The last day of teaching was well over a week ago and since then I have been on the move. My itinerant summer has begun.
Many people have asked me what I am up to this summer. The truth is that my life is just as packed and full as it normally is. I love it that way.
Here’s the plan: I am taking a theology class here this week, working as a mentor for this program next week, helping out at my sister’s organic farm the following week, working as a camp counselor here for a couple weeks in July, preparing for the next school year and then going to World Youth Day in Spain right before the school year begins mid-August. I am really excited about all these great things, I am very grateful to have these blessings.
As my adventures unfold, I quickly become overwhelmed with the privilege, freedom and blessings I live out of.
I am especially conscious right now of how I am afforded the freedom to have these adventures because I am an American citizen with a valid passport and a strong support system. The circumstances of my life permit me to travel and serve freely without fear of persecution, arrest or deportation. I am mindful of how many could never freely have the experiences I am allowed because they fear for their safety and freedom in a broken, global immigration system.
My summer kicked off on June 4. That day, I joined my community in celebrating the first vows of Sister Amy at our Motherhouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It was a beautiful liturgy and party and Amy was really glowing with the goodness of God. What impressed most deeply upon my heart, however, was my pondering of one of the readings that Amy selected for her service:
- But Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! for wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
- Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried. May the LORD do so and so to me, and more besides, if aught but death separates me from you!” –Ruth 1:16-17
What a beautiful devotion to the mystery of Love! Plus, what a commitment to the journey of discipleship! Highlighted in my prayer in my contemplation of the Ruth story this time was how applicable the wisdom is to our struggle for just, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform.
We have a lot to learn from the wisdom of history. Thank God the border between the Moabite Plateau and Bethlehem wasn’t guarded! Praise God that the ancestor of Jesus could cross freely, remain devoted to love and family, and then marry across ethnicity! Wow, what if our society worked that way!? If we heeded scripture, I suspect we’d welcome strangers then realize they are saints.
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, right now. My heart aches because of the real injustices related to immigration. Many days the sorrow meets me in my email inbox and I am compelled to advocate and learn more.
Last week, my community held our Chapter of Chats. These meetings are rooted in the tradition that St. Francis and his friars had in the 1200’s to come together and hold a Chapter of Mats to discuss the happenings of their lives. I helped with the sessions led by our Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee, of which I am a member. Our committee has been focusing our work on immigration reform for a while. At the chapter, we viewed the powerful film The Visitor and discussed the great complexity of our broken immigration system. At another session, panelists spoke of how they personally have been impacted by the harm caused by the immigration laws. As we gained awareness, we cried and prayed together that God would give us courage to act for change.
My concern with the topic of immigration extends beyond my work with JPIC. As I state in this video, I am a daughter of immigrants. I want all people to have same freedoms I have been blessed with. Why should we be limited now? Certainly, it seems necessary to have some order in our legalistic era, but I don’t think there is ever a justification for not treating people with dignity.
Although I have been concerned with immigration issues for a long time, it’s been more intense lately. Last fall I visited an immigration deportation center in Chicago and it had a major impact on me. I wrote about it here. In 2008, the largest immigration raid in US history happened in Postville, Iowa just 10 miles from where I grew up. Here is the story on NPR from last May, three years afterwards. In July of that year, I attended a march and rally in Postville. It was amazing.
We were on the move that day. We were moving with the Holy Spirit, like another Pentecost. People of all races and tongues came from all over the nation to witness for the type of freedom we long and believe in: Christ’s freedom beyond borders, nations, languages, races, or places of origin.
As I move around this summer, I shall receive hospitality with joy and gratitude. As we all move around, I pray that we can all welcome strangers and receive one another with the hospitality that Ruth- and Jesus- eventually found in Bethlehem.
Amen, Amen, may it be so!