Monday, March 23, 2015

A Cleveland Group Fighting to Save Immigrant Children

Yesterday there was a dinner fundraiser of the Cleveland Children's Coalition, a group fighting to save immigrant children in Northeast Ohio. The meeting was at a West Side Mexican restaurant, Villa y Zapata, and involved 20-25 people, among them some of the finest people in the Greater Cleveland area. You cannot save children without saving their mothers. So that is also a focus of the group. And the fathers are also crucial players in these issues. A good example of this is a woman I will call "Evita," from Lake County, Ohio. She is an undocumented immigrant (though she's lived here for 16 years), a PSR teacher in a local Catholic parish, a homeowner, a taxpayer, with four boys who are American citizens. Evita went back to Mexico, an emergency visit, because her mother was dying. Her mother did indeed die; luckily Evita was there by here mother's bedside, to give her comfort and courage.

When Evita tried to get back into the United States, she was captured at the border, and has been imprisoned for about two months in a detention center near El Paso. Her husband is at home in Lake County taking care of the four school-age boys. That is why we care about the children and the mothers and the fathers. Mexican and Central American families are so tight that if one component is missing or damaged (the child, the mother, or the father), then the entire structure can collapse.

The tragic stories these immigrants carry are heartbreaking, and reveal a cruel and truly heartless and illogical immigration policy. We are trying to do something to help the situation.

At yesterday's gathering, we saw some prominent clergy, Fr. Bob Begin (formerly pastor of St. Colman's) and Fr. Rob Reidy of Sagrada Familia parish in Cleveland, many Notre Dame nuns, the astonishing force of nature Sr. Mary Rita Harwood, and some brave lawyers, law students, and their assistants: Svetlana Schroeber, Carmen, and Sara Elaqad.

The organizers included Kate O'Donnell, Maureen Pergola, Joy Macinlay, Sr. Marie Manning, and Kate Uhlir.

There was a good contingent there from St. Mary's Painesville: Linda Coughlin, Kathy Flora, Dan Philipps, Kathy Philipps, Brian Rice, Pat Denny and her son Donny (not exactly from St. Mary's, but we will claim them), and myself. This is a tribute to the social justice focus and energy of our parish. By the way, many people involved with St. Mary's social justice ministries are not Catholic and not officially parishioners--but we love them and they give so much to our parish and the people we serve.

Here are some photos from that gathering:

Sr. Rita Mary Harwood

Padre Rob Reidy, of Sagrada Familia

The program for the fundraiser

Svetlana and Fr. Rob Reidy

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