Father Provincial Ronald A. Mercier, SJ, sent the following letter to all Jesuits of the USA Central and Southern Province and the directors of apostolates in this province. His brother provincials in Canada and the United States sent similar letters to the Jesuits and colleagues in their provinces.
Dear Brothers and Friends in Ministry,
The peace of Christ!
In anticipation of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 29, I, together with the Provincials of the other provinces of the United States and Canada, am inviting all Jesuits, Jesuit works, and our broader Ignatian family, to expand our advocacy efforts on behalf of our migrant brothers and sisters. Many in our own province have already worked to create a culture of encounter with migrants through direct service, immersion experiences, Teach-Ins, and pastoral ministry. These initiatives help us to live out Pope Francis’ reminder that, “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age” (Message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees).
For years, the Society of Jesus has accompanied, served, and advocated on behalf of migrants and refugees. In addition to all the ways our Jesuit family is responding to their immediate needs every day, we must pay attention to the laws and policies that affect those we serve. The Society’s Universal Apostolic Preferences call us to walk with the marginalized, which includes reforming the social and political systems that lead to injustice. Advocacy for just policies is an integral component of living out a faith that does justice. Recent changes to asylum policies and the unjustifiable treatment of families seeking safety in our countries call for renewed action from our community.
Compassionate policy begins with asking the right questions. Rather than asking how the government can prevent or deter migrants from coming here, we should instead ask ourselves why they have chosen to make such a dangerous journey, and how we can better promote improved economic and political conditions in the countries that people are leaving. When people are forced to flee their homes and come to our countries seeking security, we should ask how we – and our governments - can welcome and protect them. We continue to call the government to enact comprehensive immigration reform and policies that welcome, protect, and integrate those who seek asylum.
In our own UCS province, our ministries have witnessed the suffering caused by current immigration policies. Some examples: Jesuit priests at Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso bring grace and healing to those facing intense personal crises in ICE detention facilities. Students and staff at Loyola University New Orleans and Spring Hill College teach ESL to undocumented migrants who are trying to gain the skills and knowledge needed to get work so that they can feed themselves and their families. Immaculate Conception Parish in Albuquerque provides volunteer and financial support for people at risk of deportation and the families of those who are in detention or who have been deported.
I thank all the Ignatian and Jesuit leaders in our province who have responded to the suffering experienced by our migrant brothers and sisters and who have taken action to advocate for the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. I ask you to continue this important work and invite all Jesuits, Jesuit works, and the many members of the Ignatian family to join us in these advocacy efforts. On October 10, I will be joining with the other Provincials from our Assistancy to meet with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan to urge just enforcement of existing asylum laws for migrants seeking safe haven in the United States. I urge each of you to make a similar commitment during this next month to contact your political representatives with a letter, email, phone call, or visit about the rights of migrants to seek asylum, and to encourage your students, colleagues, parishioners, retreatants and other constituents to do the same.
Please visit www.jesuits.org/migration to learn more specifics about how to do this.
Ronald A. Mercier, S.J.
To learn more about the Jesuits' advocacy for migrants and how you can get involved, please visit jesuitmigrantsolidarity.org.