March 10, 2006

Hispanic Catholics gather to pray for immigration reform

By Sean Gallagher

As bills were being debated at both the local and national levels that, if passed and signed into law, would put significant pressure on undocumented immigrants, Hispanics in the archdiocese gathered to pray.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, March 1, they entered into eucharistic adoration continuously for a week at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

More than 1,000 Catholics in the archdiocese took part, organizers said.

Mario Soberanes, the youth minister at St. Patrick Parish and a pastoral associate at St. Gabriel the Archanglel Parish, both in Indianapolis, ministers to many Hispanic Catholics.

He said that the people he serves have great trust in the power of prayer.

“To pray to God is a powerful thing,” he said. “We believe that God can change the minds and the hearts of the politicians and everybody. He is powerful.”

However, Soberanes also noted that for undocumented Hispanics, prayer is the only option for help when their way of life here hangs in the balance because of proposed laws.

“The people who are legal in this country have a voice and a vote,” he said. “But people who do not have [immigration] papers don’t have a voice or a vote. For that reason, we need your support. We need the support of the whole Catholic community who are legally here.”

Many took part in eucharistic adoration, including members of the Anglo Catholic community who stopped by the Cathedral to pray, said Teresa Trujillo de Aguayo, a pastoral associate for the Hispanic community at St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis and an immigrant to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico.

“That has meant a lot and made me very happy,” she said.

Father Michael O’Mara, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, where many Hispanic Catholics in the archdiocese come to worship, said that the eucharistic adoration at the cathedral was a way for the immigrants he serves to reach out to the rest of the Catholic community in central and southern Indiana.

“It invites us all to be brothers and sisters with and for each other,” Father O’Mara said. “That’s why the Hispanic community especially wanted this to take place at the cathedral because they wanted to have the support of the larger Church.”

Aguayo, who spearheaded organizing the eucharistic adoration, said that the Hispanic community specifically sought to have their week of adoration at the cathedral because “it is the center of our faith.”

“There is great faith in adoration in the Hispanic community,” added Aguayo, who moved to Indiana nine years ago with her husband. The couple has four children.

Franciscan Father Tom Fox, who ministers to Hispanic Catholics at St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis and St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, has done ministry in social justice advocacy in Chicago, San Antonio and El Salvador.

He said that prayer is an important component of working for justice for Hispanic immigrants.

“I think it’s very important because they are people of faith and because they’re desperate,” Father Tom said.

But he also noted that it is important to raise awareness in the general public about the good that immigrants, especially Hispanics, do for the United States.

“We’re trying to keep the Hispanics at the forefront of it because it’s their issue,” Father Tom said. “… I think, unfortunately, a lot of people that are attacking immigrants are doing so out of not understanding them and not understanding the reality of what they are contributing to our country, and to our economy here in the state, as well as in the whole country. It’s tremendous.”

Aguayo said she hopes people better understand why Hispanic immigrants come to the United States.

“The [Hispanic] workers are not here to cause harm,” Aguayo said. “We are here for economic reasons. We pray to God that [immigration reform] is resolved with this in mind.”

Father O’Mara emphasized that prayer for Hispanic Catholics in the archdiocese is vital at this time when they are concerned about their future here.

“[Prayer] sustains us,” he said. “It is sustaining people in a very, very frightening time in their life here in the United States. And so who else do we go to [but] God? We have to go to God in our fears and our concerns.”

(Mike Krokos contributed to this article.)


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