Recognizing the convulsed times that may be coming as President-Elect Trump takes office, Catholic communities across the country joined together in “prayers of light” for immigrants on Thursday, the night before his inauguration. The national effort is coordinated by the Ignatian Solidarity Network and invites its partner universities, high schools, and parishes to host vigils or Catholic masses to offer prayers of solidarity for immigrant members of local communities.
“We offer these symbols of light as signs of solidarity for those who may be forced into the shadows of our nation,” said Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity. “Through actions of solidarity across the country, we hope to illuminate the dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
Prayers took on many forms. Students and faculty at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore hosted a “walking candlelight vigil” in the campus student center amid the busy lunch hour. At Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey, undocumented students shared their experiences, the student choir performed, and the prayer service ended with an opportunity to contact members of Congress to advocate for humane immigration policies. St. Agnes Church will pray in celebration as their parish community declares itself a “sanctuary church” that same day. Parishioners will begin the service at their Ignatian Spiritual Life Center and then move to the front steps of the church with candles to hold silent public vigil.
Elsewhere, the Director of Jesuit Refugee Service USA has similarity advocated for humane and just refugee policies, calling on President Trump to respect the "deep values" of the United States and to "seize the opportunity to advance human dignity" by revitalizing a response to the refugee crisis.
Fr Leo J. O'Donovan SJ addressed President Trump, in an Open Letter in Jesuit Refugee Service site where he acknowledges that, in the days ahead, he would have to come to grips with many challenges that will affect not only the well-being of the people of the United States, but of all peoples worldwide. “All Americans hope that you will address these issues effectively and in accord with the deep values of our country,” he writes.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic network with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS programmes are found in 50 countries, providing assistance to: refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities, and to those held in detention centres. The main areas of work are in the field of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services.
Saying that the number of refugees in the world today is equivalent to the entire population of Great Britain (65 million), Fr O’Donovan describes refugees as survivors. “As Americans, we share their values,” he says, “the will to overcome any obstacle, to assert independence, to defend hard-won freedoms and to achieve success through sheer determination.”
The response of the USA in welcoming these newcomers expresses who we are as a people, according to the Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service. “It is rooted in the recognition that all men and women possess a shared human dignity and, in the eyes of faith, are sons and daughters of a loving Creator who calls us together as one human family.”
Fr O’Donovan concludes his Open Letter by saying that generosity to the plight faced by migrants will be an expression of “our highest moral values” and will contribute to world peace and stability, as well as having economic and political benefits. “When you consider actions you might take to fulfil your promise to make America great again,” Fr O’Donovan writes to President Trump, “remember the greatness of heart that is at the foundation of just and humane US refugee assistance. Our nation and our world look to you for a magnanimous response to those who have been forced from their homes.”