by Antonina Zielinska
As the U.S. Congress debates immigration reform, Catholic Bishops throughout the U.S. prayed with immigrant communities on Sunday, Sept. 8, in a unified effort to promote change in the country’s legal system.
In an answer to the call of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated a standing-room-only Spanish Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Corona.
Before the Mass, the bishop met with individuals and offered them personal blessings.
“I want to speak to them directly and show them that the Church is behind them,” he said.
Bishop DiMarzio delivered a homily in Spanish to show his support of the people in the congregation. He did so in the presence of two politicians running for office: Cathy Guerriero, a candidate for public advocate, and Peter Vallone, Jr., who is running for Queens borough president.
“You have come here in search of work to better yourselves and your family,” he addressed the congregants made up of mostly immigrants from Latin America. “At times, you were not able to use regular means of immigration but came here in a clandestine way. We do not judge you as lawbreakers as, unfortunately, some do in our country.”
The bishop said the U.S. is indebted to the immigrant community for fulfilling many needs including labor and population growth.
“You do not displace others but rather take up the slack in our job market,” he said. “For this you should be rewarded, not punished. Unfortunately, we cannot convince the majority of our society about this reality because they do not understand it.”
At the end of Mass, Bishop DiMarzio once again addressed the congregation, which is part of a parish where 11 weekend Masses are celebrated, eight of which are in Spanish.
“Thank you for your church community,” he said. “Thank you for your faith.”
Understanding and Empathy
“His visit was very important and his explanation profound,” said parishioner Jaime Crespo, who came to the Mass with his wife and two children. “He understands our life and our needs. He sees the needs of the people.”
Twelve-year-old Jennifer Ojeda said she is thankful to have been able to have met the bishop and to have heard his words of empathy with the struggles of immigrants.
“I was happy because I finally got to meet him,” she said. “I think he understands us.”
Father Walter Lawson, parochial vicar and an immigrant from Panama, said it is important for the people to see that their bishop sincerely cares about them and will promote laws to secure their safety and well-being.
“When the bishop visits them, they see it as a strong help for them,” said Deacon Jose Tineo. “It means the bishop supports them.”
Although the debate over military action in Syria is likely to postpone the discussion over immigration reform, advocate groups continue to push the issue in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.