Feb. 11 Immigration Summit: Catholics Called to Accompaniment

Posted by Emily Holt on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 10:46 AM PST

When Joe Cotton of the Archdiocese of Seattle and Chris Koehler of St. James Immigrant Assistance came to the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture in early November, envisioning a day for Catholic parishioners, activists, service providers and volunteers to gather and discuss the needs of migrants, immigrants and refugees locally and globally, they had no sense that come February, Seattle University would be packed with over 160 Catholic social workers, lawyers, activists and community organizers.

On February 11, 2017, after weeks of nation-wide protests, hurried executive orders on immigration and an unjust travel ban, over 160 Catholics, from across the Puget Sound to Vancouver, Canada, gathered for a day of reflection, community and planning. The day left students Claire Rawson and Claire Lucas re-imagining parish life beyond the university.

“My definition of what it means to be an active parishioner was expanded,” said Lucas, a sophomore studying psychology and theology and religious studies. “I left with a greater sense of hope and less isolation.”

The day opened with a keynote address from Seattle U’s Amelia Derr—assistant professor of social work, and consultant for the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and Office for Civil Rights. She urged participants to move from a model of charity to one of solidarity.

Lucas and Rawson both noted that the quality of conversation among participants was different than what they normally experience at SU. In the classroom, conversations about immigration, migration and the refugee crisis can, for many, seem abstract.

“They [the participants] were responding to the immediate needs of parish life,” Lucas noted.

”I was humbled to hear people’s experience,” said Rawson, a senior social work major, highlighting the breadth and depth of engagement, from community organizers working with the undocumented to parishioners who hosted refugee families in the 1980s and are considering doing so again.

A sense of hospitality and care for our neighbors was the theme of the day.

In the afternoon, Patty Bowman, executive director of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, reminded us that care for migrants, immigrants and refugees is rooted in the gospel, in church teaching and practice and in Catholic social teaching.

The day concluded with a commissioning mass in the Chapel of St. Ignatius with Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.

For Lucas, the need for hospitality and humility which Bishop Elizondo emphasized in his homily goes to the heart of what the Immigration Summit meant for her:

“SU feels like home when I can welcome people here.”

To learn more about future opportunities like the March 16 Catholic Advocacy Day or the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture’s (ICTC) May 8 Catholic Heritage Lecture, Daring Forth: Imagining the Future of Jesuit Education, with Mark Ravizza, SJ., visit the ICTC website.