Remembering Pope Francis’ Prayer for Migrants a Year After His Visit to U.S.-Mexico Border

By Norma Pimentel 2-17-2017
giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

One year ago, Pope Francis visited the Mexican-U.S. border and prayed for migrants who have lost their lives seeking refuge in our country. His prayer transcended the dusty fences and united two countries in a silent cry for mercy on behalf of our brothers and sisters who died on their journey.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of that blessed moment, we must also contend with the reality that there is great uncertainty and fear among immigrant communities.

No matter where they come from, what color they are, or what language they speak, my faith teaches me that every life has value. I am to love my neighbor as much as I love myself and show compassion and tenderness to those in need. That is my call.

As executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, I have witnessed the arrival of immigrants crossing the border, oftentimes fleeing desperate and dangerous situations in their home countries. I know all too well their struggles to overcome poverty and violence back home. I see the faces of the young children for whom they risk life and limb to provide a better, brighter, and safer future.

"Welcome," we tell them as they enter the Humanitarian Respite Center at Sacred Heart Church. This word of encounter begins a transformation of restoring their human dignity. The many volunteers who come to help at the Respite Center offer the immigrant families a shower, a warm meal, medicine, a phone to call their family, and simply the presence of a loving community reaching out to them. The restoration of human dignity is at the crux of what we do.

Unfortunately on this anniversary of our Holy Father's visit to the border, there is no doubt that the many immigrant families who are coming hopeful for protection and safety are finding themselves instead in family detention facilities where they may be forced to wait for months. With the dramatic changes to the border, immigrant families will remain vulnerable to gangs, human trafficking, and drugs.

The parable of the Good Samaritan becomes so relevant to us today. We are encouraged by the kind-hearted Samaritan who tended to the Jewish traveler after he had been beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Others had seen the battered Jewish man but none stopped to help. It was only the Samaritan, an outsider of the Jewish people, who bandaged the man's wounds, put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn.

Now is the time for those of us who believe in compassion to be Good Samaritans and stand with all immigrants and their families. The lives of immigrant families are inextricably woven into the tapestry of our nation. As a community of faith, we have a moral responsibility to honor all of humanity, especially those whom society tries to exclude.

Now is the time more than ever to remember Pope Francis' inspiring message at the border. "We cannot deny the human iteration crisis which in recent years has meant the migration of thousands of people,” he said during his homily.

"The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families."

Sister Norma Pimentel is the Executive Director for Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

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