Praying with Pope Francis

Last week, on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit and Mass at the U.S./Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez, I helped to organize an evening of prayer and reflection on the issues facing immigrants and refugees today. Below are some photos from the event, as well as a little reflection on this wonderful evening. A version of this article appeared on  HNP Today, Holy Name Province’s newsletter.

On Wednesday, February 17th, the student friars of Holy Name College held a multicultural evening of prayer and reflection on the issues facing immigrants and refugees. Entitled, Praying with Pope Francis: A Multicultural Evening of Reflection and Prayer for Immigrants and Refugees, this prayer service resulted from my attendance at a Justice for Immigrants planning meeting at the USCCB with Holy Name Province’s JPIC Director, Russ. After learning of the enforcement actions and deportations that unjustly targeted families and individuals among the Latino community, Russ and I were inspired to organize an event that would make a statement of solidarity with Pope Francis, as well as with our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters here in Silver Spring. We proposed to hold a prayer service at the same time as Pope Francis’ historic Mass at the border during his trip to Cidudad Juárez in Mexico.

This was a truly collaborative effort among all of the temporarily professed friars at Holy Name College and the communities from St. Camillus and Langley Park. Br. Javier liaised with the Latino choir from St. Camillus to put together a riveting multi-lingual music program. Br. Abel partnered with community leaders from St. Camillus and Langley Park to promote the event among the Latino community. Fr. Jacek assisted with the logistics at St. Camillus, while Br. David generously offered to coordinate hospitality. During the event, Br. Abraham opened with a prayer read in French while Brs. Casey and Dennis proclaimed readings in English and Spanish, respectively.

The prayer service consisted of readings from Scripture and Pope Francis, music, as well as witness talks from two community leaders. These powerful and moving reflections demonstrated the many difficulties and challenges facing our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. To preserve a multicultural atmosphere, the readings were proclaimed in French, Spanish, and English, with the translations projected on a screen behind the altar.

Nearly 300 people attended the prayer service and I was impressed by the great devotion and enthusiasm showed during this event. For me however, the most important aspect of our statement of prayer and solidarity was the decision to open the doors of Holy Name College to the entire community. After the hour and a half long prayer service, the student friars invited our brothers and sisters to the refectory at Holy Name College for some refreshments and further conversation on these important issues. Nearly 200 people packed into the refectory.

I was moved by how appreciative everybody was to be invited to the friary. I realized that this small act of hospitality and openness appealed to a deep-seated need within the larger community for solidarity and fraternity with the friars. At a time of great fear and xenophobia, as well as divisive language from politicians and media, this simple gesture echoed Pope Francis’ call to build bridges and to foster a culture of encounter. Abel said, “It was really a great opportunity to invite people and to tell them that they are part of our lives, that we are a part of their community, and to share this moment with them.” I hope that this shared moment will inspire those of us in formation to continue to open our doors, to share our lives, and to truly encounter our brothers and sisters.

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