Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fast4Families: On the Road for Justice!

The following article was written by Sr. Betty Kane, our director of evangelical life services. Sr. Betty was one of three of our sisters who traveled with other member of Fast4Families to talk with local government officials about the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Srs. Hope Bauerlin, Dominica LoBianco, and I took off early on April 2 to meet the bus in Exton, Pennsylvania. Why? We represented all of the Sisters of St. Francis and Franciscan Action Network (FAN) on the Fast4Families bus. We gathered with women and men who were core fasters as well as those fasting for the day. I met three people with whom I had fasted in the tent on the Mall. It was great to be with Lucy, DJ, and Sue once again. We also met Maria Sotomayor, a Neumann graduate. She reminded us that when she told her story for the first time in Our Lady of Angels Chapel, she had been very nervous and scared. Now she is a community organizer working with Pennsylvania Immigration Citizenship Coalition! Everyone who gathered was an activist—some for the first time and most who have justice as their ministry.
 
(L-R) Srs. Dominica, Hope, and Betty leave the motherhouse to drive to Exton to meet the Fast4Families bus.
 
You may have seen pictures of the Fast4Families bus on FAN’s website. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) provided the bus, driver, and staff who made our journey delightful. When street space or parking space was limited, we traveled by van or cars. But the bus made the statement and it certainly was easy to see what we were about.

We met with staff members of two republican representatives (Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach)—the representatives themselves were in Washington. Our group represented many organizations and faiths: Unitarian, Evangelical, Jewish, and Catholic. In addition to the three of us, women religious were represented by one Sister of St. Joseph and one Bernardine Franciscan. One Japanese man shared his experience of being rounded up—together with his parents—and sent to an internment camp during World War II. We each gave our input and left the representatives with the following urgent request: “Don’t wait. Vote for compassionate immigration reform.”

(above and below) Waiting to meet with staff members of Rep. Meehan and Gerlach--the signs indicating clearly who they represent and what they are asking for.

Our journey also took us to Norristown where there is a large community of undocumented immigrants. There we met with Commissioners Leslie S. Richards and staff member Lee Soltysiak. Both were very aware of their county’s population and of the efforts they were making for them—even connecting with groups for funding to help the immigrant community. While in the Norristown area, we met with state representative Matthew Bradford. He was definitely on board with immigration and with both the federal and state needs. He also provided us with supper—bottles of cold water were on the conference room table for us!

 Outside Rep. Bradford's headquarters

Our last stop was Villanova University. There our delegation grew with students from Neumann University and other interested parties, coworkers of the groups we represented, and a few folks who just wanted to know what we were about. We gathered on the steps of St. Thomas of Villanova Church which is visible from the main street. With the bus parked up on the hill next to the church and our own highly visible position, it was obvious the spot was well chosen. But our gathering was not for show. We were about justice for those who have to live in the shadows because they live in fear. We listened as individuals told their stories: stories of success from the young who received their DACA papers and are now assisting other youths; stories about the New Sanctuary Movement and its faith-based Gospel approach to immigration; sad stories like that of DJ Yoon’s mother from Korea illustrating how long it takes for people to come to the U.S. and be reunited with family members. And we prayed—led in prayer by an Augustinian priest and a rabbi. The experience was definitely one of interfaith action for immigration.
 
It was a long day but as the group waits on the steps of St. Thomas of Villanova Church they know the satisfaction of having worked and spoken as a community of people united in prayer and action for a just cause.
 
It was also an experience of relationship. Meeting both folks from the past and new acquaintances was refreshing. Being with Alison, Victor, and Justin, the woman and men from SEIU, was another reminder of how much we need one another. Meeting staff members who were so willing to listen to our stories—even though they work for representatives who are not actively in favor of immigration at this time—is a reminder that our work and words have to be shared over and over again so change can happen. We energized each other with our stories, listening to each other, fasting together. In community—even temporary community—there is great strength and lots of laughter. 

Immigration united our hearts, fired us to weather the rain and the cold, and warmed us with sunshine in the afternoon. Immigration reform had us chanting outside Rep Patrick Meehan’s office, asking for “education—not deportation!” Other chants were voiced in Spanish—which I sort of mumbled! People joined us for a time, had to leave to go back to work, and then returned to join the group at Villanova. We were a living organism, fasting for immigration reform and definitely blessed.

 

3 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Sister, I need to learn more about this ministry. I am from Kansas City, Kansas, though I live in
Leavenworth County, now, and we have a HUGE population here of documented and undocumented immigrants. My husband and I have found them to be hard-working men and woman who just want a BETTER LIFE and were willing to try anything to get it. I'll say the rosary tonight for all of you working so hard to help them.

Sr. Ann Marie said...

Mary Ann, thank you for your response. I shared it with the three sisters who were part of this rally. You can find more info at www.fast4families.org, www.franciscanaction.org, and www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Maggid said...

People used to believe sisters led a simple, quiet, hidden life -

Everytime i peek in here - i see True Adventure - I see friends making a difference in the world.

Golly, it's inspiriting.

love & love,
-g-

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