By Abraham Joven
SAN BERNARDINO—On January 13th, the Diocese called its faithful back home as it hosted the annual Migration Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino.
This year’s Mass was built around the theme:
Building Communities of Welcome.
And what a welcoming sight it was to see the Diocese welcome its migrant and immigrant communities into the seat of the region.
Presided over by Bishop Gerald Barnes and concelebrated by numerous priests from across the Diocese, the Mass featured a moving litany illuminating the various ways in which our migrant and immigrant community is knitted within the fabric of our neighborhoods and parishes.
Building on this, Bishop Barnes framed his homily around the Feast of Baptism of the Lord, which was celebrated on that day, to remind attendees that part of our baptismal call is to ensure that our immigrant community is welcomed. As a nod to the fact that many in our immigrant community are certainly feeling the anxiety and fear aroused by a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and coupled with an increase in immigration enforcement, the Mass also featured a reception that allowed people to ask local organizations that provide immigration services questions regarding their own status.
The Mass itself concluded with stirring testimonies outlining the fantastic partnership between the Galilee Center, Catholic Charities, Valley Missionary Program, and the Diocese in responding recently to the migration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In late October, the federal government reached out to the Diocese to seek help in ensuring that asylum seekers being released from detention would have a place to stay and assistance in being reunited with their sponsors that may be across the country. Petra Alexander, Diocesan Director of Hispanic Affairs, Deacon Luis Sanchez, Associate Director of Ecclesial Services, and Sister Hortensia Del Villar, S.A.C., Diocesan Director of Community Services and Outreach, worked in concert with the three organizations to help process nearly 1,400 asylum seekers since that initial call. At the Mass, Alexander and Deacon Sanchez were joined by Father Guy Wilson, Pastor of Our Lady of Soledad Parish, and Belinda Marquez and Jessica Meza from Catholic Charities, to relate this incredible story to those in attendance.
The Mass itself stands as one more reminder that our immigrant community is very much a welcome and integral part of our faith community. That, in a nod to the Holy Father, it is central to the mission of the Diocese of San Bernardino to build welcoming communities and not walls.
Abraham Joven is the Director Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants for the Diocese of San Bernardino.