In his own words… Friar Christopher Dudek, OFM Conv.:
Memorable moments of my formation include ministering with the Latino community in Silver Spring and Central America. Through these experiences, I have come to understand immigration from immigrants in the US, as well as those who live in Latin America. This issue is not about numbers, but real persons with hopes, desires, and difficulties. My experiences became amplified with my living at the Seraphicum with friars from all over the world, each with their own viewpoints and experiences.
In a very Franciscan way, a chance dinner conversation about immigration one evening evolved into a morning symposium on the topic of immigration. I presented on immigration in the USA, while Friar Victor Mora from the delegation in Costa Rica offered a biblical perspective. There were other presentations, including a powerful and moving talk by refugees, whom the General Curia has taken into La basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli (Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles, in Rome).
My presentation (a great personal accomplishment for me, giving a presentation for 45 minutes in Italian) included a panorama of the situation on the US/Mexican border. I spoke about the many social problems facing many in Latin America and the great problem of inequality in the Americas. I also spoke about the dangers immigrants face while trying to cross the border.
One of the most moving and accurate accounts of the dangers involved in migration through Mexico and over the US border is Sonia Nazario’s Pulitzer Prize winning book ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY, our JPIC book of the month! This is story of a Central American boy’s dangerous journey to reunite with his mother in North Carolina. Our own Friar Luis Palacios tells the story of how, as a kid, he and the members of his youth group used to go to the hill by the train tracks to throw clothes and food on top of the passing trains. The migrant children, riding on the top of the trains, relied on such charity as they were often robbed and exploited throughout the long and perilous journey.
Another part of my presentation focused on what the US bishops have taught in recent times, along with the texts of the 2000 pastoral statement: Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity and the 2003 pastoral statement: Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.
This was an enriching and challenging experience for me. I learned that many, including myself, are in many ways ignorant to the current situation of immigration. This makes it difficult for us to truly understanding the debates we are currently having. One of the best aspects of our symposium was the ability to share various points of view from many different cultural and experiential backgrounds. Through such an expression of the universal church, coming together and sharing ideas and viewpoints, I realized that the world could be truly united around the call for human dignity that is given to all of us equally by God.
Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. serves as Chairman of the JPIC Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of Our Lady of the Angels Province. His ministry hub is now located in Washington DC.