Bishop McGrath urges ‘courage to break silence and help refugees’

Harvey Barkin| San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article

 Bishop Patrick McGrath outside of San Jose’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph on Market Street. McGrath led a prayer service for immigration reform and reunification of migrant families on Tuesday, July 17. (Harvey Barkin photo)

Bishop Patrick McGrath outside of San Jose’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph on Market Street. McGrath led a prayer service for immigration reform and reunification of migrant families on Tuesday, July 17. (Harvey Barkin photo)

The Catholic diocese of San Jose held a prayer service for immigration reform and reunification of migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday night at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph.

Bishop Patrick McGrath presided over the service and began with, “pray for those who can’t come to public service such as this” to an almost-packed church.

The prayer service in Spanish and English presented three sets of testimonials. Diocese Director of Social Justice Ministries Paul Miner requested the assembly not to use videos and cameras, citing the sensitive nature of the testimonials.

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County Outreach Coordinator Refugee Foster Care Claire Collins said that “of the 25 million refugees in the world, half of them are children.”

She also said that since 2004, Catholic Charities has been involved in finding foster homes for some of them. Collins introduced Robi and Noor. Both pre-teen boys are refugees from Myanmar and acknowledged “emotional, legal and financial support from Catholic Charities.”

Sacred Heart Nativity Schools President and Deacon Ruben Solorio said, “everybody deserves to live in peace and security at a home, especially after leaving their home” and “kids now fear going home.”

The last testimonial came from a woman and her daughter who told their story in Spanish about her husband Fernando who was picked up and detained by ICE.

Taking his cue from the Bible about Joseph, Mary and Jesus fleeing from Herod to Egypt, McGrath related old Egypt to modern times, saying “is like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.”

 

“They have no option. When people live in a place of danger, they have a right to live elsewhere. A nation’s sovereignty must be respected. But each nation has a moral obligation,” McGrath said.

McGrath added that the U.S. is using “unconscionable tactics to drive asylum seekers deep into the desert” and that “the policy that separates children (from their families) is morally reprehensible, crafted only to send a message not to come to the U.S.”

“The U.S. is a country of immigrants and refugees. All of us are refugees and immigrants. For decades, we have been a refuge for tyranny, the hungry and encourage them to build the land that has become their own,” McGrath told the crowd.

McGrath further cited the Vietnamese refugees from the 1970s and those who came from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia in the 1990s. He said what troubled him the most was the effect of separation. “It is absolutely immoral, horrific. I’m profoundly disturbed and disheartened. We must respond to this not with anger but with love.”

McGrath referenced Pope Francis’ July 6 message that “the Lord needs our eyes, ears and heart to lead the outcast. Be ready to offer the unconditional love of Christ to those who yearn for home. Be courageous enough to break the silence and help refugees.”

The prayer service was attended by lay leaders, faith-based community organizations, migrants, refugees, priests, religious and St. Joseph parishioners. Aside from Catholic Charities, other organizations represented at the reception after the service included: People Acting in Community Together, Faith Reentry Collaborative, Amigos de Guadalupe Center for Justice and Empowerment and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for  Children and Families.

 

Miner said the service was hastily put together in response to Trump’s order to separate families. Newly installed Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement Fr. Jon Pedigo said they did not expect this large of a turn-out.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. is located at 80 S. Market St. in San Jose.