On April 1, U.S. Catholic bishops celebrated Mass at U.S. – Mexico border and called on the nation to welcome migrants and work for immigration reform. Migration is a theme dear to Columbans everywhere, from Taiwan – where Columbans work to both shelter and defend the rights of migrant workers from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China – to the U.S.–Mexico border, where Columbans work with migrants on both sides of the border and receive mission exposure trips to educate and advocate for immigration reform. The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is a member of Justice for Immigrants, a Catholic coalition initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The following are excerpts of the homily by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.
We come here today to be a neighbor and to find a neighbor in each of the suffering people who risk their lives and at times lose their lives in the desert. Pope Francis encourages us to go to the periphery to seek our neighbor in places of pain and darkness. We are here to discover our own identity as God’s children so that we can discover who our neighbor is, who is our brother and sister.
As a nation of immigrants we should feel a sense of identification with other immigrant groups seeking to enter our country. The United States is a nation of immigrants. Only the indigenous Native Americans are not from somewhere else. So the word of God reminds us today that our God wants justice for the orphan and the widow and our God loves the foreigners, the aliens and reminds us that we were aliens in Egypt. . . .
Here in the desert of Arizona, we come to mourn the countless immigrants who risk their lives at the hands of the coyotes and the forces of nature to come to the United States. Every year four hundred bodies are found here at the border, bodies of men, women and children seeking to enter the United States. Those are only the bodies that are found. As the border crossings become more difficult, people take greater risks and more are perishing.
Last year about 25,000 children, mostly from Central America arrived in the US, unaccompanied by an adult. Tens of thousands of families are separated in the midst of migration patterns. More than 10 million undocumented immigrants are exposed to exploitation and lack access to basic human services, and are living in constant fear.
America at its best is not the bigotry and xenophobia of the no nothings, but the generous welcome of the Statue of Liberty, the Mother of Exiles who proclaims to the world: “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” We must be vigilant that that lamp continues to burn brightly.