What do you do when you see something that needs to be addressed and you just don't know where to turn? Sr. Mary Ann Spanjers, OSF and Sr. Julie Ann Sheahan, OSF of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, WI took the lead along with others of the Diocese of Green Bay to promote a march in the City of Green Bay to raise awareness to the reality and plight of immigrants.
Sr. Mary Ann Spanjers, OSF speaking with Fr. Joachim "Kim" Studwell, OFM at St. Philip Parish prior to the March for Hope for Immigrants (photo courtesy of Mark Kolter of Kolter Creative Consult)
The Journey of Hope Immigration Pilgrimage was held on Sunday afternoon, 7 September 2008. It began at St. Philip Parish on the East Side of the city, stopped at St. Mary of the Angels Parish en route to the cathedral of St. Francis Xavier downtown. The entire event was encompassed within a prayerful context -- beginning with prayer and a blessing, continuing with prayer, including a decade of the Holy Rosary in various languages (Chinese, Spanish, Irish, Italian, Hmong, French, Dutch, German, Polish and English) and concluded with a welcome and Sunday Mass at the cathedral with the newly installed bishop, the Most Rev. David Rickens.
You can view a slide-show of the Journey of Hope Immigration Pilgrimage below (thanks to Sam Lucero of The Green Bay Compass [diocesan newspaper])
The march was a pilgrimage of faith. It was an act of faith (first of all to put it together!). It pointed to the need for all people of European descent, for instance, to remember their immigrant roots and those of African descent to remember their often painful story of slavery and emancipation and subsequent struggles for Civil Rights here in the USA.
The pilgrimage also called upon people to respect the human rights of immigrants, regardless of their legal status.
Finally, it was a public demonstration of the Catholic Faith -- consistent with the US bishops' declarations and also papal declarations to respect the rights and respond to the needs of migrating peoples. Something that was pointed out was that migrations, particularly from the south to the north, are not unique to the Americas, but is also happening from Africa to Europe.
Bro. Steve Herro, O. Praem., Fr. Kim Studwell, OFM and Sr. Mary Spanjers, OSF confer with other pilgrims at St. Philip Parish in Green Bay, prior to beginning the March for Hope (Photo courtesy of Mark Kolter of Kolter Creative Consult)
Finally, it was very much a Franciscan event -- Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity [as above], Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross [Bay Settlement] and Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province participating. Likewise the participants in the pilgrimage included the Norbertine community, officials of the Diocese of Green Bay and the Sisters of St. Agnes from Fond du Lac, WI!
Franciscans certainly helped to organize it and get it off the ground. Franciscans also provided welcome and hospitality, especially at St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Green Bay, which is staffed by the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province.
And it was Franciscan in its attempt at peacemaking -- a response to a seemingly overwhelming situation -- a call to prayer and a call to respond in a public demonstration of Catholic Faith.