As the U.S. government shutdown was ending, more than 10,000 people of faith across the country — including local religious sisters — were completing 40 days of prayer and fasting in support of immigrant rights, and calling on members of Congress to break their stalemate and enact just and humane immigration reform.People representing different faiths from 46 states participated in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s 40-day Fast Action for Immigration Reform, which ran Sept. 9 to Oct. 18. During the 40 days, participants prayed, fasted and advocated to call attention to the nation’s broken immigration system. Many prayed daily, led community prayer vigils, met with members of Congress, abstained from select meals or favorite foods/beverages, participated in acts of civil disobedience, and/or helped spread the message online via social media or other Internet sources.According to organizers, Catholic sisters across the country were among the most significant mobilizers during the 40-day campaign. Religious Sister of Charity Kathleen Bryant, co-chair for Southern California Partners for Global Justice, which meets monthly in Montebello, participated with her fellow sisters, praying the recommended daily prayer and intentions at Evening Prayer in their convents.“So much prejudice is really fear and not knowing the other person, so sitting at a new table in conversation and getting to know the ‘other’ — the immigrant — is important if we are to be a community,” said Sister Bryant, who abstained from diet cola and alcohol. To help spread this message, the sisters took the issue into parishes to “discuss immigration reform and the way we envision a new table.”“This was the decision of all our sisters, to create a new table, new partnerships, where we envision mutuality and respect,” she added, noting that her religious community released a corporate statement earlier this month expressing their support for immigration reform because “we believe that families should not be separated, that youth should not be barred from education, and that each person is entitled to human rights and dignity.”Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Sister Cathy Minhoto, who works with the Los Angeles chapter of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), also participated in the 40-day campaign, focusing her efforts on prayer and action.“On a daily basis, I tried to make immigration part of my prayers and do one positive action for immigration — writing letters to my representative, calling Congress to urge for just, humane immigration reform, or suggesting prayers for immigration for use by our sisters and colleagues,” said Sister Minhoto.“This is an important issue to me because I am the daughter of an immigrant. If this country had not welcomed my father, I would have no United States ‘herstory,’” she continued. “Also, I believe that welcoming strangers and marginalized persons is a Gospel imperative. We are disciples of Jesus, who embraced lepers, associated with women — all persons excluded by the cultural mores of his day. I know that Jesus would walk with immigrants.”The comprehensive immigration reform effort stalled over the summer after the Senate passed sweeping legislation to overhaul border security, require employer verification of workers’ status and create a lengthy path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. House Republicans declined to put that bill on the floor, opting instead to work on separate bills for each issue.Immigration activists and reform advocates are pressuring lawmakers to take action before Thanksgiving, or by mid-December at the latest, to move forward on immigration reform before Congress is stymied by 2014 midterm election politics.“Speaker Boehner brought the bipartisan Senate funding bill to a vote to end the government shutdown; we’re asking for him to do the same on immigration: simply allow a bipartisan vote for a path to citizenship,” said Sister Janet Mock, C.S.J., executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. “It’s time to end the fear of deportation and reunite hundreds of thousands of families.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1025/immigration/{/gallery}