St. Thomas More is the archdiocese’s first immigrant sanctuary parish

| April 4, 2017 | 21 Comments

St. Thomas More in St. Paul declared itself a sanctuary parish March 27 for undocumented immigrants at risk for deportation. It is the first Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to make the declaration, although three others are “sanctuary-supporting” parishes. Maria Wiering/The Catholic Spirit

Leaders of St. Thomas More in St. Paul announced at Masses March 25-26 that the parish intends to become a sanctuary parish for unauthorized immigrants and is willing to house people facing deportation in its parish center. It is the first Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to declare itself a sanctuary parish.

According to a March 27 statement, St. Thomas More is especially interested in helping immigrants in cases that “would separate parents from their children or would separate people brought to the United States as children from the only homes they have ever truly known.” The statement was signed by St. Thomas More’s pastor Jesuit Father Warren Sazama and Sarah Mullins, the parish’s pastoral council chairwoman.

“As part of the discernment process, it was clear to parish leadership that a majority of the responders in our community feel called to participate in more immediate action than advocacy alone can provide,” the statement said. “Many feel a biblical and theological call to act like the Good Samaritan who provided shelter, financial support and comfort to a stranger in need or the innkeeper who offered Mary and Joseph a place to rest after a long journey. We also recognize that what seems like an insurmountable burden to a handful of individuals can be overcome by a parish community with collective resources.”

The parish made the decision following three discernment sessions and the efforts of four working groups that explored the possibilities and implications of becoming a sanctuary parish.

The parish plans to form an implementation team to create a plan for welcoming immigrants into the parish’s spaces, secure financial support, train volunteers and staff, and minimize the community’s insurance, financial and legal risks.

The parish also aims to increase its advocacy work.

“We believe that our efforts are a calling of our faith and a reflection of who we are as a Jesuit parish,” the letter stated. “We respect all parishioners’ right to participate in advocacy and sanctuary efforts to the degree their per­sonal discernments dictate.”

It ended with a prayer of St. Thomas More: “Oh Lord, give us the grace to work for the things we pray for.”

St. Thomas More was the second Jesuit parish in the nation to declare itself a sanctuary parish, following another in San Francisco. It is the second Catholic church in Minnesota; the first was St. Mary in Worthington. Three other Catholic parishes in the archdiocese have declared themselves “sanctuary-supporting” parishes: Ascension, St. Francis Cabrini and St. Joan of Arc, all in Minneapolis.


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  • D.A. Howard

    I’ll be sure to Rosary against it. You are participating in grave sin. You do not have my support or the Blessed Mother’s.????

    I lament for the Church in America and under non-Saint Francis.

    • Dominic Deus

      What grave sin is that? I can’t, for the life of me, imagine what you are are talking out. Stop praying for a few minutes and explain to me what *you* are *doing* to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, shelter the refugee, the immigrant, save the children. Disagreement is one thing but presuming to speak in the name of Mary? Show me your true faith–or have I already seen it?

      • Dominic Deus

        Oh…I just looked you up on your other posts. Pretty miserable one liners from a self declared free-from-sin superb catechist? Nobody believes that kind of hooey anymore.

      • D.A. Howard

        The grave sin of violating property rights and harboring fugitives from the Law.

        “The Government is the instrument of God for the punishment of wrongdoers.”

        Mary had the better. Your Martha works do not impress me.

        Praying for the living and dead is far more powerful than feeding the hungry.

        Jesus said to pray always. You tell me to stop praying. You are the Devil’s brood and full of yourself not Him.

        • Dominic Deus

          OK, I see it now. Your faith I mean .

  • Phil

    I am grateful for the Christian witness of this parish.
    Welcoming the immigrant and refugee one of the privileged biblical revelations of God’s presence among his People and a privileged sign of God’s continuing presence in the believing community:
    – God’s first command to Abraham was to leave his home and found a new nation in a new land;
    – Abraham’s first act after being circumcised was to welcome three strangers into his tent, who were revealed to be angels and whom later Tradition associated with the Trinity;
    – Israel was a stranger in Egypt, and welcoming the stranger became a cornerstone of the Mosaic law, because “you were strangers once in Egypt;”
    – The prophets called Israel back to its covenant with God by exhorting them to welcome the stranger;
    – Mary and Joseph fled persecution by Herod, carrying the infant Jesus with them, and were refugees in Egypt;
    – Christ unmistakably identified himself with the stranger and unambiguously taught that how we treat the stranger is how we treat Christ himself and that we will be judged by such treatment;
    – Paul and John taught new Christian communities that they will evangelize the nations and bear witness to the Living God in part through how they treat the strangers in their midst.

    • The beat continues

      Phil. In most cases they were not trying to live off their hosts. Also some want to kill you and yours. Many are not appreciative of the aid anyway and want to change you and me. I am a Catholic also. How could it be justified in any way for anyone to break the laws of their own sovereign country. Jesus never said even if it means breaking the law. Our church is saying it is ok to break the laws because we don’t agree with them. Way to anarchy and lawlessness. I would love to see all law abiding immigrants become Americans. As another poster D.A.Howard stated, in a way, how can anyone possibly include Our Holy Mother Mary’s name when it comes to breaking or even alluding to breaking the law. I will include and pray in my Rosaries a prayer of restitution to Mother Mary. Also how does it sound if I now say, that if my parish collections include support for this cause how in good conscience can I tithe or make offerrings to my church parish ?. We really have dilemma on our hands. We need to stay out of politics….Thanks you for your opinion…..

      • Dominic Deus

        TBC–why is it all about “the law?” Why isn’t it about mercy? Law is not an article of Catholic faith. Mercy is.

        Breaking the law? Our nation is founded on treason against King George. Was that wrong?Our very origins as Americans speak to the belief that laws can and should be broken for good reason.

        Our very existence as human beings with free will arises from breaking the law of God and eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. You can darn well bet that God knew it would happen and was proud of his children for choosing authentic life rather than perfect existence constrained by perfect law.

        You are worried that some are unappreciative and want to kill you and yours. Who told you that? My bet is it was a white man of immigrant stock whose ancestors heard the same words spoken about them.

        Dilemma? Here’s the dilemma we have on our hands: for decades, millions of us sat silent in the pews barely listening to the teachings of our brother, Jesus of Nazareth. Now the time has some to show what we learned and we have learned nothing. What’s more, we do not have the moral courage to defend the helpless. “America the Brave!” Well, show some courage.

        • Jo

          My dear Dominic,
          You have referenced the Old Testament and the Jewish tenant to welcome the stranger. Indeed, Jews were also taught to not completely reap the harvest in the fields but to leave some behind so the foreigner could come and pick the field and use it for food.

          But what about Jesus and the New Testament? He tells the two Apostle brothers, who were formally Zealots and thought the Messiah was going to overthrow the Roman rule and cure all social ills, that he did not come to do that. So why do you think that in our time Jesus intends for us to ignore our laws? Even the story of the Good Samaritan shows him following the law in that he paid the bill and did not coerce or stiff the innkeeper with whom he left the beaten man. There is a vast difference between being welcoming to a stranger and aiding and abetting criminal behavior [ the crimminal behavior, for example, being overstaying one’s Visa, lying to obtain a social security number, saying you are seeking asylum due to persecution but go back to your country of origin to visit family members and cross the borders illegally again and again, etc.]

          Let us work legally and effectively to try to change our nations laws and policies in order to assist ‘dreamers’, and good people who have lived and worked here long term workers, to finally become citizens rather than attempting to harbor people and try to interfere with federal officers doing their mandated job.

          • Dominic Deus

            Jo–thank you for your comments. I am more inclined to think of the Sermon on the Mount as the definitive statement of the New Covenant with the God of Abraham and better yet, as the teachings of the very approachable Jesus of Nazareth who clarified that we are all children of God and he is our brother.

            I most certainly do think Jesus intends us to ignore laws when they are unjust or do not dispense justice tempered by mercy. As I have remarked before, our country was founded on treason against King George! We are lawbreakers and proud of it.

            The history of the Church and sanctuary is long and has almost always been in opposition to the law of earthly kings. That’s just what we do. The law of kings is derivative; divine law is not.

            Here is a question I offer up as very clarifying if we approach it honestly:

            “Are crimes of conscience crimes at all? What about crimes of necessity?”

          • Jo

            Well, I think they are still punishable as crimes under civil law whether or not the actor believes the law is just or not.

            But we are also directed, not only by Jesus to Peter in the garden when Peter wanted to fight but also in the book of First Peter, to not break the civil law. It was the unreasonable, religious, straining gnats but swallowing camels legalism Jesus opposed but he submitted to civil authorities.

            Thus, I ink the way to aide dreamers is to work to change the law, not resist or refuse to obey it.

            1Peter 2:13-18
            “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. [Act] as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but as bonds leaves of God. honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters will all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

          • Dominic Deus

            Jo–You are absolutely right in saying that crimes punishable may render the sacrificial perpetrator to pay the lawful price. By sacrificial perpetrator, I am thinking more of those who offer sanctuary–the priest, the deacons, the parish council and the un-indicted co-consprators which, I guess, would include me. Are we willing to do jail time even if it’s only waiting for an arraignment? What about 60 days in the slammer?

            As far as punishing the aggrieved, the vulnerable and the innocent, I think mercy is still our moral and spiritual obligation.

            Your compassion for the “dreamers” is admirable and I share it. I must add that I do not favor deporting them while we wait for the law to change.

            I believe the matter of refugees is related to, but very different than undocumented workers, though said workers often feel they have no choice but to leave economic devastation or mortal danger.

            Refugees have typically lost everything or close to it. We are absolutely obligated to help them even at the risk of taking in a few closeted but dangerous people. It’s “America the home of the brave….” right?

            Regarding 1Peter 2:13-18, I interpret it as advice to avoid clashing head on with kings and governors because such conflict had, in the past, led to the near extinction of the Jews and the diaspora of their people and culture. It’s like saying “Don’t do stupid things.”

            It gets a little archaic after that. “Bond leaves of God’ means slaves on temporary duty somewhere other than the house of their master. A bit hard to sanction in the 21st century.

            Actually “honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” means this, adjusted for twenty centuries of cultural growth and maturation:

            “Honor all of God’s people in this order: First love one another always, second, be reverent toward God, and third, obey those of authority placed over you.”

            Civil authority is last on the list but still important enough to be mentioned.

            “Fear of God” is defined by its context and can mean “fearful” but more often means reverent, or wise. Ironically it is a feminine noun, “Yirah”–which may or may not have relevance to it’s meaning. Aren’t you glad we speak English?


        • tschraad

          Dominic Deus, Were does mercy start. With you or with a person doing something illegal. Does not mercy belong to both parties?

          Does giving an illegal a job which was being perform by your neighbor or your child is being merciful? Would you be so merciful that you would house and feed an illegal and then drive him to a job site, get him a job only to discover that your son/neighbor was fired to make room for your illegal?

          How would you feel if this illegal then raped your wife/daughter or was already a felon wanted for crimes?

          You want open borders? How are you going to feed over 6 billion people?

          • Dominic Deus

            tschraad–A fair question. Mercy starts with love which starts at birth or maybe even at conception.

            We are merciful to those we love and even when they transgress against us or against the law; we shun punishment or take a large part of it back because we are merciful.

            Islam teaches that above all, God is merciful. Sharia law, when properly administered by educated Imams or Muftis (Islamic judges) goes to great lengths to be both fair and merciful, explaining repeatedly that the basis for the judgement is that “God is merciful.”

            We in the west have a different view of law because our ancient Hebrew God, Yahweh, was far more judgmental and alternated between proclaiming his fatherly love for us but then following up with various curses and threats of damnation while sanctifying the slaughter of those peoples not “chosen.”

            Ironically, contemporary Judaism has largely changed its understanding of God to a rational one in which the discernment of devout Jews and their rabbis has lead to a God who wishes us to be active in the world for the good of all. The Israeli state, imperfect though, it is, does not even contemplate the idea of refusing immigrant Jews and goes to great lengths to bring them to Israel.

            Old Testament Christians tend toward the Yahweh model of God, in part because of its heavy emphasis on the primacy of law and its complete omission of the sufferings of any but the “chosen people” of God. As the heirs to the title “God’s chosen” they re more willing to ignore the suffering of “others” proclaiming, of course, God is on their side.

            New Testament Christians have the advantage of Jesus who spoke the Sermon on the Mount and made it clear that the ultimate law of God is to love one another. Mercy flows from love and you can pretty much take it from there. We are called to love and dispense mercy. We should not look for excuses to ignore that call.

            We tend to defend first that which we love most. It bothers me when people start a discussion of refugees and immigrants with a statement of property rights. We all have to be better than that.

        • The beat continues

          Dominic. I have read your reply. Thoroughly thoughtfully and with an open heart. You are correct in what you say also. Guess I come across hard hearted not being charitable but on the contrary I am not that way. I just meant it as a reply as to why some would think otherwise. Some posters are seriously uncaring and don’t care about anyone else. Including innocent children, even just born. My thoughts on sanctuary churches etc are of concern to me. I’m sure I’m not ever going to throw anyone into the streets. Matter of fact, when I see the innocents and the children involved worldwide my soul and spirit cries for them. As for eating the fruit of the tree.. I am in disagreement with you there. If God was happy and proud he wouldn’t have sent them out of eden. Ever since humans have been degenerating and becoming more and more corrupt….I could go on…..thank so much for your input….

          • Dominic Deus

            Thank you TBC–you are very gracious. I have read your reply and your original post yet again. There is no irreconcilable difference here. Wonderful though the internet is, it does not have the warmth of coffee and discussion combined with a little laughter. I not only need your views the better to educate myself but to remind me that I need be humble in my ignorance. Thank you for your kindness.

          • The beat continues

            Well said and done. God Bless You.

    • Dominic Deus

      Well said, Phil.


      • D.A. Howard

        All heresy. You and the bishops do the Arians proud in their rebellion against the Church and Dogma.

        “You shall not steal.”

        • Dominic Deus

          I must admit, I am curious. What parts of humanity do you Regard as authoritative teaching

          • D.A. Howard

            Papal , Scriptural and Orally taught dogma.