Sister Teresa Whyte views photographs of migrant children who died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Protection. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word offered prayers and called for local action Thursday at a gathering to decry the detention of migrant children on the Catholic Day of Action.

The gathering is in solidarity with a protest in Washington, D.C., held the same day by Catholic leaders. They gathered for a news conference and a prayer on the U.S. Capitol lawn before proceeding into the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda.

In San Antonio, the local service echoed the same messages and read the same texts as those speakers in Washington.

“Its common sense that you take care of children,” said Sister Martha Ann Kirk, who organized the San Antonio event. “Humanity through the ages has taken care of children, so the theme of our gathering, Stop the Inhumanity, is common-sense. When you hear a child crying, you stop to help them. There are thousands of children crying in these detention centers. We need to care; we need to do something.”

The gathering was organized with Women’s Global Connection, the UIW Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability, and the CCVI Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation Office. Kirk said a coalition of 12 Catholic organizations came together to orchestrate the national demonstrations and they asked several local congregations to hold services like the one on Thursday.

Nicole Fay, the Women’s Global Connection associate director, said the sisters reach out to them to help spread awareness of for the gathering through social media.

“We believe in our heart of hearts that the most vulnerable need to be protected,” Fay said. “This is a pushback to power that is taking power for things that are harmful. It is important locally to keep doing that.”

Community members read eight excerpts from immigration attorneys’ interviews with children at U.S. Border Patrol facilities in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley as reported by the Huffington Post. Maria Benevidez, a volunteer with RAICES, a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to immigrants, also spoke at the event about her work with the immigrant children. She said she also reads to the children and gives them coloring supplies.

“These gatherings are essential because they bring attention to the circumstances we live in today,” Benavides said. “We have to remind ourselves of the faces of these children and come together as a community to provide hope to future families that are going through these difficult situations.

“We have to remember the names of the children who sacrificed their lives in order to have a better life,” she added.

Maria Benavides, 18, a Saint Mary’s Hall senior, speaks of her time as a RAICES volunteer at a children’s detention center. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

Sister Jean Durel belongs to the congregation and works with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition to help newly arrived immigrants in the city. She was at the protest in Washington on Thursday. Capitol security arrested her and 65 other protesters lying on the floor of the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda and charged them with trespassing. Kirk said she admires her sister’s efforts and aimed to gather many in this community to advocate along with the congregation through Thursday’s gathering.

“It is that God who has called us here today to bear witness to the dignity of every human person and to hold our elected representatives accountable for the atrocities perpetrated on our brothers and sisters – immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles,” Sister Martha Ann Kirk said in the prayers she led.

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Laura Morales

Laura Morales is a freshman studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to The Daily Texan.