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October 9, 2013

(Excerpt) Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration

The following is an excerpt from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño’s chapter entitled, “Immigration: A Bishop’s Perspective,” from the book Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration coauthored by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Mark Adams (PCUSA), Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas (Catholic), Bishop Kirk S. Smith (Episcopal), Bishop Stephen S. Talmage (ELCA).  The book is available for purchase for $15 through the Cal-Pac Office of Communications (cpco@cal-pac.org).

At the very moment that Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, a group of us religious leaders were at the Arizona State Capitol providing pastoral support for 1,500 young people who were gathered there, devastated when Governor Brewer signed into law this clearly anti-immigrant bill.  Those young people ranged from middle school to college age.  They had held a vigil of prayer and presence at the Arizona State Capitol grounds since the day SB 1070 had been introduced.  They had launched a Twitter and e-mail campaign that had grown their numbers in a matter of days from a dozen to the 1,500 gathered at the State Capitol that afternoon.  When it had become known that this was the day that the governor would make her decision about this potentially life-threatening bill that would affect them and their families, these young people had left their classrooms and come to the capitol, hundreds of them walking great distances to give their witness for fairness and justice.

[…]

As the afternoon sun began to fall on the Arizona State Capitol as Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, my own spirit was lifted up as I was invited to the platform to address these young people.  I made my best effort to encourage them and to affirm for them that we religious leaders would not abandon them.  I encouraged them to dig deep into the reservoirs of their own faith and to continue to be faithful and courageous witnesses.  As I finished my words, the young man who was leading this young people’s rally took my hand and asked me to lead them in prayer.  Leaning close to me he said, “Bishop, lead us in the Lord’s Prayer.  We al know that prayer.”  And then looking at me with an obvious question in his mind, he whispered in my ear, “Bishop, can you kneel?  We need to kneel for this prayer.”  I smiled at him and said, “Yes, I can still kneel.  Holding hands, we knelt, 1,500 young people kneeling with us on the grounds of the Arizona State Capitol.  Together we prayed the Lord’s Prayer.  As we finished praying, a hush came over us, a gentle breeze blew upon us, tears were wiped away, and I saw courage return to the faces of those young people.  At that moment I knew two things with deep certainty.  I knew that these young people would lead us even in ways that we had not begun to imagine.  I also knew in the sacredness of that moment that God was with us…”