“When will you be angry enough, in God’s just anger, about the injustice to people in our world? When will you have mourned enough over the gap between the way many people must live and the way God wants them to live?”
Emeritus Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson asked these two questions at a Eucharistic celebration that I attended a few years ago. It was personal and transformative to me as an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. The Bishop asked these questions at an outdoor liturgy with the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in the distance and the treachery of the desert beside the altar. On the side of the altar, there was a prayer labyrinth displaying desert shoes…. shoes found in the desert…. high heels, baby shoes, sandals…. worn and torn …. shoes of the desert.
I pondered what was the message, the invitation, the imperative to me to act… “for I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” I knew there was a Corporate Stance on Immigration Reform declared by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. But I had neglected to take the Corporate Stance seriously enough.
This two-day conference in the desert surrounded by dreams pursued, often lost in death or deportation, put a human face on this human rights issue. We listened to their stories until I realized that I was a part of the story as well. I thought of Thomas Merton’s premise in his book, Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander, that I had heard about the “immigrant problem” and quietly observed from a distance. But, as Merton said, “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I was theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.”
Today, after too many years of horrific policies and practices, there is an opportunity to move forward with concrete positive actions “to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system” through the passage of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill contains pathways to citizenship, keeping families together, embracing diversity, and addressing root causes of migration.
So, the Bishop Kicanas question remains for Dominican Sisters of Peace and the congregation’s associates … “When will you be angry enough in God’s just anger” to speak and act our response to the question. There are current Sisters/Associates who hear the cries of immigrant families and advocate already. Is this the moment, with pending federal legislation that can make a real difference, that more of us move from observing to action? Please consider joining the DSOP Immigration Reform Committee by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.