Chicagoland

Peace Circles offer relief for immigrants’ uncertainty

By Julio Rangel | Chicago Catolico
April 17, 2017

Peace Circles offer relief for immigrants’ uncertainty

Consuelo Sandoval from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish informs particpants of where to get more assistance and other events coming up during a "Know Your Rights" session at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 4640 N. Ashland Ave., on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Alejandra Torres-Mancha from legal affairs at the Mexican consulate shows paperwork required for legal immigration on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Raymundo Valdez, coordinator of the event, introduces speakers during a "Know Your Rights" session at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 4640 N. Ashland Ave., on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Trisha K. Teofilo Olave, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, explains the process of being arrested to participants. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Trisha K. Teofilo Olave, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, explains the process of being arrested to participants during a "Know Your Rights" session at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 4640 N. Ashland Ave., on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Raymundo Valdez, coordinator of the event and Trisha K. Teofilo Olave, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, organize paperwork before its distributed to participants on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Michael Shanahan, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, welcomes participants to a "Know Your Rights" session on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Uriel Mendez Fernandez and Alejandra Torres-Mancha from the Mexican consulate in Chicago, give a presentation about proper documentation during the session. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Consuelo Sandoval from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish passes out information. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Michael Shanahan, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, welcomes participants to a "Know Your Rights" session at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 4640 N. Ashland Ave., on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Alejandra Torres-Mancha answers questions following the event on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Uriel Mendez Fernandez, International Legal Assistance & Criminal Affairs at the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago, answers questions following the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Torres-Mancha answers questions following the event. Participants listened to speakers give information on immigration during a "Know Your Rights" session at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 4640 N. Ashland Ave., on March 26. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Members of the Hispanic immigrant community in the Archdiocese of Chicago are coming together to address the fear and uncertainty that followed the election of President Donald Trump.

To help immigrants make their voices heard and address their fears, the archdiocese’s Immigration Ministry has organized a series of Peace Circles in parishes and at other sites.

Peace Circles create a secure and trusted environment where people can share their challenges, fears and hopes in a way that allow attendees to analyze what is happening in their life and in their community through their faith.

For months, immigrant communities, particularly Latinos and those from Muslim countries, have lived in uncertainty and tension, with fear that immigration policies translate into the fragmentation of families, some of which is already occurring.

“It started on inauguration day,” said José Torres, representative of the Immigration Ministry office of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “It was a deacon from St. Turibius Parish who saw the urgency in the panic, and anxiety of our community. He suggested that we facilitate a dialogue in which people could express how they felt at that moment. We needed to calm the waters, because it felt like a storm.”

Just two days after Election Day, the ministry organized the first Peace Circle.

Asked how faith is integrated into the conversations of the Peace Circles, Torres said, “It gets integrated through the questions asked (at the circle), and the way people express their expectations. They begin by sharing their problems and how they feel.

“That’s when we see that faith is there, in each circle. Because despite what’s going on, they hope things will change, that the situation will be different.”

People express a lot of sadness in the circles.

“They think they will be deported, they wonder what will happen to their children, and what if both (parents) are deported? What will happen then?” Torres said. “The only thing we can do is to give them encouragement to move forward, and to give them some help about how they can manage this situation.”

Torres added that the circles communicate a sense of solidarity through the support they give to each other.

“Where we are, God is there too,” Torres said. “One question is, what is God telling us through that reality? And the other question is, what can we do? Well ... to stick together, to share important information, to support each other, pray for one another.”

Rosalba Ascencio, immigration ministry coordinator at St. Gall Parish, said faith is the most important thing.

“What is it that we want? And what do we want to project? What do we want to give our children?” she said. “That’s when we realize we do need our faith.”

Ascencio and Torres appeared on the archdiocesan Spanish-language radio program “Una Comunidad Católica de Fe,” along with Cecilia García, immigration ministry coordinator at St. Turibius Parish, and Martha Rodriguez, immigration ministry coordinator at St. Rita Parish.

The guests spoke of the three components of the Peace Circles: pastoral care, which includes an accompanying group exercise; education, which includes presentations on legal and immigration issues, among others; and a social element, as community resources are shared in these circles.

Besides the Peace Circles, the Immigration Ministry office organizes workshops to educate the immigrant community about their legal rights and workshops where participants learn about Scripture and Catholic social justice teaching.

Peace Circles have been very well received, organizers said. More than 30 have been held, and another 30 are scheduled.

“In the south, where I do my work,” said Ascencio, “in every parish where we have organized a Peace Circle we have always had a lot of people. We have between 60 and 90 people per circle.”

For more information, visit catholicsandimmigrants.org.

Topics:

  • immigration
  • hispanic
  • latino
  • peace circle
  • immigration ministry

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