Pilgrims pray for immigration reform during annual posada

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, December 20, 2018

Pilgrims pray for immigration reform during annual posada

Mary and Joseph, portrayed by Alfredo Palafox and Maria Aranda, lead the 13th annual posada for immigration reform on Dec. 14, 2018, beginning outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Center and through downtown ending at St. Peters in the Loop. Based on a centuries-old tradition throughout Mexico, Guatemala and migrant communities in the United States, the one-mile posada pilgrimage symbolizes Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem traveling from place to place seeking rest and shelter. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
Elena Segura, associate director of the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity and senior coordinator for immigration, speaks during the posada. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
Auxiliary Bishop John Manz reads during the posada. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
Franciscan Father Ed Shea talks with Mary and Joseph portrayed by Alfredo Palafox and Maria Aranda during the stop in Federal Plaza. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
(Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)

About 200 people gathered in the early morning gloom Dec. 14 at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Building, 101 W. Congress Parkway, to pray once again for comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform.

Then, led by people portraying Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem, they walked through the Loop in the 13th annual Posada Seeking Immigration Reform.

“We started this in 2005,” said Elena Segura, associate director of the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity and senior coordinator for immigration. That year, Congress appeared poised to act on immigration reform and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched its Justice for Immigrants campaign. While repeated efforts to pass immigration reform have fizzled, the campaign continues.

“And we will continue,” Segura said. “Year after year. Who are the modern Josephs and Marys? They are our immigrant brothers and sisters knocking on the door of this country for shelter.”

This year’s pilgrimage followed the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for immigrants crossing the border illegally, leading to more than 2,000 migrant children being separated from their parents, and to the administration’s decision to send troops to the border to support the border patrol in repelling a caravan of mostly Central American asylum seekers.

The posada, modeled on a Mexican religious tradition that re-enacts Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter, began with the rosary being recited in English, Spanish, Polish, Vietnamese and French outside the door of the immigration office building.

The prayers at the beginning were specifically for the deported and detained and their families left behind in the United States. An immigration attorney told the crowd that about 1,000 people are deported each day, and another 40,000 are in detention.

People arrived at the posada, some grumbling about the early hour, but saying it was worth it.

Among them was Alfredo Palafox, who portrayed Joseph. Palafox, who works in the Jeremiah Young Adult Ministry at St. Gall Parish, was up until midnight finishing his last paper for his undergraduate studies in marketing, he said.

“I feel like this is a reminder to us to keep our hearts open, especially in these times when people don’t act welcoming,” Palafox said. “God is love, and that’s something that’s never been defeated.”

Mary was portrayed by Maria Aranda, a youth minister at St. Gall who also works with the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Young Adult Engagement.

“I just feel like this posada creates hope and brings hope to the people, among those in the communities that are affected, and understanding to people in communities that aren’t affected,” Aranda said. “It’s a light that is shining in the darkness.”

After the rosary and a reading of the Nativity story in the Gospel of Luke by Bishop John Manz, the pilgrims walked to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, 71 W. Van Buren St., a high-rise federal prison in the heart of Chicago.

While security guards shooed pilgrims off the steps, Franciscan Brother Jay Woods talked about what he had learned ministering to inmates in Cook County Jail.

Pilgrims then made their way to the Loop campus of DePaul University, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., where they prayed for Dreamers, or undocumented young people brought to the United States as children who find their prospects dim when they cannot get federal or state financial aid for college or legally hold a job.

About 700,000 of them have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, created by executive order under President Barack Obama, which allows them to work and go to school, although not to receive financial aid. The Trump administration tried to end the DACA program in 2017, but courts have ruled that it must stay in place for people who already had DACA status for now.

Participant Joan Stopka was a high school Spanish teacher for 35 years, and now volunteers with Taller de José, a ministry of accompaniment for people who need help navigating situations from medical appointments to dealing with government bureaucracies.

“We work with mostly Latino people, and I wanted to come to show solidarity,” said Stopka, a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier in La Grange. “They’re suffering, and they just want to be accepted.”

Getting non-Latinos on board isn’t easy, she said.

“The priests and the sisters and brothers are talking about it,” she said. “Those of us who do feel in solidarity with the immigrant community need to show it by our example, and by being willing to talk about it in a non-confrontational way.”

At Federal Plaza, at Dearborn and Adams streets, the pilgrims stopped to pray for congressional leaders, and for all Americans to treat immigrants with the respect and dignity due to all people.

From there, it was a short walk to St. Peter’s in the Loop, 110 W. Madison St., where Mary and Joseph were finally welcomed and embraced.

Jose Marquez, who walked the whole posada route, starts most of his days with morning Mass at St. Peter’s, and the day of the posada was no exception. He went to Mass 6 a.m. before joining the pilgrimage an hour later.

“I’m an immigrant myself,” he said. “I sympathize with them.”

Franciscan Father James Hoffman greeted everyone at the door and invited all inside for a fiesta with coffee and hot chocolate, tamales and pan dulce.

“Justice and hospitality for immigrants is not hard,” he said. “It just requires an open mind and a welcoming heart.”



  • immigration reform
  • immigration ministry
  • posada

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