by Marie Elena Giossi
Arrayed in the attire of their native lands, representatives of 32 ethnic groups from Brooklyn and Queens led the entrance procession at the annual Migration Day Mass, celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn, Sunday afternoon, April 14.
This year’s focus was on immigration reform, and among those in attendance was Sen. Charles Schumer, who is putting the finishing touches on a bill that will overhaul U.S. immigration laws and place 11 million people on the path to citizenship.
Also present were State Sen. Marty Golden, Councilman Mathieu Eugene and City Council candidate Ede Fox.
Bishop DiMarzio welcomed the multicultural congregation to the cathedral-basilica, and complimented how beautifully they display the faith, unity and diversity of the Church.
To highlight that diversity and unity in faith, Carolina Zafra of the Mexican Apostolate and Mitchell Lee of the Korean Apostolate proclaimed readings in their respective tongues; prayers of the faithful were offered in 19 languages; and the Haitian and the Indonesian apostolate choirs provided music.
“Although we are from different parts of the globe, we are united in our faith in Jesus Christ,” said Father Patrick Keating, CEO of Catholic Migration Services, in his homily.
“Where else in the world could we find so many different languages, so many different cultures, living together and praying together?”
As they gathered for this occasion, he asked the faithful to “pray for compassion and common sense immigration reform for we have been waiting far too long … for immigration reform is a matter of human dignity. We always want to respect the laws of the land, but the laws of the land must never deny the dignity of human life.”
Common Sense Reform
“Our elected officials are being asked to address the broken immigration system with common sense and to respect the dignity of every single person,” he said. “Our prayer is that our elected representatives will take up the task and strive to pass immigration reform.”
Before the final blessing, Sen. Schumer addressed the congregation regarding a bipartisan immigration reform bill, crafted by him and seven other senators, which was expected to be unveiled this week.
“We are now on the verge of announcing that the eight of us have come to agreement on a bill for comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.
Following applause from the congregation, he explained that the forthcoming bill would legalize 11 million illegal immigrants within a few months. “They will be able to work and to travel, and they can come out of the shadows and contribute to America,” he said.
Over a period of years, if these immigrants work hard, stay clear of the law and learn English, admit wrongdoing and pay a reasonable fine, he added, “they can get green cards and become full American citizens.”
A Consistent Advocate
The senator also made a point of acknowledging that the Catholic Church has consistently been at the forefront of advocating for immigrants’ rights.
“The Brooklyn Diocese, in particular, and the Catholic Church, in general,” he said, “has been one of the leading voices to help immigration both at the national level … but also the individual level.”
“Immigrants come to America, many to New York, and they work hard,” he said. “When an immigrant works hard, they benefit themselves, they benefit their family, but they benefit our borough, our city, our state, our country and we should never forget that.”
The senator’s words brought hope to Julia Sosa from St. Brigid’s Church, Bushwick, who came to the U.S. from Mexico over 20 years ago.
“We’re getting closer,” she said, smiling through tears. “We have hope in God. Faith is to have hope.”
As for immigrants who already “enjoy the privilege” of legal status, Haitian-born Councilman Eugene said they “should work to make sure those less fortunate can also have a piece of the American dream.”
“I commend Bishop DiMarzio and Catholic Migration Services for their wonderful work on behalf of immigrants,” he said.
“We come from different backgrounds, but it is the power and beauty of our diversity that reminds us we are all children of God.”
That diversity was further displayed in the cathedral pavilion, where attendees could sample cuisines from various countries following Mass.
Members of the newly formed Mexican Apostolate, which was participating in the Migration Day Mass for the first time, welcomed all to join in songs and dances while a mariachi band played.