The journey of our brothers and sisters

Depending on where you come from and your circumstances,when you hear the word “journey,” images of the open road and beautiful landscapes come to mind.

Mar 14, 2014

By Rhina Guidos
Depending on where you come from and your circumstances,when you hear the word “journey,” images of the open road and beautiful landscapes come to mind. Say “Lenten journey” and perhaps the image of a desert pops up. It is beautiful, spiritual and serene.

A few years ago, during a Mass at St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., a homilist invited those of us who attended to ponder during Lent about a different kind of journey that many in the pews of our church had undertaken. That particular parish had once been home to the city’s Irish and Italian immigrants and now serves as a spiritual home to many Latin American Catholics.

The journey that the homilist referred to was the migration some of our fellow parishioners had undertaken and one that meant leaving behind hometowns, families, culture and language. For some, it also meant leaving behind the legal stability
and rights that come with being citizens of a particular country or nation. In a sense -- a very real sense to some in the pews -- it mirrored the Exodus. It mirrored Christ in the desert.

Some in the pews had indeed crossed a real desert. Although their journey didn’t take 40 days, or years, it took days or weeks to cross that swath of treacherous land between the United States and Mexico. Food and water were likely scarce but fear and hope were not. Otherwise, why else would people risk their lives?

I was surprised to hear from some of my fellow parishioners who had migrated in such a way that in some of these journeys, those crossing the border had carried with them statues of saints they were devoted to and to whom they had entrusted their safety. They also carried Bibles. Even posters of patron saints had figured into the vital provisions they felt they needed to make a safe crossing to the north. The comfort these items of their faith brought them was as essential as the food and water they carried in their small packs.

We all undertake journeys and some of them might be treacherous and uncertain, but we wouldn’t take them if we didn't have faith that something wonderful was waiting for us at the end.

For Christians, our journey of Lent sets a blueprint. It teaches us that through any journey in life, scarcity and negative experiences might come along, but the will to go forward is possible when a person has faith.

For immigrants to the US, the journey might entail a treacherous journey to find work, and one that is accompanied by substandard living conditions and a hostile environment in society. But the reward is sending money to family so that they'll have enough to eat or get an education.

In January, in a speech to the Rotary Club of his city, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez spoke of this “permanent underclass of men and women who are living at the margins of our society.”

The archbishop said that we allow them to “care for our children. They build our homes and clean our offices. They harvest the food we eat. But they have no rights, no security and right now — they have no reason to hope that things are ever going to get better.”

Blessed Teresa of Kolkata used to say everybody likes to talk about the poor, but no one talks to the poor, and “undocumented
immigrants” are in much the same situation, Archbishop Gomez said: No one talks to them.

He encouraged others to find out about their journeys, to see that we might have more in common than we imagined. “When we talk to them, when we really get to know them, we see that they are just men and women like we are -- trying to do what's right for their families, for their children,” Archbishop Gomez said. 

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