Mass of Solidarity calls on Catholics to open hearts to immigrants, refugees

| December 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

When Myrtis Allotey heard of the Dec. 9 Mass of Solidarity at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, she immediately knew she wanted to attend. Immigration had a new context for the self-described “Eden Prairie girl,” a Basilica parishioner and an avid traveler. She had just gotten married, and her husband was from Ghana.

“I wanted him to see something like this. This is his second week in America,” said Allotey, 70. “It was important to me to make a statement saying as Catholics we welcome all people. We can’t isolate people that are in need.”

The Alloteys were among more than 400 people who attended the Dec. 9 Mass of Solidarity. Leaders in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis organized the 90-minute evening liturgy in response to Pope Francis’ Share the Journey initiative, which aims to spread awareness of and support for refugees and migrants around the world.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda presided at the Mass, which observed the Second Sunday of Advent. Concelebrating were Bishop Andrew Cozzens; Father John Bauer, Basilica pastor; Father Dale Korogi, pastor of Ascension, Minneapolis; Father Donald Willard of St. Alphonsus, Brooklyn Center; and Father Augustine Truong of St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien, Minneapolis.

The Mass included cultural representatives from across the archdiocese, including members of the Camaroonian, Karen, Karenni, Korean, Latino and Vietnamese communities who participated in the procession and other parts of the Mass. The first and second Scripture readings were proclaimed in Spanish and Swahili, respectively. Deacon Naokao Yang of the Hmong community at St. Vincent de Paul in St. Paul proclaimed the Gospel. The petitions were offered in seven languages.

Choirs from several immigrant communities sang in their languages before and during the Mass. Atzec dancers participated in the entrance procession, the Camaroon Choir of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul performed the “alleluia” before the Gospel with dance and cultural rhythm instruments, and Vietnamese dancers with pink fans led the offering procession. Prior to the Mass, indigenous people from Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis offered a call to worship with drums and incense.

Bishop Cozzens gave the homily in English and Spanish. He said the Church is a family and God’s kingdom, and “in God’s kingdom, there are no borders.”

Members of the Karenni Community Choir at St. Bernard in St. Paul sing “Messia, Come” at the Mass of Solidarity. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

“In this kingdom, every human being, no matter their race or origin, no matter where they were born, has the same dignity and the same inherent human rights,” he said. “We’re having this Mass of Solidarity because we want people not to feel alone.”

He said “the problem with migration has never been greater,” citing the United Nations that 65 million people around the world are displaced from their homes, including 2 million refugees “living in often very difficult circumstances.”

“Most of these people would have preferred to stay in their homes but could not,” he said. “They had to leave, fleeing for their lives. They had to leave behind their livelihoods. Many of them have had to come to new countries and new places where they’ve depended deeply on the generosity of others.”

He added: “Some came as official refugees, some came as immigrants seeking a better life, but all of them have come with the same hopes and desires that every human has. They want to raise their family. They want to provide for their children. They want to worship their God. If these things are criminal, then we’re all criminals together.”

Bishop Cozzens asked Catholics to support legislation in Congress enacting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allowed some 750,000 to 800,000 young adults who were brought into the country without authorization as children and who met certain conditions to attend school, work and have a driver’s license.

The program was established under President Barack Obama. In September, President Donald Trump announced he was ending DACA, but he urged Congress to find a solution before the first of the program’s permits expire as early as March.

Members of the Camaroon Choir of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul sing Dec. 9 at the Mass of Solidarity at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Bishop Cozzens said Minnesota’s Catholic bishops plan in early January to initiate a postcard campaign urging Congress to enact DACA before the deadline. He said more information about the campaign would be available soon.

“Advent reminds us that we’re all on this pilgrimage together, that actually none of us is in our homeland, because we weren’t made for this earth,” he said. “Our true homeland, our true home is the house that our heavenly Father has prepared for us in heaven, where there is a place with each of our names on it.”

He said that people’s goal in Advent is to prepare their hearts for that homeland, which requires people to open their hearts to one another.

“We must make room in our hearts for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most in need,” he said. “We don’t want to be like those persons on that first Christmas who told Mary and Joseph that there was no room in the inn.”

The homily stuck a chord with Milton Melgar, 40, who attended the Mass with his wife, teenage daughter and friends from their parish, St. Stephen in Anoka.

“It means a lot to us, what [Bishop Cozzens] said,” he said. “We are immigrants, and we know what it feels [like] to be immigrants. … We are like anybody else. We came over here looking for hope [and] better lives for our children. We are all the same. We are all seeking for a better life, no matter who we are, what we are and wherever we’re going. Everybody’s looking for a better future.”

Melgar came to the United States from El Salvador in 2003. He was impressed by the cultural display in the Mass, and said it was important for the Catholic Church to show that it supports immigrants.

“We feel welcomed coming to the Church,” he said. “Maybe it’s one of the only places that we feel comfortable to be.”

Also impressed by the homily was Manshik Song, 67, who emigrated from Korea when he was 29. A retired nuclear engineer who read one of the Mass’ petitions in his native language, he said that it reminded him that he has to pray for immigrants and refugees.

“I have to share for those people in need and share our resources with them, as much as we can,” he said, adding that he also hoped to share his impressions from the Mass with fellow parishioners at St. Andrew Kim in St. Paul.

He said that he wasn’t surprised, however, by the array of cultures represented at the Mass.

“I knew,” he said of the archdiocese’s diversity.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

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