Women Religious Leaders Engage Congressional Leaders on Immigration Issues

The Leadership Conference for Women Religious (LCWR) held its Spring 2013 meeting at the Washington Retreat Center in Washington, D.C., from April 22-24.

The theme for the meeting was Immigration Reform: Out of the Shadows. Council members S Constance Marie Tomyl, S MaryAnne Olekszyk and SM Jolene Jasinski were among the attendees. Region IV encompasses Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, western Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

Focus of the meeting was on engaging Congressional leaders around the issue of immigration. On Wednesday morning, members boarded a bus to the Capitol and made their way to Congressional Meeting Room North.  Following a welcome by S Anne Curtis, RSM, three panelists–S Toby Lardy, HM, S Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, and S Ann Scholz, SSND–presented on issues relevant to the Immigration Modernization Act. Sister Mary spoke on “Why Immigration Reform Matters to Women Religious and the Human Face of Immigration.” She reminded her audience that they are spiritual daughters of their foremothers who came to this country as immigrants. Speaking from the perspective of human trafficking, Sister Toby noted that a non-intended consequence of stricter immigration laws is an increase in trafficking.

After reviewing concerns about the new immigration proposal, Sister Anne reminded the sisters of their responsibility to use their voice to provide support to local and state governments on this issue.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who has been a passionate proponent of the bill, made an appearance and spoke to the sisters about her recent visit to Rome as part of the U.S. Delegation to the Installation of Pope Francis. She said she was excited to hear the Pope talk about the Church as a Protector–a protector of families, helping the poor, the sick and the marginalized. She told the sisters: “You see all of that mission and vision . .  and we are so grateful to you.” Congresswoman DeLauro always acknowledges “the Catholic Sisters” from whom she received 16 years of education.

Congresswoman Anna Eshuu (D-CA) told the sisters, “My message to you is ‘Know thy power.’ You are about empowering. What you represent is very different from any other group in the country.  You’re the ones that taught us to do what we’re doing–that there is room in this country.”

Congressman Steny H. Hoyer spoke about the influence of John F. Kennedy on his decision to become a public servant. He recalled Kennedy’s words concluding his Inaugural Address in 1961: “God’s work must truly be our own.” He simply told the sisters: “That’s what you do. And we need you.”

Following the meeting, the sisters hand carried letters to their senators and representatives as well as copies of the DVD, “We Are All Immigrants” produced by the Path to Justice Committee of the Tri-Diocesan Sisters Leadership Conference of Western Pennsylvania.

Following the trip to the Capitol, the sisters prayed to Mary, who “knew the weariness of the journey,” and entrusted to her, “the mothers, the fathers, the children who today are holy families migrating in hope, in fear, in longing, for peace, for some security, for something like a home.”

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