About the photo: Sister Georgiana Stubner, center, and Sister Anita Cleary, right, visit after the prayer vigil in Forest, Miss., Saturday, August 17.
Sister Mila Diaz Solano, a member of the Springfield Dominican Leadership team, organized a delegation of Springfield Dominican Sisters who traveled to Mississippi over the weekend to be in solidarity with the families affected by the largest immigration raid in recent U.S. history. Along with the Springfield Dominican Sisters who minister at St. Dominic Health Services in Jackson, six sisters traveled from Springfield to visit immigrant families caught up in the raid and to participate in a prayer vigil in Forest, Miss., on Saturday. They were Sisters Charmaine Kribs, Sister Anita Cleary, Sister Georgiana Stubner, Sister Rita Marie Range, Sister M. Bride Quinn, and Sister Mila, whose reflection follows.
I begin my report to you with a heart holding mixed feelings after these days in Mississippi.
First of all, I feel gratitude. I am grateful because I am blessed with a community that stands in solidarity with those who are in the margins and shares our resources. We are able to do that. But we did more than that this weekend. Thank you, Sisters Charmaine and Anita for being with me to see our brothers and sisters, look in their eyes, and assure them they are loved. Thank you for holding the three-month old baby when she was crying while her father was receiving some legal advice for his wife who was taken into the prison of Louisiana. How young he looked to be in charge of this baby and continue working!
Sisters and Associates, you were with us in the house of Maria Carmelina, witnessing her pain for other women who are still in prison and suffering for their babies at home. She was freed on Thursday but what she has witnessed is going to stay with her for a long time as a trauma. She who has a beautiful voice to sing in the choir is so fearful to even go outside of her sister’s house.
Pedrito and Alexis
You were with us when we encouraged Pedrito and Alexis to continue going to school and not drop out. Their father was taken from them and they do not want to lose sight of their mom. Pedro wants to be a scientist and Alexis a painter. Their little brother Dylan is only five months old and eager to walk and move around. Without their father, Pedro thinks he is the one who has to work and support the family. He is just eleven years old!
You went with us to the trailer of María Reina and her children. She was not taken but is afraid of going to work in the Pollera (chicken plant). She endured prison in 2013 for thirteen months and does not want to suffer again and be away from her children.
Your prayers were with us when we stopped at the little shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside of one of the trailers. Your arms embraced another mother who was released the same night that she was taken because she could not stop crying for her children. One of the members of ICE could not make any other decision but to let her go. How could he not be moved by her tears and suffering? He allowed himself to be human at that moment.
My heart is hopeful because we have witnessed many angels coming from different states as volunteers to help the affected families. They are donating their time, expertise, and themselves. Gloria does not speak Spanish, but she is at the parish in Canton day after day to provide anything that is needed, from arms that embrace children and adults, to hands that organize the food donations, to smiles and cheerfulness towards the other volunteers. A young teacher living in New York, originally from Guatemala, donated her week to the little children in Canton. She plays with them and helps them paint and draw while their parents receive legal advice. We have angels like Blanquita who is at the Canton parish almost 24/7 organizing the volunteers, knocking on the doors of people who may need help because they have somebody detained. She is not from that parish but is bringing the parishioners from other parishes to help in Canton where help is needed.
And there are other young adults like Daisey, who far from being comfortable at her place of work, chose during her breaks and free hours to be in the middle of the crisis, translating for some families of the detainees, visiting them, playing with the children, bringing them hope, sealing their documents to prevent any crisis that will leave the children unprotected, etc. She is an amazing 24 year-old who transmits hope for the future.
My heart is joyful because we have sisters in Jackson who came with us to the prayer service together with Sisters Georgiana, Bride and Rita Marie. We allowed ourselves to leave our safe place and went to meet the Christ who is hidden among the communities of color where they pray, worship, and meet God. They are still invisible in our white parishes; their presence is unnoticed in many places, but not for you. It meant a lot for the few Latinx leaders of the parish in Forest that you were there with them. Many parishioners did not attend the service because they are afraid to even going to church. Those who were present know that other Catholics care about them; they can pass on the message that their suffering and struggle is accompanied by the Dominican sisters of Springfield, by the Dominican friars, and by the Lay Dominicans of Louisiana. They know they are not alone.
Praise to God
My heart was rejoicing when I heard the song “…con mucha alegría hermanos, con mucha alegría hermanos, con mucha alegría hermanos así se alaba a Dios” in the midst of a community. [With great joy brothers and sisters, give praise to God.] Overcoming fear, they gathered to pray—as they do every weekend—to give thanks to God for what they have and to cry for justice and compassion for the families who still have a member in prison. I was rejoicing when we shared breakfast with our sisters in Jackson and Daisey, because as a congregation we are able to support each other and encourage each other in our passion. I was rejoicing while we participated in the vigil because I knew—and we all knew—you were praying with us in that small place of Forest, Miss.
The future of all our brothers and sisters affected by the raids is uncertain, as is our future. I cannot deny that I also feel heartbroken with all that I have witnessed of poverty, abandonment, and invisibility. Our brothers and sisters are not living the life they expected when they left their countries. Many are still experiencing the same fear they had in their countries, many are still living in precarious conditions, working hours and hours to pay their bills and send their children to school. And now, they do not have a job!!!
On this day, August 19th, on which we celebrate the commitment of our first Dominican Sisters of Springfield to the immigrant children of Jacksonville, maybe the invitation is to take time to discern our personal and communal action and renew our commitment to stand with the immigrant families of our times.
Blessings to all! And in the name of the travelers, thank you for keeping us in your prayers.