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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