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Photo by Jeremy Gantz/Medill

A man and his daughter attend a gathering for U.S. immigration law reform organized by the Priests for Justice for Immigrants Wednesday afternoon. 

Chicago Catholics rally, pray for immigration reform

by Jeremy Gantz
April 04, 2007

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Photo by Jeremy Gantz/Medill

Nearly 100 Catholic Chicagoans gathered at the Holy Name Cathedral Wednesday afternoon to pray and push for immigration reform.

PRIESTS_nun with rosary

Photo by Jeremy Gantz/Medill

Sister Jean Marie, a member of Sisters and Brothers for Justice for Immigrants, prays during Wednesday's gathering for immigration reform at Holy Name Cathedral.

God stands with supporters of immigration law reform, according to the nearly 100 Catholic Chicagoans who gathered on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral on Wednesday afternoon.

For the sixth week in a row, a diverse group of priests, nuns and laypeople stood together in solidarity with illegal immigrants to push for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws. The one-hour rally featured prayers in Swahili, Gaelic, Polish and Vietnamese, as well as English and Spanish.

“We continue with our brothers to support the dispensation of non-felony immigrants,” Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Chicago Archdiocese said at the cathedral, located at West Chicago Avenue and North State Street.

Since the beginning of Lent in late February, Priests for Justice for Immigrants, a Chicago-based group of more than 100 priests, has organized and conducted “Lenten Rosary of Hope” rallies every Wednesday at the Federal Plaza. The group had yesterday’s event at the cathedral to emphasize the importance of the issue to the Catholic Church.  

In 2003, American and Mexican Catholic bishops called for comprehensive changes to U.S. immigration laws, including broad-based legalization of the undocumented, creation of a temporary worker program and the encouragement of family reunification.

“We have 4,000 families in St. Pius V parish [in Pilsen], and approximately half of them are undocumented. So this affects them directly,” the Rev. Brendan Curran, pastor at the church, said after the rally.

The Rev. Mark Bartosic, who led Wednesday’s event, said the 40 days before Easter are an especially important time for proponents of immigration reform.

“Lent is a time of conversion and change of heart,” he said. “And today we’re hoping for a change of heart among those legislators opposed to immigration reform.”

An immigration bill known as the STRIVE act -- Security Through Regularized Immigration and Vibrant Economy -- was introduced two weeks ago; U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, is one of the sponsors. The bill includes a legalization plan for the more than 10 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., according to Mari Lou Gonzalez, a coordinator for Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform.

Gonzalez said the major goal of the Lenten Rosary of Hope gatherings was to let everyone in the Catholic community, whether a recent immigrant or not, know that the church stands with immigrants and for immigration reform.

“It’s part of who we are as Catholics,” she said. “It’s letting them know that as a church we have a responsibility to walk with [immigrants] in this chaos of not knowing how the legislation is going to go.”

Maureen Fitzpatrick, a 24-year-old Lakeview resident who works for the Southwest Organizing Project, which is affiliated with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the Gutierrez bill is an opportunity for positive change.

“There’s a lot of hope, but also recognition that there’s a lot of work to be done,” Fitzpatrick said after the rally, as attendees departed from the cathedral.

Before everyone left, Elena Segura, director of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform, implored them to respond to adversity with strength and faith.

“Who could do this, if not us, people of faith? We know that God is with us -- he is ahead of us, and we are going to follow his leadership,” Segura said. “We don’t know how long this is going to take. But we know that, with God, we’ll be together until this law passes.”