TACOMA – Western Washington Catholics are invited to join a pilgrimage to the Northwest Detention Center on Saturday, August 25, as a “moment of solidarity” with immigrants being held there.
The pilgrimage will make “our Catholic presence felt in a Catholic way,” said Jesuit Father John Whitney, pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Seattle. “Everybody is welcome. It will raise awareness of what Catholics and the church can be.”
The 1.6-mile pilgrimage begins at 10 a.m. at St. Leo the Great Parish (710 S. 13th St., Tacoma), which is co-sponsoring the event with St. Joseph’s. Participants will gather at St. Leo’s in song and prayer, then walk to the detention center (1623 E. J St., Tacoma), a mostly downhill route expected to take about 30 minutes. At 11 a.m., a bilingual Mass outside the facility will be celebrated by Jesuit Father Scott Santarosa, the provincial of Jesuits West. (See box for information on ride sharing.)
The pilgrimage and Mass will help provide solace to children and adults being held in detention and “announce Christ’s presence is here,” Father Whitney said.
The Northwest Detention Center, which opened in 2004, houses 1,575 immigrants and is administered by the GEO Group for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
In June, the bishops of Western Washington and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the separation of families at the United States-Mexico border as they were detained while their immigration status is being determined.
The idea for the local pilgrimage stems from an event at St. Joseph’s in July that featured a moderated discussion of the U.S. immigration system and Catholic social teaching. Father Whitney said parishioners had participated in various ecumenical events around immigration issues, but wanted an opportunity that was distinctly Catholic.
He said other Jesuit-connected institutions joining the pilgrimage include the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle, Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Seattle Preparatory School, Seattle University and the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle.
Those who can’t attend the pilgrimage can take action by downloading and signing a petition from St. Joseph’s website. The petition asks Congress to reunite families separated by ICE even if parents have been detained or deported, provide detained minors with legal counsel before any hearing, and use alternative forms of monitoring for immigrants awaiting immigration status hearings or who are detained solely for immigration law violations.
Signed petitions that are returned to St. Joseph’s will be delivered to elected representatives, Father Whitney said.
“We’ll keep this issue in the forefront,” he said.
Share a ride to the pilgrimage
Seattle-area residents who want join the August 25 pilgrimage from St. Leo the Great Parish in Tacoma to the nearby Northwest Detention Center can carpool from St. Joseph Parish in Seattle.
Pilgrims will leave at 9 a.m. from the parking lot of the parish, 732 18th Ave. E.
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