Jaky Torres fled Honduras on foot last fall with her 10-year-old son Isaac after criminal gangs threatened to kill her family. A faith-filled Catholic, she is awaiting a hearing on her application for asylum while living at the Iowa City Catholic Worker House and attending Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Iowa City. Mother and son stood together as Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick’s, interpreted her experience of living in fear in the homeland she loved during a Vision 20/20 Convocation workshop June 7 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
“We couldn’t take the delinquency anymore and the extortion going on,” Jaky said. “Because of extortion, the father of my children was killed. After my husband was killed they told me I had to continue to pay extortion money. They threatened me that if I did not leave my village the same thing that happened to my husband would happen to me.”
Walking as part of a caravan, she learned from a friend that if she planned to turn herself in to border officials, she needed to provide the name of a U.S. citizen who would receive her. She said she didn’t know anyone. The friend told her, “I have a friend who might be able to help you.” A friend of a friend, that’s what it took to help a mother and child in desperate need.
Emily Sinnwell, co-founder of the Iowa City Catholic Worker House, who once lived in Mexico, responded to the call that our diocese, our church expects of us: to practice the mercy that we pray for every time we go to Mass: “Lord have mercy.”
One week ago, on World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis noted that we are to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all those living in the existential peripheries of life — whether migrants or otherwise. “It’s not about them, but about all of us, and about the present and future of the human family (www.justiceforimmigrants.org),” the Holy Father said.
UNHCR USA, The UN Refugee Agency, reports that “An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.”
Fr. Juarez urges all of us to step outside of our comfort zone to seek encounters with people of different cultures, ethnic groups and races in our parishes and in the secular community. We are all members of the family of God, just like Jaky and Isaac and the other five refugees living at the Iowa City Catholic Worker. Ours is a global church. We must think beyond borders to reach out to the most vulnerable.
• Accompaniment. Whenever possible, listen to the stories of others and share your own with them. A number of parishes in the Diocese of Davenport offer Mass in a language other than English. Take the opportunity to attend a Spanish language Mass at St. Mary’s in Davenport; St. Patrick’s in Iowa City; Ss. Mary & Mathias in Muscatine; St. Joseph’s in Columbus Junction and St. Joseph’s in West Liberty; St. Mary of the Visitation in Ottumwa; St. James in Washington; Prince of Peace in Clinton; St. Alphonsus in Mount Pleasant; and Vietnamese language Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Davenport.
• Advocate. Contact your members of Congress to support U.S. resettlement of 95,000 refugees in 2020. Justice for Immigrants reports that between Fiscal Year 2016 and Fiscal Year 2019, the Administration reduced the annual goal for refugee admissions to the U.S. from 85,000 to 45,000 to 30,000.
Also, ask Congress to support the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (H.R. 2615). The bill authorizes $577 million to Central America to address the root causes of migration, including violence, food insecurity and lack of economic opportunity. The legislation also prevents funds from being reprogrammed, transferred or rescinded. It would prioritize inclusive economic growth and development, anti-corruption, and strengthen democratic institutions and security conditions in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. (www.justiceforimmigrants.org).
• Support the diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry, particularly through the Annual Diocesan Appeal.• Sign up for the diocesan Office of Social Action’s “The Two Feet” newsletter. Contact Kent Ferris at email@example.com for information.
• Visit the Iowa City Catholic Worker House in person in Iowa City or sign up for the email list at iowacitycatholic
firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are welcome.
• Be a friend of a friend. Even if you can’t personally accompany an immigrant or refugee, you may know someone who can. It can make all the difference in the world. Just ask Jaky and Isaac.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor