Catholic Immigration Summit encourages unity in trying times

  • Written by Louis McGill
  • Published in Local
Materials handed out to participants at the second annual Catholic Immigration Summit March 10 at Seattle University. Photo: Winston O’Neil/Seattle University Materials handed out to participants at the second annual Catholic Immigration Summit March 10 at Seattle University. Photo: Winston O’Neil/Seattle University

SEATTLE – With immigration on the minds of many, the second annual Catholic Immigration Summit focused on bringing people together and finding common ground by sharing of their own migration stories.

“There is no ambiguity on how the people of God are called to treat the foreigner and the stranger,” said keynote speaker Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, director of Seattle University’s Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.

Just as the Israelites needed to remember their past as slaves in Israel, American Catholics must remember their own history as immigrants, she said: “We are a community of faith for whom memory is central.”

Some 200 participants from parishes and organizations around the archdiocese gathered at Seattle University for the March 10 event, which had the theme “My Liberation is Bound Up With Yours.”

Part of the church’s global “Share the Journey” initiative, the gathering was a collaboration of the Archdiocese of Seattle, Seattle University, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Catholic Community Services, and St. James Cathedral’s Immigrant Assistance ministry.

Created out of concern

The archdiocese formed its Immigrant & Refugee Ministry just before the 2016 election, according to Joe Cotton, the archdiocese’s director of pastoral care and outreach. “There was a lot of concern and immediate anxiety and fear about what that would mean,” he said.

So the new ministry partnered with Seattle University to create an event for the Catholic community that would provide immigration education, discussion and networking opportunities.

immigration summitCatherine Punsalan-Manlimos speaks to the immigration debate during the second annual Catholic Immigration Summit March 10 at Seattle University. She is director of the university’s Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, a co-sponsor of the summit. Photo: Winston O’Neil/Seattle University

The first immigration summit, held in February 2017, drew about 160 participants, Cotton said. A follow-up gathering was held in August 2017, “to share what had been done and learned since the original summit, to get resources and connections, and hear the latest information garnered from the Catholic Hispanic community,” Cotton said in an email.

Affirming ‘we’ve made progress’

At this year’s summit, participants met in small groups, where they were encouraged to share their own immigration stories, reflect on how the Holy Family experienced immigration and meditate on God’s perspective of the issue as he watches humanity.

In the afternoon, everyone joined back up with their parish or organizational groups to discuss next steps and share what they had learned, before ending the day with Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg.

One of this year’s participants, parishioner Nancy Holmes of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in West Seattle, said she attended the two events last year. “For me, the first one was unique in that there was a different kind of urgency,” Holmes said. “This year, we’re coming together to see what has been accomplished, what ideas can be used from others, and be affirmed that we’ve made progress.”

Holmes, a member of her parish’s year-old immigration ministry committee, attended with most of her fellow committee members. Before the day was over, the group had lined up two speakers for their World Refugee Day Masses and went home with ideas for events like legal aid workshops for immigrants.

“Having as many interested parishioners as possible hear about some of the more concrete steps that people could take would certainly help our ministry,” Holmes said.