to 57% below the poverty level. The community center is designed to meet the needs of the surrounding community by total utilization of the wonderful facility the parish has been afforded. For example, a recent decision at the center was to begin serving the women who walk the street by providing a drop-in center where they can receive counseling a couple of nights a week.
Rich Massaro was going to do a little research to help us discern God's direction for the Philadelphia Afflliates. We would appreciate your prayers. And if anyone reading this senses God's call to get involved with immigrant issues, don't hesitate to contact us.
Those attending the meeting: Fred Goddard, Pat Hayes, Bob Hayes, Ann Carr, Millie Hirschle, Rich Massaro, Mary Massaro, Paul Witte, and a guest from St. Malachy, Lee Hoinacki (Lee is the author of several books, including The Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection).