Fr. Greg's Pastoral Letter July 23, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Earlier this year, interested parishioners met to discern whether or not God might be calling forth from St. Ignatius Parish some communal response to the issue of refugees and immigration. Our prayerful reflections led us to adopt a position of openness toward accompanying those who may have left their countries of origin and are seeking some form of security in our country. (Accompaniment is one of the three legs of the “sanctuary” stool; the other two are Advocacy and Shelter.)

In early June, Faith in Action (a network of faith communities committed to ensuring the dignity of all members of our community) sent an action alert to congregations in the Bay Area about the desperate situation of a refugee family (a mother and five children) from Mexico. They came to the United States to escape an abusive husband and father and are seeking asylum in the U.S. They have a court date in February and their legal representatives say there is an 80% chance they will be granted asylum. In the meantime, the family needs help. Representatives of St. Agnes and St. Ignatius Parishes met to consider this urgent request and, after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, made the decision to accompany this family.

When the family first arrived from Mexico, they stayed with relatives and then moved to a shelter. One evening they arrived after hours at the shelter because they were in the Emergency Room due to ill health of several of the children; they ended up sleeping on the streets of San Francisco. With the support of our two parishes, the family was rescued and moved into a motel in the Tenderloin where they spent two weeks. They are now staying in temporary quarters in a safe neighborhood until more permanent housing can be found.

A number of you responded generously to my letter from June 24 in which I asked for help for this family, including cash donations. Because cash continues to be a major need for the family, the parish has established a Sanctuary Fund. Checks may be made payable to St Ignatius Parish and earmarked for the Sanctuary Fund. Monies in the fund will be used for this family now, as well as for other immigrants and refugees needing our help in the future. Donations to this fund are tax deductible.

Another way to help this family is through our monthly Simple Needs Sunday collection. We will dedicate next month, August, to this family and collect gift cards from Lucky, Target, and Ross Dress For Less, as well as toiletries. For the sake of security, the collection baskets will be on the Communion rail instead of at the usual place.

The biggest need, however, is housing. Their current situation is only temporary, so we are looking for short-term housing. They will need something for only six months or so; the family is on the waiting list for housing with Hamilton Families. If you have something or know of another possibility, please contact parishioner Annette Lomont at annette.lomont@gmail.com

On Wednesday, September 13, at 6:30 pm our parish, in partnership with Faith in Action, will hold a training session for parishioners interested in becoming members of Solidarity Teams. These teams, along with lawyers, accompany immigrants to deportation hearings, immigration check-ins, and court trials. They support immigrants who are resisting unfair bosses or landlords. They pray, talk, share stories and reflect together on strategy and build long-term relationships through shared experiences. I encourage parishioners to attend the training session and learn how to stand with immigrants, including this family, and for human dignity.

During our discernment process in March, I was deeply moved by what many shared about wanting to be welcoming and helpful to refugees and immigrants facing difficulty. One said, “Not to do so would be missing an opportunity to follow our Catholic teachings and the mission of our Jesuit parish.” I agree. Please join in our accompaniment of this lovely family and in a concrete opportunity to live out the Gospel and change some lives.

Please keep this family and our efforts to accompany them in your prayers.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Greg