Many tears were shed on the National Mall on Tuesday morning when leaders of the Fast for Families who had gone without food for 22 days broke their fast before an audience of faith leaders, Members of Congress, and leaders of the immigration reform movement. Witnessing the commitment and sacrifice of these physically weakened but spiritually powerful leaders was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in a long time. I’m especially proud that my colleagues at FPL have played a key role in planning and carrying out the Fast For Families from the beginning.
And the movement continues. After the outgoing fasters received a blessing from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, seven more people — including five faith leaders — began their own long-term fasts in the same tent where it all started on November 12th. It’s a sign that our resolve for immigration reform that protects families and builds a path to citizenship is stronger than ever. As my friend Rev. Gabriel Salguero told the crowd, we’re going to win because our cause is just.
At the same time, thousands took part in solidarity fasts across the country, including students on 15 Catholic college campuses organized by Faith in Public Life. If Speaker Boehner had hoped the faith community’s groundswell for citizenship was a last gasp, he was sorely mistaken.
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DeSales University organizer Kristen Snyder meeting with Rep. Charlie Dent to lobby for immigration reform.
In coordination with the Fast for Families group fast on the National Mall, Catholic college students across the country have organized rolling, on-campus fasts, eating no food and drinking only water to call for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform to be held.
Creighton University in Omaha began fasting on Nov. 11th, and students and faculty organized nightly prayer services throughout the week.
At DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, students and faculty fasted the week following and led a lobby visit with Rep. Dent to call for immigration reform.
Loyola New Orleans hosted Nuns and Friends of Immigration Reform on Nov. 23rd, where 80 nuns and women religious gathered with DREAMERs and other speakers, despite drizzling rain, to put out a call for immigration reform. The week following, students and faculty fasted.
The first week of December, as the Fast for Families fasters on the National Mallcome into their third week abstaining from food, Saint Joseph’s University, Gonzaga University, Regis University, University of Dallas, St. Edwards University in Austin, Loyola University Chicago, Notre Dame University, Misericordia University (PA), Cabrini College and Villanova University all have fasting teams on campus made up of students and campus ministry and other administrators.
Next week, University of San Diego students are leading a campus fast and other Catholic colleges continue to add fasters to this national movement to call for comprehensive immigration reform.
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Advocates begin 21st day of fasting today, urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform
Prominent Catholic leaders – including the president of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic university presidents and former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican – released a statement today offering encouragement to immigration reform advocates now starting their 21st day of a water-only fast to dramatize the moral urgency of passing comprehensive immigration reform.
“We are hopeful that your sacrifices and determined stand in the face of Congressional delay will awaken the consciences and break open the hearts of elected officials to the human suffering caused by an immigration system that tears families apart,” the leaders write. “Your courageous example reminds us all that the issue of immigration reform is not about partisan politics or narrow ideological agendas. This is a profound moral issue, as old as the Hebrew prophets and the Gospel, that calls into question the kind of nation we aspire to pass on to our children.”
The core group of fasters include Eliseo Medina, former international Secretary Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and Cristian Avila, 23, of Mi Familia Vota in Phoenix, the son of Mexican immigrants. As of today, more than 5,000 people across the country have fasted in solidarity for one or more days and hundreds have joined nightly community meetings at the fasters’ tent to offer support. This week, students on 11 Catholic university campuses are fasting in solidarity. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, will visit the tent tomorrow to offer spiritual support and prayers as the fasters continue a national week of solidarity, prayer and action.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez joined a group of civic and labor leaders last week to announce a 24-hour fast between December 1-3 in solidarity with the Fast for Families. “Everyone knows our immigration system is broken,” Archbishop Gomez said in announcing the fast. “But our leaders don’t seem to feel enough urgency to fix it. So we offer our fasting today as a prayer — in the hopes of moving the hearts of our national leaders in Washington.” Bishop Blase Cupich of the Diocese of Sopkane, WA. last week sent fasters a letter saying their efforts are a “cause of great inspiration to me personally.” Bishop Cupich added: “I have been working with elected officials directly and through other community leaders to spur action on achieving comprehensive immigration reform. You motivate me to enhance those efforts.”
The message of solidarity released today will be delivered to the fasters’ tent on the National Mall, which in recent days has attracted a stream of elected officials, civil rights and religious leaders – including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Jessie Jackson and Bishop John Wester, the Roman Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City. The statement of support is signed by among others Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA; Thomas P. Melady, retired U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George H.W. Bush; Miguel Diaz, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama; the presidents of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Sabrina Burton Schultz, Director of Life Ministry in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The full statement with signatories can be found below and here.
We are deeply moved and personally inspired by your prophetic witness that demonstrates the moral urgency of comprehensive immigration reform. We are hopeful that your sacrifices and determined stand in the face of Congressional delay will awaken the consciences and break open the hearts of elected officials to the human suffering caused by an immigration system that tears families apart. Your courageous example reminds us all that the issue of immigration reform is not about partisan politics or narrow ideological agendas. This is a profound moral issue, as old as the Hebrew prophets and the Gospel, that calls into question the kind of nation we aspire to pass on to our children.
As Pope Francis said when he visited the island of Lampedusa to honor migrants, we are all complicit in a “globalization of indifference” when we fail to confront the personal and political realities that undermine human dignity. Thank you for your moral leadership. Please know that you are in our prayers.
Rev. Larry Snyder
Catholic Charities USA
Thomas P. Melady
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)
President Emeritus, Sacred Heart University
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
University Professor of Faith and Culture
University of Dayton
Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J.
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J.
University of San Francisco
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
Mexican American Catholic College
Sister Ann Scholz, SSND, PhD
Associate Director for Social Mission
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sabrina Burton Schultz
Director of Life Ministry
Diocese of St. Petersburg
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Interfaith Worker Justice
National Advocacy Center
Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Rev. Frederick L. Thelen
President, Action of Greater Lansing
Pastor, Cristo Rey Church
Rev. Joseph Nangle, O.F.M
Susan M. Weishar
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University, New Orleans
Christopher G. Kerr
Ignatian Solidarity Network
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This post originally appeared in the Fast for Families blog.
It’s been an incredible first week at the Fast for Families tent on the National Mall in DC. Just steps from the U.S. Capitol, faith, labor and immigrant rights leaders have been fasting around the clock to urge Congress to pass immigration reform. They have inspired Members of Congress, Cabinet officials, and activists from around the country to visit them and join the effort.
The fasters have been encouraged by conversations with Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Joe Kennedy III who came to the tent to offer their support. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack also visited the tent to thank the fasters for their sacrifice.
We were particularly excited to be visited on Friday afternoon by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who came to hear the stories of the fasters and why they are willing to risk their health for this cause. She reiterated that a majority of House members support immigration reform, and that if a vote were held today it would pass.
We’ve also been deeply grateful to receive hundreds of other supporters who have come by to offer their support for the fast and immigration reform.
What have been most moving though are the nightly meetings and prayer vigils. Each night, the community gathers to hear updates on the fasters and pray for their continued strength and for an end to this moral crisis. Rev. William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP and the Moral Monday movement came to deliver a moving sermon, as did Rev. Derrick Harkins and Rev. Jennifer Butler. Each night we also hear from some of the many activists who have traveled from all over the country to be with us in this effort.
As the fasters finish their 4th day without food, our movement is growing stronger. In the coming days, we will continue to make sure Congress hears our message loud and clear: pass commonsense immigration reform now.
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While House Republican leaders continue dragging their feet and making excuses for blocking a vote for immigration reform, more than 1,000 people are deported every day and millions live in fear that they’ll be next. The time has come for dramatic action to awaken consciences on Capitol Hill.
This week faith and immigrant leaders began the Fast For Families, A Call for Immigration Reform & Citizenship just yards away from the U.S. Capitol on the national Mall. Clergy and activists will abstain from food and pray continually to move the hearts of lawmakers. This is an incredible display of commitment. Some participants will fast for several days, and others are pledging to fast until their bodies can no longer go on.
At the kick off event yesterday, I heard participants invoke not only Scripture, but also Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez – all of whom fasted as part of their historic struggles against oppression. Those who casually dismiss immigration reform’s chances fail to recognize the profound moral stakes we face at this moment. We refuse to let opportunistic politicians stand idly by while immigrant families are shattered.
Tonight I’ll be joining Rev. William Barber II, the leader of the Moral Mondays movement, for a prayer service with the fasters and 60 young immigrant families.
If you’re in DC, please join us at 5:00 PM at the corner of 3rd St and Jefferson Ave, SW. Even if you can’t make it, you can still support this movement by signing up for a one-day solidarity fast, visiting the tents in DC, or simply spreading the word in your community. Visit www.fast4families.org to learn more.
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