Had they heard the screams of a mother seeing soldiers killing her baby boy? Can we hear the screams of a mother of Honduras seeing cartels grab her child?
Hundreds of children and families have fled their home countries in Central America to seek protection in the U.S. during the past year. As part of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services’ effort, Hope for the Holidays, students from the University of the Incarnate Word led prayer and card writing to get holiday cards to each of the 1,700 immigrant women and families in detention. Many UIW students have family on both sides of the border. The students enacted stories:
“I am Miguelito and I am 13. I left my home in the South because when my father Miguel died I was the man of the house. I saw that mother couldn’t do it on her own, so I decided to go north so that I can get a job and send money to my sisters.”
“My name is Paloma. We have left our home because my parents are afraid of the men who make and sell drugs to people. My family and I have traveled a long way. I am hot, thirsty, and tired.”
José Rubén De León, actor-playwright-musician is known in San Antonio for his award-winning shows, “Simplemente Lara” and “Lorca,” as well as his one-man shows about Mark’s gospel, St. Francis of Assisi, and Juan Diego. From his new album, “Villancicos: Christmas Carols from Latin America and Spain,” De he poignantly sang“El Santo Nino” from Puerto Rico:
“Mother, standing at our doorway is a baby boy so lovely. He is cold and weeping sadly, and his clothes are very ragged. Then the mother bade him welcome to the fire so bright and glowing. As he warmed himself, she asked him in what country he was reigning. ‘My father is in heaven and my mother lives there, too. My life on earth is given for the sake of you.’”
Prayers echoed the story of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, who crossed the border between divinity and humanity to be among people. Some of the UIW Sisters attending had ministered in Peru and witnessed how many parents, desperate for income to support their children, went north to find work and were not able to be with the children they loved.
Leviticus 19:33-34 was read:
“When aliens settle with you in your land, you shall not oppress them. They shall be treated as native-born among you, and you shall love them as people like yourselves, because you were aliens yourselves in Egypt.”
Ponder the refugee woman and a man who tried to protect their baby from the violence by slipping across the border, and hear “El Santo Niño” sung at the Midnight Mass in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word. Doors open at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 24. Be careful gathering in a chapel where Sisters have prayed for more than 100 years. The place is not for isolating oneself from the ugliness of the world. It is a place where hard hearts get cracked open.
The card writing continued after the service with residents of the retirement center, the Village at Incarnate Word. One of the residents, Sister Consuelo Urrutia, noted that reaching out compassionately to the immigrants in detention “reminds me of World War II, when my Dad would take us to the camp in Kenedy, Texas, in Karnes County, to visit the Germans and Japanese who were in prison just because we were at war with them, even though some were American citizens. Some Germans were friends of my father. What we did at the time was take fruit and vegetables and take a list of what they needed for the following visit.”
St. Anthony Catholic High School students joined the efforts and wrote more than 300 holiday cards to families in detention. The students had tried this year to visit the immigrant children detained here in San Antonio and had not been allowed to do so for security reasons. They were happy that they could at least write cards to these people seeking a safe and better life.
*Featured/top image: Remembering that through the centuries Christians have danced as well as sung Christmas carols to celebrate the birth of love and hope, students circled around Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Courtesy photo.